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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, Dec. 7, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 241            E-mail us
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Suicide with two bullets
Wife wants husband's death investigation reopened

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Swiss woman has asked prosecutors in Nicoya to reopen the investigation into the death of her German husband.

The case has been ruled a suicide and shelved. But in a filing made via a San José lawyer, the woman, Barbara Antoinette Ruegg, points out that her husband was shot twice and that the bulk of the evidence has not been examined throughly.

The dead man is Uwe Auerbach, who was 51 when he died last July 15. He suffered a bullet wound in the heart. Another bullet passed through the roof of his mouth and left his body in the vicinity of the nose.

Ms. Ruegg was in Switzerland at the time of the death, and the couple were separated and in the midst of a divorce. Auerbach was staying at a finca the couple owned on the Nicoya peninsula. She had been living in San José.

A complicating factor for the woman is that shortly after her husband died a man showed up at the finca and said that he had just purchased the property from her husband. Eventually she was forced to leave.

Her lawyer, María Elena Gamboa Rodríguez, noted in the filing sent to the Fiscalia de Nicoya that many tests of evidence at the death scene have not been completed. These include a ballistic test on the only bullet found, a test to see if the man's hand fired a gun and alcohol, drug and DNA tests. A second bullet still is missing and may have left the interior of the home through a window.

The filing also asked that the autopsy report be amplified to say which bullet was the cause of death. The woman and her lawyer questioned if the man could have shot himself in the chest after the impact of the wound to the mouth and nose.

The filing became necessary because a lawyer working for Ms. Ruegg last year failed to contest
formally the closing of the case. Ms. Ruegg said Sunday that she thought the lawyer had filed the appropriate papers, but it appears he did not.

Ms. Ruegg and Auerbach met in Costa Rica and were married about eight years at the time of his death. She is a horsewoman and said she had 23 Arabian, quarterhorse and mixed breed animals on the finca. She also had 23 dogs there that are now with her in San José.

She said part of the reason for the divorce was because in 2007 her husband became involved in the car and boat sales business and became associated with individuals she did not like.

When Ms. Ruegg returned from Switzerland July 19 after being informed of the death and arrived at the finca, she came in contact with the man who said he was the new owner of the property. Police came, and the man did not take possession.

In a strange development, a short time later 13 heavily armed policemen arrived and told the woman that they believed that helicopters were landing and taking off from a hilltop on the property, she said. They conducted a search but did not report that they found any evidence. She said her employees denied that they had heard helicopters.

July 25, the man who said he bought the property showed up again, took possession of the property and ordered Ms. Ruegg off the land.

"It was like in a country at war," she said, where soldiers simply take over a house. She said the man had a sales agreement he said was signed by her husband that transferred ownership from the family corporation, BUH Trading S.A. to him. She said he had no judicial order to remove her. But she left and later was able to return to get some but not all of her personal possessions.

The horses now are in judicial custody, she said. The new occupant already has sold off cattle, trailers and other farm equipment, she said.


San José municipal workers get holiday for Dec. 31, New Year's Eve
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Municipal workers in the Cantón de San José are getting another holiday, and the offices will be closed that day, Dec. 31.

This is New Year's Eve, and the public employees have been getting this day off since 2006. This year the day is a Thursday.
Municipal workers do not always get the extended two-week vacation that central government and judicial employees receive. A 1982 law allows the governing council of each canton to designate one day a year as a holiday for employees.

The holiday only involves the central canton generally regarded as the city of San José and not other cantons in the Provincia de San José.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 241

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Big San José Yule festival
begins tonight downtown


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Christmas season comes in with a rush tonight in downtown San José.

The Banco Central will be inaugurating its Christmas tree in

Christmas tree
The bank's tree
 the Plaza de la Cultura at 7 p.m. along with a Yule choir concert. Further on the pedestrian walkway at Calle Central the municipality will be beginning its Avenidazo or cultural nights along the boulevard. That will begin at 6 p.m.

During the afternoon bands will be going up and down the avenue and the well-known musical group Marfil will perform at 5:30 p.m.

The celebrations with various groups and banks continues through Saturday, Dec, 17. Saturday the activities will be held in conjunction with the Festival de la Luz, the gigantic Christmas parade.

In the past holiday participants threw white confetti at each other, sometimes with great force and in a great amount. The municipality is trying to discourage this practice.

Possible smuggler shoots
at coast guard officers


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of seven men in a boat Saturday began shooting at Coast guard officers when they approached in an inlet near Matina, Limón. Officers returned fire.

Then the occupants of the boat jumped in the water and fled into the underbrush, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas confiscated the boat that contained large containers, some filled with gasoline.

There is speculation on what the men were doing. The open boat is the type that smugglers use to move drugs. The men may have been prepared to make a fuel transfer at sea or the boat may have returned from a drug run to Nicaragua, officers said. There were empty fuel containers on the boat, too.

A short time later officers detained a Colombian who they suspect was one of the seven men. No one was hurt in the exchange of fire. The man on the boat used an AK-47, and ammunition for this weapon was found on the craft.


Murderer of U.S. citizen
gets 12 years in prison


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who killed a U.S. citizen got 12 years in prison in the  Tribunal de Juicio de Puntarenas. The charge against the man identified by the last names of Briceño Campos was reduced to homicidio simple, even though the murder took place during the commission of a robbery.

The victim, John Daniels Tornwell, 60, thought he was helping a woman. At the time of the crime the Judicial Investigating Organization said that Tornwell left a bar where he had been enjoying the company of a fellow U.S. citizen to give money to a local women.  The woman, identified by the last names of Solano Valverde, had been begging for money. That was Sept. 24, 2008.

Briceño had just been released from jail and used a knife to kill Thornwell. He was detained with a bloody hand still holding the knife.

Drama highlights child labor

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The organization Defensa de Niñas y Niños-Internacional  estimates that at least 11,400 underage youngsters are involved in domestic employment.

As a way of countering this, a drama group from Alajuelita is giving a show called “La Brujita Buena” or "The Good Witch."  It is being presented for the last time Tuesday in the Cine Magaly at 2:30 p.m. Specifically the show tries to relate the psycho-social consequences of child labor, the organization said.

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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

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A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

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Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 241












Policemen wrestle with one suspect after the  Guachipelín apartment complex invasion Friday

Escazú police at work
Policía Municipal de Escazú photo

Escazú police break up invasion at Guachipelín complex
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bandits who presented themselves as judicial police raided an apartment complex in Guachipelín de Escazú Friday and took computers, cell phones and money.

A man who was delivering ink for a printer came upon the men, and they ordered him into the apartment complex, said the Policía Municipal de Escazú. But the man sensed that they were not really policeman, fled and gave the alarm to local policemen.

The robberies took place in Real de Pereira. The men wore black clothing and covered their faces with black ski masks in the style of policemen who were participating in a raid.

They also had doctored their black car by changing the license plates and installing a red light on its roof, said the Fuerza Pública. The men carried shotguns and pistols.

Among the victims were five young people out on vacation, the municipal police said. 
Officers came upon the five bandits as they were leaving the apartments, and the robbers abandoned their car and fled into the nearby woods. Three suspects were caught, and police had to struggle with one. In their path the robbers left ski masks, handcuffs, a shotgun and other weapons, which police confiscated.

The suspects were identified by the last names of Gamboa Azofeifa, Salgado Aguirre or Aguirre Ibarra and Santander Serrano, Santander was identified as a Venezuelan, said municipal police. The Fuerza Pública identified Aguirre as a Nicaraguan.

The Fuerza Pública said its officers confiscated a second shotgun and a revolver inside one of the apartments.

Home, apartment and condo invasions are becoming more frequent, although daylight cases like the one Friday are rare. Usually the bandits strike in the early evening. Several gangs are believed to be involved in this occupation in the western part of the Central Valley. Such invasions average about three a week.


Bandits threaten Pacific coast woman and family with death
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. couple who are living a nightmare on the central Pacific coast have become the victims again of robbers. This time the robbers threatened their lives, the lives of their friends and left the woman in a dazed psychological state.

The victims are Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Werner. He has been involved in two and a half years of conflict and a 10-year fight to obtain a beachfront land concession.

The case is complex, but periodically gunmen raid his home. When it happened Wednesday Werner was out of the country, but his wife was at home.  He told the Judicial Investigating Organization in Pérez Zeledón that it appeared the two robbers entered via a window. They also got access to his safe and took a registered 9-mm. pistol that he had there.

He said his wife could only beg that the men not shoot her dog. She spent the rest of the night huddled on a stair landing with her dog, Werner said, adding over the weekend that she had approached a breakdown.
Although his wife wants to do so, Werner said he is not going to heed the robbers' advice and leave the area. He speculated that he might be killed.

Werner has distinguished himself by turning his Web page into one highly critical of law enforcement in Costa Rica.

Included is a photo of his face that was battered in a June 26, 2007, encounter with five armed men who broke into his home.

Werner said he has survived four robberies, but two he characterized as minor. He said he believes the crimes are related to the continuing property problems he has experienced. He lives in Hatillo, which is about 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Quepos and not far from Dominical to the south. The property has a rental home as well as the principal Werner resident.

The Werners had been involved in a protracted legal battle with a man who lived in the rental dwelling. Then there is the difficulty in getting a concession from the local municipality. And Werner is believed to have alienated some of his neighbors.


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Agricultural ministry trying to improve farmers' markets

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The agricultural ministry is allocating a billion colons, about $1.8 million, to modernizing 17 farmers' markets  in the country.

One of the beneficiaries of this program is the Centro Agricola Cantonal de Mora, which operates the farmers' markets in Ciudad Colón and Alajuelita. It has received 100 million colons, about $177,000, to make improvements. Among other expenditures, each of the regular participants at the Ciudad Colón feria has received new scales for weighing produce.

The ferias that are benefiting from the distribution of funds are those that the Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería figure are in areas where the index of poverty is highest. In all there are 74 ferias or farmers' markets in the country. The one in Ciudad Colón is located in a roofed building although sometimes vendors set up tents.

The farmers' market program of the ministry is specifically for small and medium producers, the ministry said. That includes vegetable and fruit producers, chicken farmers, fishermen and even small industrial producers and crafts workers.
farmers market in Ciudad Colon
Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería photo
The farmers market in Ciudad Colon



Fuel prices going up from 4 to 4.75 percent soon

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The prices of super and plus gasoline and diesel fuel are going up despite a weakening of the U.S. dollar on the world market. The increase is about 4 to 4.75 percent.

The value of the dollar is part of the equation that the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos uses to compute the fuel prices each month.

Super which is now 564 colons will go to 588, an increase of 24 colons. Plus gasoline will go from 547 to 573, a rise of 26 colons. Diesel now at 488 will go to 511, an
increase of 23 colons, when the order is published.

All of the fuels come from the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, the government monopoly.

The price computations are the final ones for the year and include the period from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, the authority said. There were similar increases for other petroleum products.

The U.S. dollar exchange rate at the Banco Central de Costa Rica today is 564.18 colons to sell dollars and 574.54 colons required to buy a dollar.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 241

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Climate conference begins
with scaled-back hopes


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
with special reports

The international conference on climate change opens today in Copenhagen, Denmark, hosting thousands of participants and observers hoping to reach a deal to combat what they consider global warming.  Initial expectations have been scaled back, but pressure remains for a substantive political agreement.

For the next two weeks this city plays host to experts, officials, activists and eventually world leaders as they try to clinch a deal. The National Science Foundation said that since the beginning of the 20th century, the surface temperature of the earth has warmed by more than one degree Fahrenheit although over the last 20,000 years there have been changes of about four degrees celsius in both directions from the estimated average.

Speaking to journalists on the eve of the conference, top U.N. climate official Yvo de Boer said it is time to act.
"Time is up," said Yvo de Boer. "Over the next two weeks, governments have to deliver a strong and long-term response to the challenges of climate change."
 
The goal was to reach a legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for heating up the atmosphere.  But big questions remain over who cuts, by how much, who pays and what it will cost.

Initial expectations for Copenhagen have been scaled back to try to reach political agreement on a framework, with a detailed, binding treaty to follow. More steps will be needed, said Yvo de Boer, but he remained confident.

"Never in the 17 years of climate change negotiations have so many different nations made so many firm pledges together," he said.

That, said de Boer, makes this conference a turning point already.  Certainly many Copenhagen residents hope that is true and they see climate change as a crucial issue. The city is close to sea level, which is rising. The country's Kastrup Airport runway is just 17 feet above the current sea level.

Copenhagen has embraced the conference with posters and reminders of what is at stake at almost every corner.  One exhibit has taken a different tack with large posters of some of the world's beauty spots - remaining wilderness and wildlife.

U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to attend the closing of the U.N. climate conference because of what the White House sees as progress toward a meaningful deal. Obama had originally planned to visit Copenhagen at the beginning of the meeting, but Friday his spokesman said he would delay the trip until the end of the conference when other world leaders will attend. Obama's itinerary change came a day after India said it would slow the rise of its greenhouse gas emissions.  China announced its own targets for cutting carbon emissions last week, a day after Washington announced U.S. goals.

The White House said Friday the United States is ready to pay a "fair share" of $10 billion per year in climate aid to developing countries as part of a deal at the summit.

World leaders will be negotiating a climate change agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Saturday tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through London demanding action at the climate conference.  Their ultimate message was to get world leaders to reach a tough new deal on cutting emissions. Demonstrators said they wanted a 5- per cent cut in carbon emissions.

The demonstration was so large, that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown invited organizers to meet with him at his office, No. 10 Downing Street.

Meanwhile, a scientific group critical of the climate change theory plans to hold a parallel session in Copenhagen. The group is the Committee For Constructive Tomorrow, which said it will urge U.N. members to open their minds and reject any proposed treaty and to re-examine the science involved. The group has arranged a series of presentations by scientists who do not agree with the principal themes of the Copenhagen meeting.

“Governments are gathering in Copenhagen to make decisions that will radically change our standard of living,” said Craig Rucker executive director and co-founder of the organization. “It is important that delegates and the public get a chance to hear from these noted scientists and experts before they make a devastating mistake and ration energy, while having no effect on the climate.  I'm confident that those with open minds will be convinced.”

Meanwhile a new study from the University of Wisconsin at Madison says that natural stands of quaking aspen, one of North America's most important and widespread deciduous trees, are growing much quicker perhaps because of higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The study, by scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota at Morris and published Friday in the journal Global Change Biology, shows that elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide during the past 50 years have boosted aspen growth rates by an astonishing 50 percent.

Carbon dioxide, scientists know, is food for plants, which extract it from the air and through the process of photosynthesis convert it to sugar, plant food.
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Migration talks with Cuba
suspended until February

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. State Department official says long-planned migration talks with Cuba have been delayed until next year.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the talks had been scheduled for this month but were pushed back to February.  The reason for the postponement was not clear.

Migration talks between the U.S. and Cuba took place this past July after a six-year break.

In May, the U.S. government offered to restart the negotiations as part of President Barack Obama's effort to improve relations with Cuba.  In April, the president eased travel and money transfer restrictions on Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island.

A U.S. embargo against Cuba remains in place.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush suspended the migration talks after the last round in 2003.

The U.S. employs a policy for illegal Cuban immigrants that essentially allows Cubans who make it to U.S. soil to stay.  Those intercepted at sea are most often returned.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 241


Latin American news
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Bolivia's Morales wins
his second term easily


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Evo Morales appears to have rolled up a 60 percent win in the Bolivian general elections. These are the first elections since the country's constitution was changed to let him run again.

The unofficial results also show that Morales, 50, and his political party have gained control of the national legislature.

Many of the unofficial results are based on exit polls in Bolivia show that Morales easily won re-election.

Bolivian media report that President Morales gained a little more than 60 percent of the vote, earning him a second five-year term.

Morales is the South American country's first native president. He was first elected in 2005.

Sunday's vote followed ratification of a constitutional amendment earlier in the year that allowed Morales to run for a second term.

Bolivia's voters also are choosing a new Congress, which the president's Movimiento al Socialismo party is expected to dominate.

During his first term, the leftist anti-U.S. leader nationalized key sectors of Bolivia's economy, including mining and energy. Bolivia is South America's poorest country despite the fact that it holds significant natural gas reserves.
 
The local media computed that Manfred Reyes Villa got about 23 to 24 percent of the vote and that Samuel Doria Medina got about 7 to 10 percent. Both are far to the right of Morales.

Opponents fear that Morales will impose an authoritarian regime. The constitution permitted him just one more term in the presidency.


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