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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 164                          Email us
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Sometimes the mascaradas are scary, but creativity is the goal.
Sunday is a day to enjoy a very old tradition here
By the A.M. Costa Rica

Sunday is a big day for Costa Rican culture and the mascaradas will take over the nation's cultural ministry.

The event is free, and the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud is promising a full program of unique Costa Rican events.

There will be cimarronas, those small bands heavy on brass and percussion found in every barrio. There are plans for folk dancing and workshops for mascaradas so everyone can make his or her own papier-mâché head. Also promised is a duel of cimarronas to see which has the most endurance.

The culture ministry sees this as a way to preserve traditions, it said. The mascaradas go way back in Costa Rica to Colonial times. Usually the heads 
are much larger than life-size and are carried so that clothing drapes nearly to the ground. Lately they have been used as political statements. Some of the presidents have been models for mascaradas by those who would mock them.

Oct. 31 was officially made el Día de la Mascarada in 1997, and it has been a colorful annual celebration ever since. The idea was to compete with the Halloween invasion from the north. Sunday is the Día del artista nacional and makers of mascaradas have been selected to represent all artisans.

The event Sunday will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Typical foods also are promised. The culture ministry, the Centro Nacional de la Cultura, is east of Parque España on Avenida 7 and nearly opposite the tall building of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros. Calle 11 runs along the west side.

New Yorker says miniature golf is better than bars
By Kayla Pearson
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Frank Moreno of La Fortuna was one of the many tourism operators who set up displays Thursday to attract business. His was unique because he actually had a tiny putting green to promote his own miniature golf course —That and a local model to encourage visitors to try their skill.
Moreno runs Reno's International Miniature Golf and Amusement Center.  He brought with him a small piece of green carpet and allowed patrons the chance to shoot a hole-in-one for a free pass at his business.

“Since the volcano went dark, there is nothing to do in La Fortuna at night,” he said.  “We have a sophisticated course full of laughs, jokes, music, animation and romance.”

Moreno added that his business is an option to get out and have fun, opposed to the alternative of staying in the hotel bar drinking all night.

“I am the biggest secret in Costa Rica. The best kept secret.  People love me,” he said. 

Reno's Mini Golf opened last September.  Moreno moved to Costa Rica from New York City to find a lower cost of living after the real estate market crashed and to start a business.  He had four different ideas for business and settled on miniature golf, he said.

According to Moreno, the thing that makes his business unique is that it is the first miniature golf setup in the world to use electricity to provide movement detectors, music, animatronics and special effects throughout the whole course.  Each time a person makes a shot, something is activated.  For example, at one hole a monkey growls.

The 18-hole course is under a roof to protect against rain.  It has different areas set up to imitate 18 different countries.  Couples can be seen dancing the tango and kissing under the Eiffel Tower, he said.

Reno candidly describes his lack of luck in New York where he went two years without a real estate deal. Then he moved to La Fortuna, and the volcano quieted down. But he is upbeat and confident that his business will catch on both with tourists and locals. The price of Reno's Miniature Golf is $12.  Guests must be at least 10 years old to play. More information is HERE!
Golf assistant
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson 
 Viviana Sánchez Porraz invited visitors to try their
 hand at a putt.

Businesses at the tourism fair came from La  Fortuna, Manuel Antonio and the Pacific region, as well as the metro area.   They included car rental agencies, hotels, airlines, tour operators and restaurants.

All indicated that despite the economic situations, business had been prospering.

However, Frederico Chacón from the Lavas Tacotal Lodge in La Fortuna admitted that tourism is not as high as it has been in other years.  

Chacón still had high hopes for the green season and said that all the different tourist organizations compliment each other offering different features for different levels of clients.  This allows them all to stay in business even if they are in the same market.

More than 85 tourist companies set up booths for the show at the Hotel Radisson in San Jose. It was called Travel Show Expo 2012.

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Storms and waves evict
residents from their homes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Coastal dwellers have been fighting high waves, and residents elsewhere have suffered through heavy downpours.

The national emergency commission said that 363 persons were in public shelters Thursday.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional and the emergency commission said there were heavy storms Wednesday in Turrialba, Alajuela, Pococí, Desamparados, Alvarado, San José, Tibás, Heredia, Flores, Escazú, Guatuzo and Aserrí. Six bridges suffered damage from rising waters, the commission said.

Some 300 persons, the bulk of those in shelters, went there in  Pavones de Golfito due to the high waves.

The commission said that a geologist was called in to Barrio Rosigter Carballo in San José to evaluate a slide that affected the local school and some homes.

More humidity pouring into the country's air from the Pacific. Electrical storms were expected on the Pacific coast, the Central Valley and the northern zone.

The rain appears to be highly variable. Bobbi Johnson in Nosara reported that she measured 4.478 inches of rain Tuesday, and her neighbor a kilometer away registered 6.26 inches. But someone on the beach not far away received just .85 of an inch, she said.

At Punta Uva on the Caribbean coast, a local man died after being in the surf Wednesday in what may or may not have been a water accident.

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
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

Costa Rican news summaries are disabled
on archived pages.

Have you seen these stories?
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A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 164
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President Laura Chinchilla passes an honor guard of Chinese soldiers and sailors as she visits with Hu Jintao, president of the People's Republic Thursday. Ms. Chinchilla is seeking investment and grants from the Chinese.

Ms. Chinchilla and honro guard
Casa Presidencial photo

There is no Medicare or Caja for an old protector of turtles
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With great training, years of experience and a keen sense of smell, Buddy-Pinto has been a key defender of freshly hatched sea turtles crawling to the ocean on Playa Hermosa for more than a decade.

His colleagues at a turtle refuge near Jacó have even said he is the best employee at the facility in terms of his ability to find hatching turtles.

However, wages and health benefits are non-existent for dogs, and as a 15-year-old recovering from being run over by a car, Buddy's days as a turtle protector are waning, according to Katja Bader, who runs the Asociación Pro Bienestar Animal Jacó.

“This dog was really well trained and he did a better job than most humans,” said Ms. Bader. “Now he should have a pension and have some nice months, hopefully years.”

The association is a chapter of the McKee Project, which is an organization that attempts to improve the quality of life for animals, specifically dogs and cats, in developing countries such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panamá and other areas in Latin America. The organization usually tries to  rescue and house stray and injured animals as well as providing medical care, which includes spaying or neutering, for these strays or pets of low-income families.

The association, or McKee Jacó as it is called in the United States, was founded in 2003 and the organization boasts on its Web site that it rescues, treats and houses about 500 dogs and cats each year, despite a shortage of volunteers and funds.

The association began taking care of Buddy when he was found in the road after being hit by a car, said Ms. Bader.

The organization took Buddy to the University of Costa Rica's veterinary clinic, which offers a flexible payment plan,
turtle protector
Buddy is perhaps thinking about the turtles he protected.

but the procedures to nurse Buddy back to health still cost more than $2,000.

Eventually Buddy returned to protecting turtles, but Ms. Bader took him back when it became obvious that the facility did not have the money to even feed him much less provide him with medical care needed for a dog his age.

“They told me he hadn't eaten in four days, and it was clear they couldn't take care of him.” she said.

Ms. Bader hopes she can pick him up after another round of treatment today, and from there he will be placed in the care of another member while the association pays for medicine and food.

However, according to the press release sent out by the organization, Buddy still has $440 in unpaid medical bills and the association asks for donations to help pay those and for medicine Buddy will need in the future.

Nonetheless, Ms. Bader said that Buddy can look forward to spending his final years in retirement resting on the beach and perhaps continuing to protect turtles in his spare time.

In defense of the much maligned and healthful egg yolk
It has been nearly 11 years that I have been writing this column in A. M. Costa Rica.  I have covered so many topics that when I happen to re-read an old column, I have no idea that I was the one who wrote it.  However, over those years, more than once, I have defended the much maligned humble egg.

Eggs have a tendency to keep bad company, nutritionally speaking.  This is the main issue I have with David Spence’s research.  He does not say how the eggs are eaten.  Did his study group eat them with bacon, with ham, as eggs benedict,  with lots of butter, scrambled with cheese or sausages or corned beef?  Nor, as he admitted, did he measure the waistlines of his subjects, an important factor in the risk for heart attacks.

To my mind, there is nothing more delicious than beautifully prepared eggs benedict, and I can see researchers and doctors the world over cringing behind (metaphorically speaking) their crosses to ward off the evils of the cholesterol in egg yolks.

I have always liked eggs and came to know a little more about them when I lived in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  On my way to class at the college, I would often stop by the egg factory where they were candling eggs and were kind enough to answer my questions. This was before a medical Columbus discovered cholesterol.  Eggs were sorted according to size and graded from AA to A to B.  Any egg getting a grade less than B was not sold to standard markets, but grading is not a science, so lesser eggs get by.

Eggs are popular and plentiful in Costa Rica.  I used to find that the best eggs were in the feria or farmer's market, but lately have found more tasty eggs in the AutoMercado.

 I buy small eggs on the theory that, like smaller fruit and vegetables, they are more densely populated with good nutrients, and tastier.

Unfortunately, as soon as the hen drops an egg, it begins to age.  It is recommended that you refrigerate them immediately (something Ticos do not do, either in the stores or ferias), or coat them with oil because the shells are porous, and for that same reason, you should store them in a covered container so they don’t absorb other smells and flavors from other food in the fridge.

The freshness of an egg is determined by the murkiness of the white and the position and perkiness of the yolk.  The clearer
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

(and runnier) the white and the flatter the yolk and closer to the edge of the egg, the less fresh it is, which, unfortunately, can be determined only after cracking the egg. The white of an egg is mainly water.  Of the rest, about 10 percent of it is an almost perfect protein.  There are traces of lysozyme, a substance also found in human saliva that fights bacterial infection.

The yolk is the villain, according to critics, because it contains most of the cholesterol and three quarters of the calories of an egg.  It also contributes the most nutrients.  The color of the
yolk comes from a chemical related to carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A.  It is about 50 percent water, 34  percent fats and lipids.  Of the lipids, about two-thirds are ordinary animal fats, one quarter phosphorus and fatty acid complexes, including lecithin and 1/20th cholesterol.  It also has Vitamin A, thiamine, iron, and even, according to one source, Vitamin D.

According to a well documented article in Wikipedia, “the lecithin found in eggs markedly inhibits the absorption of the cholesterol contained in yolks.”

So there.  However, that is not the only reason I defend eggs.  When I took a gerontology class in nutrition, I came to the conclusion that eggs were one of the most valuable and versatile and easily prepared foods that older people could consume.  They are loaded with good nutrients, as I said. They can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Boiled, fried, baked, scrambled, poached, as a first course, a main course, or even in a dessert, and for most people, easy to digest. And finally, as the price of food goes, especially protein, eggs are cheap, and you can buy as few as six in a store or even just three at a time at the feria.

All I ask is that medical and nutritional researchers and scientists look at the eminently edible egg with more understanding of the good that it does.

My thanks to:  "On Food and Cooking:  The science and lore of the Kitchen" by Harold McGee and Wikipedia, “Egg Yolks”

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 164
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News story that linked coke smugglers and parks irks official
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police have been finding stashes of cocaine hidden in the country's swamps for years, but now this practice of smugglers has become a black eye for tourism.

Reuters, the news agency, published a news story in English that was picked up Thursday in many U.S. publications.

Headlines said "Costa Rica Drug Trafficking Threatens Country's National Parks" or similar.

The article by Isabella Cota was supported by photos of an abandoned shed in the jungle near Quepos, a discarded fuel can and several interviews.

The story referred to the practice by Colombian drug smugglers of beaching their cargo in Costa Rica for either a later pickup by boat or transfer to a truck headed north. Ms. Cota also correctly pointed out that sometimes smugglers and their crafts are chased into shore by ocean patrols.

Mauricio Boraschi Hernández, the nation's drug czar, quickly produced a news release in which he said that national parks and protected areas are not a paradise for narcotraffickers. He said gently that the news story was not tied to reality.

HIs official title is vice minister of the Presidencia and comisionado nacional antidrogas.

He said that publication of such an article affects the image of the country and that this type of situation could happen in any Central American nation.

Boraschi said that drug smugglers might suffer mechanical failure or run out of fuel or be targets of a chase and seek the Costa Rican coast or protected area. In fact, smugglers routinely store drugs along the coast, although not usually in what are termed national parks that have a lot of tourist traffic.

Ms. Cota appears to have interviewed Boraschi for the news story. She also interviewed Carlos Martínez, whom she identified as the head of the police in Quepos.

Ms. Cota confused drug smugglers with local marijuana growers, and said that "they also increasingly grow marijuana amid the cedar and lemonwood trees." Actually these are two separate businesses. Cocaine smugglers do not have the time to grow marijuana, and much of the leafy drug grows in high
marijuana found
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguirdad Pública
  Fuerza Pública officers destroy marijuana plants that were
  found Thursday in the mountains near Buenos Aires.

elevations. Boraschi said so far this year police have destroyed 229 mountain plantations.

The Fuerza Publica reported Thursday that officers found 8,000 marijuana plants in a mountainous area in Machomonte de Buenos Aires, Puntarenas. Earlier this month two men were caught with bags of marijuana in the Parque Nacional Chirripó far from the mangroves.

The Reuters story appears to have been generated by the discovery in January of a ton of cocaine at Palo Seco in Parrita, which Ms. Cota identified as a national park. That was Jan. 7.  At some point officers also found an abandoned shack that may have been used by smugglers.

Despite some finds on the beaches, the bulk of the cocaine confiscated in Costa Rica is at the northern border crossing of Peñas Blancas. Typically the drug packages are stashed in tractor-trailers or in the fuel tanks or tires. Ms. Cota noted that about six tons have been confiscated this year, but she did not say where.

Costa Rica, of course, relies on its national parks to attract foreign tourists, so officials are sensitive to news stories that might drive them away. Ms. Cota's news article also was translated into Spanish.

Dave, the Dude, will launch his life story in Jacó Sept. 1
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

English-Costa Rican David Scott describes his life as “very exciting.”  This fascination led him to chronicle his story in a
London Boy
David Scott
personal memoir entitled "London Boy."

His tale is one “of poverty and affluence, crime and punishment, payback and honesty, sex, drugs and rock 'n roll, the backstreets of London and the glamour of rock star California, the depths of despair and the heights of euphoria, of dragging yourself up each time you get knocked down and climbing back in the ring,” writes Gerald Kirk in the book synopsis.

Scott will unveil his new creation with a book signing and concert at
Hotel Club del Mar in south Jacó Beach Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.

The concert features Chicago Blues legend Steve Arvey, New Orleans fiddler Nancy Buchan, and Scott.  Avery and Scott will perform some of their new songs from their band, The Blind Pig.

The 70-year-old author grew up in London during the time of the war and later moved to Spain which was under the leadership of Francisco Franco at the time.  While in Spain, he was jailed for punching a person, whom he later found out was the chief of police. He punched the man in the face for talking explicitly about the Queen, said his wife, Margie Scott.
Also while in Spain, he met a person from San Francisco.  The two put together a blues club in California.

“In 1991 he ended up in Costa Rica, and his story continues from there,” Mrs. Scott said.

Costa Ricans know Scott as Dave, the Dude, from his 10 years as the morning disc jockey on 107.5 FM. 

Scott said his book was initially a project for himself.

“I didn't write it as a book to be sold.  I wanted a way to weigh my life.  I wanted to know how I lived my life.  Does the scale tip to the good side showing I lived a good life, or have I been a bad boy.  The only way for me to know was to write it down.”

“It's an interesting story in the sense that he's been up and down in life as we all are and we gotta keep picking ourselves up and get along,” said Ms. Scott.

Her husband echoed the same sentiment.

“My book will help people in the sense of whatever life throws at you, you just have to get back up again.  It teaches people fortitude and not to give up,” he said. After reading the book, Scott said people will leave in “laughter and tears, they will laugh, they will cry and it will make them think.” 

The cost of the concert is 5,000 colons or $10.  The performers are doing the concert for free, and all the benefits will go to the Biblioteca y Centro de Aprendizaje de Jacó.  

The Blind Pig will also play at Jazz Cafe Escazú Sept. 5, Roca Verde in Dominical Sept. 7 and Jacó Taco in Jacó Sept. 8.

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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 164
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

storm drone
NASA photo
This is the storm drone in flight

Two storm sentinel drones
readied for September flight

By the National Aeronautics
and Space
Administration news staff

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will have two high-altitude, long-duration unmanned aircraft with different instruments flying over the storms.

The unmanned aircraft, dubbed severe storm sentinels, are operated by pilots located in ground control stations at the Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops, Va., and the Dryden Flight Center on Edwards Air Base, California. The Global Hawk is well-suited for hurricane investigations because it can over-fly hurricanes at altitudes greater than 60,000 feet with flight durations of up to 28 hours.

Using unmanned aircraft has many advantages, NASA said. Hurricanes present an extreme environment that is difficult to sample. They cover thousands of square miles in area and can also extend up to 50,000 feet in altitude. Second, they involve very high winds, turbulence and heavy precipitation, the agency noted. Third, ground conditions such as high winds that create heavy seas or blowing material make surface observations difficult, the agency said.

"Several NASA centers are joining federal and university partners in the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel airborne mission targeted to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin," said Scott Braun, principal investigator for the mission and research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Two Global Hawks will be flying during the storm missions. Each will have different collections of instruments onboard. Necessary observations are winds, temperature, humidity, precipitation, and aerosol profiles from the surface to the lower stratosphere, said NASA.

Assange's asylum status
changes condition very little

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ecuador's decision Thursday to grant political asylum to Julian Assange may do little to change his situation in the short term.

The WikiLeaks founder remains inside of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been since June. Britain wants to extradite him to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations.

British lawyer Roger Gherson said Ecuador's decision does not force the United Kingdom to change its position.

"The U.K. is not bound to recognize Ecuador's recognition of asylum status or refugee status for Mr. Assange," said Gherson. "As far as the U.K. authorities are concerned, I understand that he is in breach of his bail conditions and subject to arrest by the British police and subject to extradition to Sweden."

Gherson, an expert in British immigration law, says there may be no quick way to resolve Assange's case.

"It's now a political standoff between the United Kingdom government and the Ecuadorian government on how to handle this problem," he adds.

Assange has said he fears Sweden would send him to the United States where he could face trial for the release of thousands of classified military documents on the WikiLeaks Web site. Assange has said he does not believe he would receive a fair trial in the U.S..

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino echoed those concerns when he announced Assange would be granted political asylum.

"The Ecuadorian government, after carrying out a fair evaluation of the situation explained to us by Mr. Assange and listening to his own arguments, shares the fears of the solicitant and assumes there is evidence which allows us to presume that he could face political persecution if the appropriate measures are not taken," he said.

Britain's Foreign Office expressed disappointment in Ecuador's decision but said it still planned to fulfill its obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden.

Both the United Kingdom and Ecuador ratified the United Nation's 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The measure requires signatories to consider whether a person could face persecution if handed over to another country.

Pro-tobacco support strong
in many countries, study says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Australian High Court has upheld a tough law prohibiting tobacco companies from displaying their logos on cigarette packs. The European Union is considering a similar ban. But experts say the larger picture still favors tobacco use. A new international study carried out in 16 countries found that regulation of tobacco use in several is still weak.

A study that compiled data on three billion tobacco users worldwide, including thousands of face-to-face interviews, shows that global tobacco use is greatly influenced by the pro-tobacco lobby. The study focused on tobacco use in 14 low- and middle-income countries and made comparisons with two developed countries — the United States and the United Kingdom.

Gary Giovino at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health in New York State was the lead author.

“Tobacco contributes an enormous burden to the health care system in developed countries, and that scenario will play out in the not-too-distant future in low- and middle-income countries. It already has in many countries, in India for example," Giovino said.
Giovino’s data shows that China leads with some 300 million tobacco users, followed by India with almost 275 million. The researchers came across powerful pro-tobacco forces active even at the elementary school level.
“The China National Tobacco Company has supported elementary schools in China, dozens and dozens of them. And they use their support to promote propaganda about tobacco use, and they are basically telling students that genius comes from hard work and tobacco helps them to be successful. That to me is mind boggling, that a government would tell its children to use tobacco to be successful when tobacco will addict them and shorten their lives,” Giovino said.
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New span at tragic spot
finally opened to traffic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Highway officials said Thursday that a new bridge over the Río Grande de Tarcoles is open to traffic. Construction took 16 months and 2 billion colons, about $4 million.

The bridge replaces a hanging structure that collapsed under the weight of a bus Oct. 22, 2009, and killed five persons.

The new bridge is two lanes and over metal. It is 125 meters long, some 410 feet. There also is a pedestrian walkway. The span connects Orotina and Turrubares. The highway is Ruta 137.

The bus mishap was not part of the announcement about the bridge by the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad. The deaths sparks a review of the nation's bridges and was a serious blemish on the administration of Óscar Arias Sánchez. The political problem became worse when local officials revealed that they had begged for repairs or replacement of the bridge.

The span had starred a year earlier in a Channel 7 in a "60 Minutes"-like presentation of terrible bridges. Even the bus involved in the crash was the feature of a television news sequence when a tire fell through the aging deck of the bridge and mechanics had to use hydraulic jacks to extricate it.

Judiciary trying to convince
witnesses to come forward

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial is embarking on a campaign to have citizens come forward as witnesses in criminal cases.  The slogan is "Be part of the solution" which in Spanish is  Sea parte de la Solución.

Judicial workers will be hanging banners and posted in various public institutions all over the country, they said Thursday.

The effort is a project of the Presidencia of the Corte Suprema de Justicia and of the Departamento de Prensa y Comunicación Organizacional.

Being a witness to a crime can be hazardous to a person's health. Witnesses have been assassinated on the eve of trials. In other cases, robbers warn their victims not to report the crime to the police.

Sometimes when police arrive at the scene of a crime, no one in the area admits to having seen what happened. The campaign addresses this mindset.

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