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(506) 2223-1327         Published Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 212            E-mail us
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Modern life has not been kind to country's ghosts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Life has been tough for Costa Rica's ghosts and goblins as they try to put on good faces (for those who have them) because Halloween is approaching.

Costa Rica has a number of ghosts who date from the late 18th and 19th centuries. Modern life has treated them poorly.

For example, there is the carreta sin bueyes. This is the oxcart and its condemned driver who prowl through the streets of San José making that distinctive sound ox carts make. There are several versions of the legend, but one says the ox cart driver had a dispute with a priest. The driver tried to invade a church with his cart and bueyes or oxen. The oxen, not being sinners, refused to enter the church. For his sin, the driver for eternity must travel the streets at night scaring passersby.

Autopista del Sol

That is until the carreta sin bueyes got broadsided by giant rocks and tons of dirt in another landslide at the Autopista del Sol. The oxcart has not been seen since.

There's a good chance the ghostly oxcart propelled by the Devil's hand is off mending itself. Not so for El Cadejos, the big, black scary phantom dog bedecked with chains. The dog was once a boy who was turned into a beast because of his alcoholic excesses. He roams the street at night presumably to carry off other drunks to a fiery pit.

The nightly excursions were cut short when animal rights activists from Heredia caught, vaccinated and castrated the poor creature, who ended up whimpering in dark corners. That was before the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child services agency known for its excesses, found out the creature was once a boy and slapped him into a foster home center where the hellish beast is far outclassed by the teen criminals who run the place.  Naturally there are
Horseface

a flurry of Sala IV appeals pending.

Another denizen of the dark is La Segua, a beautiful woman who roams the night in the Central Valley trying to tempt men. The would-be Don Juans who fall for her charms suddenly are shaken into reality when the lass transforms into an an angry horseface with flaming eyes and flashing teeth.

She's not so pretty now. A group of downtown transvestites caught up with her, mistook her for competition and gave her an unearthly pounding.

A happier fate awaiting La Llorona. That's the very vocal weeping lady who is condemned for aborting her lover's child. Someone told her about women's rights, and now she weeps no more and goes to meetings.

Progress has had its way with physical locations, too. Escazú is well known as the city of witches, and its inhabitants relish that distinction.

The problem is that there are so many condos there now, there are reports of the local witches bouncing from wall to wall because their brooms just cannot make the altitude.

smashed witch



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 212

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San Carlos protesters
win accord on highway

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of San Carlos thought they had their highway when the government of Taiwan agreed to put up the money and select a contractor.

The highway was begun but then the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration turned its back on Taiwan in favor of the People's Republic of China. The Chinese agreed to build a soccer stadium in La Sabana but not a highway.

So San Carlos residents, many being members of the Comité Pro-Carretera, staged a rolling protest Tuesday from their town to Casa Presidencial in Zapote. They have been seeking such a highway for 40 years.

The bottom line was that government officials agreed to come up with $140 million for the project, which includes nine bridges. President Laura Chinchilla was out of the country, but the demonstrators met with Vice President Luis Liberman, Fernando Herrero, the minister of Hacienda, and Carlos Acosta, the director of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad. Acosta's organization is in charge of the highways.

Casa Presidencial said that the $140 million would be requested in a proposed amendment to the nation's so-called extraordinary budget that is being considered in the legislature. There was no mention of where the money would originate.

San Carlos residents argued that much of the nation's agriculture comes from that area and that the region is important to tourism. The highway will be 30 kilometers  some 19 miles, from Sifón de San Ramón and La Abundancia de San Carlos. The road is proposed as a four-lane highway.


U.N. agencies proposed
partnership to save coral

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A new United Nations report urges a global partnership, backed by commitment and resources, to tackle the threats posed to coral reefs by climate change, including damage from increasingly severe tropical cyclones and ocean acidification.

About 20 per cent of the original area of coral reefs has been lost, with a further 25 per cent threatened in the next century, according to the report “Climate, Carbon and Coral Reefs” by the World Meteorological Organization and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Tropical coral reefs contain about 25 per cent of marine species and are worth an estimated $30 billion annually to the global economy in terms of coastline protection, tourism and food.

For the past 20 years, they have been “under siege” from a growing global threat: increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the two U.N. bodies said in a joint press release.

“High CO2 emissions lead to double trouble for coral reefs,” states the report, which was launched at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is currently taking place in the Japanese city of Nagoya.

“First, the trapping of heat in the atmosphere leads to ocean warming which can cause extensive coral bleaching events and mass mortalities. The global devastation of coral reefs from record warming of the sea surface in 1997/1998 was the first example of what is likely to occur in the future under a warming climate.

“Second, high CO2 levels lead to ocean acidification which reduces the ability of the coral reefs to grow and maintain their structure and function.”

The report calls for more financial and technical development assistance for the protection of coral reef ecosystems and makes a number of recommendations for future action, such as the need for meteorologists to be well informed about the potential impacts of weather and climate events on coastal and coral reef ecology.

It also recommends that concise summary reports on the global carbon threats, together with the ongoing regional and local disturbances to the world’s coral reefs, be presented to policy makers and governments, and that further research and investment are needed to improve the ability to assess and predict the impacts on coral reef systems of climate change and associated extreme events.



Jo Stuart will be speaker

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica columnist Jo Stuart will present "The Ten Best Kept Secrets in San José" when she meets with members of the San Ramón Community Action Alliance and other community members Friday. An earlier date was rained out when roads were damaged.

The lunch is at Casa Amanecer, which specializes in Peruvian food.

Ms. Stuart has published a book on her years in Costa Rica and writes a column once a week on Costa Rican themes.

More information is avilable on a San Ramón Web site.


 
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 HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 212

Latigo K-9

Tribunal relents and lets telethon take place during elections
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has again asserted its authority over private events during election times. But it will allow the annual telethon to take place Dec. 3 and 4. The municipal elections are the same weekend.

The organization Club Activo 20-30 Internacional de San José puts on the telethon every year, and most of the proceeds go to the Hospital Nacional de Niños.

Scarleth Ruiz Vargas, president of the organization, filed a request after club members learned that the Municipalidad de Heredia would follow the tribunal's orders and not permit the event to take place in the Palacio de Deportes there.
The negative public relations was ample. Many Costa Ricans perform or volunteer for the telethon.

Despite the public concern, the tribunal continues a ban it placed on mini-telethons at public parks in Coronado, Goicoechea, Santo Domingo de Heredia and Escazú, plus a stadium in Alajuela and the Plaza de la Cultura.

The tribunal argues that large gatherings of persons on the day elections are held might prevent voters from getting to polling places. Forbidden are professional sports and any concerts.

The tribunal also said that approval of the telethon is a one-time decision and that it would not be bound by the decision in the future. The problem arises every four years


Costa Rica wins a good score in annual corruption index
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transparency International has released another report that seeks to rank countries based on their citizens perception of corruption.

Costa Rica finished in seventh place in the Americas this year behind Canada, Barbados, Chile, the United States, Uruguay and Puerto Rico. The country's score was 5.3 out of 10. The country was ranked 41st worldwide.

Cuba was a surprising 9th in the hemisphere with El Salvador, Panamá and Trinidad and Tobago sharing 11th place. Nicaragua was 127th place worldwide with a 2.5 score.

The 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index is a measure of domestic, public sector corruption, the Berlin,
Germany,-based organization said.

In the 2010 report, Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore tied for first place with scores of 9.3. Unstable governments, often with a legacy of conflict, continue to dominate the bottom rungs, said the organization. Afghanistan and Myanmar share second to last place with a score of 1.4, with Somalia coming in last with a score of 1.1.

The report is a composite index, drawing on 13 different expert and business surveys, said Transparency. Source surveys for 2010 were conducted between January 2009 and September 2010, it added. The report ranked 178 countries.

Some countries showed a decline in ranking. The United States was one. Transparency said that some countries involved in the world financial crisis showed declines.


Police asked to stem waves of turtle egg thefts in Pacific
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of the Pacific coast of the Nicoya peninsula are asking the Fuerza Pública to crack down on persons who steal turtle eggs. The turtle nesting season is from July to December, and residents say that police told them they do not have sufficient resources.

The beaches involved are near the communities of San Francisco de Coyote, San Miguel and Bejuco.
The situation was make known by the Programa de Restoración de Tortuga Marina, an environmental organization known as PRETOMA. The residents presented a formal petition a week ago signed by 259 persons, the organization said. Informal requests have not been heeded, it added.

Egg stealing is epidemic along the coast, and organizations like PRETOMA say that egg thieves are ruining a valuable natural resource.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 212


Police to field force of 1,000 against Halloween vandalism

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Halloween or Noche de Brujas, as it is known here, is not a good time for Costa Rica.

Recent traditions have resulted in riots by young people, burning blockades and a spike in crime.

Some youngsters use the excuse of Halloween to wear a mask. This makes it convenient to hold up passersby. Persons wearing Halloween masks also have been known to stick up commercial establishments.

Juan José Andrade Morales, director general of the Fuerza Pública, said he will have 1,000 officers on duty both Saturday and Sunday nights.
He also made a special appeal for parents to pay attention to what their children are doing. He noted that adults often become involved in the lawlessness and add liquor to the mix.

The policeman also suggested that store owners not permit masked individuals to enter.

Many businesses close up for the night that witnesses a lot of destruction. The situation seems enhanced by the young population of Costa Rica.

Because Halloween is Sunday this year, young vandals have two nights to behave badly.

Pavas and points in Heredia are usual trouble spots.



Golfito project figures in California court case over loan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investors are suing developers of a Costa Rican resort that has been halted for economic reasons.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel said that the property is Santosha Resort, a community on 864 acres. A property in Georgia also is involved in the case, said the newspaper, based on court filings.

The thrust of the suit is that the developers, Lifestyles
Real Estate of Santa Cruz, did not pay back the money that was loaned by at least two local men. The project is in the $100 million range.  The project appears to be marketed heavily in California where the suit was filed. A Web page for the development has just U.S. numbers and identifies The McInerney Group at Prudential California Realty, La Jolla, California, as marketing a related project called Santosha Founders' Club.

The development is near Golfito. The Web page says it has a view of the Gulfo Dulce there.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 212

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Ingrid Betancourt recounts
her captivity in new book


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire servcies

In 2002, Íngrid Betancourt was a Colombian senator, campaigning for president as the candidate of the Green Oxygen party, when she and her campaign manager, Clara Rojas, were kidnapped by guerillas from the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC. In a second, as she writes in a new memoir, "Even Silence Has an End," she had become a captive. Her prison, the Amazon jungle.

Until her rescue in 2008, Ms. Betancourt spent her days at the end of a chain, eating mostly rice and beans, and subject to the cruelty and whims of her guards. At night it was so dark she could not see her own hands in front of her, much less the dangers all around.

"There are all kinds of snakes, bugs, tarantulas," she said in an interview recently. "That's at night. And during the day we were chained to a tree by the neck, so we couldn't move anywhere. If we were lucky, we would be able to hang a hammock and stay in the hammock for the day under a mosquito net, but we could also be forced to just sleep on the floor on a plastic sheet."

As a member of Colombia's elite, with dual French citizenship, Ms. Betancourt says, she was often treated with special harshness.

"First, because I was a politician and no one likes politicians, especially the guerillas," she said. "And whenever I tried to explain to them that I was fighting to change the system, they would turn and say, 'Politicians always say the same.' And they were right. And they hated me because I was a cultivated person and they had no education. They thought I could manipulate them, that I could trick them. And I was a woman, and this is a very macho society, where they are very suspicious of women."

Ms. Betancourt tried to escape five times, but each time was recaptured and subjected to new punishment.

"You know you are in extreme situations, you cope with it as much as you can," she said. "For me, the only thing that was important in those humiliating times, very hard, and some sadistic situations where we had the guards being violent and cruel, what I thought was always keeping my dignity, as much as I could preserving the respect I had for myself," she said.

At times hostages were released in prisoner exchanges or for humanitarian reasons. Clara Rojas, who became pregnant by a rebel and gave birth to a baby boy, was released in January 2008. Her son, who had been taken from her by the FARC, was found in the care of a peasant family, and returned to her. But Ms. Betancourt was never among the few released. She was too valuable as a bargaining chip. "The commander once told me, 'You're going to be out here when you're a grandmother,'" she recalled. "He said, 'You will be out when your hair will be on your heels.'"

In July of that year when Ms. Betancourt's hair had grown waist-length a helicopter team landed at the camp to transfer 14 of the hostages. The team seemed to be rebels allied with the FARC. Ms. Betancourt despaired that they would be moved even deeper into the Amazon.

But once the helicopter lifted off, it turned out the rebels were not what they seemed. They quickly subdued several FARC guerillas who had accompanied the hostages aboard. "And then one of them shouted, 'We're the Colombian army and you're free!'" Ms. Betancourt recalled. In an elaborate operation, the Colombian army had tricked FARC commanders into unwittingly giving up their prisoners.

Ms. Betancourt was reunited with her family, including her two children, who had been 13 and 16 when she was captured.  She says the "life of love" she had known before the abduction helped her to survive. "Feeling loved by my children, by my mother, by my father, gave me the strength to want to escape all the time. It was really my obsession," she said. "But I think for me there were also other kinds of love, the love of God, which for me was very important."

She said the love of her fellow hostages also kept her alive, even though several of them, including Clara Rojas and two of the three American hostages, have since criticized her. In their chapters of a jointly written memoir, former hostages Keith Stansell and Tom Howes, said that Ms. Betancourt was selfish and once supervised FARC guards in a search to retrieve embarrassing letters she had written to the third American hostage, Marc Gonsalves. Ms. Betancourt strongly denies those accusations, and says she had no influence among the FARC guards.

She was also widely denounced in Colombia when she announced plans to sue the government for compensation. She later dropped the lawsuit.

Now living in France and the United States, Ms. Betancourt says she will continue lobbying on behalf of kidnapping victims in Colombia, where some human rights groups estimate guerrillas still hold 600 to several thousand hostages. "They are targeting the peasants to take their lands and to get rich just expropriating illegally the work of those peasants," she said, adding that the Colombian army has succeeded in isolating FARC and may well defeat it.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 212


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Driving evaluators held
on allegations of bribery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five government employees who test new drivers for their road test are facing criminal action on allegations that they accepted money from applicants.

The arrests of five employees at the Paso Ancho facility has caused the Ministerio de Obras Públicas yTransportes to reschedule appointments for testing.

The five were detained by the Judicial Investigating Organization at the facility. Some 15 employees from other areas of the ministry are being sent to the facility to give the tests.

The payment of bribes by persons who take driving tests is a long tradition. The amount may range from 5,000 colons to more than 100,000 colons (some $198) for persons who are taking the exam for an over-the-road trucker's license.

Judicial agents conducted a long undercover investigation before making the arrests, they said.

Autopista restricted
at Los Arcos for repairs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


A 50-year-old drain line failed Sunday on the Autopista General Cañas and officials are closing one lane of the highway at Los Arcos to fix it, they said.

The lane is in the westbound direction. The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said it would be doing a lot of site work to prepare for the new drain line. The work is estimated to take 22 days.

The consejo said that the westbound road there has three lanes so that closing one of them will not create a serious traffic jam.

The agency also said that it is closing the Circunvalación between Hatillo and the north end near Guadalupe from 10:30 p.m. until 5 a.m. Thursday to paint lines on the highway.





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