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(506) 2223-1327        Published Monday, Nov. 22, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 230           E-mail us
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Foreign minister will brief environmentalists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican officials continue to stress the environmental damage that Nicaraguan troops and workers have caused and will cause on the Isla Calero.

Although the general public has not shown much anger over the invasion onto Costa Rican soil, environmentalists have been sending a steady stream of e-mails lambasting the Nicaraguan actions.

The foreign troops and workers have attempted to change the course of the Río San Juan to provide better access from the Caribbean.  In doing so they have cut down trees, dumped dredged river bottom on Costa Rican land and appear poised to channel the river through a vital lagoon.  The lagoon is believed to be vital in the life cycle of many sea creatures, including the fabled northeastern Costa Rican tarpon.

Environmental damage also is expected to be Costa Rica's strongest card when it asks the International Court of Justice in The Hague to freeze the work on the river, at a hearing expected to be in January.
René Castro, the foreign minister has scheduled a meeting today with representatives of environmental organizations at Casa Amarilla, the ministry. The session is at 3 p.m. In addition, the ministry will welcome the public Wednesday at the same time for a discussion of the situation.

Several dozen Costa Ricans gathered at Parque Central Sunday to protest the Nicaraguan invasion, but they were in the minority. Some Costa Ricans have begun to wear the national colors on their shirts and lapels. Vendors are selling Costa Rican flags on the street, but a first division soccer game generates more flag displays than has been seen in the last month.

The Laura Chinchilla administration has been careful not to stoke the fires of nationalism, in part because so many Nicaraguans live in Costa Rica and officials fear repercussions. In fact, leftist groups already are accusing the administration and the news media of fueling xenophobia against Nicaraguans. The e-mails may be more disinformation from the Daniel Ortega administration in Managua, which had generated public demonstrations on the topic there. A parallel theme is the island is not worth fighting for.

Another aging San José building gets a makeover
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another 19th century landmark structure in San José has been restored with the financial help of an agency of the culture ministry.

The structure is the La Alhambra on Calle 2 between avenidas Central and 2.

The Junta de Andalucía in Spain also provided funds as well as the ministry agency, the Centro Patrimonio. The original La Alhamba, a landmark Spanish castle, is in Grenada, Aldalucía.

The building is under private ownership, and with the restoration the structure will continue to be rented for commercial uses, said the Centro. The heritage center invested 192 million colons or about $382,000 in the project. The structure contains designs that come from the Moorish architecture that characterizes the original La Alhambra.

The building was the site of a fire in 2008 that did extensive damage. There also was general deterioration due to age and lack of maintenance, said the Centro. The restoration began last year.

Some of the project involved restoring the third floor walls that had been damaged in the fire. The owners did interior work under the eye of the Centro so that the historic nature of the building was not changed, said the Centro.

Restoration detail
Centro Patrimonio Nacional photo
Detail of the decorations on the building facade.

The support from Spain was invested mainly in
the face of the building, which included metalwork. All the windows and doors were replaced along with the ornamental work on the facade, said the Centro.

The building had been declared a heritage site in 2000.

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The full moon Sunday also was a blue moon, meaning that it is the third full moon in a season that has four full moons. Typically a season of three months has three full moons. The next one will be Aug. 31, 2012, astronomer says. This is the origin of the expression 'Once in a blue moon.'

Slide blocks Limón route
and missing vehicle sought

UPDATE: The traffic agency said that the route to Limón was opened by 9:40 a.m. today but the road still is a mess.  No wrecked vehicles were found.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another massive slide blocked the San José-Limón highway in Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo and motorists reported that they thought at least one vehicle was caught in the debris.

Rescue workers said later they could not locate any vehicle, but they were expected to keep on searching today.

The highway, Ruta 32, remained open during the early part of the month when heavy rains were ravaging the road infrastructure elsewhere. Rains returned Sunday, and they are considered at least a partial cause of the slide.

The site is 11 kilometers or about seven miles north of the Zurquí Tunnel on the way to Guápiles.

The Interamericana Norte has been opened, according to Tránsito police. That road was blocked by a large boulder at Cambronero. Workers had to knock down at least seven similar rocks that threatened the roadway.

However, the Interamericana Sur continues to be blocked by slides that severed the road between Paso Real and Palmar Norte. The highway has been out of service there since Nov. 3.

Elsewhere transport workers are installing $8.4 million in bailey bridges. These are the temporary metal bridges that the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes uses whenever a road is undermined or falls away. The on-lane bridges can be installed quickly and provide access to areas that have been cut off by bridge collapses or other road disasters.

The bulk of the heavy rain Sunday fell along the Caribbean coast and in the mountains. Similar conditions are expected for today.

Luxury sailboat begins
cruises in Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Star Flyer, one of a small fleet of luxury sailboats, was to have begun operations in Costa Rican waters Sunday.

The boat operators plan 16 seven-day cruises using Caldera on the Pacific as a home port.

The boats can carry up to 150 passengers. Most of them will be North Americans.

The announcement was made by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. The boat will make stops at Golfito, Drake Bay, Quepos and Playas del Coco, among others, the institute said.

The boat is part of the Star Clippers fleet that started operations in Belgium in 1991, the institute said, adding that the Star Flyer is expected to return to Costa Rican waters next year.

Dumping along river bank
can be a costly action

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police in the Cartago area have been getting complaints of men with a red truck who were dumping trash in a river.

They reported they caught up with two men fitting that description Sunday and found branches and other trash dumped onto the banks of a river in Liceo de Paraiso de Cartago.

The men had a bad day. First, each had an outstanding arrest warrant for unrelated cases. Then traffic police assessed a 400,000 fine because the driver did not have a license, was contaminating a river and lacked other documents.

The men were taken into custody on the warrants, and the municipality has the option of assessing other fines today, police said. Local fines can range up to a half million colons or nearly $1,000.
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.
Click a story for the summary

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 230

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Christmas cards
Country gearing up for another festive holiday season
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Christmas season is beginning to pick up steam. The post office, Correos de Costa Rica, announced that it has new post cards ready with Christmas themes that can be sent anywhere in the world for 405 colons, about 80 U.S. cents.

The first Christmas fair took place Sunday at the Centro Nacional de la Cultura. It will be repeated next week.

The postal service offering are cards with religious and
secular themes. The cards were designed to foster feelings of peace and love during the holiday season, the postal service said. There is a Christmas tree, Santa, wise men and the Holy Family.

The event Sunday at the culture center was dampened Sunday by afternoon rains. The Christmas offering returns next Saturday and Sunday with storytellers, musicians, traditional games, clowns, puppets and a rock concert Saturday night. For those preferring big band, the famous  Orquesta de Lubín Barahona plays Sunday at 5 p.m.

Some court hearing will be available on the Internet soon
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A pilot plan is putting the cases at three courtrooms in San José online. The audience are those in the Poder Judicial, but officials plan to expand the audience to the public.

The courtrooms are that of the Tribunal Contencionso Administrativo, where the actions of the government are contested. The project takes advantage of the trend toward oral arguments in the courtrooms.

In the past the bulk of a court case was argued with paperwork files, and this would not have made good television.

The Poder Judicial said that 115 courtrooms in the country already are wired for television, and taping a trial is usual.
But now the events inside the courtroom will be available elsewhere.

When the video feeds become public, viewers should not expect Perry Mason or the antics of any of the other television lawyer shows. They also may not know the background of a case. Court files in Costa Rica are sealed to all but the litigants and their lawyers.

Unlike other countries, in Costa Rica a citizen cannot read the various filing of a case, which is why a lot of criminal actions disappear into the judicial system and the resolutions never are made public.

The new television system was the centerpiece of a visit by foreign judges to Costa Rica Friday. The videos play on computers but the feeds are password protected

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 230

Readers give opinions on Ms. Palin, Amnet and Fox News

Shoe is on other foot
with shameless land grab

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a expat resident from the U.S.A., living here for just over three years, I have been following the land dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua with some interest.  First, I must say that I enjoy living in Costa Rica.
Daily, I attempt to be respectful of the fact that I am a visitor to this country and this culture.  I am very thankful to have the opportunity and the choice to live in such a beautiful setting and enjoy a relaxed lifestyle.  Having said that, I have a couple of comments about the attention given to the conflict going on at the Costa Rican/Nicaragua border.

First and foremost, I am a bit overwhelmed at the amount of press coverage, both TV and newspaper given to this issue. This site carries daily stories and the other “English language” online publication has had 5 to 6 stories daily about the conflict for the past 10 days.  The only thing that seems to rival coverage of the dispute is “football” which can be seen 24/7 on channels 25, 26, 27, 63, 64 and 65 if you happen to subscribe to the local cable TV monopoly Amnet.

Costa Ricans certainly seem to be fired up about this issue:  Calls for citizens to take up arms and defend the country from invaders to the north, presidents and ex-presidents carping and finger-pointing about who is to blame, calls for world agencies to intervene to resolve the matter.

It certainly seems to have touched a nerve when Costa Ricans face the reality of an illegal land grab.

To this I respectfully say, “How does it feel when the shoe is on the other foot?”  Someone came and squatted on your land, claimed it as their own and now even though you scream “This is not right,” “This is unjust,” you have no one to turn to.  No one wants to listen to your plight.  Not unlike countless cases of squatting experienced by North Americans who come here, purchase land for retirement or development, attempt to follow the rules and end up in months or years of legal red tape not to mention hundreds or thousands of dollars of expenses just to get what is legally theirs.

While I will be the first to admit, I do not know every detail surrounding the border land dispute (other than the extensive and exhaustive media accounts) I have to respectfully say that while I am simpathetic to Costa Rica’s issue, I am not losing much sleep over it.  I guess I will chalk it up to differences in “culture”.  I will just give it the old Costa Rican “Pura Vida”.  I am learning to adjust to the cultural differences such as:

• Criminals can commit crimes, be arrested and then back out on the street in hours.

• There is a new traffic law but no one follows it and no one enforces it.

• Government run monopolies can write or rewrite policies at will on the backs of its poorest citizens.

• Monies allocated to infrastructure seem to vanish into thin air while roads and bridges slide off the mountainside and crash into rivers.

• Government officials will get into bed with anyone who will build them a bridge or a football stadium.

While I do not always agree with the cultural differences, I am trying to comprehend them and live here as a respectful guest. But in my opinion, Costa Rica you can’t have it both ways, you can’t manipulate a system but then expect that same system to save you when you have to take a dose of the corrupt medicine.  Poetic justice?  You decide.

Bill Ruzicka

There is nothing virile
about land grab response

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
What a country we live in, our Costa Rica.  At first I cracked up when I read about Ms Oriette Zoneta filing a case in the constitutional court attacking the national anthem for having the word virile describing the country and being discriminatory against women. 

However on reflection based on my observation of Costa Rica’s handling of the Nicaraguan invasion and land grab initiated by Commandant Ortega, I think Ms Zoneta is on the right track. I have not seen one ounce of virility displayed in the response to the invasion of the sovereign territory of Costa Rica. 

Funny how the ladies of the world properly focus us men on the truth.  Once I had a drop dead gorgeous lady insurance adjuster teasing me for settling a case with her too cheaply and well below her settlement authority to pay my client in my full-time lawyer days. 

What she said has stuck with me for years.  She said  “NO BALLS, NO BLACK CHIPS.”   I suspect she was a good poker player and that she and Ms. Zoneta probably would not get along to well.  I hope that Costa Rica’s lady president will follow my lady insurance adjusters philosophy of life and not Ms Zoneta’s, but I am not betting the ranch on that prospect. 

Oh yeah, and the adjuster who told me that was quite well endowed, and I have always suspected my virility cost me some money.  I think there is a lesson in this story somewhere. Should Costa Rica send well-endowed Costa Rican ladies to negotiate with Commandant Ortega?

Keep up the good work with your excellent paper which in my opinion has virility.
Dan Wise
Barra del Colorado
Amnet did correct thing
in dropping Fox News

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Although, I do not currently use Amnet since it is not available in my area, I do feel the pain of those clients writing in recently about some Amnet programming not being offered in English (if true). But I am sure Amnet has the right, by virtue of its contract with its clients, to change programming from time to time. My cable companies in the U.S.A. have changed programming on occasion. They have contracts with broadcasters that the terms of which are changed from time to time. If a provider now wants twice the revenue that it previously received from Amnet does Amnet have to continue providing it?
The one complaint that they bemoan that I do not understand is the fact that Amnet has dropped Fox News. Shouldn’t they be rejoicing that Amnet has dropped that hateful right-wing spew of the so called ‘fair and balanced’ reporting of Fox News. I use the word news loosely. Now their viewers can use their own mental resources to sort out what they think of the news of the day instead of depending on Fox to tell them what they think!
Fox’s ‘fair and balanced’ promotional catch phrase can be forever enshrined where it belongs along with “the checks in the mail” . . . .
Here’s a cheer out to the Amnet programming staff. You’ve done a wonderful thing.
Dan Hill
and other independent thinkers

Dancing show is on air
because its a free country

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

 In her recent diatribe Jo bemoans the fact that Bristol Palin has reached the finals of "Dancing With the Stars" because she is the daughter of Sarah Palin and has little talent. What I suppose she would prefer is that the government take over the show, as in North Korea, Venezuela, etc. (insert name of any socialist paradise) and subsidize it so that it could always be kept strictly politically correct.

As for her statement that we all know that those who “stuffed the ballot box” are not always well-informed or discerning, meaning of course those of a conservative bent, we are discerning enough, madam, to evaluate you for what you are: a typical liberal with dreams of obliterating the bottom line and converting the world into a uniform socialist paradise. Do YOU have a bottom line, Jo???

The show is for ENTERTAINMENT!!  Bristol is ENTERTAINING!!  People want to see her!! Yes the EVIL TV network is making FILTHY MONEY by inviting her to be there. But please spare me your conspiracy theories about the viewers and/or the people running the show, you are letting your jealousy and pettiness show!!

Why do you doubt that she is “just like us”? What makes her so different??  Because she got pregnant and then had the baby??  Did she anger you that she didn’t abort the baby??

“If the United States wants to be No. 1 in the world.....”? You say, we got to quit voting for Bristol???? Dear, we already ARE No. 1 and likely to stay that way for a long long time in spite of fault-finders like you. The “bottom line” will always be important in a FREE country.

Daryl Hartman

Viewer free to flip channel

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Jo Stuart’s article  (So how come a mediocre dancer continues to advance) smells like - I don’t like your mama’s politics, you wooden soldier. Either that is the reason for the article or ratings and profit are evil. Thank God commercial programming ratings and profits are necessary to survive. Otherwise Jo Stuart would have a prime time show. What Costa Ricans should take away from “Dancing with the Stars” is this is entertainment and you are free to flip the channel. There is injustice on this planet but this one is not even on the radar screen.
Jerry Adams
Limon can draw poison
from bite of rare spider

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In reference to the news story that said What may have been the bite of a tiny mosquito last April in Jacó marked the beginning of a medical ordeal for a Denver man.
Well funny thing. It happened to me two years ago. I was sleeping when I felt a sharp pain in my leg then another. I awoke to find a black and orange spider about 1 ½ inches across beside my leg. My girlfriend at the time rushed to the kitchen and got a lime (limon) and cut it in half then placed it on the bite marks. A filmy white goo came out, and we went to the hospital where they cut out three small 2” round parts of flesh. The doctor told me that the spider is very rare but the bite can cause coma and sometimes death. He also told me that placing the limon on it right away sucked the poison out and that saved me from getting more cut out of me.
To this day, I always shake my bed covers and sheets before going to sleep and spray my house on the inside and out. And have a fear of bugs!! My family wonders why?
R. Matija
San José

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fifth news page
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Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 230

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Information on cholera
said to be key to health

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The death toll from the cholera epidemic in Haiti is now nearing 1,200 and more than 18,400 people have been hospitalized since the waterborne disease was first reported in October.  Health care officials are trying to explain to Haitians how to treat it.

Toto Pierre does not know how his young son got sick, but he is happy he is alive and doing better.

"His sister was taking care of him," said Pierre.  "All of a sudden he got sick.  First we went to the hospital and then we came here."

Doctors have treated more than 20,000 cholera patients at 21 centers around the country since the epidemic began.

Stefano Zanini is the chief of mission for Doctors Without Borders. He says it is difficult to predict when the epidemic will peak, but he expects it will continue for several more months.

"We are predicting for example the peak in City Sole, the very poor slums in the north of the capital city between 26 and 29 of November," said Zaini.  "And in another one, two, three weeks, we will probably reach other peaks in other parts of the city and the country."

Medical experts believe the epidemic began as a waterborne bacteria in the Artibonite region north of Port-au-Prince.  Cholera bacteria are spread through fecal contamination, poor hygiene and lack of sanitation.  The bacteria induce severe diarrhea and vomiting.  Victims can die from dehydration in hours.

Health workers say one of the biggest problems they face in Haiti is that people do not understand what cholera is or how it is spread.  On a street in downtown Port-au-Prince people come to get city water.  This water had a foul odor to it.  Getho Landele said he will bathe, clean and cook with it.

"I am not afraid of getting cholera, but for me it does not exist," he told us.

City officials have asked residents to treat the water they use, and they have distributed treatment tablets to the public.  But many residents like Marie Santilia do not have the tablets and cannot afford bottled water.

"I am afraid, but I have to use it," she said.

Nigerian-born Chibuzo Okonta with Doctors Without Borders says cholera is easy to treat and people die because they do not get treatment fast enough. 

First patients are given a special rehydration solution to drink, then saline solution intravenously. 

"And as soon as people can get to the treatment center and get the oral rehydration therapy, it is all they need.  And once they are well rehydrated, they are as good as new," said Okonta, a physician.

Doctors say, on average, patients are better in three days. Fritz Pierre was at a party at a local hotel.  After eating some meatballs he began to feel sick.  First he went to the hospital, then the cholera treatment center.  After two days of rehydration therapy he is feeling better.

"I told the doctor I was feeling better, and he told me if I feel like it I can go home," he said.

Okonta says his facility has treated 100 patients a day and there have been no deaths here in the last few days.  He told us, hopefully public information campaigns to seek treatment quickly are finally working.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 230

Latin American news
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Four journalists honored
for defying governments

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Committee to Protect Journalists lists 25 journalists from around the world who were murdered this year because of their work.  And countless others face threats, prison time and harassment.  Each year, the U.S.-based Committee honors journalists who risk their lives to do their jobs.

This year, four journalists will receive the International Press Freedom Award at a ceremony in New York. Three of them first traveled to Washington to share their thoughts with fellow journalists.

Laureano Marquez is a writer from Venezuela who uses humor in his political commentary. "We are the voice for the ones who can't speak out or don't have access to the media.  In my case, my work is humor, and humor has always been society's voice," he said.

The Venezuelan government wants to prosecute Marquez.  He says the government's reaction to his writing shows how freedom of expression in Venezuela is deteriorating. "Media outlets that have been critical of the government have been shut down and also some media outlets are practicing self-censorship. Protest is being criminalized so that people are afraid to criticize the government," he said.

Nadira Isayeva of Russia also faces prosecution.  She is editor-in-chief of a weekly newspaper in the southern republic of Dagestan and has written about how Russian security forces combat Islamic militants.  After publishing an interview with a former guerrilla leader who accused authorities of corruption, the government accused her of being an extremist. She faces the possibility of eight years in prison, but says she feels vindicated by the Press Freedom Award.

"I broke into tears because there was a lot of misunderstanding about my personal position and of the position of the newspaper in general," she said.

Ethiopian authorities jailed Dawit Kebede for nearly two years for his reporting on the country's 2005 election violence.  He remained in Ethiopia, even though many of his colleagues left the country.

"I always wanted to be a journalist. It was the only thing in my mind," he said.

Kebede says the government's response to his work encourages him to continue. "As far as the government trying to undermine you, by different harassment, that's a recognition that you're doing your professional duty," he said.

Iranian journalist Mohammad Davari is serving a five-year prison sentence and cannot personally accept his award. Iranian authorities arrested him last year on charges of "mutiny against the regime," following his investigative report on the abusive treatment of prisoners.

Joel Simon is the executive director of Committee to Protect Journalists. "Davari is paying a terrible personal price for doing what journalists are supposed to do, exposing corruption and abuse," he said.

The other three award winners face the same threat of prison, but they say that will not stop them from reporting the truth.

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