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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 255           E-mail us
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Devils and the bull have at it again in Boruca
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

New Year's Eve is party time, and the most elaborate celebration is by the Boruca in southern Costa Rica.

There the annual Juego de Diablos is played out over three days. This is a tourist magnet for those sturdy enough to observe the celebration on the Reserva Indígena Boruca south of Buenos Aires de Puntarenas. Access to the community is between kilometers 231 and 232 on the Interamericana Sur.

Tourists are welcome because the reserve residents earn money from selling masks and textiles.

The event has been called an important way to preserve the identity of the southern Costa Rican native group. The diablos represent the Boruca, and their adversary, the Toro or bull, is a
 manifestation of the colonial Spanish intruders. Thursday is preparation day as the diablitos, now counted in the dozens, prepare for the festival.

The ritual dancing begins in the first minutes of Friday when the diablitos, frequently fortified with chicha, parade through the community. The symbolic confrontation with the bull begins early Saturday. The climax, the death of the bull, takes place this year on Sunday.

Over the final two days the bull and the devils fight until the latter are vanquished. But that is not the end. The diablitos are resurrected and then vanquish the bull. All of this is done in many locations of the Boruca lands. Sometimes the event is called the baile or dance of the devils.
The Boruca also are known for their distinctive wooden masks, usually balsa or cedar, that are used in the juego de los diablitos.

Economy suggests that New Year's will be sedate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

New Year's Eve will likely be a sedate affair in the Central Valley this year.

There are indications that economic conditions will keep families home and cut down the attendance at fancy hotel events.

Such a situation would be in keeping with other indications that Costa Ricans are watchings their colons this season.

Many expats have commented on the lack of Christmas lighting on Central Valley homes. The bulk of the Christmas lighting either is by the government or companies. There are many fewer homes lighted for Christmas this year, perhaps due to rising electrical rates.

Some commentators also have discussed the way participants in the Tope Nacional, the horse parade Sunday, dressed down this year. Jeans were the standard instead of elaborate and expensive western wear.

The crowds at the Tope were massive again this year, showing that many Central Valley residents
bull fighting
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Bull fighting here is when about a hundred young men and women get in the ring with a fighting bull with predictable results.

have not headed off to the beaches. Still taxi
drivers are complaining that there are few persons on the streets compared to a normal working day.

The big event continues to be the Fiestas de San José at the Zapote fairgrounds. Most families would not want to hang around the carnival grounds to greet the new year, but there will be crowds earlier in the evening. Bull fighting a la Tico continues until 10 p.m. in the fairground arena, and there usually are fireworks.

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High wind is the culprit
as Ticos wrestle with cold

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They call the place Cerro de la Muerte because oxcart drivers sometimes would die there from the cold. Now motorists breeze by the place, a high point on the Interamericana Sur.

But even 75 years ago, the temperature probably did not dip below freezing. Like Monday, it was the wind, and death came from exposure.

Early today high up on the Turrialba volcano at the automatic weather station there, the mercury was at 4.9 C. or 41 F. That's still a few degrees above freezing.

Elsewhere temperatures were higher, although there probably is a Costa Rican mountain with a temperature of 3 or 2.5 C.

High up in Desamparados, the temperature at 1 a.m. was 12.1 C or about 54 F. In San José the temperature was a balmy 16.9 C. or about 52.5 F.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the cold front that has descended on the country also is bringing stiff winds. Thus the weather seems colder than the mercury said.

The weather institute said it had logged winds of from 50 to 60 kph, about 30 to 37 mph. It said that the mountains might see winds of 90 kph or about 56 mph.

It also predicted high winds and high seas as a result of the weather. By comparison, New Yorkers today are battling a blizzard that dumped two feet of snow on the northeast United States.

Defensoría issues grim report
with litany of ills in north

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With the Nicaraguan invasion of an island in northeastern Costa Rica, official attention is being paid to the general area.

The Defensoría de los Habitantes said a team from that independent agency visited Barra del Colorado and found misery, unemployment, lack of security and a litany of other problems.

The agency said that employees met with persons in the zone and heard complaints straight from the mouths of individuals. There are two communities, Colorado Norte with about 700 residents and Colorado Sur with about 300. The communities are separated by the Río Colorado.

Among the problems the visitors found is that residents do not own their land even if they have lived there 50 years. The land is technically owned by the Junta Administrativa Portuaria de Desarrollo de la Vertiente Atlántica, which is better known for its management of the docks in Limón.

Most of the living in the area is subsistence, said the Defensoría. There are few sources of employment, and tourism has not been developed, it said.

Security is minimal and local fishermen have been detained in Costa Rican waters by Nicaragua patrols and made to pay fines and others costs, said the report. The Río Colorado provides easy access to the Caribbean.

In addition a supposed police station in Colorado Sur was characterized as a slum. Materials for a new station have been delivered in part but no construction has taken place on a new station, it said.

Also police have no boat in an area where boats are necessary to travel, and police officers cannot respond to calls from Colorado Norte because there is no way of crossing the river, the report said.

The Defensoría said that its employees were told that teachers frequently skip class because there is no supervision.

The report also said that potable water is only available from wells that frequently are contaminated when the river floods.

The public agencies that are supposed to handle these problems are absent from the zone, said the report. It said that with such conditions it is easy to understand that child prostitution, traffic and consumption of drugs, alcohol, domestic violence and other vices flourish.

The agency said it would seek short- medium and long-range planning by the central government to help the area.

The area has seen an increase in security because at least 100 Fuerza Pública officers are stationed in the community now as part of the country's response to the Nicaraguan invasion nearby.

Bridge work generates
major highway bottleneck

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The traffic was light in the Central Valley Monday but not at the construction site at the bridge over the Río Tiribi on the Autopista General Cañas.

To add insult to injury, traffic police were ticketing motorists who used the traffic lane restricted to buses. Police said they issued about 70 tickets.

The slowdown was caused by work to remove the center concrete barrier for several hundred meters on either side of the bridge. Traffic in each direction was reduced to one lane.

The Autopista General Canãs is considered the main route from Juan Santamaría airport to the city center.

The bridge is the one made famous by the expansion joint that would not stay fixed. Highway officials have been wrestling with the joint for more than a year. The plan now is to redo the entire bridge, install more steel and repave it.

In the meantime, traffic will have to find another route. Traffic officials suggest using the Autopista del Sol to reach San Antonio de Belén, which has access to the airport and the highway west of the bridge. There also is a route to the north through Heredia that also happens to be under construction.

Work started Sunday and is expected to last at least two months.

The highway likely will see much more traffic when the Christmas holidays are over.

Tamarindo friends seek
woman missing since Dec. 5

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friends in Tamarindo and the nearby area are expressing
Ms. Struncova
Barbara Struncova
concern about a Czech woman who has not been seen since Dec. 5. The disappearance has been reported to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The missing woman is Barbara Struncova. Friends say she was seen last entering her home at Playa Langosta about 1 a.m. Dec. 5. Her family has not heard from her since the day before.

Her friends are asking that anyone with information contact the judicial police at 800-8000-645. Friends in Tamarindo and in the
United States said they have set up a Web site to raise money for searches, posters, fliers and other efforts to find the missing woman.

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, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 255
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Costa Rica will listen but not dicker with Nicaragua Jan. 17
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will hear proposals for dialogue advanced by Guatemala and Mexico Jan. 17, but it will not enter into dialogue with Nicaragua until that country withdraws its troops from Costa Rican territory.

That is the position expressed by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto in a press release Monday. The position paper followed reports from Nicaragua that said the two countries would begin a dialogue unconditionally.

Diplomatically the difference is huge.  Costa Rica will be
represented in Querétaro, México, Jan. 17 to know directly the proposals presented by a group of Latin countries and until that time Costa Rica will maintain its position that any discussions with Nicaragua will only take place when  Managua removes in good faith its troops from the Isla Portillos-Isla Calero, said the ministry.
The island is the place where Nicaraguan troops invaded and began the construction of a new mouth for the Río San Juan. Diverting the river would be a big benefit for plans to do major tourism development in the areas.

The claims of a dialogue from official Nicaraguan government sources cited a statement by Pope Benedict XVI in his Christmas message expressing the hope that the two countries would engage in such discussion.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega already has failed to accept a request from the Organization of American States that said both countries should withdraw their forces. Costa Rica has complained to the United Nations and has a Jan. 11 date with the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

By treaty the court has jurisdiction over the border between the two countries.

Environmental complaints nearly doubled, eco tribunal says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Environmental complaints nearly doubled in 2010 from 462 the previous year to the current 849, said the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo. Many of the complaints were filed by the tribunal itself.

The principal reasons the tribunal opened a file were tree cutting and invasion of protected areas.

The tribunal included the information in its annual report. It said that one reason there were so many active cases is because the agency conducted sweeps during the year. In each sweep tribunal inspectors found violations.

Other complaints were contamination of rivers and unapproved land use changes.

José Lino Chaves, president of the tribunal, said that environmental problems continue to increase  beyond the
pace of increases in enforcement resources.

Some 19 cases were opened after tribunal inspectors did a sweep in Los Chiles and Upala in March. The bulk of the effort was around the Caño Negro wetlands. The tribunal said the number of cases reflects the expansion of the pineapple production in the area.

Among the complaints were destruction of mangroves and the infiltration of agrochemicals into protected areas and into the water supply.

In July inspectors returned to the area to check on local sawmills. That was in Upala, Guatuso, Los Chiles and San Carlos de Alajuela.

The tribunal is an agency of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones. It has the power to assess fines and demand payment for environmental damage and restoration.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 255

Boat that overturned in gulf had 50 persons onboard

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The number of persons plucked from the gulf of Nicoya has more than doubled after official reports became available.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas said that 50 persons were rescued Sunday when the fishing boat Dixiana overturned. The boat was loaded with residents of Roble, Puntarenas, who were making an annual trip to Isla Tortuga to celebrate the holidays.

The Guardacostas confirmed that the boat was overloaded.  Wind and rough seas were the reason the boat overturned,
said those who helped with the incident.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional had issued a  maritime warning, and waves were up to two meters, said participants. That's more than six feet.

Some 40 adults, including elderly, and 10 children were rescued. When the boat overturned, many of the passengers crawled atop the hull and awaited rescue. Boats nearby made the initial rescue, and the Guardacosta took the lucky passengers to the agency's Puntarenas station.

A.M. Costa Rica reported incorrectly Monday that there were 20 passengers on the boat.

Police greeted by bullets as they respond to a Moín call

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Policemen were met with bullets when they responded to reports of shots being fired in Moín early Monday.

The Fuerza Pública said that they believe they frustrated a robbery at the offices of the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica, the government agency that operates the docks on the Caribbean.

When the first police car reached the area, gunmen blew
 out the tires. That is when officers sought help from the local tactical squad, which responded.

Police never detained gunmen, but they managed to confiscate a 12-gauge shotgun with 12 shells and six loaded magazines for an AK-47, they said. They also confiscated a motorcycle. A man found in a vehicle nearby was not detained because people said they had no evidence of his involvement.

Upon closer inspection, police found an injured guard who had been hit on the head.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 255

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U.S. told Perú it's sorry
unflattering cables leaked

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A top U.S. diplomat says Washington has apologized to Perú over the content of leaked diplomatic cables about the country.

The assistant U.S. secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, said on Peru's RPP radio that the State Department has spoken to Peruvian officials about the matter.  He said the State Department is looking at how to turn the page on the incident so it does not affect relations. 

Wikileaks published the cables.  One cable said that President Alan Garcia had a colossal ego, while making references about his health and personal life.  Another talked about alleged military involvement in drug corruption.

Wikileaks is posting more than a quarter-million sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables, angering the United States.  The Web site has not identified the source of the documents.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the disclosures are an attack on American foreign policy interests and the international community.  She also says the releases put lives in danger, threaten national security and undermine American efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems.

Freed miners to get trip
to Florida's Disney World

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The 33 miners who spent more than two months trapped underground in a Chilean mine are getting a free trip to Walt Disney World in the southeastern U.S. city of Orlando, Florida.

The miners and their families will spend a week at the resort, courtesy of Disney head Bob Iger. Their trip will take place at the end of January. It includes not only lodging and admission to the popular resort, but also spending money.

Iger said the Disney Company is proud to welcome these courageous men and their families to Disney World.

The miners, who became trapped in early August, were rescued in October. Their ordeal captivated people all over the world, and their rescue was shown live on worldwide TV.

Bolivian bus drivers strike
over higher fuel prices

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Bus drivers in Bolivia have begun an indefinite strike to protest a sharp fuel price increase that went into effect  Sunday.

The government Monday sent army trucks out to the suburbs to help workers get to their jobs in the capital, La Paz.

The bus drivers are protesting a 73 percent increase in gasoline prices and an 83 percent increase in the cost of diesel fuel.

Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia, who is in charge of the government while President Evo Morales is on a visit to Venezuela, says the government is raising prices to encourage more fuel production in Bolivia.  He also said the move is aimed at stopping the smuggling of cheap, subsidized fuel across Bolivian borders to other countries.

Fuel prices last rose in Bolivia more than five years ago.
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U.S. retail sales are seen
as good sign for economy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A winter snowstorm in parts of the United States appears to have put a damper on after-Christmas shopping, but preliminary reports suggest retailers are enjoying the best holiday season in years.

Blizzard warnings, icy driving conditions and forecasts of as much as 50 centimeters of snow along the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic coasts kept some people away from shopping malls over the weekend. 

"If there wasn't a blizzard today, I'd be shopping," said one woman.

But even with the late year snowstorms, the National Retail Federation says the 2010 holiday season is shaping up to be one of the best.

Early numbers show U.S. consumers on track to spend over $450 billion by Jan. 1.

That's 3 percent more than last year, the best increase since 2007.

Economist Kit Yarrow believes those estimates are on the low side.

"What they are doing is spending more like 5 percent more and that's in stores," Yarrow said.  "Online, its more like 17 or 18 percent, so it's been a stronger holiday season than really anybody predicted."

Even casual shoppers say they probably spent more than they wanted to this year.

"I realize I did spend a little more," a woman said.  "It seems like there's been more parties, more spending, more presents."

Retail analyst Lori Wachs says that's a sure sign the U.S. economy is starting to pick up.

"The consumer felt confident enough to step up their spending this holiday season," she said.

Even those with concerns about unemployment found themselves in a spending mood.  Some shoppers say the bargains were simply too good to pass up.

Consumer spending is the biggest driver of the U.S. economy.  And with holiday sales accounting for as much as 40 percent of revenue for some retailers, Kit Yarrow says strong sales in 2010 could mean a stronger recovery next year.

"When consumers are spending money,there's more jobs," said Yarrow.  "When unemployment numbers improve, people feel more confident. It's really a snowball so it's good for the economy, I think, to see people spending money."

Despite a good year for retailers, the snowstorms have been less kind to the nation's transportation sector.

Rail service along some of the busiest Northeast routes were suspended Sunday.  And more than 1,400 flights have been cancelled in the New York City area, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

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