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(506) 2223-1327        Published Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 253           E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Merry Chrisrtmas
The staff of A.M. Costa Rica wish you, our readers, a merry Christmas and happy holidays without reservation. Whether you are getting a tan in Costa Rica or skiing in the Great White North, we hope that you find this weekend as a time to be surrounded by family, friends and good cheer.

Defensoría moved to halt return of U.S. child
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Defensoría de los Habitantes said Wednesday that it has filed a habeas corpus action to prevent a U.S. child from being returned to her father in Missouri.

The Defensoría said that it wants the Sala IV constitutional court to declare that during the long legal process the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was interpreted incorrectly. A judge ordered the return earlier this year.

The father, Roy Koyama, has been waging a legal battle to recover his young daughter who came to Costa Rica with her mother.  The Defensoría states without attribution that he has been guilty of domestic violence, something he has denied.

Koyama said earlier this month that he is the first person to receive a judicial decree here based on the Hague Convention. He raised money to bring home the child accompanied by a Costa Rican child welfare escort.

The Defensoría also went to bat this month to win a pardon for a woman who had admitted she helped kill a family member in a dispute over witchcraft. The woman claimed she could not understand the legal process where she admitted her guilt because she is a member of a native group and does not speak Spanish. Instead of having the courts order a new trial with an interpreter, the Consejo de Gobierno issued a pardon. Three men also sentenced in the case, including the woman's husband, remain in prison. The Defensoría praised the pardon.

The independent Defensoría also supported Chere Lyn Tomayko in her effort to avoid U.S. justice for child abduction. In that case, then-security minister Janina del Vecchio awarded the woman refugee status based on her claim of domestic
violence. The U.S. judge involved in the Texas case then told the daily La Nación that he was unaware of any domestic violence claim.

The Hague convention basically says that child custody cases should be handled in the country and by the judge that became involved initially.  The aim is to prevent a parent from shopping for a jurisdiction and to burden unfairly a parent who might be forced to present a case in a distant land.

In Koyama's case, a Green County, Missouri, court judge granted Koyama sole custody, but the mother claims she never was served and was unaware of the suit. She was in Costa Rica at the time.

On a Facebook page the woman, Trina Atwell
McCall, accuses Koyama of drug use, all kinds of abuse, including sexual, and violence. She had a sister in Costa Rica, which is why she came here. She and Koyama were not married, but the
Defensoría notes that the child, Emily Alina, carries his last name. The mother also is called  Trina Atwell Chavarria.

The woman fled Feb. 9, 2009, to come to Costa Rica. The child was seven months old at the time.

The Defensoría said that the Hague Convention was interpreted incorrectly because the court decision to return the child is a violation of the rights of women and children.

Among other arguments, the Defensoría said that the child has lived longer in Costa Rica than in the United States and that the mother fears that the child will be a victim of violence.

The agency said it expected a court decision shortly. Although the Sala IV is in recess for the Christmas vacation, there are magistrates on duty who can issue a temporary order. The action probably will delay any return of the child until the full court can hear the case in January.

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Staffers get some days off
during Christmas holidays

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica will not be published Friday, Christmas Eve.

The newspaper does not publish on Christmas or New Year's. But when these days are on a weekend, the Friday before is a non-publication day.

In addition, the A.M. Newspaper office in Barrio Otoya will close at 1:30 p.m. today so that staffers can attend the company Christmas party. The sales office will remain closed until Jan. 3. Editorial activities will be carried out at the news offices elsewhere.

Telephone callers will be able to hear alternative numbers during the holidays.

The newspaper will publish Monday through Thursday next week, and news staffers will be on duty throughout the holiday in case of major developments. For example a major earthquake took place early Christmas Day 2003.

Staffers also will use the newspaper's e-mail list to alert subscribers to critical news. The list is open to anyone who signs up HERE!

On-again, off-again Tope
is declared to be on again

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Holiday celebrations here are always last-minute events.

Health ministry approval of the Fiestas de San José in Zapote always are cliff-hangers. So was approval of construction of the rondel where bull riders and bull baiters perform the entire holiday season.

One of the nation's most cherished events was thrown into doubt Wednesday when organizers of the Tope Nacional, the giant horse parade through San Jose's downtown said the event had been canceled.

The organizers said they just could not afford the amount of food that Fuerza Pública officers were demanding. Some 600 officers have been assigned to guard the horse parade route and the assembly areas from 5 a.m. Sunday.

The midday announcement sent shock waves through the country. Horsemen and horsewomen come from all over for the event.

Fuerza Pública officers were seeking breakfast for 600, two sets of snacks, lunch for 600 and also dinner, according to organizers.

The announcement that the event was canceled appears to have been taken without consultation of the people at the top, Mayor Johnny Araya of San José and Jose María Tijerino Pacheco, the security minister.

Eventually these officials came to an agreement. The security ministry would provide breakfast for the 600 officers and the municipality would provide the lunch and dinners, according to the agreement.

The security ministry rushed out a news release in the late afternoon to confirm that the Tope still was on for Sunday.

Not so in Desamparados. The annual carnival and parade there, planned for Monday, will not take place, municipal officials said. They blamed the lack of sponsors. This would have been the fourth year.

In Zapote, workmen are putting the finishing touches on booths and rides for the fiestas there that open Christmas Day. More than 70 bulls, mostly from Guanacaste, are being hauled to the fairgrounds for the uniquely Costa Rican Christmas bullfighting a la Tico. The events in which participants frequently are mauled by fighting bulls is televised.

Two traffic officers face
allegation of bribe-taking

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two traffic officers have been detained on the allegation that they accepted money from a drunk driver instead of taking the appropriate action.

The two men, identified by the last names of Guerrero Tobal and Calvo Chaves were detained earlier in the week in Heredia and in San José.

The allegation is that the two were working in the vicinity of Parque Morazán Nov. 26 when they stopped a motorist who tested positive for alcohol in the blood. Depending on the amount, the motorist could have faced thousands of dollars in fines and perhaps lose the vehicle.

Judicial investigators appear to have stumbled on the situation during their routine patrol. They confiscated the device used to detect alcohol at that time, they said.

Prosecutors have asked that the two traffic officers be suspended from their jobs to await court action.

The steep fines for driving under the influence of alcohol probably will not be changed when lawmakers update the stiff fines that exist in the traffic law that went into effect March 1. But other fines may be reduced.

U.S. birth abroad reports
will have passport security

Special to A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. State Department says it is centralizing the production of consular report of birth abroad for security reasons.

These documents will now be produced at the department's passport facilities in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and New Orleans, Louisiana.

The document is an official record that shows that a child born overseas has acquired U.S. citizenship at birth, the department said.

The redesigned document has state-of-the-art security features that make it extremely resistant to alterations or forgery, the department said. Until now the documents were printed at U.,S. embassies and consulates around the world. Centralizing production and eliminating the distribution of controlled blank form stock throughout the world ensures improved uniform quality and lessens the threat of fraud, the department said.

In a strange display of political correctness, the department added that applications for U.S. passports and the redesigned consular report of birth abroad will also use the title of “parent” as opposed to “mother” and “father.” These improvements are being made to provide a gender neutral description of a child’s parents and in recognition of different types of families, the department said.

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
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 253
Latigo K-9

First Wikileaks discloses concern over Ecuador visa rules
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ecuador was jeopardizing Latin American security with lax immigration requirements, according to the then-director of Costa Rica's agency.

That was the gist of the first U.S. diplomatic cable from San José released by Wikileaks.

The Nov. 12, 2008, cable came from then-U.S. ambassador Peter E. Cianchette. He was reporting on a conversation he had with Mario Zamora, who was head of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería at the time. He now is a vice minister supervising that agency. The cable to Washington and other Latin embassies was labeled confidential.

The cable said that Zamora sent two immigration officials to Quito to reinforce training for Costa Rican consular workers there because Ecuador had lifted its visa requirements. Zamora was reported to be concerned that Ecuador was being used as a base for human traffickers who were getting false papers and visas for young Chinese men.

Zamora was said to be concerned because applications for Costa Rican visas had been submitted from China but the notifications were supposed to be sent to Ecuador.

Subsequently there have been disputes over visas to Chinese, including permission for Chinese workers who have been involved with the stadium the country
constructed in Costa Rica as a gift. China is on the
 restricted list for visas, and issuing a visa requires approval of a committee at the immigration department.

But according to the former ambassador, Zamora was not just worried about Chinese. Zamora was quoted as being concerned about the high number of foreigners from elsewhere that were arriving daily on air flights from Ecuador.

Zamora noted that daily flights arriving to San Jose from Ecuador had recently become "very cosmopolitan" and were receiving more scrutiny, the former ambassador said. Before, these flights carried more "local" clientele but now included many South Americans and Eastern Europeans, among others, he added, quoting Zamora.

"Though Zamora told us that there had thus far been no indication that the emerging immigration patterns included
terrorist activity, he remains attentive to U.S. concerns, and he continues to work closely with us on these issues," said  Cianchette.

Costa Rica also has seen several cases where groups of Africans entered the country illegally after being abandoned by traffickers. Most had intentions of heading to the United States.

Wikileaks still has more than 760 diplomatic cables from San José that have not been released. Only a few are secret.

The most sensitive probably will be the assessments of U.S. diplomats of progress getting the Central American free trade treaty approved here and the activities of opponents.

"Tis the season to celebrate along with the God of choice
In this season of rejoicing and “peace on earth," I applaud Senor Joaquin Aguilar for his response in A.M. Costa Rica to charges that Ticos are cowards and spineless for not responding to Nicaragua’s border pushing with guns.  As Joaquin said, Ticos are not cowards, they are smart and educated.  They reasoned some time ago that war is not a sensible solution to differences between countries or among religious ideologies.  The collateral suffering, damage and deaths caused by carelessness and cruelty that war, by its very nature engenders (as we hear often enough, soldiers are trained to kill) negates anything positive one can find in wars.

Costa Rica is not without its violence and crime. A good amount of it due to another type of war:  the one on drugs.  Nor are its streets empty of homeless people, some handicapped or with brains addled by alcohol or drugs, some just poor.  But you will not see young men (and women) with bodies or minds permanently maimed by a war waged by its government.

However, it is a tossup as to which causes more suffering, and death to a people, war or oppressive governments that institutionalize cruelty.  Anyone who has seen the movie, “The Killing Fields,” cannot see anything positive in either war or totalitarian governments.  Of course, the latter seems to invite the former.

This is also a season with traditions of good will towards others and gift giving. I have for a long time, grumbled that Christmas has lost its religious meaning, that Christ has been taken out of Christmas.  But in fact, people have continued with the more original traditions of celebrating the births of various pagan gods, including the son of Isis, the Egyptian Goddess of Nature, and Mithras, the personification of Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun), thought to be of Persian origin, both born on Dec. 25 long before Christ. There is still mystery associated with the rites of Mithras because, like the Eleusinian Mysteries of
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

the Greek Goddess Demeter, their followers kept the secrets.  And then there was Saturn and the Saturnalia.  The pagan celebrations joyfully marked the passing of the winter solstice and the rebirth of the Sun which meant the earth would be fertile again, and they celebrated with feasting and drinking and merriment.

It was only in the early Fourth century that the then-pope designated Dec. 25 as the birth day of Jesus. He figured it was useless to fight tradition and easier to adapt and adopt. So Christmas seems to be all things to all people.  And so, attend the church of your choice, celebrate the birth of Christ or Mithras, or the son of Isis or whomever.  Light up your Yule log (but only if you have a fireplace), hang up the fertility mistletoe, decorate the Christmas tree to remind you that the world will be green again (or that the rainy season will return), deliver your presents, go caroling with friends and get ready to feast, drink and be merry because the Sun is alive and will begin its return — it is doing so as I write — crops will grow and the cycle of life will continue 

I am going to quit sulking and enjoy this festive season in a country that has a pretty good record for trying not to undo the rights of its people and does believe in peace but will not force it with guns, only by example.

And to paraphrase a wish by little Tim Cratchit, who was, although disabled and poor, unconquered, “May all of the Gods bless us, everyone.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 253

Ms. Figueres expresses optimism over climate change effort

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations climate change chief has called on countries to follow up on the recent conference in Cancún with higher global emissions cuts and the rapid launch of new institutions and funds.   

The agreements reached at the conference, which concluded in the Mexican city of Cancún Dec. 11, include formalizing mitigation pledges and ensuring increased accountability for them, as well as taking concrete action to tackle deforestation, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of global carbon emissions.  

Delegates at the 16th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change also agreed to ensure no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the Kyoto Protocol, an addition to the convention that contains legally binding measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and whose first commitment period is due to expire in 2012.  

“Cancún was a big step, bigger than many imagined might be possible. But the time has come for all of us to exceed our own expectations because nothing less will do,” said Christiana Figueres, a Costa Rican who heads the U.N. climate change program.

She stressed that the ‘Cancún Agreements’ needs to be implemented as quickly as possible, and be accompanied by “credible accountability systems that will help in measuring real progress.”  

If all these targets and actions are fully implemented, U.N. estimates show they could deliver only 60 per cent of the emission reductions that science says will be needed to stay below the agreed two degree C rise in average temperatures, and two degrees does not guarantee the survival of the most vulnerable peoples.    

“All countries, but particularly industrialized nations, need to deepen their emission reduction efforts and to do so quickly,” said Ms. Figueres.   

Agreement was also reached in Cancún on a package to help developing nations deal with climate change, including new institutions, funding channels and a technology transfer mechanism to help the developing world build its own sustainable, low-emissions future, adapt more effectively to climate change, and preserve and protect its forests for the good of all nations.  

Ms. Figueres stressed that these institutions must be
launched quickly, noting that millions of poor and vulnerable people around the world have been waiting years to get the full level of assistance they need.   

She added that the climate change convention will support all governments in this new work, and said she hoped that it will be possible to point to new and concrete examples of success when the parties to the convention a year from now in South Africa.  

“I expect in particular to see rapid decisions on appointing the board of the new green fund and the Committee of the Technology Mechanism. I also look forward to receiving the details of fast-start financing from industrialized countries so the secretariat can compile the information that shows clearly the amounts that have been raised and are being disbursed,” she said.   

The Green Fund establishes a long-term climate finance institution for the first time under the oversight of the parties to the convention and with a 24-member board that balances representation between developed and developing nations.  

“Cancún has significantly expanded the menu of climate implementation and resources available to countries under the United Nations,” said Ms. Figures. “The imperative to act is now.”  

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also highlighted the achievements of the Cancún conference in a message to the closing ceremony for the International Year of Biodiversity, held in the Japanese city of Kanazawa Saturday.  

In particular, he noted the important agreement reached on REDD Plus, backed by the financial resources to implement it. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, called REDD, is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.   

REDD-Plus goes beyond deforestation – which some estimates show has contributed up to one-fifth of global carbon emissions, more than the world’s entire transportation sector – and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.  

“By promoting the conservation and sustainable management of forests we can not only mitigate climate impacts and increase resilience, but go a long way towards slowing the accelerating rate of biodiversity loss,” Ban said in the message.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 253

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

México museum displays
harvest of illegal weapons

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In Mexico, violence related to drug smuggling has claimed around 30,000 lives in recent years, and many Mexicans are wondering if President Felipe Calderon's war on the criminal gangs is succeeding.

The United States is assisting Mexico in its war on the drug cartels, but demand for illicit drugs in the United States is largely to blame for the problem.

In a secure building inside the Mexican Ministry of Defense compound in Mexico City, displays of items seized in raids tell the story of drug trafficking. On display are samples of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs.

The most impressive collection in the narco-museum contains guns seized by the military.

Many high-powered, fully automatic rifles such as those on display are readily available in Central America and can easily be smuggled across Mexico's porous border with Guatemala.

But most of the gaudily-decorated pistols originated up north.

Many semiautomatic pistols on display were confiscated from drug traffickers and have been traced to gun shops in the United States.

Mexican soldiers and police killed in gun battles have often been victims of guns smuggled into the country by the same gangs that are smuggling drugs out of the country.

Mexican authorities have said 90 percent of confiscated weapons are from the United States, but the tracing, done with U.S. assistance, began by identifying guns of U.S. manufacture, so the figure is skewed.

Many of the guns confiscated in México are those owned by honest citizens who have them for self-protection.

Gun ownership is severely restricted in Mexico. In the United States, it is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, but these fully-automatic weapons and grenades taken from drug cartel killers cannot be legally sold in U.S. stores.

Still, Mexico City-based security expert Ana Maria Salazar says the United States must do its part to stop gun smuggling. "Clearly not all the guns the cartels have access to are coming exclusively from the United States, but it is also true that the largest percentage of these guns are coming from the United States," she says, "and it is simply because it is just very easy to get guns in the United States and very easy to bring them back into Mexico."

U.S. federal agents have stepped up inspection of vehicles going into Mexico and have arrested a number of U.S. citizens who purchased guns in stores and then sold them to Mexican smugglers.

While the violence in Mexico has not yet spilled over the U.S. border in any large way, it very well could someday and Ms. Salazar says U.S. officials should be doing everything they can to help Mexico win this war. "At the end of the day it is in the U.S. interest to make sure that Mexico is a peaceful, prosperous neighbor, just because of the large border that there is between the two countries," Ms. Salazar said.

And, she says, since drug consumers in the United States supply the cartels with enormous amounts of money, the U.S. government is morally obligated to help Mexico confront these violent organizations.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 253

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Special Christmas stamp
benefits Ciudad de Niños

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ciudad de los Niños is getting a Christmas present from
Correos de Costa Rica.

Just as in previous years, a special stamp has been produced that must be affixed to any mail sent between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31. The face value is 45 colons, some nine U.S. cents at this writing.

The entire amount collected from the additional stamp will be turned over to the Ciudad de los Niños in
stamp for kids
This year's stamp
Agua Caliente de Cartago to provide for basic needs.
Using a stamp of a low denomination to generate funds is traditional in Costa Rica. Most legal documents must bear a stamp that benefits the Colegio de Abogados and sometimes the Cruz Roja.

The Ciudad de los Niños surcharge this year features drawings made by children services by the center. Of course, regular postage also is required to mail a letter.

Emergency commission sends
regrets to helicopter firm

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national emergency commission expressed its regret Wednesday over the crash landing of a helicopter that belongs to a firm that has handled many emergencies and humanitarian missions.

The firm is Aerodiva, and one of its helicopters injured three occupants when it hit the ground in Matina near the Río Barbilla Tuesday.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said the firm is a close collaborator in the analysis of risks and in the emergency situations. The company has taken officials on many trips over landslides, volcanos and other developing problems, the commission said.

The three occupants of the craft were treated at Hospital México. The pilot and copilot were not admitted but a passenger, a technician for the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, still is hospitalized. A spokesman for the company said that a foreign object hit the main rotor of the helicopter when it was taking off.

The craft will be repaired out of the country.

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