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(506) 2223-1327           Published Friday, Dec. 2, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 239       Email us
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A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
The mist produced at the end of the rainy season gives Central Valley residents multiple rainbows through much of December. This one was seen from Barrio Otoya Thursday, although there were others reported. The rain clouds are being
kept away by winds from the north, and some reached 96 kph (about 60 mph) in the Central Valley Thursday, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.  See the news story

Cops flock to the streets in annual Yule effort
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the most profitable times for Costa Ricans can also be one of the most dangerous.

Beginning in December, the doling out of traditional Christmas bonuses, called aguinaldos, for workers and the spike in tourism activity fills the cash registers of local businesses and streets with easy targets for thieves and criminals looking to capitalize.

Already, officials have reported assailants took a woman and her baby hostage with a gun Wednesday in Concepción de Tres Ríos and forced her to withdraw money from an automatic teller machine. They robbed her of 500,000 colons and $3,500. The two victims were left in a rural area.

Armed intruders also robbed a restaurant in Ipis de Goichoechea and all its patrons Wednesday night. And in a separate incident the same day the Fuerza Pública reports its officers were able to thwart a  bus robbery in Desamparados when officials responded to an emergency call. Two armed suspects were detained.
The Fuerza Pública along with municipal police are hoping “Operation Aguinaldo,” utilizing saturation patrols in San José and around the rest of the country, will be able to prevent further incidents from taking place.

The plan was initiated today, and police could be seen on nearly every corner in downtown San José.

But experts from the assaults division of the Judicial Investigating Organization are warning that criminals are becoming more and more sophisticated with their schemes and that steering clear of the dark figure on a secluded street at night time doesn't necessarily guarantee security.

Using networks of informants, many criminals scope for potential victims in banks, at cash machines, or possible tourist hot spots, sometimes following the unsuspecting person all the way to their house or residence before robbing him or her.

Tourists can be an attractive choice for a robber because they often carry money and electronics.

The robbers are commonly armed and can have several accomplices.

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It's windy in the city
with rain along Caribbean

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While the Central Valley suffered unusual winds of up to 96 kph (60 mph) the Caribbean coast was soaked and rivers there were reported rising.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that Thursday afternoon up to 170 millimeters (6.7 inches) of rain fell in the Caribbean. Forecasters said that rain would continue today along that coast and in the northern zone. Some of the rain may be intermittent but with more intensity in the mountains, they said.
The Central Valley is expected to experience some rain and continued winds today with more rain falling in the mountains. Guanacaste is expected to be dry but windy. The central and south Pacific coasts are expected to have some light rain.

These conditions are expected to continue through Saturday, said the weather institute.   

The Caribbean generally has a season opposite to that in the Central Valley and the Pacific. Dry season in much of the country means rain there.

The weather institute issued an unusual evening bulletin about the rain.

Costa Ricans are not used to such winds and such cold. In San José the temperature climbed to 19 degrees C (66 F)  by midday after an overnight low of 15.3 C or 59.5 F. Cartago saw a low of 12.9 C (55 F). Higher up in the mountains, the temperature was lower. A weather station monitoring conditions on Volcan Turrialba reported a low of 5.4 C, about 42 degrees F.

Costa Ricans were sporting what could only be described as ski wear Thursday. There were knit scarfs, woolen caps, and sidewalk vendors in downtown San José adjusted their inventory to include mittens, gloves and warmer clothing items.

Our reader's opinion
Nation would benefit
from open pit gold mine

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Everyone is making the country of Costa Rica out to be the savior and wronged party in the canceling of the concession of the country’s only “legal” gold mine, seeing as the concession was legally granted.   (Yes, I know that the concession is being questioned.)   Financial details that I have read indicate that Costa Rica is receiving a VERY sizable royalty in exchange for the concession.  This is not a one-way street in exchange for a “favor” which apparently is what is being intimated and almost always assumed.

I have heard nothing about the illegality of the mine itself. Strip mining can be harmful to the environment but is that really the case here?  I have heard only snippets of gossip here as well.  What is apparently being questioned is HOW the concession was issued and should it have been.

The country of Costa Rica again, is backing out of an international business agreement where the country would benefit hugely by receiving very sizable royalties.   The mining company in question, if ruled against, will most likely sue Costa Rica for huge amounts and which could very well be held liable financially for those amounts.

While virtually no one at this point can say whether or not the mining company actually did anything wrong, Costa Rica is ignoring the real facts and may be liable for a huge sum if ruled against.   AGAIN, the country moves before actually looking at potential harm here as well as being considered anti investment.
Randy Berg
San Mateo

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!
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Clowns and tree
bring light to kids

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Hospital Nacional de Niños is recognized throughout Latin America as the best children's hospital. But the emphasis Thursday night was on the biggest Christmas tree.

The evergreen that grows on the hospital grounds again sports 30,000 bulbs, and lighting them is one of the kickoffs for the Christmas season in San José.

But simply lighting a Christmas tree will not do. There have to be choruses, clowns and holiday music.

Sick children who can do so line the hospital balconies for the event.

This year, as is traditional, hospital outpatients, including young cancer sufferers, were invited as special guests.

The tree is stunning, and the bulbs will continue to shine into the new year, making the hospital on Paseo Colón a holiday landmark.
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper

HIV and AIDS cases are at their highest level this year
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the celebration of World AIDS Day Thursday came and went, it appears the disease is in Costa Rica to stay.

Between 2002 and 2010, the Ministerio de Salud registered 2,640 incidents of human immunodeficiency virus and 1,925 cases of acquired immune deficiency syndrome). In 2010 alone, about 500 people entered hospitals and were diagnosed with one of the two, according to Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social statistics. About 400 were men and 100 were woman.

Occurrences of HIV are the highest they've ever been in the country. And although mortality rates have been dropping  during that period for those infected, most likely due to new treatments, the disease still remains deadly.
According to the ministry the highest concentration of those infected is in San José province, and within the province the highest infection rates are within the San José canton. The provinces following in prevalence are Heredia and Puntarenas.

HIV is most prevalent in the age group 25 to 34 and roughly 80 percent of both HIV and AIDS cases are among men, the statistics show. More than 3,000 patients are receiving treatment by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social as a result of the disease for a total cost of more than $3.9 million in medical care.

Regionally, Costa Rica has a below average prevalence of HIV among those 14-59 years old. It is .4 of a percent, according to the World Health Organization, lower than the rate of the United States but higher than the reported rates in Nicaragua and Mexico.

Exception means being out of step with the holiday rush
Lately I have been feeling like the exception that proves the rule.  Then I decided I am not alone. So if you feel slightly out of step with the current parade, this column’s for you.

First I had to do a bit of research on the very phrase and discovered the closest that comes to it that I could find is a quote of Robert Burton from his exhaustive masterpiece, “Anatomy of Melancholy.”  The title is pretty exhaustive, too, so I’ll quit there.  Burton wrote the first edition of his book in 1621, so exceptions have been acknowledged for a long time. His actual phrase is “No rule is so general that admits not some exception.” It is probably apt that the quote comes from a book about melancholy because people who are exceptional probably often feel melancholic as a result of feeling like the exception.

As the Christmas season approaches, it is difficult not to feel a bit sad at all of the related activities that I cannot get enthusiastic about.  In San José alone, there are going to be putting up a Christmas tree, a long-time tradition handed down from pagan to Christian days by people who obviously love lighted decorations on a tree and presents under it.

In the middle of all of this, in front of the Teatro Nacional, once again the nativity scene is being erected to commemorate the birth of Christ on Dec. 25th (a date also borrowed from a pagan day of celebration, since no one knows the actual birth date of Christ.) And the Christmas carols!  Both sacred and secular.  My favorite is “Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” because there is something sadly nostalgic about it, especially when Judy Garland sang it.

And all of the shopping!  I think that is where I got off the train and became an exception.  We’ve gone from pagan to Christian to consumerism. More people are involved in Black Friday than Good Friday.  Easy to understand. When I was a kid, Good Friday was a day of deprivation, taken on willingly. 

Black Friday is a day of overindulgence and instant gratification, also taken on willingly.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I like tradition. I love mythology and even believe that many myths are history.  It is the new touches to tradition that bother me.

I am surprised that with accusations of sexual misconduct by U.S. Presidential candidate, Herman Cain, no one has
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

asked for the meaning of inappropriate.  The word has been tossed around as often as is was in the days of Clinton.

However, I began to wonder what the meanings of exception and exceptional actually are.  Exception is “A person or thing different from or treated differently from others of the same class.”  Exceptional goes along with the idea of being the exception and not ordinary.  But it also has taken on some new meanings, such as needing special attention or presenting a special problem, (notably in education) because of being “either mentally gifted, or, on the other hand, mentally or physically or emotionally handicapped.”  I guess you take your pick when you use the word.

Thursday was also the 63rd anniversary of the abolishment of the military in Costa Rica.  Traditionally, the commemoration has been held at the Museo Nacional.  I remember the 50th anniversary celebration when at the end, the then president, some past presidents, and some school children opened the boxes they were holding to release hundreds of butterflies into the sky, a sky free of war planes or the sound of artillery.  Over the years the commemorative celebrations I attended became more modest.

This year, President Chinchilla evidently is combining the celebration with congratulating a group of new graduates from the police academy.  I won’t be attending that, either.  I might find it a little uncomfortable because I remember the Guardia Civil when I lived in Majorca.  Sometimes the duties of police and that of soldiers get confused.

I am sorry to have missed the peace celebration held in Parque Nacional and sponsored by the peace center in San Jose.  Actually, some already confirmed plans and a deadline prevented that.

There are times when I wonder if being the exception simply means being lazy. But I’ll just “muddle through somehow,” as Judy Garland sang, and I’ll have myself a merry little Christmas when the time comes.

Del Rey green season

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Scouts and veterans share honors at traditional celebration
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
and Zack McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

On the 63rd anniversary of the abolition of the Costa Rican army the peaceful vibes were remarkably unsettled.

Hundreds of boys and girls dressed in navy blue pants and light blue button up shirts, the official country scout uniform, overflowed the Museo Nacional where the president of Costa Rica held a ceremony to commemorate the 63 years without an army on Thursday.

Veterans from the last existing Costa Rican army filled up the front seats accompanied by family. Among the crowd there were ministers, ambassadors and legislative representatives.

President Laura Chinchilla invited Ricardo Martinelli, the president of Panama, as the guest of honor for the celebratory event as a symbol of solidarity since both countries have abolished military. Panama abolished its military in 1990.

Both presidents were named honorary presidents of the Guías y Scouts de Costa Rica. They were sworn in with a scarf-like accessory placed around their neck. The act is supposed to be a symbol of their humanitarian services. Martinelli happily said he will wear the scarf with much pride because as a kid he wanted to be a scout and never was able to participate, until now.

Prior to their knighting Ms. Chinchilla signed the Benemeritazgo Guía y Scout, which is a law that recognizes the Guías y Scouts as an institución benemérita or meritorious institution.

Ms. Chinchilla and Martinelli also awarded Hilda Vaquero Ortiz the Mérito en la Paz y en la Democracia recognition for her labor in helping underprivileged youth discover music in Costa Rica. Ms. Vaquero said her efforts began with recorders and since then has added flutes, saxophones, violins and even clarinets for the children to learn.

“It's a form to keep them from this problematic society we live in today,” she said. “There should be more artists than murderers.”

The yearly event had the usual supporters except this year an important group was missing. The Quaker Friends Peace Center publicly refused to participate at the Museo Nacional and the Plaza de la Democracia. Because of political context of the event, the center shifted the celebration to Parque Nacional in front of the Monumento Nacional.

¨We won´t participate in the state visit of president Martinelli from Panama and the graduation ceremony for police academy, even if we agree with the recognition of the Costa Rican Scouts Association,¨ said Francisco Cordero Gené, president of the center.

Codero argues that hypocrisy lies in supporting the events because of recent operations in Panama to disperse and subdue native people and civilians on strike in Bocas del Toro resulting in a number of dead and wounded. The center said it could not support the graduation ceremony because some of the cadets will be sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, the site of the former School of the Americas. The school now is called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
Veterans of the Costa Rican revolution in 1948 display a banner bearing the image of their leader, José Figueres Ferrer, the political leader who became president three times.

peace center
A.M. Costa Rica/Zach McDonald
Members of the the peace center celebration display their philosophy in front of the Monumento Nacional.

Ms. Chinchilla and Martinelli cite peaceful international border
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla Miranda and Panama's president,
Ricardo Martinelli, were nothing but smiles and compliments  Thursday after a meeting at the Museo Nacional where Costa Rica marked 63 years without an army.

Historically, both countries have always had a rocky relationship, until recently. According to both presidents the tiffs are gone and they will support each other in every aspect, especially since they share something unique.

“Costa Rica and Panama can say with great conviction that we share the most peaceful border in the
Ricardo Martinelli gives his talk while wearing his new scout bandana.
entire world. We are the only two unarmed democracies that have a common border. So, it is really important for us to have a person like Martinelli here on a day like today,” said the
president of the Republic of Costa Rica during a press conference after the meeting. Panamá abolished its military in 1990.

Both presidents signed a joint declaration promising to re-affirm the promise of both countries to continue unarmed because the decision to abolish the army strengthens democratic institutions, civil, social and economic development of both peoples.

The themes discussed were commercial trade facilitation with a focus on infrastructure, drug trafficking and organized crime. Both signed a health decree to facilitate trade. Ms. Chinchilla said both parties are organizing an agreement to fight drug trafficking and organized crime.

“It is important for us to have complete collaboration to avoid that drug traffickers get away,” said Martinelli.

Ms. Chinchilla said she strives to have Panama's economic growth, a 10.7 annual increase, according to the Panamanian president. She also re-enforced her support for Panama joining the Secretaría de Integración Económica Centroamericana.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Chinese hospital ship
leaves as strike continues

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The floating Chinese hospital boat that was docked in Puntarenas may have set sail for China at the time it was most needed, leaving in its wake a country unable to provide public health care for its own citizens.

According to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, in total, the 23 Chinese health care specialists onboard the boat administered thousands of consultations, laboratory tests, ultrasounds, surgeries, colonoscopies, x-rays, acupuncture and other procedures in the five days the vessel docked in Puntarenas to provide health care to Costa Ricans.

Meanwhile Costa Rican public health care workers are at odds with the government over their working conditions. As a result, thousands of surgeries and medical appointments stand, backlogged, in a state of limbo. And now doctors and nurses are demonstrating solidarity with the anesthesiologists on strike. A major rally is planned for today.

To fix the crisis, President Laura Chinchilla said she tried approaching the private sector health care workers and those from México for help, but they declined to intervene in the labor matter. Unable to resolve the matter, she pointed the finger back at the disobedient public servants.

“They are the ones who need to explain themselves to the country,” Ms. Chinchilla said about the Costa Rican health care workers at a press conference Thursday. “Where has the country's ethics gone?”

China, on the other hand, through its floating hospital has been on a recent tour of the region, stopping in other countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Cuba and now Costa Rica and providing its sharing, its perceived surplus of health care with the Caribbean.

The goal was to help approximately 500 patients in Costa Rica, according to a press release by Casa Presidencial.

The state-of-the-art boat is 178 meters long, equipped with over 300 beds and 2,400 medical instruments. The boat has an estimated value of $110 million dollars and has been in service providing health care to various places since 2008. The current mission is called “Mission Harmony 2011.”

Health care workers could not reach an agreement Thursday night with the Caja and will continue talks in the morning.

U.N. tells First World
to reject frugal methods

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The world risks falling back into recession if developed countries embark prematurely on fiscal austerity measures, according to a United Nations report released Thursday in New York. The report recommends additional stimulus measures as well as more forceful international coordination to stimulate job creation and investment.

The report on global economic prospects, released by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, says that fiscal austerity measures implemented in developed countries and elsewhere in response to high levels of fiscal deficit and public debt are further weakening growth and job prospects.

Calling 2012 a “make-or-break” year for the economy, the report forecasts a “muddle-through” scenario, in which the world economy will continue to grow at a slow pace, at about 2.6 per cent next year and 3.2 per cent for 2013, down from 4.0 per cent in 2010. However, the report says this will only happen if the Eurozone debt crisis is contained, and if further moves toward stringent fiscal austerity in developed countries come to a halt.

“Failure of policy-makers, especially those in Europe and the United States, to address the jobs crisis and prevent sovereign debt distress and financial sector fragility from escalating, poses the most acute risk for the global economy in the outlook for 2012-2013,” warns the report.

The report underscores four mutually reinforcing factors that are weakening the global economy: sovereign debt distress; fragile banking sectors; weak aggregate demand associated with fiscal austerity measures and high unemployment; and policy paralysis caused by political gridlock. If one of them worsens, the report warns, there is a high risk of setting off “a vicious circle leading to severe financial turmoil and economic downturn.”

“The European Union (EU) and the United States form the two largest economies in the world and they are deeply intertwined. Their problems would easily feed into each other and spread into another global recession. Developing countries, which had rebounded strongly from the global recession of 2009, would be hit through trade and financial channels,” the report reads.

Brazil and Mexico are expected to be more visibly affected by this economic slowdown, while growth in India and China is expected to remain robust.

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Latin America news
Victim of traffic scam
turns tables on officer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sometimes you can't even trust the police. At least that was the experience of one foreigner who was able to alert agents at the Judicial Investigating Organization Thursday about an allegedly crooked traffic cop who extorted money from him.

According to judicial police reports, the Nicaraguan man was driving in Desamparados when he was pulled over by a traffic cop. The officer asked for his passport, and when the Nicaraguan man informed the official he did not have the document with him, the official threatened him with a large fine.

But then the officer offered the man a way out: Pay a 20,000 colons, on-the-spot fine to the cop instead. Reports indicate the Nicaraguan man agreed to pay half the fine, insisting he didn't have the other half. But he promised to return and pay the remainder later.

But not only did the Nicaraguan get the rest of the money, he also alerted judicial police and returned to pay the traffic cop while agents watched from a distance. Then the agents promptly arrested the 47-year old tránsito official.

A spokesperson from the Judicial Investigating Organization said agents are looking into another similar incident and insisted under no circumstances should any money be paid directly to a law enforcement officer.

Jacó animal advocate
selling 2012 calendar

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asocación Pro Bienestar Animal Jacó is selling 2012 calendar-agendas with pictures of pets for a fundraiser. All the proceeds will go to the homeless and underprivileged animals in the Cantón de Garabito.

Calendars cost 3,500 colons, and an agenda costs, 4,500 colons.

They can be purchased in person in Jacó at the Vet Clinic Plaza Boulevard, Pharmacy Sofia and the library. Otherwise the organization has an online service to purchase the calendars and agendas.

The Asocación Pro Bienestar Animal Jacó is part of the non-profit McKee Project in Costa Rica. On its Web site the organization says the mission statement is “To end pain and suffering of all companion animals in Latin America.”

Panamá quake rattles
border area in south

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 5.3 magnitude earthquake took place early today on Costa Rica's border with Panamá. The Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the Universidad de Costa Rica placed the epicenter a few miles south of the Costa Rican border

The epicenter appeared to be west of Paso Canoas and just south of the community of La Cuesta in Costa Rica. The epicenter appears to be about 23 miles west of the city of David, said the U.S. National Earthquake Center. Scientists there set the magnitude at 5.0.

The laboratory's automatic processing system set the time at a few seconds after 1 a.m. But the shock was felt by humans about 90 seconds earlier in the Central Valley.

The area is one of many active earthquake faults. The depth was estimated at 24 kilometers, about 15 miles.

A quake of this magnitude can cause damage, but there were no reports early Friday.

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