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These stories were published Monday, Oct. 27, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 212
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Change in sea level here will have big impact
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An increase in the sea level presents major problems for Costa Rica, its property owners and the national budget.

The  country has a 1,100-km. pacific coast line. That’s about 680 miles. There are 200 kms. (124 miles) on the Caribbean coast.

A rise in sea level is a certainty over the next 100 years. The question just is how much. Scientists predict from a foot increase to a full meter, some 39 inches. Although that amount does not sound like much, the long-term implications are vast.

The Instituto Meteorológico National summarizes its concerns this way:

"A significant increase in the level of the sea, in addition to make a big part of the cities of Puntarenas, Quepos, and Golfito on the Pacific uninhabitable and drastically affected the current port installations, would cause big conflicts in the tenancy of land and the strip adjacent to the beaches and would reduce the capacity of the state to protect the coastal ecosystems that are important for the sustainable development of the nation."

The institute has prepared an extensive report on the sea level change. 

Costa Rica has passed laws that restrict development in the 200 meters of land closest to the ocean. The measurement depends on the high-water mark, so if the sea level changes, so could the ownership.

The meteorological institute says that an optimistic prediction is for an increase in sea level of about three-tenths of a meter in the next 100 years.  That would be about a foot. However, the more pessimistic predictions suggest an increase as much as a meter, some 39 inches.

Much of the discussion of sea level change has been confined to academic and professional circles. Aerial photos have been marked to show flooding of currently dry land that would take place with different level changes. For  example, Puntarenas would be reduced. 

Instituto Meteorológico National  graphic
The land area of Puntarenas will be reduced dramatically by an increase of three-tenths of a meter and a full meter.

Meanwhile other sources say that the sea level changes are taking place more rapidly.  The changes are caused, in part, by melting glaciers in the arctic regions and the increase in temperature in the ocean.

"Some glaciers around the world now are smaller than they have been in the last several thousand years," said Mark Meier of the University of Colorado.

"The rate of ice loss since 1988 has more than doubled," said Meier. He is a researcher and former director of the university’s Institute
for Arctic and Alpine Research. 

The meteorological institute has some suggestions to cope with the expected increase in level. The first is to restrict development in areas that might be inundated and to construct dikes. 

Dikes and other public works would require massive investments of public funds, something the country does not now have.

Many homes were lost

Flames ravage homes in Pavas during a Sunday afternoon disaster that injured up to 40 and left as many as 150 families homeless.

See our story BELOW!

Photo by Art Smiley
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Former police officers are suspects in Hinkle case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The abduction of a U.S. citizen here is being blamed on aggressive bill-collecting techniques by mercenaries contracted by North Americans.

Two people who are in custody are former police officers. Three persons, the presumed abductors, still are at large.

The Judicial Investigating Organization followed up on a tip early Saturday morning to liberate the businessman, Richard Hinkle, operator of Brand Fashions at the Real Cariari Mall. 

In a curious side note, agents videotaped everything, and the full raid and Hinkle’s liberation has been playing on Spanish-language television.

The raid took place about 1:30 a.m. when heavily armed police entered a dwelling in Los Anonos, in Excazú. Hinkle was tied up and gagged in a chair, police said.

Police used stun grenades but faced little resistance. A woman named Arguedas, and a man named Fallas. were detained, Both are former police officers, agents said.

Hinkle has been here nearly three years, but the debt that generated the abduction is believed to have originated before that time in the United States. Before coming here, Hinkle, his wife and 

six children are believed to have spent time on Caribbean islands.

In addition to his clothing business, Hinkle also is known to members of the expat community as a lay preacher in a Baptist assembly in San Pedro. His abduction prompted a continual stream of Internet messages from friends and associates, some seeking prayers for his release.

Investigators began to suspect other motives for the abduction when no ransom demands were made.  The abduction happened when Hinkle stopped his vehicle to open the gates on his Ribera de Belén home late Wednesday.

Police began following other theories, including one that the abduction was a heavy handed version of Costa Rican bill collecting. A small number of individuals, Costa Rican and foreigners, make their living here as bounty hunters and facilitators for persons who have to leave the country unofficially.  There is a possibility that Hinkle was going to be smuggled out of the country.

Most of the people who earn their money in this manner are known to police, and some are former police officers themselves.

A.M. Costa Rica alerted readers in an e-mail message at 11 a.m. Thursday and reposted that day’s Page One to reflect the developing story. This newspaper also notified readers of Hinkle’s release in an e-mail bulletin Saturday.


 
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Ivannia Barrios and Yahaira Arancibia are among those who will staff the information booth.

Airport agreement aims
to inform visitors here

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Travelers through Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela will be getting a little more culture.

The firm that manages the airport and the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deporte signed an agreement last week that will make more activities known to tourists and others who use the airport.

The firm, Alterra Partners Costa Rica S.A. agreed to take information supplied by the ministry, publish it in a flier and distribute it at the airport. An information booth has been set up for this purpose.

The first issue of the flier carried a photo of the airport arrival terminal on the cover and four pages of activities listed by date. These include musical and other cultural events, expositions, theater, dance, movies, museums and listings of libraries. 

The listings are not just for the metropolitan area but also include Guanacaste, Turrialba and Sarchi in this issue.

Immigration police
detain U.S. citizen

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen was among those apprehended over the weekend in a sweep by immigration officials in the canton of Pérez Zeledón. Some 10 other persons from other countries were arrested, too.

Immigration officials said that the U.S. citizen had no documentation whatever. The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería also said six Nicaraguans were caught as well as a Panamanian citizen who had an expired tourist visa. A German and a Dominican also were captured because they had expired visas. Officials said those arrested will face possible deportation.

Afternoon robbery
brings quick arrest

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fureza Pública officers grabbed a robbery suspect seconds after someone stuck up a downtown store. The holdup was at the Tai Yan store just a block and a half south of Avenida 2 on Calle 1 in San José about 1:45 p.m. Saturday.

A 911 call alerted police who converged on the scene and detained a man identified by the last names of Angulo Valverde. Officers said the car he was driving had been reported stolen.

Officers said they found a .22-caliber pistol on the suspect of the same type and model that had just been taken from a guard at the store.

Police said the store owner reported that  350,000 colons (about $850) had been taken. The store is covered by surveillance cameras

Alleged terrorist
extradicted to U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial officals say that a second alleged leader in the United Defense Force of Colombia has been extradited to the United States.

He was one of three men arrested as the result of a sting operation last Nov. 5 at the Marriott Hotel in San Antonio de Belén.

This man has the last name of Arroyave, judicial officials said. The men have been given various names since their arrests, in part because they were believed traveling on false passports.

In the United States the men face charges involving the trafficking of weapons from the United States to Colombia for the use of the right-wing militia. The Self Defense Force has been identified as a terrorist organization by U.S. officials.

One man, Carlos Ali Romero Varela, voluntarily went to the United States. A third man, who has the last name of Blanco, is still awaiting extradition.

The men are charged with being involved in a $25 milllion weapons deal, mostly AK-47s of Russian origin, plus pistols, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft missiles along with 60 million rounds of amunition. A substantial part of the payoff was supposed to be in Colombian cocaine, the FBI said.

The arrests came after an elaborate investigation and sting by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI agents impersonated arms dealers in Puerto Rico and Panamá to get evidence.

Colombians face threats
to cast their votes

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian rebels have killed at least 13 people in a bid to disrupt Saturday's voting in an anti-corruption referendum, and Sunday's balloting in state and municipal elections. 

Early returns indicate strong referendum approval. But at least 25 percent of the Colombian electorate must ignore the rebel threat and cast ballots for referendum balloting to be valid. 

President Alvaro Uribe says voters should ignore rebel attempts to destroy the democratic process and vote "yes" on the referendum's 15 questions. Among other things, voters will decide how oil revenue will be spent, whether voting in Congress will be made public and how much government workers should be paid. 

President Uribe says the referendum will not work miracles, but he called the measures "a step against corruption and political misconduct." The finance ministry says if the referendum passes, Colombia could save up to $7 billion over the next seven years.

More than 250,000 troops and police have been deployed to protect voters. Authorities are blaming leftist rebels for attacks Saturday that killed six police officers and one soldier. Six other people were killed by a rebel bomb at a factory.

Quake was near Cartago

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An earthquake with a magnitude of 3.9 happened Friday about 6:50 a.m. some 24 kms. (about 15 miles) southest of Cartago. The depth was estimated at 61 kms., some 38 miles, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica.
 
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Vannessa says open pit gold project gets boost
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Vannessa Ventures Ltd., which is trying to set up an open pit gold mine in northern Costa Rica reports that the project is back on track.

The Vancouver-based company said over the weekend that the Costa Rican environmental officials have said their previous action that rejected the company’s environmental study was flawed.

Consequently Vannessa and its Costa Rican subsidiary, Infinito S.A., said they will withdrawn an action against the environmental ministry that was before the Sala IV constitutional court.

The minister involved is Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Echandi and the ministry is Ambiente y Energía. The Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental, an environmental agency within the ministry, rejected Vannessa’s environmental study. The 

company already has received an exploitation license.

Vannessa’s Crucitas project is near the San Juan River in northern Costa Rica, and it plans to use cyanide to leach gold from rocks. This makes residents nearby and downstream nervous. 
Opponents cite the environmental problems caused when the Summerville mine in Colorado dumped millions of gallons of cyanide-laced water into a mountain river.

Vannessa says it has some 723,815 ounces of gold near the surface. It says it can mine gold for $160 an ounce. Current gold prices are about $380 an ounce. The mining project may have a total of 1.9 million ounces, according to  Vannessa reports.

President Abel Pacheco said during the first month of his term that no open pit mines would be permitted in Costa Rica. But the Vannessa project had been started under a previous administration.


 
Passport with imbeded chip coming soon
U.S. lawmakers hear complaints on visa policies
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON. D.C. — Lawmakers and representatives of U.S. business, tourism, and higher education urged officials not to make visa application requirements so stringent or time-consuming that they discourage travel to the United States.

Such measures should be implemented with careful consideration of their impact on tourism, trade and international academic exchange, said witnesses at a hearing Thursday.

U.S. lawmakers also heard testimony from government officials on progress in implementing reforms in the U.S. visa-issuing process designed to enhance security controls.

The panel was a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee holding hearing on post-Sept. 11, 2001, visa issuance reforms and new technologies to improve national security.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and State Department outlined progress toward implementing reforms mandated by the USA Patriot Act of 2001 and the Enhanced Border and Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002.

"Our present and future prosperity as well as our military and economic security depend upon the swift movement of people, goods and services around the globe," subcommittee Chairman John E. Sununu of New Hampshire said in opening remarks.

Discussing the impact of visa reforms on prospective international visitors, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar told the officials, "Wave after wave of new travel requirements, paint a big picture that the United States is becoming a destination that's too difficult to enter, too expensive to visit, and simply not worth the effort."

But Janice Jacobs, the State Department's deputy assistant secretary for visa services told the lawmakers, "'Secure borders, open doors' remains our goal."

"Our challenge has been to integrate the security-enhancing of our new programs in both the visa and passport worlds in a manner that does not discourage legitimate travel to the U.S.," she said.

Ms. Jacobs told the committee that the consular officials now have 15 million records of people ineligible to receive visas, more than double the number available before Sept. 11, 2001. Some 61 percent of this information is derived from other agencies, she said. Consular officials are the ones who actually issue visas overseas.

By Oct. 26, 2004, Ms. Jacobs said all U.S. visas will incorporate a biometric identifier. She said the U.S.

 officials chose facial recognition and electronic fingerprint scanning as the "most effective and least intrusive" method to meet the congressional mandate.

Currently, six of the 211 visa-issuing posts, San Salvador, Guatemala City, Frankfurt, Brussels, Ottawa and Montreal, are collecting fingerprints. Using an electronic scanner, fingerprints are collected in about 30 seconds in an "efficient and effective manner," Ms. Jacobs said. An electronic record of all issued visas, including the photo and fingerprints, will be transmitted to the Department of Homeland Security and checked against the department's databases.

Jacobs also outlined U.S. efforts to develop an "intelligent passport" with an embedded chip that will contain a digital image of the passport bearers' portrait and the biographical data carried on the front page of the current version of the passport.

The chip, she said, will use facial recognition technology. The new passport is expected to be introduced in a pilot program in October 2004 and implemented system-wide by the end of 2005.

Citizens in a number of countries are unhappy with the United States for tightening the visas requirements. Among other policies, the United States now says that a foreign resident must have a visa simply to change planes in a U.S. international airport.

Commenting on the situation in South Korea, William C. Oberlin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, said that after a new visa policy was announced in May, the U.S. embassy in South Korea experienced a surge from approximately 35 percent of applicants requiring personal interviews before receiving a visa to 70 percent requiring interviews.

With no appreciable increase in resources and only two weeks notice before the policy was implemented, Oberlin said waiting time for a visa interview increased to more than 60 days. Pre-policy turn-around time for a visa, he said, was 2-5 days.

"The reality in Korea is that due to increased security [requirements] and a 'one size fits all approach' we are losing business, we are losing tourists, we are losing students and more importantly, we are losing friends and influence at a time when America can ill afford the loss," Oberlin told the committee.

"Where other countries seem to be rolling out the red carpet and welcoming Korean travelers, the welcome mat for America is indeed looking very frayed," said Oberlin, warning that delays will result in Koreas choosing other travel destinations and business partners.

"We must achieve the twin goals of improving security and facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel," Oberlin told the lawmakers.


 
Another Halloween writing entry
There is more than the clip-clop of the horses
By Lucia Wrestler

Growing up in San Pedro in the 1940s was quite an experience:  You were within walking distance of the country’s capital, yet you were in a small town.  Of course, at that time we didn’t have the conglomeration of cars that we have nowadays.  In fact, most of the traffic went through the main street and on to Cartago as that was the principal route linking the old capital to the new.  Yet, in the side streets what you might see is a carriage being pulled by a pathetically bony horse with blinders on and its head down. 

Going to the circus was quite a treat as you got to see those sleek, massive horses doing their routine around the ring while girls in tights performed on their backs.  How was a small town girl to know the difference between a regular horse and a draft one?

So the sight of a beautiful pair of matched percherons with feathers on their fetlocks and a beautiful ostrich feather on the forehead, their manes and tail allowed to flow in all their glory, pulling a beautiful crystal coach was more than enough to attract a curious child, perhaps quite a few of them.  Of course, the coachman, fully attired in a black suit with a white shirt, top hat and gloves, with the reins in one hand and a whip in the other, totally discouraged anyone getting near enough to touch the beautiful animals.  But he would allow you to stand nearby and admire them.

Seeing something like that, and knowing it was standing right in front of the church, the next step was to go inside and find out what it was all about.  The poor dead are usually carried from home to the church to the cemetery on the shoulders of the pallbearers.  The church ceremony is long enough to grant the pallbearers respite, yet short enough not to clutter up the busy priest’s calendar. He follows the casket to the entrance of the church and does the final blessing of the casket as pallbearers take it down the steps on the way to the cemetery.

The family who can afford to send off their loved one in such a handsome horse and carriage, can well afford to also give the deceased a High Mass for the Dead.  This, to the uninformed, means there is much singing back and forth between the priest and the choir as most of the regular phrases and their responses are sung, with the Dies Iriae and the Stabbat Mater sung at the appropriate times.  High Mass is always lovely. When it’s for the dead it will touch the hearts of all present.

This funeral was lovely: a beautiful hardwood casket in the middle aisle, flowers all over, incense filling the air and the music ascending to heaven. 

Story No. 2

Here is a Halloween story by one of our readers. The story will be judged as part of our Second Annual Halloween Fiction Contest. Input is appreciated.

Story No. 1 is HERE!

The grieving family filled the front pews. Every so often one of them would break down and cry, and the others would rush to comfort and hug her calm.  Unfortunately, construction going on somewhere nearby kept punctuating every so often with repeated hammer blows. 

After almost two hours the Mass was over and the priest prepared himself and the altar boys to accompany the casket to the cemetery. 

The casket was placed in the crystal coach with flowers filling the sides and the top of the carriage.  The coachman eased the horses to start their stately walk to the cemetery. Beauty in motion!  These lovely percherons were a matched pair, and they didn’t just walk. They slowly strutted down the road.  The grieving family, accompanied by the priest, immediately followed the coach and then the friends of the family and onlookers, including the curious children, followed.

The cemetery in San Pedro is about a 15-minute slow walk from the church down the main street toward San José and then left.  Once in the cemetery, the crowd moved with the casket to where it was going to be interred.  It is the custom for the family to have a final viewing of their loved one, so the top is lifted and you can see the person through the viewing window.  The priest did his final blessings over the casket, using the censer to go around the casket and fill the air with the aroma of incense.  The casket was ready for the final goodbye from the family before being lowered.

The man from the funeral home came along with the grieving widow and lifted the top to see the window.  And all the hammering that took place during the Mass was explained as they watched in horror as the person in the casket futilely tried to push open the window with hands that were bloody from all the pummeling he had done while in church. 

His face was already mottled and speckled with blood from his hands and his lips were entirely blue.

Copyrighted 2003 By Lucia Wrestler

It's time to send us your most scary story
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Remember those scary stories you heard while clustered around the campfire? And the strange forest sounds that punctuated the shivery tales?

Well let’s pretend your computer is a campfire, and let’s get cranked up for the 2003 annual A.M. Costa Rica Halloween story contest. Send us your fiction and non-fiction tales that are related somehow to Costa Rica. We’ll pick a winner and send the writer $25.

And we’ll publish the Halloween stories at the end of the month. We will try to publish as many as we can.

The stories must be original and relate to Costa Rica and also to Halloween, ghosts, specters, witches, goblins or at least a tingly feeling along the spine.

By submitting the stories, the authors give A.M. Costa Rica the non-exclusive right to publish them. Send your story to 

editor@amcostarica.com

Our staff example is HERE!

Reader Art Smiley took this photo and the one on Page One from his home in the hills above Pavas. He was about four to five miles away.

Smiley said that he put the lens of his digital camera against the eyepiece of a telescope to get the photos.

He said the drama was amazing. Firemen hosing down homes and residents working to save their dwellings with buckets and garden hoses.
 

Photo by Art Smiley
Blaze tears through homes in Pavas residential area
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An afternoon fire swept through nearly four dozen lower-income homes in Pavas Sunday and injured nearly 40 persons, half of them firemen.

Officials estimate that some 150 families were left without a home.

The blaze was in Villa Libertad, a section of one- and two-story homes, mostly constructed of wood and corrugated metal.

The blaze was the most devastating in years in the San José area. Pavas is a western suburb.

Homeowners with hoses and buckets took up the fight and were joined by nearly 100 firemen from six companies. Persons all over the metropolitan area could at least see the smoke during the afternoon.

Pavas is the most densely populated municipality of the metropolitan area, and Villa Libertad is typical with homes constructed one against the other without much regard for fire codes.

Many of the homes were constructed by the homeowners or family members.

The fire generated thick clouds of black smoke that caused at least 20 residents to suffer respiratory problems. Firemen, too, fell victim to the smoke. Nearly all the injuries were of this type.

Firemen complained about lack of water pressure while fighting the blaze in the informal subdivision. 

There is no official word on a cause, although such homes usually have electrical wiring that does not meet electric codes, and the homeowners use bottled natural gas for cooking.

Off-duty Liberia policeman slain in knife attack
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Assailants attacked and fatally wounded an off-duty Fuerza Pública officer about 2:30 a.m. Sunday. The attack took place in Barrio San Roque in Liberia, Guanacaste.

The dead officer was identified as José Elías Carrillo Espinoza, 48, of the community of Colonia Carmona de Nandayure. He was the father of five children and had served 12 years on the force.

Carrillo suffered a blow to the head and stab wounds in the groin and back, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad 
Pública. He died in a Liberia hospital about an hour after the attack. Death was attributed to heart failure due to loss of blood.

The assailants fled, and the case has been given to the Judicial Investigating organization.

Carrillo was eulogized by the commandant of the Liberia division, Sgt. Víctor Manuel Obando, as an excellent colleague and human being.

Carrillo is the third member of the Fuerza Pública to died in the last two months. Vilmar Zúñiga Calvo, 41, who was working the Sagrada Familia area died Aug. 29 when a presumed drug user wrestled for his service revolver and shot him. The assailant also died.

Walter Méndez Salas, 62, died in San Antonio de Desamparados Oct. 15 while he was hit by a car while riding a bicycle. He was on duty delivering court notifications.


 
Helicopter makes quick rescue of three ill children
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The respiratory epidemic among the Indians of the Talamanca region generated the need for another air rescue Sunday.

A crew from the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea took three young Cabécar youngsters from the settlement of Ñari in the High Talamanca to Grano de Oro de Turrialba for treatment. The three were having trouble breathing.

The Cabécar and Bri-Bri are the original inhabitants for the Talamanca region.

Capt. Martín Sanabria and copilot Roberto Cortés were accompanied by paramedic Ricardo Hernández, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The youngsters were identified as Parcelino Aguilar Aguilar, 21 months, Eida Aguilar Obando, 16 months, and Leirida Aguilar Aguilar, 8 years. The helicopter landed in a place that had been cleared by the residents for that purpose.

The youngsters had been treated the evening before by Dr. Guillermo Cubillo, who is known for his efforts among the Talamanca Indians. Two assistants made the flight with the youngsters.

Rescues such as these have been made several times in the last month because the heavy rains and conditions in the mountains have helped the spread of a respiratory epidemic. 

Communities in the Talamanca are so disbursed that air transport is the most efficient method for bringing the very sick to a modern medical facility.

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