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(506) 223-1327          Published Monday, Nov. 20, 2006 in Vol. 6, No. 230        E-mail us    
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Masked marchers and dancers in colorful dresses were among those celebrating diversity Sunday.

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking

Colorful parade turns focus on plight of immigrants
By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The sun was out Sunday for the few hundred participants in the multicultural celebration on Avenida 2 in downtown, San Jose.  From around 9 a.m. until after 11 a.m. people gathered, danced and sang while organizers were busy preparing to parade down a traffic-filled avenue.  With the aid of some local police, the march went off without a hitch.

The parade was an attempt to draw attention to immigration, refugee issues and xenophobia in Costa Rica.  Through raising awareness about immigrant contribution to society, organizers said they hope that they can counter discrimination.

While banners and flags made it apparent that many of the participants were Nicaraguan, one of the marchers said that it was a parade for all people: “Costa Ricans, Nicaraguans, Italians, Americans, it's a celebration for everyone.” There
could be as many as 600,000 foreigners illegally in Costa Rica, and officials estimate that at least 300,000 are Nicaraguans.

Costa Ricans frequently blame Nicaraguans for overloading the social services, like medical care and schools.

People on the sidewalks were certainly distracted from their usual Sunday activities.  They were entertained by the parade which included  a three-piece band, women and girls dancing in traditional dress, participants of all ages in costumes and home-made masks, banners, flags and a loud speaker shouting out slogans of peace, unity and mutual respect.

The parade ended at the Plaza de la Democracia, a site that was originally built for the welcoming of the presidents of the Americas in 1989 and a now popular political rallying point. 

Speeches and other activities were to follow.

Modern day highwaymen are targeting tourist buses
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tour agencies are reeling from a string of tourist bus holdups along the Autopista General Cañas.

The latest was Nov. 11, according to a tour agency that handled the arrangements for the minibus.

Masked robbers in a car forced over the tour bus containing three Germans by threatening the driver with guns. This bus was traveling from Juan Santamaría airport to San José, and the holdup took place on the autopista near the cloverleaf intersection with the Circumvalación about 11 p.m.

The robbers, described as aggressive, stripped the tourists of their luggage and personal items and took valuables from the driver and a guide. The trip had a city hotel as a destination.

Then one of the robbers pistol whipped one of the German tourists, said the agency. After the bandits left, the driver borrowed a cell telephone from a passing taxi driver and called police, who never showed up, said the agency.

Later the tourists and the driver were able to make a police report at their destination, the agency said. The information was contained in an e-mail distributed  on a mailing list of tour agencies and confirmed independently. The report said the  bandits had a foreign accent in Spanish, possibly Colombian.
Another agency spokesman said a similar holdup took place about 8:30 p.m. with a bus his agency booked to carry tourists from San José to a beach destination several months ago.

The stickup was at about the same location, he said.

Police and the Judicial Investigation Organization have not made reports on any of these stickups public. But one tour agency said that investigators confided that dozens of cases have been reported at about the same location.

The e-mails about the robberies are unusual. Another industry source said that such incidents usually are hushed up to avoid affecting tourism.

This source said that a flurry of such robberies took place between 2000 and 2003, and agencies began routing their tourism buses around the autopista.

Tour agencies have generally decided not to put armed guards on such buses to avoid the possibility of a bloody shootout. However, they are trying to figure out who is tipping off the robbers at the airport and at hotels downtown.

The autopista, a four-lane, divided highway, frequently is the scene of robberies. In one case, crooks rolled boulders down an embankment to stop cars. They were caught.

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'3,000 kilos under the sea'
is a new smugglers' text

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Red Fleet of the Soviet Union couldn't do it.

But some Colombians thought they could slip past the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy in a Fiberglas submarine.

Just to raise the stakes a little, officials here said the sub carried about 3 tons of cocaine.

The 45-foot craft was designed to run about three to six feet below the water to avoid radar. The craft had snorkel tubes to bring in air to the four occupants.

Well, it didn't work. The U.S. warships on patrol in the Pacific didn't even have to use depth charges or undersea rockets.

The craft was captured some 80 miles off the Costa Rican Pacific coast near the Isla del Coco. It now sits next to a dock at the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas in Puntarenas.

Many agencies were involved in the detention, the specifics of which have not been given. Law enforcement officials seem to have had some tips from Colombia about the construction of a submarine.

Pump-and-dump schemes
turn to spam on Internet

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Internet spam seems to be as vibrant as ever, and the motivation behind much of it is Internet fraud. 

One such scheme, which has been labeled pump and dump, is directed at vulnerable investors.  The basic scam is that an e-mail is sent out reporting incredible growth potential in a certain stock and that investment right away is bound to make a killing.  It is generally a cheap, thinly held stock of which a percentage is originally owned by those involved in the scam.  The stock is almost always real, and the jargon that accompanies it can be convincingly professional:

An incredible business model in a booming sector, forthcoming publicity campaigns, press releases that are going to skyrocket the stock, do not miss out, this is your chance, and so on.

The idea is to get as many people investing in the stock as fast as possible so that it's market value increases for no other reason than investor interest.  When the stock elevates to a certain value, those who are in on the scam sell off their percentage of the stock at the inflated price, making themselves a handsome profit and leaving all others with an overvalued investment.

The stocks usually are those of real companies, and the companies say they have no knowledge of the scheme. The frequency of such scams has increased dramatically in Costa Rica, and some of the scamsters have lists of local e-mail addresses.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission warns that the scammers may be insiders of the company or paid promoters. 

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has made available an information and advice page on its web site on how to counter these scams. The basic approach is not to act on investment advice from spam e-mails.

Multiple factors cloud
nation's weather forecast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weather situation is complicated by a cold front coming down from the Gulf of México and Tropical Depression Sergio in the Pacific north and west of the country.

The Instituto Meteorológical Nacional said that the cold front will produce the first north winds that drive away the rainy season. The latest report said that a decrease in temperature is likely today with an increase in rain in the northern zone and in the Caribbean slope. However, the prediction is for dry weather on the pacific coast and in the Central Valley.

The Weather Underground which provides weather reports for A.M. Costa Rica agrees with the institute but says that clearing will not take place until later in the week.

Guillermo Quiros, a professor and director of the Instituto de Costas in Heredia, sent out an e-mail Sunday night saying that the cold front could cause strong winds and high tides on the Pacific as well as the Caribbean.

The e-mail cites predictions by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which are considered conservative.

The Tropical Depression Sergio appears to be heading west away from the coast some five degrees north of Costa Rica. Although the depression is moving west and slightly south, the low pressure area could affect the weather on both coasts here.

Robber gets 10 years
for taking 110 colons

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man got an 11-year prison term last week, mostly for  robbing the equivalent of about 20 U.S. cents from a 13-year-old boy.  The Poder Judicial released a report in which it said the man's last names are Marchena Guzmán, and that he has been charged with both aggravated and simple robbery. 

The aggravated robbery, for which the convicted will serve the majority of his term, dates back to an incident at a bus stop in May of 2004.  Marchena approached a boy at a bus stop in Hatillo and demanded that he purchase a phone card from him for 100 colons, the report said.  The boy refused at which point Marchena pulled out a kitchen knife and told him to hand over all of his money, said the Poder Judicial.  The youth handed over a reported 110 colons, his bus fair for the day.

In the same month and year, Marchena had attempted to take a radio out of a women's car that had been parked at a supermarket in Hatillo.  Two officers had spotted the attempted robbery and were able to detain him. 

For the robbery of a child involving a weapon, Marchena received a 10-year sentence in the Tribunal de Juicio de Hatillo, the report said.  The additional year was added for his attempted robbery of the car radio.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 230

Example to counter expat boredom can be found in Escazú
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Escazú resident Sam Butler is a poster figure for how not to get bored in Costa Rica.

Boredom, of course, is the sneaky condition that puts expat retirees in front of the television seeking Weather Channel reruns.

Not so for Butler, founder of the Speaker's Forum, operator of a couple of unique Web sites and author of an e-mail U.S. political commentary.

Now he is off on a quest to extract biodiesel from a lowly tropical bush.

The 73-year-old former Californian is assisted in his efforts by his wife, Karen, who used to work as administrative assistant to the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy. They met here and made an effort to visit and learn about all areas of Costa Rica.

Butler is worth considering because hundreds of North American expats are in Costa Rica or soon will be. The main challenge is to merge their retiree lifestyle with something that keeps the brain working.

Butler is not without diversion. He plays golf twice a week and sometimes bridge. But when speaking at his Bello Horizonte condo, he becomes animated discussing United
States politics or some of the topics that have come up at the 21-month-old Speaker's Forum.

He admits that he has friends who left Costa Rica because they were bored. But the Speaker's Forum, which meets monthly, has managed to pull together as many as 40 expats into the same room to consider topics as tabloidesque as flying saucers and ancient civilizations and as controversial as the Villalobos investment operation.

Being a go-getter is nothing new for Butler. His resume notes that he was one of the youngest licensed real estate salespersons in the State of California in 1951 when he was but 18. A bachelor's in economics from the University of California at Berkeley helped him jump start a real estate career that lasted until he retired here at 62.

Sam Butler
A recent addition to his interests is the Voice of the Expats, a Web site where Butler says:

"The VOICE of the Expats in Costa Rica is a recently formed forum to provide the means by which Expats from all countries living in Costa Rica can express their
opinions — anonymously, if they choose — regarding matters that affect their legitimate interests and those of the host country."

His other site is Ideasfree.org where visitors are encouraged to post ideas and discuss previously posted comments. The subjects range from world peace to
garbage, and most with a Costa
Rican hook. Butler's most recent interest is the Jatropha curcas plant, which gives oil-rich seeds. It is no coincidence that the new Speaker's Forum Nov. 28 will address this topic.

The speakers are author and Professor Ivar Zapp and botanist Roy Lent, both residents here. They have been invited to give up to a one-hour talk and PowerPoint presentation followed by questions and answers. The topic includes cultivation of Jatropha curcas in Puriscal as well as other biofuels and alternative energies.

The forums are held at Mike's Place in Escazú. Those who may want to attend can get directions by calling 289-6333, 821-4708 or 289-6087. There is a 1,000-colon admission.

Butler calls biofuels the wave of the future. He also hopes to get James Latham, director of Radio for Peace International to visit Dec. 12 to discuss the conflict between the radio station and the University for Peace in Ciudad Colón. The school leadership evicted the radio station in a well-publicized scandal, and Latham managed to keep the station on the air via the Internet.

Don't bother to ask Butler what he will be doing over the holidays. He just got 50 pounds of Jatropha seeds.

Alleged characteristics of animals brighten the language
No seas tan animal.

“Don’t be such an animal.” This dicho is used mostly as an admonishment. We employ it, for example, when we want someone to stop acting in a thoughtless, stupid or otherwise fairly brutish way because, of course, it is generally assumed that this is the manner in which “animals” — that is to say, the four-legged kind — behave.

This sort of comparison between Homo sapiens and other non-vegetable life forms is interesting. Take for instance my uncle, who always referred to his wife’s brother as “that animal.”

I remember once, as a child, hearing him berate my aunt with: ¡Ese animal de tu hermano choco el carro otra vez! “That animal of a brother of yours wrecked the car once again!”  So, of course, when I was a kid of 5 or 6, before I’d ever actually met the guy, I imagined him to be some hulking ape-like creature that walked on his knuckles. When we finally did meet, I was startled to find him to be a very unremarkable looking young man. For quite some time, however, I kept a wary eye on him for any sign of bestial behavior.
When we ask someone how they are, they may sometimes respond: Como las vacas, literally meaning “like the cows.” This response arises out of the stereotypical scene of bucolic tranquility that comes to most people’s mind when they think of cows. These are the contented bovines that produce the evaporated milk marketed by a certain U.S. company. The fact that cows are also among the planet’s stupidest creatures does not often violate this serene image.

Therefore, when one responds: Como las vacas to the question ¿Cómo estás? It is not his intention to convey the impression that he is stupid.

Ser una yegua is another expression with virtually the same meaning as “to be a dumb animal,” though the word yegua actually means “mare.” Why yegua is worse than caballo, which is any male horse or stallion, is anyone’s guess. Trabajar como un caballo, or “to work like a horse,” for example is a good thing. But to say ¡Ayy que yegua eres! To anyone, man or woman, is insulting. It is also entirely possible for a man to trabajar como un caballo, but — if he spends his money on frivolous things — to be referred to as a yegua.

When someone makes stupid statements, he or she is saying yeguadas.

But a yeguada transcends the merely ridiculous. It is an utterance of such stunning idiocy as to warrant universal and eternal scorn. Here’s an example: A bandito walks into your place of business and, at gunpoint, demands that you turn over all the money. So you give him the few thousand colones that are in the caja registradora (cash register) and tell him that’s all there is. Then suddenly Manuel, your young blockhead of an employee, pipes up, “But, patrón (boss), don’t forget the bank deposit that’s in the caja fuerte (safe).”  Now that is a colossal yeguada, which would probably earn the hapless Manuel a swift kick on his backside before being unceremoniously fired.
No seas camello “Don’t be a camel” means don’t do more than your share of the work. We might say que camello of the person who is always taking on extra work even though he never gets an increase in pay. Usually, the way other employees see it at least, this guy is playing himself for the fool.
Zorro, or fox, is a member of the animal kingdom whose seemingly crafty characteristics are sometimes assigned to humans. This can be a good thing, as in the case of the legendary Robin Hood-esque hero of old California who 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

went about confounding the wicked, helping the poor, saving damsels in distress, and generally leaving his mark (“Z”) all over what is now Greater Los Angeles.

But a human zorro can also be something of a rapscallion as in the case of the fellow, say, who has a girlfriend in Nosara and a wife in Playas del Coco and manages to keep each one

completely in the dark concerning the existence of the other. His buddies might indeed think of this guy as a very clever zorro, but the ladies would probably be more likely to consider him a zorrillo, or a real “skunk.”

One doesn’t encounter the word perra, or “bitch” as an oath or pejorative in Spanish very often, at least not with anywhere near the same frequency that it is used in colloquial English. But I can think of one popular Spanish expression where it is used: Que vida más perra or “what a bitch of a life.”  A brief family story may prove enlightening here:

When I was a boy my grandfather owned a store. He had two guard dogs, a male and a female. He always said that the female was by far the better sentinel because she was more ill-tempered, ferocious and suspicious of strangers than her male partner. If this is so, then que vida más perra takes on a bit more significance.
I love animals, and I also respect them, but sometimes I wonder just who is imitating who. Is it really animal characteristics we are assigning to people, or is it the other way round?

Let’s take the turkey, or pavo in Spanish. Surely there is no more regally recognizable symbol of the upcoming U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. The turkey is virtually the king of the feast, though I doubt many humans would have the slightest interest in trading places with him on Thanksgiving or any other date throughout the year for that matter.

Of course, modern-day turkeys have been domesticated to such an extent that they bear little resemblance to their somewhat more, shall we say, intuitive ancestors that populated the New England wilderness 385 years ago. Nor, I hasten to add, does the typical housewife require her husband to carry his blunderbuss into the wilds of the local supermarket in order to obtain one. In any case, however, domestication has resulted in an animal, which, though now absurdly plump and meaty, is among the most ridiculously dopy creatures in current existence.

Domestic turkeys literally do not have sense to come in out of the rain!

So, in the case of the turkey at least, it would appear debatable as to just whose characteristics have been transferred to whom. Now there’s a little food for holiday thought!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 230

Navy plans new terror trial court complex at Guantanamo
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Defense Department is looking for contractors to build a new facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where it can hold large-scale military trials for terrorism suspects held there.

The U.S. Navy has issued the call for bids on a contract for work estimated to cost between $75-$125 million. The new courtrooms could host dozens of trials, and Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman says the existing facilities cannot handle them.

"The single courtroom that is down there is basically designed for handling a single-defendant trial," he said. "What we're looking at is some additional courtrooms, as well as the security infrastructure that's necessary to allow for more trials and multiple-defendant trials to be taking place at the same time."

Whitman says the new facility will include rooms for storing, viewing and discussing classified evidence against the detainees, as well as living and dining facilities for lawyers and the media.

The Navy wants bids submitted by early January, but Whitman says construction will depend on approval of the funding by the Congress.

The Pentagon has said it wants to start holding what it calls the "military commissions" early next year. That could
happen even before the new facility is finished.

These commissions would be held under a law passed by Congress and signed by President Geroge Bush earlier this year. The law creates a new procedure for trying the detainees, replacing previous plans that the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in June.

The new procedures are themselves the subject of a legal challenge. But Bryan Whitman says the Defense Department is preparing to proceed anyway.

"There will always be legal challenges to everything that the department does," he said. "It's the nature of the legal system and the nature of advocacy. But the American people expect and desire this country to move forward with commissions to try those unlawful combatants for Law of Land Warfare violations. And that's what this department is proceeding to do."

The Pentagon says there are about 435 detainees held at Guantanamo, but 110 of them have been approved for release or transfer to their home countries. Small groups of detainees are released or transferred from time to time, as U.S. officials complete negotiations with countries that agree to accept them.

But 14 new detainees arrived at the facility in September from secret CIA prisons around the world. They are among the most notorious of the detainees and are expected to be among those tried under the new procedures.

Resumption of stalled trade talks pushed by G-20 delegates
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Finance ministers and central bankers from 20 powerful economies meeting in Australia have urged an early resumption of stalled global trade talks and greater cooperation against illegal financing.

The Group of 20 wrapped up its annual meeting Sunday, warning of increased protectionism following the collapse of World Trade Organization talks.

The latest series of free-trade negotiations, known as the Doha round, stalled in July because of disagreements over how much developed countries should cut farm subsidies.

In its final communique, the G-20 says a successful Doha round could speed global economic growth, and reduce financial instability and poverty.

The G-20 call for an early resumption of the talks echoed a declaration from leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific economies meeting in Hanoi.

Both G-20 and World Trade Organization meetings have attracted mass anti-globalization protests, which have often turned violent. The annual G-20 meeting in Melbourne was no different, as protesters clashed with police.

Saturday 10 police officers were injured and seven protesters arrested.

Christine Nixon, the police commissioner for Australia's Victoria State, says foreign activists suspected of instigating the attacks will be investigated.

"They are people who are well trained. What we saw was guerilla tactics and it required us to respond in similar ways," said Nixon.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard denounced the protests as "thuggish behavior."

The G-20 economies account for 90 percent of the world's gross domestic product. Members include the United States, the European Union, Japan, China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

Energy security, foreign exchange flexibility and reform of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were also on the agenda at the two-day meeting in Australia.

The delegates called for greater cooperation in fighting illicit financial activities, such as funding terrorism and money laundering. The G-20 ministers also condemned last month's nuclear test by North Korea.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 230

14-year-old proves to be the surfer to watch as season starts in Boca Barranca
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Carlos Muñoz, winner of this weekend's surf competition in the under-14 category, is beginning to look like someone to watch in the upcoming 2006-2007 surfing season.

The season started this weekend with the competition in Boca Barranca, Puntarenas. Some 58 surfers showed up.

Muñoz, who lives in Playa Esterillos Oeste appeared to be the dominant surfer in all categories. He said he is in training to be part of the national team in the next year.

Category winners this weekend got 500 points towards the season championships.

In the boys final, the under-16 category, Anthony Flores beat out current champion Jairo Pérez. The junior woman winner was Natalie Bernold.  She is a top surfer from Tamarindo.

The next competion is next weekend in Playa Avellanas de Santa Cruz. This is the Pinilla Classic in the surf in front of Hacienda Pinilla.

The Federación de Surf de Costa Rica gave this list of winners:

Juniors (younger than 18 years): 1. Jairo Pérez, 2. Anderson Tascon, 3.  Jordan Hernández, 4. José Calderón.

Junior women: 1. Natalie Bernold, 2. Malia Galluccio, 3. Deby Zeck, 4. Lupe Galluccio.

Shifi Surf Shots
Carlos Muñoz, de Playa Esterillos Oeste

Boys (younger than 16): 1. Anthony Flores, 2. Jairo Pérez, 3. Anderson Tascon, 4. Jordan Hernández.

Grommets (younger than 14 years): 1. Carlos Muñoz, 2. Michael Torres, 3. Alberto Muñoz, 4. Anthony Filligham. 

Minigrommets (younger than 12 years) 1. Leonardo Calvo, 2. Joshué Rodríguez, 3. Jeremy Castro, 4. Mari Paz Solano.

Novice: 1. Jacobo Carrillo, 2. David Madrigal, 3. Adonis Torres, 4. Alvaro Vargas.

Just look at all the fun that we managed to miss this Saturday morning.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The staff and management of A.M. Costa Rica regret that they were not able to participate in the little excursion Saturday when runners covered the distance between San José and Puntarenas.

That's a mere 110 kilometers or about 66 miles, a good stretch of the legs to settle breakfast, as they say.

Alas, the A.M. Costa Rica company car can't even make it
to Puntarenas and maybe not even to the Estadio Nacional in La Sabana where participantes started the race at 1 a.m. Saturday. It is hard to believe but organizers said that more than 800 runners took part in the event.

The winner was Johnny Loría of the Coopermax team, who did the course in 6 hours and four minutes. The secret: No weekend traffic.

Come to think of it, we'll be busy elsewhere next year, too. And the year after that, too!

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