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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, Dec. 17, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 249           E-mail us
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Christmas village
A.M. Costa Rica photo
For a few bucks, a roll of white batting and some creativity, a 19th century New England Christmas can come alive even in Costa Rica. This is the time of year when it's OK for grownups to play with dolls. The figurines and
Christmas village structrures range from these PriceSmart standards to collectibles worth hundreds of dollars. The only thing missing here is a vintage Lionel electric train. But no real snow, please.

For the lucky few, Christmas holiday begins today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In many public agencies, the Christmas holidays already have begun.

Although the executive branch decreed that the last day of work would be Thursday, some independent agencies have said Monday is the last day. Lawmakers are expected to go home Tuesday.

The situation is not good for someone expecting rapid approval of some piece of governmental paperwork.

Even if the government offices are open, don't count on the workers being too keen to, well, work. There's decorations to put up. The nativity scene needs tweaking. And the Christmas party has to be planned.

Half the staff is out anyway because they managed to link their personal vacation to the Christmas holiday. A few agencies said they would not be back at their desk until Jan. 10, a full week after most executive branch workers are supposed to return.

Commerce will be going full blast. Mall stores still hope to make half their annual income in the next week. Supermarket chains will be open up to midday Friday, Dec. 24.

Banks will be open between Christmas and New Year's, but with reduced hours.
Security and medical services will be responding, but some local government clinics will be closed between the two holidays. The Cruz Roja just accepted delivery of 30 ambulances that will be going into service. The Judicial Investigating Organization will continue to keep its office for receiving crime reports running 24 hours a day. Fuerza Pública will be working reinforced holiday shifts. And traffic police will be conducting their annual crackdown.

Although the beaches are a magnet this time of year, those who remain in the Central Valley or visit have the Tope Nacional horse parade the day after Christmas and the start of the Fiestas de Zapote, the Christmas carnival.

The big attraction this year, as always, are the Tico bull fights with the famous bull Malacrianza on display but sitting out the action. The bull, known for throwing riders, suffered an injury and owner Ubaldo Rodríguez decided to retire the creature. There will be a retirement party Dec. 26. Still, the rondel at Zapote will see bull riding, bull baiting and bull revenge.  The first event starts at 2 p.m. Christmas Day.

Fiesta organizers have a new Web page that features a list of events and videos of those informal toreadores who brave confrontation with fighting bulls. Both major television stations will be covering the event and even have designated teams with company colors.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 249

Costa Rica Expertise
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the  General Superintendence of Financial Entities (SUGEF) is not an authorization  to operate. The supervision of SUGEF refers to compliance with the capital legitimization requirements of Law No. 8204. SUGEF does not supervise the
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Prosecutors help Caja
collect employer debts


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio Público said Thursday that it helped the country's main social services agency recover 138.8 million colons from employers. That is about $278,500.

The beneficiary was the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, which operates the country's hospitals. Each month employers are supposed to turn over a percentage of the payroll to the Caja. Some comes from employees' salaries, but the bulk comes from employers.

The Ministerio Público credited the recovery of funds to its 5-year-old Oficina de Conciliaciones.  The ministry is the free-standing agency that houses prosecutors. Basically it is the nation's attorney general. However, managers of the prosecution of cases are encouraging the use of conciliation to reduce the court caseload.

In addition to Caja shortfalls, the conciliation unit handled 1,100 other cases in 2010, said the ministry.

Conciliation in the case of the Caja gives officials a strong tool. Because employees contribute to the Caja payments, an employer who does not remit the money can face an allegation of taking public funds. Some 800 cases of Caja shortfalls came to the agency between June and November, the ministry said.

The Caja has a corps of inspectors who check the payroll of employers. The amount each pays depends on the size of the company. The full amount usually runs around 35 percent with employees paying about 9 percent.

 
Our readers' opinions
Costa Rica is cheaper
than Florida tourists find


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
I've just read what Mr. Hinton from the U.S.A. wrote comparing dollars to colons. He has his usual quarterly two-week visits to Costa Rica but after reading the current exchange rates he believes he'll take his January vacation in Panamá instead even though he loves Costa Rica with his Tico friends and acquaintances
 
I've been living in Florida since 1983 and we depend on tourist dollars just like Costa Rica and Panamá does.

When I go to Costa Rica I get more for my dollar for my vacations and it's cheaper to go to hotels, food, cabs, beaches, etc., that would cost more in Florida and other states that depend on tourist dollars.
 
Pura Vida is a tourist trap just like this one: One-bedroom beachside condo at the Sundial Beach Resort available this winter/spring for $1,309 + tax per week.
 
It seems that in Costa Rica there are these volatile changes that aren't fully explainable, except perhaps as greed by Costa Rican banks and financial regulators?
 
U.S.A. banks were bailed out by tax monies and our manufactures of automobile companies. That's a fact.
 
Ed Fulmer Sr.
Florida.

Many Americans express
concerns on cost and crime


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I love Costa Rica, yet recently I have heard concerns from many Americans who have thoughts about visiting or moving here.  Two of these concerns were mentioned in Wednesday's edition of A.M. Costa Rica.  One, is the obvious decline in the value of the U.S. dollar.

As thousands of American baby boomers now approach retirement age, they are looking at many places to retire.  These retirees bring along with them money that gets circulated into the community and benefits everyone.  If more and more people start to look at Panamá, Belize or other places, the ultimate loss will be the Costa Rican economy.

The second matter is addressed in the article concerning those who pick up rental vehicles where someone has punctured a tire, creating a slow leak.  In the past year and a half, I have met two individuals who have been the victims of this scam.  Perhaps, the names of the auto rental companies whose employees have been participants of such scams should be routinely published.  It will serve as an alert to those renting cars, and will perhaps alert the owners of such companies to be more selective when it comes to who they hire.
Bruce Jacobs
Park Ridge, New Jersey

Resident here worries
about personal safety


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I know it is not a banner day for Costa Rica’s tourist trade but looking at today’s article plus many such articles in the past is there any wonder in realizing why tourist trade is off.

All of my friends will not come here because of the crime problem against tourist and the fact that these thieves are not punished and turned back on the streets to repeat the same crimes. Most of the people who want to come here look at the crime problem as Costa Rica only looking at a tourist as a wallet and could care less about their safety.

They are looking elsewhere because of that problem. We are wondering about our safety too, if things don’t change we may consider moving to Panamá. If Costa Rica isn’t careful, the drug lords will take over Costa Rica like Ortega has taken land away without a shot being fired.

It is seeming like Costa Rica isn’t the land of Pura Vida but a land of cowards with no backbone at all. Does the government think they have control of the situation? I don’t think the new president has any idea of how to stop crime. She can’t even stop another country from grabbing land and thinks that someone else will solve her problem. If Ortega doesn’t give the land back, there is no way that CR will get it back.
 
Art Sulenski
Los Angeles Sur de Alajuela


 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

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









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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 249
Latigo K-9

New York technician tweaks theater piano back to new
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The concert grand piano at the Teatro Nacional has been getting acclimated to Costa Rica after its trip from the manufacturer, Steinway & Sons, in New York.

However, professional pianists realized that problems were developing. The sound was not as sharp as it should be and the pedals were not functioning correctly.

So theater officials called for a piano doctor. He is Kent E. Webb of Steinway, who spent Monday and Tuesday making adjustments on the 990-pound piano. His conclusion agreed with those of the theater officials. The $105,000 piano was suffering from climate change and effects of the trip, and that was why the tone was off.

The piano is a sensitive instrument, all agreed. And now theater officials and professional pianists agree that Webb brought the piano back to first-class condition.

Each piano reacts differently to its new environment, Webb told the theater management and pianists, they said. Despite its size, he characterized the instrument as fragile and sensitive.

The theater obtained a guarantee when representatives traveled to New York a year ago to pick out the piano. But they said the guarantee covered mechanical breakage and lack of workmanship. It did not cover a one-year checkup. The Fundación de Amigos pro Mejores de Teatro Nacional covered the expert's trip from New York
Steinway
Teatro Nacional photo
Kent Webb works on the Teatro Nacional concert grand.

and his daily fee of $1,100, the theater said.

A series of piano experts tried out the concert grand after Webb finished his work. They all pronounced it fit as a fiddle, said the theater.


Weekend to be a musical one, thanks to young performers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weekend will be a musical one, thanks in part to the young people in the Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical.

A big show is tonight and Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar when the Orquesta Sinfónica Intermedia and the Coro Juvenil of the Instituto Nacional de la Música put on their version of "Fantasía," the famous Disney movie. There is no movie, but the musical works are on the program.

They include Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Paul Dukas, "Night on Bald Mountain" by Modest Mussorgsky and Beethoven's Sixth Symphony.

In addition the juvenile chorus will present works suitable for the Christmas season. The presentation is designed to attract more persons to this type of music, the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud said. So admission is just 3,000 colons or about $6.

Saturday and Sunday the show will be in the Plaza de la Democracia on Cuesta de Mora in San José.  The Bandas Nacionales will celebrate their 165th anniversary with music from 1845 to the present. Both shows are at 4:30 p.m., and the Sunday show precedes the drawing of the Christmas gordo lottery. Also performing will be Swing en 4 and Coro Surá.
San Ramón
Centro Cultural e Histórico José Figueres Ferrer in San Ramón will be the setting Saturday or a Christmas recital by the community's Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical chorus. Also performing are the choruses of the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Escuela Musical Jesús Watson in Abangares. This also is the event when prizes will be awarded in the local contest for household nativity scenes or portales. Admission is free.

Miramar and Puntarenas
In Miramar de Montes de Oro at 2 p.m. the Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical de Puntarenas will offer baroque, classical, romantic, Costa Rican and Christmas works, At 6 p.m. the show is repeated at the Plaza del Pacifico in Puntarenas.

Also involved are students from schools of music from Cóbano, Paquera, Pochote, as well as Puntarenas and Montes de Oro.

Cartago
The Banda de Cartago will be offering a Christmas concert at Plaza de la Independencia Sunday at 11 a.m.

Ciudad Colón and Alajuela
Today the Fuerza Pública is offering a Christmas fiesta for hundreds of children in Alajuela and in Ciudad Colón. The Ciudad Colón event is at 2 p.m. adjacent to the Casa de la Cultura there. The Alajuela fiesta is at 3 p.m. in Parque Central de Alajuela.


Frustrated trip to downtown triggers pitch for togetherness
Last Saturday I tried to go downtown.  I reasoned that at 2 o'clock in the afternoon they would not yet be starting the arrangements for the Festival of Lights.  That was my first mistake.  The driver of the taxi I had called told me that Sabana Este was closed to traffic. He said he would have to go around the park to get to 10th Avenue. 

No way, I said.  Go as usual.  Second mistake.  After being a part of the traffic jam that was the alternate route to the center of town, and getting farther and farther from Avenida 10, I paid the taxista and walked.  And walked.

By the time I got to Paseo Colón, I thought I had arrived at the beach.  There were people everywhere, thousands of them scantily dressed, sitting on blankets and towels under umbrellas, munching every kind of snack you can imagine.  Most of the wrappings identified them as coming from the fast food restaurants along Paseo Colón, conveniently still open, unlike every other business.  There were very few people texting or on cell phones. 

As I said, it was a day at the beach, the beach being the broad street roped off in front of them, with thousands on the other side. The persistent cold weather we've been having had graciously left and the day had turned warm and sunny, and I was seriously overdressed in my layers of shirts.  I removed my jacket and slowly weaved my way east past trucks of TV equipment, police cars, ambulances, grandstands and people.

Finally I found an opening so I could cross the street.  I looked at the beach scene across the street, at least five people deep and I wondered how I was going get under or over the taut strong yellow rope. 

Almost on cue, without a word, one woman jumped up and lifted the immovable rope so I could duck under it and another removed a chair so that I had access to the cross street.

After plodding another two blocks I found a taxi and was informed by the driver that it was impossible to get to where I wanted to go so I said, "Take me home." I didn't tell him what route to take. We made it via Sabana Sur.

Once safely home I thought about my fruitless journey, but seeing Costa Ricans still gathering, enjoying
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart


each other's company, doing something together, without the use of an electronic gadget made it all worth it. Lately I have been wondering if it is possible for people who have been taught that buying things would make them happy to once again become people who know that doing something together in person is pleasurable and brings happiness.

And then I saw an interview of Andrew Mason.  He and his fellow graduate student wanted to do something to change the world in a positive way.  They came up with the idea of groupon.com.  It is a simple concept based upon the practice of coupon clipping to get discounts in stores to buy things.  Groupon features small local businesses in U.S. cities offering huge discount coupons on line when enough people sign up for a particular experience.  Their offerings range from an elegant dinner to flying lessons, an evening of bowling, or a day in a spa.

The point is numbers and experience.  Because a minimum have to sign up to activate the coupons, people ask others to sign on with them.  It has been a boon to small businesses that may not use advertising effectively, and people put down their electronic lifelines to disembodied friends to join each other in some activity for 50 percent or more off the regular price.

Unfortunately, Groupon has not yet reached Costa Rica.  There are so many environmental friendly activities that people would enjoy doing together if the price were reasonable, and there are many small businesses in and around San José that would welcome the opportunity. 

Or maybe some group here will come up with a similar idea.  Prices are going up so drastically, customers could use a break.  And life is, after all, a journey, not a destination, and the journey is memorable more for the people you meet along the way, than for how much stuff you have put in your luggage.                   


Del Rey accommodations

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 249


BetOnSports figure cuts deal to return to Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Norman Steinberg, who his lawyer said was the No. 3 man in an online betting operation, has received a three-year suspended sentence and given court permission to resume his life in Costa Rica.

The operation, BetOnSports, was based in San José, but U.S. authorities successfully moved to shut it down in 2006.

According to reports from St. Louis, Missouri, where the case was centered, Steinberg filed a civil suit against the government in another state. The unknown allegations in that case caused prosecutors to seek a mild sentence for Steinberg. In exchange he dropped the case and pleaded guilty Thursday.
Two other BetOnSports figures got harsher penalties. Gary Kaplan, the majority owner, had to forfeit $43 million and serve three years in prison. David Carruthers, the chief operating officer, got a 33-month term. In all 11 persons involved in the betting operation were indicted.

The firm was licensed in Britain, and Carruthers is British. It operated legally in Costa Rica. He was picked up changing planes in Texas and taken to Missouri where prosecutors expected to find more sentiment against online betting. None of the cases ever went to a jury, however.

The firm stepped over the line by physically soliciting customers in the United States. Carruthers became a target when he went public defending online gambling via newspaper opinion pieces.



Another family group held after anti-drug raids in San José

marijuana jacket
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
It may be free speech, but police probably felt good putting the handcuffs on the lad with the marijuana jacket.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They say it pays to advertise, but there is value keeping the jacket bearing the drawing of a marijuana leaf in the closet when the police are coming. That was not to be Thursday as anti-drug agents descended on the 42nd family of the year that they considered to be in the illegal drug business.

Detained were five persons ranging from a grandmother to a grandson. The Policía de Control de Drogas said they were suppliers in the San Sebastián section of southern San José. Anti-drug officers conducted two raids on Avenida París of Barrio Umará there. A 15 year old detained in the raid was identified easily by his black jacket with the marijuana leaf in white on the back.

Police said they confiscated three doses of crack, 358 grams of cocaine, three marijuana plants, a revolver and cash.  The family became the 100th group identified this year as a drug organization and the 42nd that was identified as a family enterprise.

Held was a woman, 50, with the last names of Chaves Montero, her son, 15, who has the last names of Muños Chaves, a 39-year-old son-in-law with the last names of Umaña Molina and his son and grandson of the 50-year-old woman with the last names of Umaña Bermúdez, police said.  Also detained was a woman relative with the last names of Calderón Umaña.



Amazon tree inventory creates more sophisticated harvests

By the Max Planck Instsitute for Chemistry

The forestry industry in a highly sensitive part of the Amazon rainforest has just become more sustainable thanks to the work of a team of researchers, including scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany.

They produced an inventory of extensive forest areas, regularly flooded by the Amazon and Solimões rivers, and calculated the rates of growth and reproduction of individual species of trees. The Brazilian state of Amazonas has taken these findings as the basis for its new logging legislation for the floodplain forests.

The state of Amazonas, Brazil, has recently passed an amendment to deliver more sustainable logging in the floodplain forests. The amendment governs how often a species may be logged, how many trees may be taken and the necessary tree circumference. The forested areas along the Amazon and Solimões rivers, which specialists refer to as the Várzea forests, extend up to 100 kilometers inland from each side of both rivers and cover a total of around 300,000 square kilometers, an area the size of Germany. Since the Várzea forests are regularly flooded, they form a unique ecosystem, but it is at serious risk from intensive logging.

The amendment is based on studies conducted by the Max Planck Institute and the National Institute of Amazonian Research. Researchers from both institutions spent more than 10 years studying the growth and population dynamics of the species of tree found in the floodplain forests.

"We produced an inventory of the Várzea forests. In other words, the species of trees, their numbers and ages," said Florian Wittmann, one of the two Max Planck researchers involved.

Together with his colleagues, Jochen Schöngart from Mainz, and Maria T. F. Piedade from the Brazilian research partner, he discovered that the existing logging regulations were not protecting some species, including many precious woods. "Even though the trees in the floodplain forest grow faster than those in dry areas, the rate at which they have been removed in the past is too
flooded forest
Max Planck Institute/ Florian Wittmann
The Várzea forests are unique ecosystems which are regularly flooded.

high for many species to survive," added Wittmann.

The old legislation allowed five trees, with a diameter of 50 centimeters or more, to be removed every 25 years per hectare, regardless of species. Many species of tree, however, only reproduce when they are older and thicker so these would have been removed at too high a rate. At some point in time this would have meant that these species would have disappeared from the floodplain forests.

Based on their findings, the scientists are now proposing different diameters and removal rates for trees for specific species and ecosystems. For example, the diameter for one species has been increased to 100 centimeters.

"We are very proud that our fundamental research is being directly applied to better protect the floodplain forest and that our group of researchers is even mentioned explicitly in the legislation," said Wittmann.

The scientist is most confident that the new legislation will also be respected. "The state of Amazonas is imposing stringent monitoring," said Wittmann. "There is also a good incentive for the timber industry to observe the strict rules because otherwise they won't be given an environmental certificate and so won't be able to sell their timber."

It's not just Brazilian but also international timber companies which operate in the floodplain forests.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 249

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Human rights violations
seen around the world


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Human rights violations were the rule rather than the exception in 2010.  The United Nations says crimes such as mass rapes, torture, extra-judicial executions, arbitrary detention, disappearances remain widespread throughout the world.   Even democratic societies are experiencing an erosion of human rights due to the so-called war on terror and growing xenophobia, the U.N. said. 

U.N. Human Rights chief Navi Pillay is capping off a turbulent year by celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Throughout the past 62 years, the declaration has acted as a guide for human-rights values and a beacon of hope for millions of oppressed and abused people. 

She marks its achievements on Human Rights Day by honoring the hundreds of thousands of human-rights defenders who speak up against discrimination, often at great cost to themselves and to their loved ones.

"While combating discrimination and other important human rights causes, they themselves are often subject to discrimination," she said. "In fact, every year, thousands of human-rights defenders are harassed, abused, unjustly detained and even murdered."

Julie de Rivero, Geneva director for Human Rights Watch, says it is hard to say whether the situation of human rights now is better or worse than in previous years.  But it is possible to detect certain patterns.

One of these, she says, is impunity for major violations.  She gives Sri Lanka as an example.

"We saw the war end in Sri Lanka, but at a very high cost for civilians that were caught in indiscriminate fire by both sides," said Ms. de Rivero. "And, yet, no accountability for war crimes in that country. And last of all, I would say the Bush era cases of torture that were committed under the guise of the war on terror that have remained unaccounted for and for which there is still impunity."

Ms. de Rivero says the war on terror and heightened concern for national security are leading to a further erosion of human-rights values, even in democratic societies.  She says the same fears are increasing xenophobic sentiments in European countries.

She says another worrying trend is sexual violence against women, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The scale of the phenomenon, I think, always compels us to focus on this particular situation because rape has been so normalized as a weapon of war in that country that it is shocking and the devastation that it causes is incredible in the lives of individuals and the community," she said.

"I think you have certain human rights violations that just continue year after year," said Rupert Colville. He is spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"You get some progress and then you get backsliding on something like torture," he said. "Almost all states have laws that prohibit torture and declare it a crime.  And, yet many states are still practicing it, and many states do not prosecute those who commit it." 

He says impunity for a whole range of crimes is a major concern, as is discrimination.

"Discrimination against women, discrimination against homosexuals, discrimination against people with disabilities, the elderly, many, many groups — minorities, indigenous peoples," said Colville. "So, that is a constant theme really on every continent, including in the developed countries, where I think the treatment of migrants or foreigners has clearly deteriorated in the past decade or so." 

Colville notes the wheels of justice often grind slowly.   He says it can take years for the victims to get redress, but it does happen. 

"As we have seen, there is Chile and Argentina for example," he said. "You do not need to give up hope.  25 years down the line, people still are being brought to court and charged with serious crimes.  You still see people being brought to courts for crimes during World War II.  So, that perhaps is the strength of the system.  It is that with these very serious crimes there is no statute of limitations.  Circumstances do change and people who think they are actively immune to justice sometimes find that is not actually the case in the long term." 
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 249

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Latin American news
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Trio face 35-year jail terms
for contract killing of nurse


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three persons each got 35 years in prison Thursday after being convicted in the murder of a nurse in Barranca a year ago.

The victim, Grace Gómez Matarrita, 39 died when she was hit with seven bullets as she picked up her vehicle at a car wash. The two person convicted of shooting her were Nicaraguans who had contracted to do the killing for 1.5 million colons, about $2,800 at the time, said prosecutors.

They were identified by the last names of Morales Espinoza and Espinoza Miranda. The pair were detained because they were involved with the woman identified as the intellectual author of the crime multiple times on the telephone. In addition, they still carried what experts said were the murder weapons when caught.

The woman who was convicted has the last names of  Mena Agüero. The motive for the crime was said to be jealousy because both the victim and Ms. Mena sought the affections of the same man. He was not believed to have been involved.

The case was in the Tribunal de Juicio de Puntarenas.

The trio were remanded to custody because under Costa Rican law the conviction and the sentence will be reviewed by a higher court. Defense lawyers almost always appeal convictions.

November Cuban air crash
Blamed in icing and pilots


By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

Investigators in Cuba say weather conditions and pilot error caused an airliner to crash in the Caribbean country last month, killing all 68 people on board.

In Cuban state media Thursday, Cuba's Civil Aeronautics Institute said the AeroCaribbean turboprop began its flight on Nov. 4 with no problems, but encountered severe icy conditions at an altitude of about 6,000 meters.

The report said the icing, coupled with crew errors, led to the crash.  It says the plane was in good technical condition and all its systems were functioning properly prior to the crash.

The ATR 72-212 aircraft had left Santiago de Cuba and was en route to Havana when it crashed in a mountainous area in the central Sancti Spiritus province, where thick vegetation hampered recovery efforts. Investigators did recover the "black box" flight data and voice recorders.

Cuban state media reported the passengers included travelers from 10 foreign countries - Argentina, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain and Venezuela. Thirty-three passengers and all seven crew members were Cuban.




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