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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, Dec. 28, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 255            E-mail us
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One of the city's biggest parties included alcohol and Avenida 2 packed with horses.
The Christmas party continued through the weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Horses generated another gigantic turnout of spectators Saturday as more than 4,500 of the four-footed animals, most with riders, engaged in an equine traffic jam in San Jose's main streets.

The weather was perfect, and the crowds appreciative. Many persons had lined up or packed their pickup strategically hours before the 1 p.m. starting time. Some still were there after 5 p.m.

The alcohol flowed beneath the blazing sun, but there were few disruptive incidents.

Meanwhile, Sunday in Desamparados, the third annual carnival attracted several hundred thousand spectators, perhaps half the number who attended the horse parade Saturday.

Saturday the line of march from Parque la Sabana through Paseo Colón, Avenida 2 and Calle 9 to Plaza Víquez was four persons deep. Many perched on their vehicles and others cheered from balconies and windows of buildings. In addition to horses, some carts and even riders dressed as Medieval knights and masked wrestlers, one rancher brought water buffalo.

The Cruz Roja said its workers treated just 56 persons and only five had to go to area hospitals. In one unusual incident, the rescue agency said its psychologists worked with two children who became lost. The Fuerza Pública had no further information on this incident.

Saturday was like one big party. Many spectators brought their own refreshments in family-size coolers. Western dress was the uniform of the day.

Some even started charcoal fires for a hot lunch.

 
barbeque
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No picnic is complete without a barbeque.

Some 180 Cruz Roja workers were on the scene as
well as some 250 law enforcement officers.

In Desamparados Sunday under equally sunny skies the Fuerza Pública reported that its officers detained 31 persons. The most serious offense was that of a youngster who is suspected of carrying a .38-caliber pistol with the identification numbers filed off.
Most arrests were for disorderly conduct, fighting and drug violations. Police confiscated some marijuana.

The Desamparados carnival had few horses but plenty of bands. The Desamparados carnival takes the place of one that usually took place the second day after Christmas in San José.
Fuerza Pública horse patrol
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
Fuerza Pública mounted unit was one of the leaders of the march


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 28, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 255

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Our readers' opinion
Other Latin lands value
tourism, and they show it


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We have had the opportunity for travel this year and wanted to share some of our experiences with your readership.

We visited Lima, Peru, and stayed in the Miraflores district on the ocean. Lima is bustling, and the air quality is less than optimal, but tourists are treated well. The Miraflores area is full of lodging options, and we chose a one-bedroom apartment in a hotel that was walking distance to just about everything. A week’s lodging was  $150. Food options were plentiful, and the local Miraflores Mercado Central was overflowing with amazing produce, meats, and seafood.

Again, the prices were much lower than Costa Rica. Our safety was never a concern as there is a visible police presence that actually polices the city. We ate dinner and walked home at 11 p.m. unescorted and safe. There is also the opportunity to eat outside everywhere and every street was clean.

In September we visited Antigua, Guatemala, and while the country is a poor one, tourists are treated well and there is a concerted effort to make tourists welcome. We stayed in a hostel that was very basic, but in the city center, for $22/night.  Private bath and a patio for breakfast and enjoying the evening. The marketplace was a block away, and again, everything was available.

The efforts that the government has made to keep this ancient city preserved are remarkable, and smoking is prohibited in any public building, including bars and restaurants. Again clean streets.

Yesterday we returned home to Costa Rica from Quito, Ecuador. We stayed in the Centro Historico District and marveled at 400-year-old churches, beautiful museums, and friendly people. The market in Old Town was disappointing, and one vendor, upon learning that we were visiting from Costa Rica, said “Costa Ricans are arrogant,” and made the nose up gesture to emphasize that. Now how a seafood vendor in the dirty San Roque market found this to be true is puzzling at best. The New Town area, previously called “Gringolandia” is now called the Mariscal District. 

We took public transportation, a sleek trolley that cost 25 cents and has three north to south routes.  One route travels in the center of the city and the other two trolley routes travel on the east and west sides of town.  Ecuador has dollarized, and the currency is the U.S. dollar. Cabs cost about one quarter of what they cost here, and rates go up on the meter by a penny!  Again, food options were plentiful and inexpensive.

We ate lamb, duck, langostino, turkey and rarely paid more than $20 for an evening meal in a nice place. Lunch cost $8 for two at a mid range place. We saw the president of the Republic address a crowd in Plaza Grande and were 50 feet away. There are small signs posted everywhere reminding workers that tourists are the lifeblood of the city, as well as recycling containers on many corners.

We heard stories of unsafe streets, but found that untrue as there is an organized police force that is visible. We stayed in the Hotel San Francisco in a top floor suite that was $50/night (all taxes included) where we enjoyed a kitchen, living area, balcony with seating, and a fireplace. Where can we stay in Costa Rica with those options? We remember well, cheaper options years ago, but nothing like this.

Returning to Costa Rica, we wondered what do we have that they do not?  Indifferent attitudes toward foreigners, lackadaisical service in public establishments, police look the other way and a criminal “justice” system that favors criminals. To those who would cry “Love it or leave it!” I only ask why can’t we have safe, clean streets and an enjoyable city environment?  We don’t want to move to South America or Guatemala, nor Nicaragua, which we also visited. We merely wish for Costa Rica to take notice of some of what other counties do to attract people, not drive them away.

Jon and Tim Montz Graham
Rohrmoser and San Francisco, California

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 28, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 255

Passengers can now expect increased security at airports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire services reports

Air travelers can expect more delays and searches when they are traveling to the United States, thanks to what appears to be an attempted bombing of a Detroit, Michigan, bound aircraft Christmas Day,

Informal reports from Juan Santamaría airport said that security officers were patting down passengers before they boarded U.S.-bound flights.

American Airlines posted on its Costa Rican Web site the notice that new security measures were in effect at the request of U.S. officials. The unspecified measures are supposed to require more time, and the airline urged passengers to arrive for their flights even earlier. Two hours is normal now for international flights.

The Transportation Security Administration said that it issued a directive for additional security measures to be implemented for last point of departure international flights to the United States. Passengers flying into the United States from abroad can expect to see additional security measures at international airports such as increased gate screening including pat-downs and bag searches, it said. During flight, passengers will be asked to follow flight crew instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight, it added.

A Nigeria national, Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab, is being held in the United States after the incident aboard a Northwest Airline flight from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Investigators said that the man tried to ignite explosives that he had strapped to his leg. That is a frequent location for smuggling drugs, and drug couriers using that technique have been detained at Juan Santamaría airport in the past. However, passengers have not been patted down routinely.

The Nigerian, who is believed to have links to terrorist organizations in Yemen, according to news reports, tried to ignite the material by manipulating a syringe of liquid 
under cover of a blanket draped over his lap.  Some European sources say that airline companies are declining to provide blankets now.

The response is similar to that following an attempt by Richard Colvin Reid, a British citizen, to detonate a device in the sole of his shoe during the 2001 Christmas season on a flight from Paris, France. As a result, airline passengers have been forced to remove their shoes before most international flights.

U.S. authorities have charged the latest suspect, Abdulmutallab, with transporting and attempting to detonate explosives aboard an airliner.

Passenger and witness Melinda Dennis said, "Right when we were about to land, there was some commotion in the back, and from what we could tell there was a gentleman who had some sort of device on him that caused him to catch on fire.  They put out the fire, brought him up front where they stripped him down to make sure he had nothing else."

The suspect suffered burns and has received medical attention in Michigan, where he is being held.

U.S. officials confirm they had advance knowledge of the suspect.  But Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that knowledge did not rise to the level of banning him from flying or entering the United States. "There are different types of databases, and there was simply throughout the law enforcement community never information that would put this individual on a 'no-fly' list," she said.

Napolitano also appeared on ABC.  She says the suspect's possible ties to terrorist groups are under investigation, but that there is no indication that Friday's bombing attempt was part of a larger plot.

According to Nigerian officials, the suspect's father had discussed concerns about his son's radical religious views with U.S. authorities in Nigeria before the attack.


Physican is arrested in Orotina abortion investigation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Abortion is against the law in Costa Rica, so when a 26-year-old woman showed up at Hospital Monseñor  Sanabria in Puntarenas with severe bleeding, the Judicial Investigating Organization got the call.

Officials said that agents worked on the assumption that the woman had had an abortion provoked by a medical professional.

Thursday agents raided a medical practice in the center of Orotina and detained the physician there. He was identified by the last name of Vargas.
The Ministerio Público opened an investigation for abortion, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. Agents said that they believe the physician had given the woman pills that induced the abortion.

The woman is cooperating with the investigation. Judicial investigators said that she admitted disposing of the baby in the rest room of a commercial establishment in Orotina. The Judicial Investigating Organization said that a local septic cleaning service was contracted to recover the remains.

Facilitating an abortion can carry a penalty of up to eight years in prison.

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SSan José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 28, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 255

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send in the clowns
Poder Judicial and Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photos
They sent in the clowns at Bajo Bleid and the Alajuela community of Carbonal
Judiciary and police make visits to help communities celebrate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Clowns substituted for Santa when the Poder Judicial delivered 150 food packages to a Talamanca community.  The Fuerza Pública had clowns and Santa when officers visited low-income communities in Alajuela.

The Poder Judicial said that more than 100 youngsters were treated to a Christmas fiesta. They came from the communities of Bajo Bleid, Alto Bleid and Alto Telire. Some families walked for hours to attend the event, the Poder Judicial said. The rural area is populated by native Costa Ricans and is a five-day walk from most modern civilization. It is on the Reserva Indígena Cabécar.
The food presents and judicial participants came by helicopter. The main idea was to attack the chronic hunger in the reserve.

A similar excursion is planned next month in the vicinity of Buenos Aires de Puntarenas, the judiciary said.

The Alajuela event was easier to visit. The Policía Turística and officers of the Vigilancia Aérea of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública participated at the community of Carbonal de Alajuela. Officers also visited the community of Ceiba.

Officers organized dances, clown shows, appearances of Santa Claus and distribution of gifts.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 28, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 255

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Brazilian case resolved
in contrast to Costa Rica


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Brazilian-American boy is back in the United States with his father, closing the book on a highly-publicized legal battle.

Sean Goldman, 9, and his father David landed in Orlando, Florida, late Thursday hours after being reunited for the first time in five years. They met in Rio de Janeiro Thursday, two days after Brazil's supreme court ruled the boy's Brazilian family must turn him over to his father.

The outcome is very different than similar cases that involved runaway moms who came to Costa Rica. The Brazilian case also is different in that the boy's mother was dead.

Still, the Brazilian case pointed out the reluctance of Latin nations to adhere to international treaties on child custody.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she is thrilled that the two were reunited. She also expressed appreciation for the Brazilian government's cooperation. She also said she appreciated the assistance and cooperation of the government of Brazil in upholding its obligations under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

The drama began in 2004, when the boy's Brazilian-born mother, Bruna Bianchi, took him there for what she said was a vacation. She never returned to the U.S, divorcing Sean's father and married a prominent Brazilian lawyer. She died in childbirth last year.

Sean's father fought to regain custody of his son, who he says was kidnapped. The boy's Brazilian family battled to keep him with them.

The case created tension in Brazilian-American diplomatic relations. U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith, of David Goldman's home state of New Jersey, went to Brazil to intervene on Goldman's behalf. U.S. President Barack Obama and his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inacio da Silva, discussed the case when they met at the White House in March. U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg also of New Jersey, had blocked a bill to extend billions of dollars in trade benefits to Brazil.  But he lifted his opposition to the legislation after the Brazilian supreme court ruling, and it passed in the Senate. 

In contrast, no high U.S. officials have issued public statements about a series of cases involving U.S. female fugitives in Costa Rica.

The most sensational case in Costa Rica is that of Chere Lyn Tomayko, a U.S. citizen wanted by a U.S. federal court to face a parental kidnapping charge. Instead of extraditing the woman to U.S. custody, Costa Rican officials granted her refugee status in July 2008. What followed was a half-hearted statement of regret from the U.S. Embassy here. It said in part:

“The protection of fundamental human rights was a cornerstone in the creation of the United States as a country more than 200 years ago. We are in absolute disagreement with the implicit assumption that the U.S. judicial system could not protect Ms. Tomayko against any alleged or potential abuse."

What the embassy statement did not say was that U.S. officials knew about the woman's location in Heredia for at least seven years. No effort was made to arrest the woman until her child turned 18.

Supporters of Ms. Tomayko claimed she was the victim of domestic violence, but the Texas judge in the case was not impressed with that claim. He had ordered joint custody with the father there until the woman fled Texas in 1997.  She still is listed as a fugitive by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Several other runaway moms also claimed domestic abuse in their efforts to stay in Costa Rica and avoid prosecution in the United States.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 28, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 255


Latin American news
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Swift action urged in killing
of Mexican paper owner


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Mexico's government to swiftly investigate the recent murder of a local newspaper owner and bring those responsible to justice.

The organization was responding to the death of José Alberto Velazquez López, who owned the Expresiones de Tulum newspaper in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo.

In a statement, the media rights group said Velazquez was traveling in his car late Tuesday when a gunman on a motorcycle shot the journalist, hitting him twice.  Velazquez died in a Cancun hospital.

Newspaper officials also said they believe Velazquez's death was linked to his criticism of local authorities and that it was well-known in Tulum that he and the city's mayor, Marciano Dzul Caamal, were enemies.

Velazquez had written several articles accusing Mayor Dzul of corruption.  The Committee to Protect Journalists said the mayor could not be reached for comment.

The newspaper's deputy editor, Luis Gamboa, said that the paper had received several anonymous phone calls threatening death in recent months and that its printing press had been firebombed in November. Gamboa also said Velazquez stopped reporting on local politics following an alleged phone call in which the mayor threatened Velazquez.

The Committee to Protect Journalists statement says México is one of the most dangerous countries for the press and that since 1992, 17 journalists have been slain in direct reprisal for their work.

The media rights group also says that since 2005, eight journalists have disappeared.  Most covered government corruption or organized crime.
 

Cargo ship blaze kills
nine off Venezuelan coast


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Officials in Venezuela say a cargo ship fire off the country's Caribbean coast has killed nine people and injured five more.

Authorities say the fire began before dawn in the mess hall of Greek-owned ship Aegean Wind as it headed to Houston, Texas, from Brazil with iron ore on board.

The injured sailors, including one with severe burns on much of his body, were evacuated by the military.

Some 24 crew members were on board the ship, nine of them Greek and 15 from the Philippines.

The vessel is owned by the Piraeus, Greece-based Atlantic Bulk Carrier Management company.



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