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(506) 2223-1327        Published Monday, Dec. 27, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 254           E-mail us
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A.M. Costa Rica photo
Mounted police were among the thousands of riders participating.
Horse parade participants had antidote to the cold
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 4,000 horsemen and horsewomen, some of them fortified against the chilly weather by beer, wine and other alcohols, took to the streets of San José Sunday for the annual Tope Nacional.

They were cheered by an estimated 200,000 persons, many of them also fortified against the elements.

A threatening sky never produced rain, but temperatures ranged from 13 to 18 C. Morning winds of up to 45 kph gave way to less forceful gusts during the afternoon horse parade. The temperature was from, 55 to 65 F, and the crowds dressed accordingly.

The Cruz Roja said it treated 51 persons during the horse parade and that 14 went to local hospitals. There were fewer cases of dehydration this year, thanks to the weather.  The event has been held under a blistering sun. The Cruz Roja has 15 aid stations set up along the parade route through downtown San José.

A few riders fell from their mounts, but it was not known if any suffered injuries sufficient to be included in the Cruz Roja statistics.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said the windy weather and lower temperatures would continue with some light rain today mostly in the mountains around the Central Valley. The same forecast was made for the central Pacific, but the north Pacific was supposed to be windy but clear.

The weather also was a factor at the Fiestas de San José at the Zapote fairgrounds. Spectators at the evening bull fights were bundled up. The informal bull fighters in the area also were dressed heavier. Some wore gloves. Others wore hats and Halloween masks. As is normal, many wore unusual costumes.

This is the event when about 100 would-be bull fighters get in the ring with a 1,000-pound fighting bull. The Cruz Roja maintains aid stations
at the festival and also one inside the rondel where
drinking horseman
A.M. Costa Rica photo
This rider brought his own in a traditional bota.

wounded bull fighters are passed through a window. Throughout the bulk of the evening performance Sunday a few bull fighters were treated, but there were no serious injuries. That is true even though bulls occasionally did tap dances on the heads of fallen participants.

Most seemed to be experienced and could duck under the horns of the bulls. One of the few women in the ring baited a bull by kneeling in the style of traditional bullfighters. Just as she seemed frustrated that the bull did not respond, the beast turned and ran through her and then returned to walk over her again. She missed being gored and did not appear badly hurt.

Channel 6 Repretel is covering the bullfights live with boom cameras and camera operators with helmet cams in the ring. The bull baiting and bull riding continues for a week.

Fuerza Pública officers said they made a few arrests and confiscated some seven knives. The bull fights began Christmas afternoon.

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 Phone: (506) 2232-1014
Hosting U.S. ships ruled
to not be unconstitutional

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court, by a split vote, has rejected a challenge to Costa Rica's agreement to operate joint maritime patrols.

As part of the agreement, the legislature votes every six months to allow U.S. Coast Guard and Navy vessels to dock in ports here for supplies and shore leave.

The high court reported that it did not find a cause for action. The challenge had been made by opposition legislators six months ago when the legislature was asked to make another routine approval. The challenge was in the court's hands for six months.

In the most recent case, lawmakers last week declined to allow U.S. Navy ships to dock in Costa Rica from Jan. 1 to June 30. But approval was given for U.S. Coast Guard vessels.

Lawmakers seem to have been upset by reports from the Cuban news service Prensa Latina that said they were allowing 7,000 U.S. marines and 46 warships to dock here. The U.S. Embassy routinely listed every possible boat whose captain might want to dock here during the six months. Far fewer actually do.

Some lawmakers also may be troubled by anti-drug efforts.

Quepos lawyer identified
in money-laundering case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial has identified the Quepos lawyer facing a money laundering allegation. They said he has the last name of Bermúdez.

The organized crime prosecutor and the anti-money laundering task force of the Judicial Investigating Organization detained the man and searched his office and home last week. A judge ordered him to sign in with prosecutors every 15 days and to cease his work on behalf of two men who were detained in a money laundering investigation.

The two men, identified by the last names of Chaves Camacho and Reyes Tabasco have been convicted of trying to carry $650,860 across the northern border with Nicaragua. The money was hidden in the roof of a car. Police confiscated it in April.

Agents took Bermúdez from Quepos to Ciudad Quesada for his hearing. That is where the original case was heard.

U.S. fugitive detained
by agents in Alajuela

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial said that a fugitive from the United States was detained Thursday in Desamparados de Alajuela. The man was identified as Daniel Jay Dossier.

The Poder Judicial said he was wanted in the United States to face charges of aggravated robbery and of illegally carrying a gun.

Agents from the Alajuela office of the Judicial Investigating Organization made the arrest, the Poder Judicial said.

There was not further information on the nature of the crime or where in the United States a warrant had been issued for the man.

Health ministry closes
Tambor hotel over illnesses

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When some 50 more guests said they were ill Saturday, the Ministerio de Salud closed the Hotel Barceló Tambor to new guests.

The minister, María Luisa Ávila, said she expected the closing to last for a week while the hotel seeks out the possible source of the infection.

A number of hotel guest suffered stomach problems last week, and some had to be transferred to the local clinic in Paquera. The hotel is on the east shore of the Nicoya Peninsula south of Paquera.

Tests are being done on the kitchen, the water, the pool water and other possible sources of contamination.

Brawl injures 10 persons

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christmas morning was anything but peaceful in Barrio Nuevo de Curridabat.

The Cruz Roja reported that a brawl there injured at least 10 persons and that six ambulances were needed to carry victims to hospitals. The agency was called about 4:15 a.m.

The Cruz Roja said that eight persons were transported in what the agency calls delicate conditions. Two persons were listed as stable.  The nature of the wounds were not available.

Boat dumps 20 into gulf

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A launch containing 20 persons overturned en route to Isla Tortuga about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, the Cruz Roja reported.

All of the boat occupants were pulled from the Gulf of Nicoya, the agency said. A tourist boat nearby and another craft assisted.

Our reader's opinion
Costa Rica is hypocritical
in U.S. child custody cases

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Here we go again. I see that Costa Rica is again failing to comply with international law concerning child custody decisions made in other countries. See “Defensoría moved to halt return of U.S. child” here.

Costa Rica is counting on the rule of law to protect them from the attempted land grab by Mr. Ortega and his friends in Nicaragua. Yet they blatantly ignore the law in many child custody cases.

Being intimately familiar with the court system in the U.S., I know how hard it is for an American father to get custody of his children, especially a young child where the courts do not want to remove the child from its mother.

So if a father has been awarded custody of a young child in the U.S.A., something is amiss. I will not say that is necessarily true in this case, but something does not add up.

It is a tried and true, but ultra nasty, strategy for the mother to claim physical or sexual abuse of either her or the child in attempting to gain sole custody of a child. This leaves a stigma on the child and the father forever.

Whether this is the case or not, the place for the determination to be made is in the U.S. courts, NOT Costa Rica. This is where the real facts are known. Costa Rica should cease this hypocritical policy immediately and abide by international law just as they expect others to do. You cannot pick and choose the laws you want to abide by and the ones to ignore.

Guy C. Moats
Ex-president of U.S. Divorce Reform, State of Washington
Custodial father
Playas del Coco

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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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 254
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U.S. ambassador says milling would remove rice toxins
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. ambassador said that Costa Rican lab workers made an error when they conducted tests for harmful fungus on a boatload of rice imported from the United States.

The ambassador, Anne S. Andrew, said that test results show that the rice is not harmful if it is milled and the husks removed.

The case involves some $35 million in imported rice, some 4,800 tons. The Ministerio de Salud has ordered that the rice be destroyed by burning. Testing was done at the universidad de Costa Rica. Ms. Andrew said that the rice was not milled when it arrived and was not ready for human consumption.

The dispute involves tests in which part of the rice showed levels of aflatoxins higher than permitted. The naturally occurring toxins can cause cancer.

Ms. Andrew said that the embassy obtained samples of the rice and sent them to two private labs in the United States. Both labs removed the indigestible husks and tested the remaining grain. Ms. Andrews said in a letter to a legislative deputy that the labs found levels of aflatoxins to be well within the limits for human consumption.
She also said that the rice arrived by ship from the United States Oct. 27 from KBX, Inc., in Benton, Arkansas. She said tests conducted by the private labs on hulled rice showed aflatoxin levels of less than 20 parts per billion.
She said that rice generally is sold at retail with the husk or hulls removed. If there is aflatoxins present, it usually is on the hulls, she said.

The ambassador said the embassy would share the results with the health ministry.  Her letter was written Thursday.

Aflatoxins are produced by fungus.  Two local companies, Pelón and DEMASA, own the rice. Rice is first milled to remove the hull and to produce brown rice. The white rice typical of the dinner table comes with more milling.

Local rice producers earlier had expressed pleasure at what they said was contaminated rice. The importation of rice is a sensitive political issue because rice on the world market usually is available at prices lower than Costa Rican farmers can produce it. It was the Asamblea Nacional de Productores de Arroz that raised the issue.

A Spanish study published in 2007 showed that hulling reduced the level of aflatoxin some 97 percent on artificially infected rice that was then processed.

Police officers from Los Chiles have presents for some 200 children on Isla Chica when they held a party Friday. The police have held many such parties, and not all in the border areas.

Police have party
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública/Guillermo Solano

Police bring Christmas to border region with Nicaragua
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government has been giving more attention to the northern zone since Nicaraguan troops invaded the Isla Calero and began constructing an artificial mouth for the Río San Juan.

More police have been deployed to the area, including at Barra del Colorado. Arrests not involved with the border controversy have resulted.

One border area is the Isla Chica de Los Chiles. The school there attracts youngsters from Mojón Ocho, which is nearby in Nicaragua. Nicaraguans frequently come to the island to shop, too, because there are few commercial establishments in their immediate area.

Friday Fuerza Pública officers put on a Christmas party for the youngsters there.

Because the families are poor, the children were facing a bleak Christmas, said the security ministry.

A summary credited Rodolfo Castro and Alexis Nuñez, both heads of the Fuerza Pública in Los Chiles, with obtaining donations from other police officers in the Central Valley and also Central Valley merchants.

Similar parties were held in other northern zone communities.

In Rome, Costa Rica's dispute with Nicaragua rated a mention in the Christmas message from Pope Benedict XVI. The pope listed the border situation among other trouble spots in the world. He also noted that the country has suffered from a recent natural disaster. That was flooding and landslides from Tropical Strom Tomas.

He said in part:

"May the light of Christmas shine forth anew in the Land where Jesus was born, and inspire Israelis and Palestinians to strive for a just and peaceful coexistence. May the comforting message of the coming of Emmanuel ease the pain and bring consolation amid their trials to the beloved Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East; may it bring them comfort and hope for the future and bring the leaders of nations to show them effective solidarity. May it also be so for those in Haiti who still suffer in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and the recent cholera epidemic. May the same hold true not only for those in Colombia and Venezuela, but also in Guatemala and Costa Rica, who recently suffered natural disasters.

"May the birth of the Saviour open horizons of lasting peace and authentic progress for the peoples of Somalia, Darfur and Côte d’Ivoire; may it promote political and social stability in Madagascar; may it bring security and respect for human rights in Afghanistan and in Pakistan; may it encourage dialogue between Nicaragua and Costa Rica; and may it advance reconciliation on the Korean peninsula."

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 254

Low oxygen ocean areas reported making fish vulnerable

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Billfish and tuna, important commercial and recreational fish species, may be more vulnerable to fishing pressure because of shrinking habitat according to a new study published by scientists.

The study came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Billfish Foundation, and University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

An expanding zone of low oxygen, known as a hypoxic zone, in the Atlantic Ocean is encroaching upon these species’ preferred oxygen-abundant habitat, forcing them into shallower waters where they are more likely to be caught, according to researchers.

During the study, published recently in the journal Fisheries Oceanography, scientists tagged 79 sailfish and blue marlin with satellite tracking devices in the western North Atlantic, off south Florida and the Caribbean; and eastern tropical Atlantic, off the coast of West Africa. The pop off archival satellite tags monitored horizontal and vertical movement patterns. Researchers said they confirmed that billfish prefer oxygen rich waters closer to the surface and will actively avoid waters low in oxygen.

While these hypoxic zones occur naturally in many areas of the world’s tropical and equatorial oceans, scientists said they are concerned because these zones are expanding and occurring closer to the sea surface, and are expected to continue to grow as sea temperatures rise.

“The hypoxic zone off West Africa, which covers virtually all the equatorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean, is roughly the size of the continental United States, and it’s growing,” said Eric D. Prince, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service research fishery biologist. “With the current cycle of climate change and accelerated global warming, we expect the size of this zone to increase, further reducing the available habitat for these fish.”

Less available habitat can lead to more fish being caught
tagged sailfish
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photo
This Atlantic sailfish was just tagged by scientists as part of a study to evaluate how oxygen depleted zones in the eastern Atlantic affect habitat.

since the fish are concentrated near the surface, said the
study. Higher catch rates from these areas may give the false appearance of more abundant fish stocks. The shrinking availability of habitat and resulting increases to catch rates are important factors for scientists to consider when doing population assessments, the study concluded.

Researchers forecast that climate change and its associated rise in ocean temperatures will further increase the expansion of hypoxic zones in the world’s oceans. As water temperature increases, the amount of oxygen dissolved in water decreases, further squeezing billfish into dwindling available habitat and exposing them to even higher levels of exploitation.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 27, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 254

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Cuban cable criticizes
Jamaica drug cooperation

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks suggests that Cuba complained to the United States about Jamaica's apparent lack of cooperation in the fight against drugs.  The cable, dated August 2009 and published by The Guardian newspaper, says Jamaican officials ignored Cuba's concerns to engage them on the issue of smugglers using its airspace and waters to transport narcotics ultimately destined for the United States.

The cable reports Cuban officials voiced frustration that their neighbor to the south ignored Cuba's attempts to increase the flow of drug-related information between the two countries.  It also says Cuban officials ultimately blamed the United States for the drug problem caused by high demand in that country. 

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding issued a statement Thursday saying Cuban Interior Ministry officials had voiced the same concerns to his government last year.  He said that as a result, the head of a counter-drug police unit was replaced and the department reorganized.

Prime Minister Golding says since then, there has been "full and active cooperation between Jamaica and Cuba on counternarcotics surveillance and interdiction, and no concern has been expressed by officials of the Cuban government."

Meanwhile, the Jamaica Observer newspaper quotes Cuba's ambassador to Jamaica, Yuri Gala, as calling the cable "clear manipulation" and evil.

Ecuador bus crash kills 35
after mechanical failure

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

At least 35 people were killed and more than 20 injured in an early morning accident Friday in Ecuador when a bus plunged into a ravine.

Authorities said the death toll could increase as six people were trapped under the wreckage. At least eight children were among those killed in the accident in Manabi province in southwestern Ecuador.

Investigators said the accident apparently was caused by a mechanical failure related to the bus's gear box. One Red Cross official said fog and rain may also have been factors in the accident.

Witnesses said there were more than 65 people on the bus, well above its normal capacity of 40.

Another Mexican jail break
frees 159 in Nuevo Laredo

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican prison officials say that at least 159 inmates have escaped from a prison in Nuevo Laredo, a northeastern town near the U.S. border.

Officials say the inmates escaped early Friday through the main entrance.  One police source said the method of escape points to complicity of prison guards.  Reports say local, state and federal authorities are searching for the escapees.

The incident comes three months after 85 prisoners escaped from a facility in Reynosa, across the U.S. border from McAllen, Texas.  In that case, Mexican officials looked into the possible involvement of two missing prison guards and 44 other employees in the escape.

The incidents follow a scandal in July, when authorities discovered that officials at another prison in the northern state of Durango had allowed convicts out of that facility to carry out revenge contract killings.

Separately, Mexican authorities say a car bomb exploded outside a police station near the northern city of Monterrey Friday, injuring two people.  An official says the bomb was aimed at intimidating police.
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Krav Maga teacher plans
to visit local affiliate

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica Krav Maga will host internationally known John Whitman for special sessions and instructor training in March.

Whitman is the former president of Krav Maga Worldwide, the largest Krav Maga organization in the world.

However, Mr. Whitman created and presides over a new organization named Krav Maga Alliance that has 42 affiliates throughout the world.

Krav Maga is a self defense method that originally was developed by the Israeli military.

James Powell, instructor for the Krav Maga International and Alliance affiliate in Costa Rica, said that he left the Krav Maga Global after experiencing a training session with Whitman in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"I was impressed with his teaching ability, knowledge, and the ease in which he transferred the information to his students. Being a great communicator is very important in teaching," said Powell, who also noted that the alliance introduces the fitness and realistic training approach in its program.

Whitman is known around Hollywood for his other job, writing for television shows that include "Star Wars" and "24." He has trained in Wing Gate, Israel, and has trained celebrities as well as special police units around the world.

More information is available at

Ambulance crash kills
driver en route to Quepos

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 32-year-old ambulance driver died Wednesday night when his vehicle struck a truck and two other vehicles, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The victim was identified by the last name of Astúa. The ambulance was returning from Puntarenas to Quepos and contained two patients, including one that was 88 years old.

Agents still are investigating the crash. It happened about 11 p.m. in Paquita. The two patients and the two family members inside the ambulance survived.

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