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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 217                          Email us
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Believe it or not, the Christmas season is almost here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is no need to wait for Santa. The shipping containers with Christmas 2012 already have arrived from China. Local stores are bursting with decorations, and merchants are salivating at the prospect of a successful shopping season.

So are hospitality operators who see Christmas as the start of the country's high season and the end of a drab period short on tourists.

Costa Ricans are not bound by the constrictions of Thanksgiving to begin the holiday celebrations. Portals, small nativity scenes, are popping up like mushrooms in businesses and in government offices.

Festival de la Luz

The major official action of the holiday season is the distribution of aguinaldos, the Christmas bonus that represents a twelfth of an employee's salary during the previous 12 months. That takes place in the first two weeks of December, just a month away.

With their pockets full of colons and goodwill in the air, residents will head for San José where The Festival de la Luz, the giant Christmas parade is scheduled to step off Saturday, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m. More than a dozen bands already have been selected to participate. Various companies and government agencies have experts working on the floats that will be in the parade. The event, in its 16th year, will be televised.

At the Teatro Nacional "The Nutcracker,"  El Cascanueces will be drawing crowds Dec. 5 to 16.


The day after Christmas, Dec. 26, will see the capital invaded by horses and riders for the annual Tope Nacional. This year the horse parade will originate at Plaza González Víquez and go west on Paseo Colon. Organizers made this change to prevent riders from entering the line of march at La Sabana without paying the fee, they said.
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
More horses than anyone can imagine.

And at Zapote the same day the Fiestas de San José 2012-2013 will be in full swing. This is the big
carnival with the unique version of Costa Rica bullfighting in the rondel there and on television nationally and internationally.

Hundreds of Costa Ricans, male and female, crowd into the ring to challenge a fighting bull. Some make hasty airborne exits. Spectators pay to see their favorite participants trampled or worse.

The commission running the Zapote festival already has auctioned off 58 booths for food merchants, beer vendors operators of carnival rides and even providers of pay toilets. 

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Some people actually do this.

Christmas is on a Tuesday this year, so most government offices and many  private businesses will be abandoned Thursday, Dec. 20, or Friday, Dec. 21. Most will not be reopened until Monday, Jan. 7. Much of the Central Valley population will head to the beaches or mountains.

Expats with official business are advised to do so  before Friday, Dec. 14, so as not to intrude on the Christmas parties, inaugurations of portales and other  celebrations that take up the time of government workers during the Yule season.

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Tico Times ends campaign
short of its $10,000 goal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tico Times fell short of its $10,000 fund-raising goal via an online donations Web site.

Some 104 persons pledged $8,016, It was unclear if that included a $500 donation made at the newspaper's offices. The donation campaign, highly unusual for a for-profit business, ended at 1 a.m. Costa Rica time.

There were two $500 donations and even one of just $1.

The newspaper management said that the purposed of the donations was to keep the newspaper reporting news. The company, The Tico Times S.A., folded its print edition and said it would continue its online effort with the help of volunteers as it figured out how to make money.

Those who were asked to donate were not told on the site by publisher Dery Dyer that the company owes 17,667,370 colons to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social for social charges on past wages. That information was available on the Caja Web site. That amount is nearly $36,000. The Caja said on the Web site it was involved in a judicial process to collect the money.

The company actually owes about 10 percent more because the Caja does not list amounts owed to other institutions that are collected at the same time.

Some Tico Times readers said they did not contribute because they did not know exactly how the money would be spent or how a small amount, $10,000, could help the newspaper. By comparison, A.M. Costa Rica's monthly budget is $10,000.

The newspaper suffered another blow last week when its Web page was not available for a time. The newspaper said there was a telephone problem.

The Web site provides places for comments, and there were many laudatory contributions. Several thanked the 56-year-old newspaper for starting them in the business of journalism.

Under the terms of the Web Site, The Tico Times will receive the money collected but takes a larger commission because the goal was not met.

Police guard against brujas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública is mounting a major operation all over the country today because the night is the Noche de Brujas, "Witches night," the local version of Halloween. Young hooligans typically use the night as an excuse to set up roadblocks, set fires and even conduct armed robberies.

A light rain Tuesday night in parts of the Central Valley dampened such activity. Police actually have been on guard since last Friday because the weekend is usually when such problems take place. They hope for heavy rains tonight.

Our reader's opinion
No sympathy for Frenchman
who nearly lost an arm

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding your article on the French couple attacked in Limón.

Of course there is never any excuse for armed robbers, you just need to be educated on how to handle these situations you may encounter in any country. Someone should have informed the French tourist that starting a fight with a robber who has a machete it is not a very smart thing to do anywhere in the world, not just in Costa Rica.

No police force or country can really protect people from doing stupid things.  I guess the French Embassy decided to support the stupidity of their national tourist by condemning Costa Ricans for not doing a better job of protecting French tourists from doing stupid things.  The advice should be, better education for French tourists: It is okay to be arrogant, just not when being robbed by an armed robber.

According to the article an Argentine man and woman who were robbed by the same robber, suffered no injuries, since they did not try to fight the robbers.  Man not hurt, robbers caught, stuff returned. Sounds pretty intelligent to me.

Edward Bridges

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.
Click a story for the summary

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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 217
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Hogar Sol is on a small hill so youngsters get a good view of the community below.

Children are above the town
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson

The place where children go when there is trouble in the home
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 6 year old rode around the playground on his toy bicycle while another came running out of the classroom in an Indian costume, Spiderman mask and lady's wide-brim hat.  “I'm not going to tell you who I am,” he exclaimed while laughing and dodging back inside.

On the surface, the children were content, playing with those they call their brothers and sisters while looking for guidance from their tias.  Yet, behind their eyes was a pain stemmed from a life of physical and emotional abuse by their closest family, their parents.

“These kids have no idea what a good mother is,” said Viviana Araya, psychologist and temporary director for Asociación Infantil Hogar Sol in Desamparados. 

Hogar Sol is a non-governmental children's home that collaborates with the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, known as PANI, an effort to protect children who have been abandoned, abused, or sexually and physically assaulted.  The home can serve up to 14 children from ages 1 to 9. 

The child's parents usually have drug or alcohol addictions that have risen from a life of poor education and a lack of economical success, she said.

Ms. Araya points out that their small residents are not orphans.  PANI brings Hogar Sol children who have been taken from their homes because the parents were deemed unfit to care for them at the time.

“Some parents are permitted to visit, but not all,” she said.

The parent goes through a six-month rehabilitation period, and after that time they are reevaluated to see if the child can return home.  If not, an adoption process is started. For most of the children, this is the best option.

Adoptions can come from Costa Ricans or foreigners.  The most foreign adoptions are from Americans, Italians and Germans, and is a process that can be competitive, lengthy and difficult, Ms. Araya said. 

The main goal, she said, is to maintain the child's best interest  at heart.

“We look for the family that is right for the child, not just a family looking for a child,” she said.

In the mean time, the children play and learn lessons typical to elementary school about sharing and following rules.  Three live-in women, called tias or aunts, guide their activities Monday through Friday.  They are given this title to add to the family environment, and live at the home to maintain a sense of stability. From the time of arriving, all
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
The home has the trappings of a big playground.

the residents receive psychological help to cope, which also helps, Ms. Araya said.

The staff also includes a teacher, babysitter and two volunteers, one now is from France and another is from Sweden.  Many Americans give donations in the form of clothes, toys and food to help the non-profit stay operative.

Hogar Sol has been open since 1990.  In this time they have helped 326 boys and girls, a number that seems small in a fight against infant violence that officials have called an epidemic, according the Web site.

“Child violence is a big problem and there are very little homes like ours for the children,” said Ms. Araya.  “And they are all full.”

These places are important because without the help, children from abused backgrounds are more likely to become delinquents, she added.

Despite the odds, these children smile in their temporary place and await for the day they can find comfort in their new home, a process that usually takes a year.

Prosecutors quiz ex-official shown in embarrassing video
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Government investigators questioned former vice-minister Karina Bolaños looking for evidence of corruption, a press release said Tuesday.

In the interview, investigators sought evidence linking government officials to the poor construction of the road that runs along Costa Rica's northern border.

Ms. Bolaños was a vice-minister in the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. She was cast into the limelight in August when a video of her was published on YouTube showing her dressed in only underwear addressing a man who is not her husband. She has since been fired from her job, and her husband, legislator Víctor Hugo Víquez Chaverri, has filed for divorce.

Prosecutors from the probity, transparency and anti-corruption department of the Ministerio Publico conducted the interview with Ms. Bolaños, said the release. It was part of an internal investigation of the infamous trocha fronteriza, the road that runs along Río San Juan and Costa Rica's border with Nicaragua.

Before the road was built, people traveling along Costa Rica's northern border had to do so by boat on the Río San Juan.
Since the entire river belongs to Nicaragua, this meant that travelers had to deal with Nicaraguan border checkpoints. Also, Costa Rican police could not carry weapons while patrolling the river.

The road was designed to allow Costa Ricans to travel along the Río San Juan without these difficulties. However, the road was poorly constructed and it has consequently fallen into disrepair much quicker than it should have.

Prosecutors from the Ministerio Publico are investigating to see if government officials or businesses siphoned money from the project and used lower quality materials to build the road.

The press release says that the ministry has conducted 50 raids and 40 interviews in this investigation over the past two months. It also adds that prosecutors have asked the court to temporarily halt the finance ministry's payments to 13 companies involved in the construction while the investigation proceeds.

The press release refers to Ms. Bolaños as a witness. The release makes no mention of her being a suspect.

After she lost her ministry job she was critical of the Laura Chinchilla administration and its management.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 217
Real Estate
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Jo Stuart

                vacation promo

A pole with a Nicaraguan flag at the top could have been erected some time ago.  But the posts and the wire are new.

Calero and flag
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto photo

Fence on disputed land draws protest from officials here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone has constructed a short fence on the disputed territory in north Costa Rica, and officials in San José are blaming the Nicaraguans.

The foreign ministry dispatched a note of protest Tuesday to  Harold Rivas, the Nicaraguan ambassador here.

The note energetically protested the violation of terms that the International Court of Justice set down March 8, 2011, the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said.

The fence and barbed wire is along a narrow canal that Nicaraguan troops dug more than two years ago. Photos released by the foreign ministry here are unimpressive. They show a few posts and sagging wire. One photo shows a pole
with a Nicaraguan flag at the top, but that could have been erected some time ago. There appears to be just one strand of wire on the posts.

The area on the Isla Calero and Isla Portillos had been occupied by Nicaraguan troops, but they left before the issue went to the World Court. Periodically young Sandinista activists invade the area and spend a few days there.

Costa Rica blamed the fence on Nicaraguans.

As with past protests, Nicaraguan officials are likely to ignore this one.

Under terms of the temporary court ruling, Costa Rica has the right to enter the area and conduct efforts to protect the environment. Nicaraguans are not supposed to be there.

A.M. Costa Rica announces an adjustment in advertising rates
A.M. Costa Rica announces a small increase in display advertising rates as of Nov. 1.

The increase will be from 6 to 9 percent to compensate for additional expenses in salaries, rents, utilities, government fees and the estimated 6 percent increase in the cost of living. Current advertising contracts will not be affected.

As has always been the case, the newspaper will continue to place advertising at the current rates until Nov. 1, and
advertising executives have been instructed to contact their
clients with this information. Classified rates remain unchanged.

Advertising with A.M. Costa Rica still is a great deal because the company does not have to buy paper and the pages are in at least 90 countries every day. Every weekday the newspaper serves up about 32,000 pages to readers. Independent statistical monitors report that there are about 10,000 to 12,000 unique visitors a day. Advertising executives are authorized to display the latest statistics to customers and potential customers. Most sophisticated business operators want to see those statistics.
– originally published Oct. 16, 2012

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Cat trees
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 217
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                vacations in Costa Rica

U.N. agency says forecast
for Sandy was perfect

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

While Superstorm Sandy created havoc as it barreled its way across the Eastern seaboard of the United States, the World Meteorological Organization said weather predictions and the national response to the disaster are working as they should. The deadly storm has left millions of homes without power. 
The World Meteorological Organization said the weather systems it has in place performed brilliantly in forecasting Hurricane Sandy. It said the 48-hour forecast tracking the route of the storm showed how Sandy would be pushed on shore.
Geoff Love, the U.S. agency's  director of weather and disaster risk reduction services, said there is virtually no difference between the analysis of likely events and the forecast.  He said the 48-hour forecast was spot-on.
“The environmental conditions were perfect. The forecasts were very, very, very good and, of course, we have seen on the media the U.S. emergency authorities all responded exceedingly well," said Love. "So, from the WMO perspective, it is a disaster. But, boy, all our systems worked really well - the U.S. forecast, the U.S. Emergency Management systems. And, it will be seen as, probably, a textbook case in how well you can do.” 
Although the forecasting and disaster preparedness efforts are working well, Love said there is no way to minimize the consequences of this catastrophic disaster. Besides the unfortunate loss of life, he said it will take time to assess the enormous property damage and tally up the bill.
​​Despite this unavoidable downside, Love said the World Meteorological Organization would like to see every country do as well in forecasting and preparing for predicted disasters. On the basis of a 48-hour forecast for Thursday, he said Sandy remains a powerful and dangerous storm. 
“It is still a very big system.  It will probably still be bringing substantial rain to the East Coast. Snow up north in Canada," said Love. "It is still a big, slow moving weather system and probably has not finished yet, and that will make recovery trickier than normal.” 
Sandy continues to move inland over the northeastern United States.

Last week, Sandy did not directly hit the poor Caribbean island of Haiti. But heavy winds and heavy rainfall from the storm caused extensive damage.  Official figures put the number of confirmed deaths at 29, with eight wounded and four people missing.
The United Nations reports almost 6,000 families are affected, thousands of houses flooded, destroyed and damaged and nearly 19,000 people were evacuated to 136 emergency shelters.
Haiti is still suffering from the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, which affected three million people, killing more than 316,000.  U.N. officials said Haiti will need a lot of help to recover from this latest disaster.

Plastic waste being tapped
to provide alternate fuel

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The next big thing in fuel could come from repurposed plastic. However, only 7 percent of plastic waste in the United States is recycled each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

A company in Niagara Falls, New York, is working to increase that percentage, with an eye toward reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Th firm has a machine known as the “plastic-eating monster.”

Every hour, thousands of kilograms of shredded milk jugs, water bottles, and grocery bags tumble into its large combustion chamber. The waste plastic comes from landfills and dumps across the United States.

John Bordyniuk, who runs his namesake company, JBI, Inc., invented the new process for converting plastic into a range of fuels.
First, many different kinds of unwashed plastics are melted together.

“The viscosity looks like milk," Bordyniuk says. "Almost like when you’re heating milk on the stove. Looks exactly like that, except it’s black.”

Bordyniuk uses a patented catalyst to vaporize the inky fluid and reduce the plastic to its most basic elements.

“Plastics are just long hydrocarbon chains," he says. "What we’re doing is re-forming them into links and chains that we want so they have a high fuel value.”

The system powers itself, with 8 percent of the plastic waste running the process. Bordyniuk hired outside testers who concluded that nearly 86 percent of what goes in comes out as fuel.

At the other end of the plastic eating machine, JBI executive Bob Molodynia looks on while a stream of thin brown liquid pours into an oil barrel.

“You could tap this right now and it’s ready to go,"  Molodynia says. "That’s a number six fuel, that’s what a lot of what US Steel uses, a lot of major companies, that’s what they pay the big bucks for, right there.”

JBI creates several grades of fuel for a variety of industries and sells them for up to $100 a barrel through national distributors. Each barrel costs about $10 to produce and JBI produces several thousand liters of oil a day.

The company has signed deals to set up operations next to large plastic waste dumps.

Bordyniuk believes plastics will become a significant source of domestic fuel that reduces the country’s dependence on foreign oil, while at the same time reducing the amount of plastic waste sitting in the country’s landfills.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 217
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Latin America news
Policeman held in Palmares
after credit card is stolen

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators arrested a police officer Tuesday in Palmares on the allegation that he was swiping and using another person's debit card, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

A judicial spokesperson said that the detained officer's name is Dorian Andres Vargas Villagas and that he is a member of the Fuerza Pública.

The report says that the incident occurred in July.

According to the bulletin, the victim forgot to take his card out of an ATM in Palmares after he finished using it. Investigators suspect that Vargas used the ATM moments later and found the card.

The report says that the man who took the card quickly began making purchases, taking his girlfriend along part of the time. The report also says that the man bought groceries, among other things.

The victim reports that about 200,000 colons (about $400) worth of charges were put on the card before it was canceled.

Five held in armed robbery
of Cartago clothing store

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization arrested five men Tuesday that they suspect robbed a sporting goods store in Cartago earlier this month, a judicial bulletin said.

One of the men arrested worked at the store that was robbed. A judicial spokesperson identified this man by the last names of Garita Castro.

The five men are suspected of robbing a sporting goods store called Penny Lane in downtown Cartago.

The report says that the four men who did not work at the store entered and proceeded to rob it of clothes and shoes of various popular brands, like Adidas, Puma and Nike. A judicial spokesperson said that some of them had guns with which they threatened the shopkeepers. Investigators said that the total value of all of the stolen items was 35 million colons or about $70,000.

Judicial agents said they performed 12 raids and were permitted by the owners to search four homes. Police used evidence or property similar to that which was stolen from Penny Lane that they found in some homes to arrest the five suspects. 

The other four men arrested in connection to the robbery were identified by the last names Chavarría Castro, Madrigal Meza, Lisano Gazo and Fallas Fernández.

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