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The Tico Times Weekly Digest: Jan. 21, 2019.

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 11:48

An attack in Nicaragua, our Puerto Viejo Deep Dive and a new Sele squad. These stories and more in this Weekly Digest.

This week in Costa Rica (Jan. 21, 2019):

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Featured News Stories

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Four Nicaraguan police officers killed near the border with Costa Rica:

http://bit.ly/2FHyy7w

Nicaraguan resistance group claims responsibility for police killings near Costa Rican border:

http://bit.ly/2FBAiiN

Rough edges and rich culture – Our Puerto Viejo Deep Dive:

http://bit.ly/2T0ZiCZ

Puerto Viejo Deep Dive – Cancún crossroads, preserving culture forged by hardship:

http://bit.ly/2FMjN2s

Puerto Viejo Deep Dive – Surfing the Caribbean’s gnarly waves:

http://bit.ly/2DrqjtV

Extreme poverty rises again in Latin America:

http://bit.ly/2AV7cqu

Costa Rica soccer announces squad to face United States:

http://bit.ly/2HpAqDE

Off the Eaten Path – Cebolla Verde:

http://bit.ly/2U8A5qu

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Categories: Nacionales

Venezuela military group arrested after call to disavow Maduro

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 08:55

A group of soldiers rose up against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro at a command post near Caracas on Monday, but were quickly arrested after posting an appeal for public support in a video, the government said.

“We are the professional troop of the National Guard against the regime, which we completely repudiate. I need your help, take to the streets,” a man who identified himself as the group’s sergeant said in video images circulated on social media.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino issued a statement shortly afterwards saying the soldiers had been arrested.

“During the arrest, stolen weapons were recovered and (the mutineers) are providing useful information to intelligence services and the military justice system,” added Padrino, who said the rebels would “face the full force of the law.”

No information on the number of mutineers has been given.

The soldiers rose up during the early hours of Monday morning at a National Guard command post in Cotiza, north of Caracas, which was later surrounded by police and troops.

The armed forces said a “small group of attackers” stole a batch of weapons from a command post in Petare, to the east of Caracas, and kidnapped four soldiers before heading to Cotiza.

“They were neutralized, surrendered and captured in record time,” said Maduro’s right-hand man, Diosdado Cabello on Twitter.

“They are already confessing details and the first thing they said is that they were offered villas and castles but were left alone, they were tricked. We will win,” he added, without specifying who allegedly made the offer.

The armed forces fired tear gas at a group of neighbors that turned up outside the command post to offer support to the rebel soldiers, according to local press reports.

Parliament president Juan Guaido, who has embarked on a power struggle with Maduro since being elected to lead the National Assembly earlier this month, spoke out in support of the mutinous soldiers.

“What is happening in the National Guard in Cotiza is a demonstration of the general feeling that reigns within” the armed forces, Guaido said on Twitter.

“Our military knows that the chain of command has been broken by the usurpation of the presidential office.

“The National Assembly is committed to offering all the necessary guarantees to members of the armed forces that actively contribute to the restoration of the constitution.”

Guaido previously accused Maduro of being a usurper after the socialist leader was sworn in for a second term of office on January 10, and called for the armed forces to support the legislature in restoring democracy in the country.

Maduro won controversial snap elections in May that were boycotted by the opposition and branded fraudulent by the United States, European Union and a dozen Latin American countries.

The National Assembly has been rendered impotent by the Supreme Court, dominated by Maduro loyalists, which stripped it of all its powers after the opposition gained control of the legislature in 2016 elections.

Guaido previously called on the population and armed forces to help him overthrow Maduro so he can set up a transitional government ahead of new elections.

He has also called for a mass people’s protest on Wednesday to support his demands.

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Prominent anti-Ortega journalist seeks refuge in Costa Rica

Mon, 01/21/2019 - 08:42

Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a journalist who fights Ortega’s regime in Nicaragua

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Rincón de la Vieja registers overnight eruption

Sun, 01/20/2019 - 11:59

Rincón de la Vieja erupted early Sunday morning, sending volcanic rock into nearby rivers, according to the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI).

OVSICORI data indicates a five-minute eruption occurred at 1:26 a.m. Sunday. The organization said it could not calculate the height of the ash plume due to lack of visibility.

Rocas Incandescentes vistas desde Gavilán de Upala.
El día de hoy 20 de enero 2019 a la 1:26 a.m. hora local, se registra una erupción en el volcán Rincón de la Vieja, se desconoce la altura alcanzada por la columna debido a las condiciones de visibilidad del sitio. pic.twitter.com/PL7GeQQqFl

— OVSICORI-UNA (@OVSICORI_UNA) January 20, 2019

OVSICORI shared a collage of images showing incandescent material near the Rincón de la Vieja crater (top) and volcanic material being carried by northerly rivers (middle and bottom).

20 enero 2019. Imagen superior. Material incandescente observado en la cima del V. Rincón de la Vieja, desde Sensoria por medio de webcam de OVSICORI. Imágenes inferiores materiales arrastrados por la corriente del Río Azufrado. Imágenes por Oscar Alvarado “Mapache” pic.twitter.com/T3ZB8mr4Eg

— OVSICORI-UNA (@OVSICORI_UNA) January 20, 2019

Costa Rica’s National Emergency Commission (CNE) has not yet issued a statement. The CNE recently announced increased security measures at the nation’s active volcanoes.

Costa Rica announces increased security measures for active volcanoes

Rincón de la Vieja Volcano is located in the eponymous national park in the Guanacaste province. The National Park attracts visitors due to its unique flora and fauna, natural water attractions and periodic geothermal activity.

In 2017, more than 82,000 people visited Rincón de la Vieja National Park.
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​​This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.
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Categories: Nacionales

Puerto Viejo Deep Dive: Surfing the Caribbean’s gnarly waves

Sun, 01/20/2019 - 07:02

Sunshine, surfing and reggae make Puerto Viejo one of the preferred destinations of many Costa Ricans. There’s something about the Caribbean that makes you relax, and feel at home. The locals are very friendly, and their cuisine is delicious. You’ll also find several surf spots for different levels, and if you are lucky enough, you could surf all day long

Beware though, you need some surfing experience to surf most of the spots in Puerto Viejo and some are only for advanced surfers. The Caribbean’s waves are fast and furious and not everyone has come out victorious.

The Caribbean season starts around December and stretches out to March. That’s when storms churning off Cartagena, Colombia, and an ENE swell brings waves directly to Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. This does not mean potential swells will come in during other times of the year. But if you want to be assured action, make sure to be here during this season.

When the waves do hit, Cocles and Hermosa beach are two of the best beach breaks in the zone. The wave will break at a depth of less than 1 meter from the sand and these waves are usually pretty fast. If the waves are big, breaking a board is easier than you think.

Cocles Beach in Limón. Meg Yamamoto/The Tico Times

Cocles and Hermosa sound tough, but that’s only where the locals go when there are no waves at the reef breaks.

Salsa Brava is one of the gnarliest and heaviest spots in the zone. It’s also known as the Costa Rican pipeline, or The Spicy Sauce (a direct translation from Spanish). If you do not have an advanced surfing level, stay out of the water. Surfing above your level can lead to an accident or even death. Even local surfing legends have been victims of the reef. Just ask Gilbert Brown about his tooth.

Just getting to the spot is a challenge and I highly recommend getting local help if you decide to go in. There are a series of canals in the reef that you have to navigate to get out to the spot. I wouldn’t explore them on my own.

It’s common to see surfers come out of the water with wounds after they slam into the coral reef. If at any point you do get cut by coral, take care of it immediately. There are some species of coral that are toxic and in general, these cuts are very infectious.

If you cut yourself make sure to follow this recommendation from Surfline:

Remove all dead skin with a sharp, clean pair of scissors that have been boiled to kill bacteria. (Bacteria love to grow in, under, and around dead skin.) Anesthetizing around the wound is a good idea, if that’s what it takes to clean it well. Clean it with soap and fresh water and a soft, sterile brush, if required. Flush with a mixture of one-half water and one-half hydrogen peroxide to remove coral dust and then flush with fresh water. Don’t grab the bottle and pour it on the wound, dilute it. Full strength peroxide might delay the healing process. Then use clean water to flush it under pressure and very thoroughly for five minutes.

Following this advice can prevent you from going home early and ruining the trip for your buddies.

But the risk is worth the reward. The wave at Salsa Brava is a peak that can break in both directions. Depending on the swell’s direction, it may be more constant in one direction rather than the other. If the weather is not too warm and there’s been some rain, there’s a high chance the water will be glassy and ideal for surfing. If the conditions are aligned with the proper swell, you can surf all day long with the best barrels of your life.

If you are coming to this beautiful town, make sure to bring your surfing gear. There are no surfing stores around and even getting a wax bar is more complicated than it should be. It’s also most likely overpriced.

Puerto Viejo isn’t the best place to buy a board either. You will find some surf rentals and surf schools, but I wouldn’t consider it a commercial surf town like Santa Teresa.

If you’re in town with some non-surfers, there are several beaches you can drive or bike up to that will get you feeling the laid-back Caribbean vibe. Playa Negra, Punta Uva and Manzanillo are a few spots to chill with the family and non-surfing friends. There aren’t big waves at these beaches so you can go for a swim without worrying too much about riptides and waves violently crashing on your head.

This does not mean you should disrespect the ocean and its imminent dangers. Always keep an eye out for rip tides.

Some of the local cuisine options in Puerto Viejo. (Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times)

Puerto Viejo is a town where people embrace their culture/ Calypso, patty (a spicy meat-stuffed empanada-looking pie) and rice-and-beans are some of the treasures you can find here. The best patty I’ve ever had is in a little yellow shack in downtown Puerto Viejo. It’s a personal must-go for me, and I usually go more than once.

Also, a trip to Limon that doesn’t include rice-and-beans with your preferred protein and some fried plantains isn’t a complete trip. If you visit, don’t miss out on any of these.

Remember to be safe out in the water, and avoid spots you have never been in by yourself. Take care of nature and be respectful to locals. Having this said, see you in the water!

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

La Prensa publishes blank front page to protest Nicaraguan government

Sun, 01/20/2019 - 07:00

La Prensa, Nicaragua’s oldest newspaper, had a blank front page this Friday for the first time in its 93 years. The special front page was protesting the government’s refusal to deliver imported ink and paper.

“Have you wondered about living without information?” This is the headline at the bottom of the blank page. The newspaper’s stationery and other supplies have been held up in Customs since September.

The newspaper released the following on its second page, which worked as a cover for the publication: “La Prensa Editorial has decided to release this publication today (Friday) which marks 20 weeks since the General Directorate of Customs began retraining raw material from our company that arrived in Nicaragua in September 2018.”

The newspaper, which has a critical approach towards Ortega’s government, reported that “customs blocking” risks their future publications and qualifies as a “threat to the freedom of speech and access to information of Nicaraguans.”

The seizure also affects the newspaper Hoy, a popular media outlet created in 2003 that’s also part of La Prensa Editorial group.

Daniel Ortega’s government hasn’t commented on the Customs retention of the newspapers’ essential materials.

A vendor selling newspapers holds an edition of "La Prensa" (R) which on January 18, 2019 published its cover in blank in protest against the refusal by the General Directorate of Customs (DGA) to hand over paper and ink imported by the Editorial La Prensa group, in Managua. Inti Ocon / AFP

La Prensa says that Customs has retained $132,000 worth of materials since September, including 92 tons of paper, printing plates, glue and photo developing equipment.

They stated that if the government does not deliver the material, La Prensa and Hoy will be forced to report exclusively through their digital platforms.

Nicaragua’s independent press has been under government siege for reporting on the protests against Ortega that started on April 18, 2018. According to humanitarian groups, the government crackdown on protests led to 325 deaths and more than 600 people arrested.

Two well-known journalists are among those arrested: Miguel Mora, the director of the closed private channel 100% Noticias, and its press director, Lucía Piñeda. According to humanitarian groups, both are being exposed to abuse in jail.

The Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation registered over 700 attacks against the press since the crisis began nine months ago.

This article was translated by

Join The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Slothy Sundays: A topsy-turvy world

Sun, 01/20/2019 - 06:59

Did you know that sloths spend 90 percent of their time upside down?

Equipping wild sloths with backpacks that track their movements, a researcher in Costa Rica determined that sloths spend almost all of their time inverted. To handle the pull of gravity, sloths have evolved special fibrous adhesions that keep their organs from shifting.

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Reader photos: Beauty at Jacó Beach

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 12:30

At The Tico Times, we love great photos of Costa Rica. Share your favorite original photos with us at: alejandro@ticotimes.net

Reader Naomi shared with us these photos of Jacó, Puntarenas.

Photo courtesy Tico Times reader Naomi. Photo courtesy Tico Times reader Naomi.

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Tico Times: Letters to the Editor (Jan. 18, 2019)

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 11:00

The Tico Times is proud to be an independent, English-language news source in Costa Rica. Our readers regularly submit editorials and responses to our articles; we appreciate your opinions and feedback.

Below is a selection of editorials we have received recently.

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Straws to save the environment 

By Esteban Vargas, Universidad de Costa Rica

Dear Tico Times:

I would like to express my excitement after having read Yamlek Mojicas’s article “Sorbos: Edible straws coming to Costa Rica” (TT, Nov. 1).

Every day, millions of tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean, threatening marine life, polluting beaches and affecting people’s health. Sea turtles are especially susceptible to eating plastic and also to being entangled in it. One of the most concerning aspects of plastic pollution is that plastic can take centuries to degrade naturally, and even when it does it just breaks down into smaller bits called microplastics. These tiny bits of plastic spread easily due to the movement of the waves and are ingested even by small fish. This means that even simple items like bottles and straws can have a drastic impact on the environment.

Since plastic pollution is such an important issue, it is necessary to find innovative solutions. Most environmentally friendly restaurants simply encourage clients to stop using straws. Others go an extra mile and offer bamboo or paper straws. Of course, their effort to make people aware of the importance of taking care of the environment is commendable and also much appreciated, but it is just not groundbreaking. Sorbos’ way to approach this issue, however, is very ingenious. While the idea of producing straws made of biodegradable materials is nothing new, the concept of edible straws strikes me as brilliant. They not only serve as a good alternative to plastic straws, but also enhance your mealtime experience. The most remarkable feature of Sorbos straws is that they do not contaminate the flavor of the drink. Personally, that was one of my misgivings about edible straws before I read the article.

Some people may think that Sorbos’ product is rather expensive (7,500 colones for the smallest package of straws). However, it is important to point out that edible straws are a delicious snack in their own right. Not to mention that many conscientious consumers  are willing to pay a higher price in order to do their part in protecting the environment.

I believe that more businesses should follow the example of Sorbos not just because it is the right thing to do but also because it could benefit them in the long run. Companies that adopt “green” practices tend to viewed more favorably by the public, which can be very useful to attract more customers and to recruit employees. Some people may feel more motivated to work for a company that is committed towards bettering society. This is especially true for younger generations.

Unfortunately, not all companies are willing to become eco-friendly. Adopting green practices requires time, effort, and in some cases, a considerable money investment. The fact that some green products have higher costs may drive away potential customer, particularly people with fewer resources or those who are simply not interested in the environment. However, this can be offset by building a loyal consumer base that shares the same environmental ideals.

Overall, I think that Mojica’s article is great because it raises awareness about the negative impact of single-use plastic products and offers an eco-friendly alternative. Hopefully Sorbos will be a big success that inspires other businesses to help the environment, and hopefully the Tico Times will continue informing people about new and interesting green products.

Esteban Vargas

Universidad de Costa Rica

 

Electric train should be Costa Rica’s priority

By Esteban Barahona, Universidad de Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, there has been a disorganized development of public roads and public transportation. The fast growth in the number of personal vehicles accentuates this issue. In the case of the train, it has been underutilized until recently. A possible solution is to develop electric train routes, including underground sections. Adapting and expanding the current train to an electric train should be a priority of the government.

This plan sounds like a good idea, but some critics may argue that this type of project can be expensive. However, an electrical train will become profitable after the initial cost was invested. Also, we have to consider that it can be built using an alternative such as a concession for public infrastructure projects. In this alternative, a private enterprise can adapt and expand the current train to become electric. The train is built on public property owned by the government, but the first years of profits go to the private developer.

Due to a disorganized and fast urban development, Costa Rica now has a series of bottlenecks in its public roads. A subway (also known as metro or underground) can improve this inefficient and slow transportation. The underground sections of this new electric train may be focused on the bottlenecks, freeing slow roads that are sometimes compared to parking space. Since this will be the first underground train in Costa Rica, it does not have to be a high-speed one. These trains, known as bullet-trains, were developed first in Japan and they can be faster than 200 km per hour. But we can start with electric trains that are much more accessible and feasible.

Besides the perception that a train has to be expensive, some opponents may also mention the current economical environment in the country. This slow economy includes a continuous unemployment rate, the fiscal crisis and a slow economical growth. However, the efficiency that can be gained from decongesting the public roads and making some travels faster may boost the national economy. Citizens will be able to consider jobs that are not close to home because it will take less time to travel. This can lead to a more flexible job market and may even help pay the initial cost of a modern electrical train.

Another challenge of this new project is its overwhelming size, which includes adapting and expanding infrastructure in all the country. However, there is an example of another public project that has been successful and is almost complete: Circunvalación. Even though this project took decades and is still not complete, it has been effective in building public roads by building them by sections. Yes, a national electric train is an immense project, but there are ways to build this effectively.

Historically, Costa Rica has a great environmental record. As mentioned in the article, almost 100% of the electricity produced comes from renewable sources. These will help the environment and improve the health of the population, because the train will be electric and the electricity will come from clean sources. It can be a motivation to continue in an ever greener path.

The project of a national electric train with underground sections may seem challenging, but it is a feasible plan. There are many alternative ways to build this, such as concessions and building it by sections. Finally, it will help with the ecological path that Costa Rica has chosen.

 

Restoration and conservation must be based on thorough understanding

By Karla Solís Herrera, Universidad de Costa Rica

Dear Tico Times:

Forest restoration holds much promise in helping to conserve Costa Rica biodiversity. According to your Oct. 21, 2018; article “The future of tropical forest restoration is community led,” the issue of restoring tropical forests should be not only in charge of the government.

This suggestion sounds very interesting and it could be beneficial to the country. I agree with the director of three biological stations in Costa Rica run by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), Rebecca Cole, who mentioned that private institutions and landowners can also help to save the forests; however, she did not specify how private companies are going to finance ecological projects in our country. Ecologists must provide deep information that permits citizens to know how the community-led with the help of private industry and government could work together in the future of forest restoration.

I do not pretend to disqualify the information of the article on the contrary, as a citizen, I am interested in knowing more about the topic, and the benefits it could represent for the protection of the environment in a country like ours, where 75.5 percent of Costa Rica’s territory is made up of trees. The article emphasizes government initiatives that provide financial support to protect the environment. Although, in the same article we can find another kind of comments about it like resources are not enough to keep restoring protected areas. That is why the article sounds kind of ambiguous in some developed ideas, it contradicts itself in some key points.

The expert claims that Costa Rica is the easiest place to put forward ideas of forest recovery, not only justifying that her strategies will work in our country because some lands suffer the consequences of the deforestation, but also it is important to explain the goals of the project of restoration. Which might range from maximizing carbon sequestration to restoring the full composition of species to providing habitat for specific faunal species of concern.

Moreover, the experts do not support the information that they are securing either with statistics, arguments, and information that prove the government’s performance in terms of environmental issues such as forests protection. According, to the ecologist Rebecca Cole, “A lot of small-scale farmers just don’t have access”. “They would like to improve on how to manage their land in a more sustainable way…” The organization could give more evidence to exemplify or to demonstrate the veracity of its arguments.

Something to called my attention that Cole states, “There has to be a change in the mindset” as a reference of restoration in Costa Rica. This statement confusing, because it is not clear if she was referring to the government, or the Costa Rican people. It is important to avoid misconceptions since the beginning, so the audience can follow the article without problems.

On the other hand, the information based on community-led as a future of preservation and restoration of tropical forests seems a terrific idea. Throughout the article the writer mentions some places such as Las Cruces, La Selva and Palo Verde which can take advantage of the environmental education program which The Organization for Tropical Studies wants to apply in Costa Rica.

Selecting a restoration strategy, for tropical forests or any ecosystem, must be based on a thorough understanding of the ecology of the system. The ecologists have a specific mission to accomplish and is to carry out conservation and protection of the tropical ecosystems, but Costa Rica is trying to do its best effort, we know it is a difficult task but with more support forests can be saved.

Sincerely,
Karla Solís Herrera
University of Costa Rica
English major, third year student

To share editorial ideas, comments or news tips, please email Katherine Stanley Obando, Editor, kstanley@ticotimes.net

Categories: Nacionales

Costa Rica soccer announces squad to face United States

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 09:00

Costa Rica’s new men’s national soccer team manager, Gustavo Matosas, summoned a revamped lineup without most of its best-known figures to face the United States in their February friendly.

The squad will be without several Tico stars, including goalkeeper Keylor Navas, midfielders Bryan Ruiz and Celso Borges, and attacker Joel Campbell.

The majority of the selected players feature for local clubs or in the United States’ Major League Soccer (MLS), including a mix of youth and veterans who have not had much prior participation with the national team.

“I wanted to make a good mix of experience and youth,” said Matosas about his first call-ups as coach of La Sele. “It’s a time to see other young people, how they react wearing the national team’s shirt.”

The Uruguayan manager explained that since the match does not fall on a FIFA date, he had less flexibility in summoning international players.

Among the novices to La Sele are defender Yostin Salinas (Saprissa), midfielders José Alfaro (Carmelita) and Barlon Sequeira (Alajuelense), and the attacker Jean Scott (Guadalupe).

“I saw the speed, the skill, the craftiness that I look for in the midfield in these youngsters,” Matosas said. “Between what I saw in their club performances and in training, they have excited me very much, and they have the opportunity to enjoy it.”

The Feb. 2 match against the United States will be played at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California.

Below is the full list of players Matosas summoned for the Costa Rican national team:

Goalkeepers: Esteban Alvarado (Alajuelense), Kevin Chamorro (Carmelita), Marco Madrigal (San Carlos).

Defenders: Keysher Fuller (Herediano), Yostin Salinas (Saprissa), Jaikel Medina (Saprissa), Pablo Arboine (Santos), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United, MLS), Waylon Francis (Seattle Sounders, MLS), Joseph Mora (DC United, MLS).

Midfielders: José Miguel Cubero (Alajuelense), Allan Cruz (Cincinnati, (MLS), Néstor Monge (Cartaginés), David Guzmán (Portland Timbers, MLS), José Alfaro (Carmelita), Barlon Sequeira (Alajuelense), Ronaldo Araya (Cartaginés), Marvin Loría (Portland Timbers, MLS), Jimmy Marín (Herediano).

Strikers: José Guillermo Ortiz (Herediano), Jean Scott (Guadalupe), Yendrick Ruiz (Herediano), Jonathan McDonald (Alajuelense).

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

Support the Tico Times
Categories: Nacionales

Nicaraguan resistance group claims responsibility for police killings near Costa Rican border

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 17:42

A Nicaraguan resistance group named “Los Atabales” has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks on Nicaraguan police officers near the border with Costa Rica.

Four Nicaraguan police officers were killed Thursday in the municipality of San Carlos, a town at the source of the San Juan River just 10 kilometers north of the border.

Nosotros, el Atabal Guerrillero le causa siete bajas más al Orteguismo hoy, 17 de Enero del 2019. Viva Nicaragüa Libre. Patria Libre y Vivir!

— Hector Armando Morales (@Apante77) January 18, 2019

Posts on Twitter from members of Los Atabales suggested the group carried out a second attack on Nicaraguan police in Nicaraguan territory on Friday afternoon.

“At approximately 3 p.m. of today, January 18, 2019, there was an armed confrontation […] resulting in at least two police officers killed and three injured,” posted Hector Armando Morales, a purported member of the group, on Twitter.

The messages were then shared on a “Los Atabales” Facebook page. “Los Atabales” is a self-defined resistance group “with a single purpose to liberate Nicaragua.”

Nicaraguan authorities have not confirmed Friday’s events.

Following Thursday’s attacks, Nicaraguan authorities had blamed “Banda el Jobo,” a group they say has a base in Costa Rica. They alleged members of “Banda el Jobo” have illegally crossed the border back into Nicaragua prior to the confrontation.

The Costa Rican government refuted the report, and Nicaraguan police contacted by The Tico Times did not offer details explaining what evidence led them to conclude Thursday’s attack was committed by “Banda el Jobo.”

“Our ministry maintains a police presence in our northern border and in no moment have we detected that our territory is being used by a criminal group to attack neighboring countries,” said Allan Obando Flores, director of the Costa Rican border police. “We reaffirm our commitment to not allow any type of attack of that kind with bordering countries.”

This is a developing story. Stay tuned to The Tico Times for updates.

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Four Nicaraguan police officers killed near the border with Costa Rica

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 14:39

Nicaraguan police said four of the country’s police officers were killed near the border with Costa Rica on Thursday at 4 p.m.

Nicaraguan officials claim that the officers were shot and killed in the municipality of San Carlos, a town at the source of the San Juan River just 10 kilometers north of the Costa Rican border. Nicaraguan police placed blame on “Banda el Jobo,” a group they said has a base in Costa Rica and is accused of drug trafficking and armed robbery.

The Costa Rican Ministry of Public Safety issued a statement saying that Costa Rica is not being used to attack neighboring countries.

“Our ministry maintains a police presence in our northern border and in no moment have we detected that our territory is being used by a criminal group to attack neighboring countries,” said Allan Obando Flores, director of the Costa Rican border police. “We reaffirm our commitment to not allow any type of attack of that kind with bordering countries.”

Obando also said that police have permanent patrols along the border to guarantee citizen safety and territorial integrity.

The Nicaraguan police were contacted by phone and email by The Tico Times and asked what evidence led them to conclude the attack was committed by “Banda el Jobo,” but they offered no specific details.

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Colombia blames deadly Bogota car bombing on ELN rebels

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 12:01

The Colombian government on Friday blamed leftist ELN rebels for the bombing of a police training academy in Bogota that killed 20 people as well as the attacker and dealt a body blow to the peace process.

Defense Minister Guillermo Botero, speaking from the presidential palace, described Thursday’s car bombing as a long-planned “terrorist attack committed by the ELN.”

The attack is a major setback to two years of peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) —first hosted by Ecuador and currently by Cuba— that failed to go beyond the exploratory stage before stalling when hard-right President Ivan Duque took power in August 2018.

“The national government knows and understands that the ELN has no will for peace,” Colombia’s peace commissioner Miguel Ceballos told reporters.

Botero told the same press conference he had “full evidence” that the bomber —earlier identified as Jose Aldemar Rojas Rodriguez, 56— has been a member of the ELN for more than 25 years.

Police said Rojas drove his explosives-packed Nissan pick-up into the cadet school compound, slewing around a vehicle checkpoint, and crashing it into a dormitory building before it detonated.

Floral tributes left to the victims of a car bomb attack that killed 21 people and injured more than 80, lay outside General Santander Police Academy in Bogota, on January 18, 2019. Daniel Munoz / AFP

Some 80 kilos (around 175 pounds) of explosives was used to set off a massive blast that also wounded 68 people. Ten were still being treated in hospital on Friday.

Botero said that at this stage of the investigation police had no evidence to suggest the attacker wanted to commit suicide, and may have intended to set off the bomb with “an electronic device.”

According to Botero, Rojas was known by his nickname “One-hand Kiko” for losing his left hand in a blast and was an intelligence chief in an ELN unit operating in the department of Arauca, on the border with Venezuela.

“This was an operation that has been planned for the past 10 months,” Botero said, stating that the guerrilla group —Colombia’s last active rebel force— were the “intellectual authors” of the attack.

The ELN has not responded to the allegations.

Attorney General Nestor Humberto said another suspect also connected to the ELN, named as Ricardo Carvajal, was arrested overnight in Bogota.

Soon after the attack authorities said they had identified the bomber, but added that he had no known links to armed guerrilla groups.

The General Francisco de Paula Santander Officer’s School in the south of Bogota is the country’s largest police academy and was hosting a graduation ceremony for cadets at the time of the attack.

Hardliner Duque

Rocked by decades of armed conflict involving guerrillas, paramilitaries, state forces and drug traffickers, Colombia has experienced several years of relative calm since the 2016 peace accord signed by then-president Juan Manuel Santos and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas.

With the landmark agreement turning the former rebels into a political party, the smaller ELN is considered the last active rebel group in the country.

True to his election promises, Duque has taken a hard line against the ELN, including his demand they release all hostages as a prerequisite to kick-starting the peace process. The group is believed to be currently holding 17 hostages, some of them for several years.

“It’s highly likely that President Duque will decide in the coming days to break off peace negotiations with the ELN, negotiations which were already deadlocked,” according to analyst Frederic Masse.

The ELN, which numbers around 1,800 fighters, has rejected those demands as “unacceptable.”

A flag of the ELN guerrilla - National Liberation Army- is seen on September 18, 2018 in the Catatumbo jungle, Colombia. (Luis Robayo / AFP)

Since the FARC demobilized, the ELN has occupied territory it left vacant and strengthened militarily in many parts of the country.

“The [peace] process was practically concluded,” said Ariel Avila, an expert from Colombia’s Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, adding that the bombing amounted to “a declaration of war.”

“The attack could be the work of the most radical elements of the ELN, acting with the aim of provoking a rupture in peace negotiations,” said Masse.

Masse said the bombing could change the political landscape of Colombia over the coming years, with “an increasingly radicalized and divided ELN guerrilla, a strengthened security policy and the government taking on the ELN in a frontal struggle, plunging the country into a situation of neither war nor peace.”

Thursday’s bombing was widely condemned. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he stood in solidarity with the people of Colombia and that “the perpetrators must be brought to justice.”

Pope Francis, about to embark on a visit to neighboring Panama, condemned the “cruel terrorist attack” in a telegram of condolence to Bogota archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez.

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Off the eaten path: Cebolla Verde

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 08:46

For the last 20 years, La Cebolla Verde has been an icon along the calle vieja – or old road – that winds its way up and down between Santa Ana and Escazú. You might’ve noticed something different in the past six months though.

This decades-old restaurant, located about halfway down on the Santa Ana side of the hill, seems to be getting a facelift. Nothing major, just simple things like a new bright sign with a freshened logo and stylish new menus.

At its core, the place remains the same. It’s a bar that serves great traditional food. But there is some new energy being poured into it, new life.

For the majority of the past 20 years Cebolla Verde, which is named after the onion crops the town is famous for, was owned and operated by Carlos Sibaja. He originally opened in the same space as a roasted chicken and pizza restaurant. It quickly went on to become the local style bar or cantina that it is today.

Now there’s a new owner, Diego Castro, Carlos’s nephew. Everything’s still in the family.

Diego, who took over about six months ago (hence the facelift), was eager to relieve his uncle of his duties after so many years of dedicated bar service.

I enjoyed a brief conversation with Diego after a recent lunch meal at Cebolla Verde and left feeling confident that the place is in good hands. This is important to me because my family, friends and I have been eating there for the last 15 of those 20 years. We have a lot of great memories at Cebolla Verde.

I expect to have many more.

The old cantina atmosphere combined with an informal, friendly service is a winning combination. It also has the greatest hits of old-time, humble, Costa Rican food.

A friend and I shared a lunch of mixed ceviche, chifrijo, fried cheese cubes, Aztec soup and an order of chicharrones on my last visit. This might sound like a lot for two people, but you can order everything on the menu in boca size, or in a full portion. I prefer ordering boca size and sharing, that way you can try a wider selection of the menu.

Of course, in the 15 years that I have been eating here, I have had all of these before many times and so knew what I was in for, they’re consistently good, but for those who have yet to visit, allow me to paint a picture:

(William Ayre / The Tico Times)

The chifrijo (₡2,500 or about $4) and chicharrones (₡3,250 or about $5.32) at Cebolla Verde are definitely two of the more popular menu items, as in any self-respecting cantina. Both plates are built around fried pork, so you really can’t go wrong with either of these. Well, unless you’re a vegetarian.

But don’t worry, there are vegetarian options available.

My girlfriend swears that the Aztec soup (₡3,000 or about $4.92) at Cebolla Verde is the best, ever, period. She claims it’s so good that there isn’t even a second competitor in the conversation.

The Aztec soup at Cebolla Verde. (William Ayre / The Tico Times)

I think I agree with her. It’s pretty damn tasty. Served with a side of crispy tortilla strips, diced avocado and fresh mozzarella cheese that are, of course, to be dumped into the bowl of creamy orange broth. It’s truly a gift from the Aztec gods.

Even though I love this place, I must be objective. The ceviche for me, it’s very middle of the road. My friend was happy to finish it though.

The fish and the shrimp seem to have been freshly prepared, no doubt. But I know the fish is farmed Pangasius from Asia, also known as Corvineta. That specific fish just isn’t for me, even if its white flesh does have a totally mild and inoffensive flavor.

The ceviche at Cebolla Verde. (William Ayre / The Tico Times)

Though I am personally turned off by the source of the fish, or rather, by common farming practices used at the source, it tasted just fine. In fairness, you really shouldn’t expect a better quality fish to be used for the low ticket price of just ₡3,250 (about $5.32). It’s par for the course.

The fried cheese cubes (₡2,500 or about $4) are known as dados de queso locally. One-inch cubes of Turrialba cheese are quickly passed through the deep fryer, making for a crispy light outer shell and a warm, gooey center. You really can’t go wrong with fried cheese.

This is no ordinary Turrialba cheese either, Diego tells me it’s totally homemade by some skilled older woman, an artisan cheese maker —as the name would imply— from the Turrialba region of Costa Rica. Bonus points.

Locally sourced fried cheese cubes. (William Ayre / The Tico Times)

Order one of these. It’s the perfect, greasy starter or salty snack to pick on while you’re crushing a bucket of nearly ice-cold Pilsen. 

By the way, the chiliguaros are really good here too. They go for ₡900 (about $1.48) a shot or, they serve them by the mini-pitcher, for ₡3,600 (about $5.90).

Whatever you order here, the portions are generous and the quality is consistently good, which makes for a great value. Even if you don’t eat and just go for a few late-night drinks with friends, I recommend it.

Cebolla Verde is open 7 days a week, from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. Major credit cards are accepted. Prices include 13 percent sales tax, but not the 10 percent service tax. Search “La Cebolla Verde” in Waze or Uber to arrive conveniently. If you’re driving, know there are many parking spots available with a security guard who’s happy to, for tips, help you back out when it’s time to leave.

William Ayre is a Canadian born chef and restaurateur who has spent the last half of his life doing business in Costa Rica, where he now considers to be home. Inspired by Anthony Bourdain, Ayre’s passion of experiencing different cultures through food has taken him to 35 different countries over five continents. Whether it’s a 20-course meal at a fine dining restaurant in Toronto, or cantina hopping in search for the best chifrijo here in San José, he fits in just fine.

Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

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Categories: Nacionales

Nicoya Peninsula from the inside: Five hidden beaches

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 07:00

This whole tour was born out of a desire to visit a special beach. I’ve heard about Quesera because it hosts a fascinating and peculiar tour: the bioluminescence tour.

Our journey began very early in the morning. At 3:30 a.m., I drove to Puntarenas to take the 5 o’clock ferry. Bad news: It was already packed. So I had to turn back and go around Nicoya Peninsula on a trip I enjoyed like few others.

Sometimes the best-planned trips end up in unusual events and surprises that then inspire thinking. Bottom line: How is that possible that I’m Tico, and I spent 29 years of my life without doing a beach tour around the Peninsula?

I am not saying that I’ve wasted my time. I have visited Santa Teresa and all its hidden beaches; also Montezuma and the typical ones: Tambor, Pochote …

But that Cabo Blanco nature reserve you see on the map of Costa Rica hides unknown landscapes, remote but impressive beaches that can be reached by car, but also by boat and sometimes you have to get into the kayak.

Don’t worry, at GOPlaya we show you all the directions on Google Maps and Waze so you can reach the best spot and have no excuse to go for a walk.

GOPlaya wrote this blog to recommend the best virgin beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula. On their site’s search engine, you can explore more than 200 of Costa Rica’s best beaches.

Quesera: This whole tour was born out of a desire to visit a special beach. I’ve heard about Quesera before because it hosts a fascinating and peculiar tour: the bioluminescence tour.

I had been told that at night the beach lights up; that by throwing oneself into the sea and moving one’s arms, the plankton was activated, which allowed one to see small lights underwater. It’s true. It’s incredible, and I recommend it.

Quesera beach, Nicoya Peninsula. GOPlaya,cr

But I would go to Quesera a thousand times even if the phenomenon didn’t exist. It’s a charming destination with everything a beach lover seeks: white sand, a crystalline and turquoise sea like the movies.

Palm trees embrace the coast and to one side there is a viewpoint from which you can see all the Tortuga Islands. You can arrive by boat, but if you prefer to complement your adventure with a wild environment, I recommend that you walk the trail that leads to the beach and enjoy the wildlife (raccoons, deer, etc).

Posa Colorada: Before taking the boat, I had already talked to Don Luis, the owner of the Refuge, about a small hidden spot I found in an old book, which my dad keeps at home. I only knew its name, Posa Colorada beach.

The truth is that you couldn’t even see it in the distance because it is tiny. But it was right next to Quesera, and I wanted to visit it.

There were also few references on the web. Previously, there was overland access to Posa Colorada, but then it was closed due to the rains and natural phenomena that began to cover the trail too often.

I asked Don Luis to take me in his boat and he agreed, but not before he explained that the usual way to visit this beach is by kayak, in a journey of almost 15 minutes. (There are really calm waves, so it is ok).

Posa Colorada beach, Nicoya Peninsula. GOPlaya.cr

Just like Quesera, Posa Colorada beach expresses itself from afar with an intense turquoise that is worthy of the best beaches in the world. You can’t leave here without diving into the water and snorkeling. It’s totally worth it.

Muertos: Due to fate, there was a moment during the tour when we had a break of a few hours left before taking the boat to Quesera.

A good friend of mine, Felipe, once told me about Muertos beach, and the truth is that I was was very curious about it. I knew the area but not that spot. Imagine my frustration when I passed by it three times and never saw it. Either I was distracted or the beach doesn’t exist.

Fortunately it does. But I have to admit that it wasn’t easy to find.

First I had to get to Pochote to see if anyone could guide me. A lady who rents kayaks explained to me that there were different ways to get to know this destination, which is usually visited by yacht tour operators.

Option one is the most logical option, by boat. The second alternative was also viable, as it was only necessary to cross the Pochote estuary by kayak for 20 minutes. If I chose this option, I had to wait for the tide to come in.

The third alternative is the most complicated, especially when loading a drone and a bag with a computer inside. But hey, it’s ok.

I drove around the Pochote mangrove swamp in a 15-minute drive. You got to drive until the end of the road, then start walking. When the tide is low, you can see thousands of stones that make up the route.

Muertos beach, Nicoya Peninsula. GOPlaya.cr

If the tide comes in, you won’t get through. I got lucky and started jumping from stone to stone, being careful not to fall or slip, until I arrived at the beach.

It is a beautiful spot, surrounded by high palm trees and a clean and calm beach, with a barely noticeable swell.

There is a gallery forest on the shore that releases small leaves that fall on the sand and a crystalline sea, perfect for feeling the fresh water with your feet.

Organos: The next day, we had to pick up the pace. We still had beaches to visit and the ferry threatened to escape again. So I left early to go to a totally different beach compared to Quesera and Posa Colorada. Very, very different.

But you and I both know very well that beauty is relative and two destinations can be very different, but both stunning.

That’s how I arrived to Organos beach, after walking a ballast street and overcoming some gaps (roads in bad shape are part of the adventure).

It’s a huge beach. Camping tents are very popular here a few meters from the coast. Also, you will see couples who take their time to walk it from one side to the other.

Organos beach. GOPlaya.cr

They walk and walk and find it hard to get back, perhaps because the beach seems endless, especially when the wave bursts on their feet and the salt water splashes on their faces.

It’s that feeling of being there, not feeling the need to go anywhere else. It’s as if this beach of gray sand and mid-sized swell were welcoming you.

Mangos: I couldn’t leave Nicoya Peninsula without visiting the spot where a good friend, Karol, grew up. The day I met her and showed her GOPlaya the first thing she asked me was: “Got Mangos beach on there yet?”

I was never told about this spot until I met Karol. She told me that as a child she often spent time here with her mom. They played and enjoyed on a very quiet beach. Indeed, it is really quiet.

There are no waves in Mangos. It is like a natural swimming pool that is frequently visited by locals.

A huge rock divides the beach in two and unlike the other destinations, the tone of the water is almost green and the sand is light brown. Very clean.

Mangos beach. GOPlaya.cr

There is parking space and dozens of trees that refresh the environment.

What Karol didn’t tell me was that the street is a little damaged. It is that mixture of loose stone and ballast that sometimes becomes a headache for cars that are not 4×4 — like mine.

My traveling pal, Carlos, is a better driver than me and he ended up instructing me. “Gain momentum. Be constant, mae. Don’t accelerate too much,” he said.

And after a couple of scolds and some sweat on my forehead, I got away with it.

I got to the ferry on time, the last one of the day. Five beautiful, unspoiled beaches. A trip hard to forget. I hope you dare to conquer the hidden side of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Questions and answers for your trip:

How do I get to each beach without getting lost?

Very simple. GOPlaya gives you the address of each beach in Google Maps and Waze so you can get directly to the spot you want. In the following links you will find the address of each of the beaches:

Quesera beach

Posa Colorada beach

Muertos beach

Organos beach

Mangos beach

Do I need a boat to get to Quesera?

It’s an option. Upon arrival at Curú Wildlife Refuge, you will be offered a boat tour to the beach. The journey takes between 10 and 15 minutes. Tours cost between $15 and $35 per person, depending on the package. You can pay to see the beach, but also for a snorkeling tour to Tortuga Islands. There is also a kayak rental service; it can take about half an hour to get to Quesera and 15 minutes to get to Posa Colorada. You can also hike through a trail to Quesera, is about two hours walk to visit this spot.

Is it necessary to have a 4×4 to do this ride?

You need a 4×4 to visit Mangos beach, because the road is somewhat damaged. If you travel these destinations in the summer, you shouldn’t have any problem.

Are there lodging and restaurants available in the area?

Yes, there are cabins and rental houses in Paquera, as well as restaurants and sodas. In Curú Refuge there is a restaurant too. If you want to extend your stay, you can travel to Montezuma, which is just over an hour drive away on a well-maintained road. Click here to find hotels near these beaches.

Friends launch GOPlaya website to explore more than 200 beaches in Costa Rica

Booking a rental car through GOPlaya will also get you free, exclusive benefits:

Get there with GOPlaya: Beach search engine offers exclusive rental car benefits

 

This story was sponsored by GOPlaya and was originally posted on their blog. To sponsor your website or event, contact kstanley@ticotimes.net.

Categories: Nacionales

Puerto Viejo Deep Dive: Cancún crossroads, preserving culture forged by hardship

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 16:02

PUERTO VIEJO, Limón — On Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, you’re equally as likely to find a restaurant serving rice-and-bean as you are to find one cooking gallo pinto.

You might know the area “has a Caribbean vibe,” making it even more laid back in an already laid-back country. Or that the beaches are stunning and have smaller crowds. Or that “ahí viven los negros” — that’s where black people live.

There’s truth to all of these statements, but they deserve more attention than a matter-of-fact statement.

More than a century of racist laws and policies helped shape Limón. Communities and their distinctive cultures were forged through hardships often condoned by the Costa Rican government.

But now the province’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism hopes to turn the region into “a new Cancún,” according to a La República report. The proposal — a $40 million inversion for the first phase alone — would include all-inclusive hotels and new residential areas, in addition to other amenities.

With higher poverty and unemployment rates than the national average, some say investments like these are long time coming. At the time, the news has raised concerns for communities that want to preserve their cultures and control their own futures.

“'[Limón] has its own identity,” said Markus Brown, whose family has lived in Punta Uva, Limón for more than a century, “and we have to maintain the cultural aspects that makes it different from the rest of the country and the rest of the world.”

Beachgoers in Puerto Viejo (Alexander Villegas / The Tico Times) Divided by challenges

Limón is just 70 miles from San José, but those cities are divided by dense rainforest and imposing mountains.

Through much of Costa Rica’s history, establishing a route between the port and the capital was of high importance — and difficulty.

You can get a taste of the struggle for yourself by hiking “Camino de Carillo,” west of  San Jerónimo de Moravia.

After about three miles through the heart of the forest, you’ll stumble upon a strange discovery: The lost town of Carillo. First, you’ll see the large cross, all that’s left of the church. Then you might spot the remnants of a second building. As your trek continues, you’ll find the shell of a car — foliage growing out of every nook and cranny.

It’s a humbling feeling, knowing how quickly nature can erase our existence.

Camino de Carillo was once one of Costa Rica’s most important roads, the first that connected San José to the Caribbean coast. The infrastructure was vital for the country’s development, but the cobblestone route and its many river crossings were eventually deemed too dangerous. It was abandoned by 1900 in favor of a train route through Cartago.

Hiking Camino de Carillo is a history lesson in Costa Rica’s growth. The topography, climate and dense foliage make development seem near-impossible.

What's left of the Camino de Carrillo, slowly being reclaimed by the rainforest.  (Alejandro Zúñiga / The Tico Times)

Mankind succeeded, of course, in connecting the capital to the coast. Since 1987, travelers can take Ruta 32 between San José to Limón in less than three hours. It’s not ideal driving — fog, fallen branches and mudslides make it a harrowing journey, especially at night — but spend a night near the road and you’ll hear a constant engine-brake roar of pineapple- and banana-loaded trucks announcing their successful arrival to the Central Valley.

Ruta 32 is a testament to human engineering and turned the Caribbean into a more convenient vacation destination. In 2017, the last year for which data is available 24.6 percent of international tourists to Costa Rica — an estimated 437,194 people — vacationed on the Caribbean. And those numbers don’t include local tourism.

Those who visit Limón know it’s beautiful and unique. But the reasons why aren’t always as pretty.

Institutional racism

Costa Rica has had a difficult relationship with race.

In 1862, a law prohibited certain populations from entering the country, as Dr. Carmen Hutchinson Miller, a researcher at the University of the West Indies with a background in Afro-Costa Rican history, wrote in a 2012 paper on the subject.

Miller cited Lorein Powell and Quince Duncan’s Teoría y Práctica del Racismo, which summarized the legislation:

It was the law of Bases and Colonization (La Gaceta, No. 191, 8-11-1862) that prohibited the colonization of the national territory on the part of African and Chinese races and empowered the government to forbid the entry of those unwanted populations to the country. On the contrary, the same law of bases and colonization encouraged and protected European migration, setting aside a considerable annual fund from the national budget and offering ten acres of land to each single person, and twenty to each married couple, and for each child under eighteen five acres more.

An early 1900s Costa Rican train. Photo courtesy The Rich Coast Project, submitted by Ana Lorena González.

But Costa Rica loosened its ban to welcome Jamaican laborers in the 1870s, when the country needed a workforce to construct its new rail line — the one that helped make Camino de Carillo obsolete. According to Miller, the project ran longer than expected.

Ads in The Colonial Standard and Daily Dispatch newspaper described a one-year contract for laborers, but the railroad took 18 additional years to complete. (Or it was completed on “Tico time,” depending on your perspective). By the project’s conclusion, many of the black immigrants had settled permanently in Limón.

Large numbers of Afro-Costa Ricans then proceeded to work on the Caribbean banana plantations of the United Fruit Company, but when disease led the international corporation to refocus on the Pacific Coast, the Costa Rican government discouraged them from entering the Central Valley.

According to Dorothy Mosby’s Place, Language and Identity in Afro-Costa Rican Literature, prior to the country’s civil war in 1948, in addition to laws restricting property ownership by Afro-Costa Ricans, “massive migration by blacks to the Central Valley was prohibited through de facto discrimination,” though it is a “historical myth” that this was codified in law.

A man hauling lumber out of the forest and through a cacao plantation in 1980. Photo courtesy The Rich Coast Project, submitted by Daniel Miller.

More than a century later, Limón is the product of a long string of injustices. The province has a large black population — 15.75 percent of the population, according to the latest census — and as a result, maintains an embattled reputation throughout Costa Rica.

A 2009 UNICEF survey found 27 percent of Costa Ricans believe Afro-descendants are violent and aggressive. That study also found that 74 percent of Costa Ricans believed previous governments had ignored the country’s black population.

For its part, the Costa Rican government has acknowledged a need to further developments in Limón. Former President Luis Guillermo Solís allocated significant financial resources to the province on Afro-Caribbean Day in 2016.

Still, through its geographic and racial divide with the rest of Costa Rica, Limón’s distinctive culture flourished. There, you’ll find not only different foods but different languages (English and Mekatelyu), different music (Reggae and Calypso), different architecture (Victorian and Caribbean mix) and different customs.

But as the region begins to change, some locals worry a flood of foreign industries and tourism could whitewash that culture.

A group playing dominos in Hone Creek, Limón, in 1982. Photo courtesy The Rich Coast Project, submitted by Daniel Miller. Fighting Cancunization and preserving culture

Markus Brown, 30, is a co-director at The Rich Coast Project, a non-profit organization that works in Puerto Viejo and nearby towns to empower communities to have “a meaningful stake in their history and their future.”

His family immigrated from Jamaica and has lived in Punta Uva, Limón since the early 1900s, first fishing and then working on the cacao plantations. Brown himself has seen the area transform from times when there were no phones or paved roads and only occasional tourism.

“It used to be a hidden gem,” he says. “Now people come here, and they see that this place is amazing.

“[…] They’re newcomers that see the place, but they don’t know the history. They don’t know that there’s culture, the traditions, what we want for the future.”

The biggest change? Brown points to tourism, which has become a year-long industry and has attracted business owners from other parts of Costa Rica and abroad.

That’s not entirely a bad thing, but there’s a “lack of identity,” Brown explains, when “it’s so important to have an identity with food, architecture, language, even environmental conservation.”

The Chamber of Tourism and Commerce of the Southern Caribbean says a plan to turn Limón into a new Cancún “has nothing to do with Puerto Viejo or the South Caribbean” and rather focuses on the more northerly Limón canton, but Brown expects the project would impact the entire province.

“I’m really proud of my roots, and once you travel, you realize how important it is to have an identity and a culture,” he says.

A guitar player singing calypso music at a festival in Puerto Viejo.  (Erin Skoczylas/The Tico Times)

To help preserve communities that have for so long been neglected, The Rich Coast Project — founded by U.S. citizen Katie Beck — focuses on digitizing photos, recording video interviews with local families and producing audio stories that document the area’s history.

It’s a means of protecting the Afro-Costa Rican culture and also of disseminating its value to the rest of the country.

Brown says he’s not opposed to development — after all, focus on the region had been lacking — but that it has been difficult to see small businesses be replaced with chains, and families who have lived there for generations selling their land to entrepreneurs.

And when changes come, he hopes attention is paid to the people who have made Limón unique.

“We love the fact that there’s a culture and an identity,” Brown said. “I’m afraid that we might lose those things, and people who come are going to ask, ‘Well, what’s different than San José? What’s different than the Pacific side?’

“We don’t want to be Cancún.”

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Eight dead in car bomb attack at Colombian police school

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 12:13

A car bomb attack on a police cadet training school in the Colombian capital Bogota left at least eight people dead and 10 injured on Thursday, the defense ministry said.

The attack happened at the General Francisco de Paula Santander Officer’s School in the south of Bogota during a promotion ceremony for cadets.

Fanny Contreras, the armed forces’ health inspector, told local radio the car “entered (the school compound) suddenly, almost hitting the police and then there was the explosion.”

Early images from City TV showed ambulances traveling through the area close to the school in the south of Bogota.

“All Colombians reject terrorism and we’re united in fighting it,” President Ivan Duque tweeted.

Vowing to “bring to justice” those responsible for the attack, Duque added: “COLOMBIA is sad but will not bow to violence.”

A security council meeting that Duque was due to attend outside the capital has been canceled, with the president saying he would return to Bogota immediately.

The defense ministry said an investigation has been opened “to find those responsible for this terrorist act.”

Ecuador’s center-left President Lenin Moreno said he would call Duque to “express all our solidarity with our Colombian brothers.”

People wait for news outside the site of an explosion on a police cadet training school in Bogota on January 17, 2019.  (Juan Barreto / AFP)

Right-wing Duque, who assumed power in August, has peddled a tough line against Marxist rebels and drug traffickers in the largest cocaine producer in the world.

Peace talks with ELN guerrillas that stalled before Duque replaced Juan Manuel Santos as president have not been restarted.

Duque has made several demands, including the release of all hostages, as prerequisites to kick-starting the peace process, but the ELN has dismissed those as unacceptable.

Since Santos signed a historic peace accord with FARC guerrillas in 2016, turning the former rebels into a political party, the ELN remains the last recognized armed group in a country that has suffered more than half a century of conflict.

Bogota also suffered a pair of major attacks in 2017.

In February of that year, the ELN claimed responsibility for an attack on a police patrol in the Macarena neighborhood that left one officer dead and several seriously wounded.

In June, three people —including a Frenchwoman— were killed and nine others injured in an attack on a shopping mall that authorities blamed on a fringe left-wing group called the Revolutionary People’s Movement (MRP), which had previously been accused of carrying out low-impact attacks in the capital.

Security forces stand guard outside the police cadet training school in Bogota, where an apparent car bomb attack left at least four people dead and 10 injured on January 17, 2019.  (Juan Barreto / AFP)

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Throwback Thursday: Pocho the crocodile funeral

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 09:25

This article was originally published on Oct. 17, 2011

The final time Chito and Pocho took center stage seemed no less stirring, hard-to-believe and ridiculous than the act’s original premise – a crocodile and a human as best friends.

After two decades of performing together, Pocho the “domesticated” crocodile died last Tuesday of natural causes in his manmade swamp at Finca Las Tilapias, in the Caribbean-slope town of Siquirres. The croc’s owner, Gilberto Shedden, better known as “Chito,” said his partner was nearing 60 years old.

On Sunday – the day Pocho and Chito normally frolicked in the water for visitors – the village held a grand funeral for the huge reptile.

Chito placed the 5-meter, 450-kilo dead crocodile in a wagon and hitched it to a car that drove the duo around the town. Dozens of vehicles joined the motorcade. At least 50 mourners kept pace with the procession, while onlookers sprinted up to the cart to snap photos. By the time the tour ended, back at Finca Las Tilapias, some 300 people had shown up at the ranch.

“Our act was something very special,” Chito, 54, said. “Always people who didn’t know Pocho took something extraordinary from it.”

Chito found Pocho wounded and near death on the shore of the Parismina River, in Limón province, in 1989. The crocodile had been shot in the left eye, and Chito nursed it back to health. A decade later, an employee at the finca saw Chito swimming with Pocho, and told local media. The unusual pair became stars after their first show in the summer of 2000. The ranch kept a veterinarian and a biologist to check on the crocodile’s health. Pocho fed on 30 kilograms of fish and chicken a week.

Siquirres native Gilberto Sheedon, or Chito, became famous for his close friendship with an American crocodile named Pocho. The Tico Times

Large crowds gathered weekly around the artificial lake to watch Pocho and Chito, with the crocodile performing tricks such as winking, rolling over and allowing Chito to put his head inside the giant’s fang-lined mouth.

The memorial at Finca Las Tilapias recognized the croc’s importance to the community. Onlookers watched Chito give a passionate goodbye to Pocho, the reptilian half of an act that became the biggest tourist attraction in the small, muggy pueblo and picked up coverage from around the world.

The funeral certainly seemed like the biggest event Siquirres had seen in some time. Chito’s friends quoted Bible passages to the audience about loving animals. They dedicated songs to Pocho, and played videos of past performances and interviews with Chito.

“It was beautiful,” Siquirres native Xinia Mejía, 40, said. “At least here, we’ve never seen anything like this.”

Visitors from across the country came to observe the ceremony. Miguel Arias, 57, from San Carlos in northern Costa Rica, had never seen Chito and Pocho perform, but became interested after seeing a report on the news. Arias said he was stunned by the outpouring of support for the crocodile and the “beautiful” ceremony.

Funeral garb, however, was not required. Chito, dark-skinned, bald-headed and fit, dressed in the leopard-print loincloth and bandana he wore during his shows with Pocho. Many congregants wore T-shirts dedicated to Pocho’s memory. The shirts sold for $4 at Finca Las Tilapias, alongside mugs dedicated to Chito and Pocho and a selection of small wooden crocodiles.

Pocho’s carcass will be embalmed and placed on display at a museum at Finca Las Tilapias.

Skeptics may say the funeral was just a money-making charade, but Chito’s copious tears did not appear to be of the crocodile variety. He seemed to need the attention and support of the crowd to stay composed. While other guests took the microphone to speak about Pocho, Chito could be seen bawling in the arms of his wife, Olga, or leaning over the crocodile with tears on his cheeks.

When Chito moved front and center again, he seemed determined to keep the last show with his “brother” Pocho as momentous as past ones. The most peculiar highlight – one that seemed to condense Chito’s affection for Pocho and also his love for the limelight – came when he sang The Platters’ classic “The Great Pretender.” Chito wailed each lyric of the 1950s hit about denial to the fallen crocodile: “Oh yes I’m the great pretender / Pretending I’m doing well / My need is such I pretend too much / I’m lonely but no one can tell.”

As Chito and Pocho’s fame grew, there were those who suspected the croc would one day make “Chito finito” out of Shedden. Lolinda Mighty Hall, who grew up with Chito in Siquirres, remembered how fearful everyone was that the crocodile would turn on his trainer. Hall, 58, said over time they saw a genuine connection develop.

Other crocodiles later joined Pocho in Chito’s swamp. The question circulated throughout the afternoon of whether Chito would soon begin training the next Pocho.

The speculation reached Chito midway through the ceremony. Replace Pocho? Chito sucked in a deep breath.

“Pocho is Pocho, the only one,” Chito said, his voice cracking. “Much of the public and all the people of Siquirres responded to him. There is no more Pocho. He will be the only Pocho there ever was.”

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Public Security head decries failure to enact stricter gun control in Costa Rica

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 16:27

Minister of Public Security Michael Soto decried Costa Rica’s failure to enact stricter gun-control legislation this week, arguing that the inaction would prevent Costa Rica from further reducing its homicide rate this year.

Among other measures, the Security and Drug Trafficking Commission on Monday approved a motion to continue allowing citizens to own three guns, rather than adopting a reform that would have reduced the number to one.

Soto, who supported the proposed reform, said he does not want to disarm the Costa Rican people but seeks to continue the country’s decrease in murders. 2018 was the first year since 2012 that the number of homicides dropped in Costa Rica.

“From the Ministry of Security, we completely oppose the project with the motions approved [Monday], because they prevent us from generating positive results in terms of security and reduction of homicides,” Soto said in a statement issued by the Public Security Ministry (MSP).

President Carlos Alvarado appointed Soto as Minister of Public Security in May 2018, following the first quarter of the year that was the most violent on record. Thanks in part to Soto and his initiative of nationwide coordinated police operations known as megaoperativos, Costa Rica closed 2018 with fewer homicides than in 2017, and law enforcement also seized a record number of weapons, the majority pistols.

Supporters of the three-gun legal allowance argued that criminals can easily obtain weapons illegally and that the restriction would only hurt law-abiding citizens.

“We didn’t see a link that decreasing the amount of legal weapons held by people who meet all the requirements would have an impact on the reduction of homicides,” said Gustavo Viales, president of the Security and Drug Trafficking Commission, according to the daily La Nación.

Soto called on legislators to reconsider the motions and send a bill to the plenary that “protects the security of Costa Ricans.” The Minister of Public Security cited the following four setbacks in the legislation approved Monday:

  • The motions would stagnate the cancellation of gun permits of people with criminal records by sending those cancellations through a judicial process. This “opens the door for criminals to keep weapons in their possession,” Soto said.
  • The motions continue to set a three-weapon legal limit and do not enact MSP’s proposed safeguards to prevent legal weapons from entering the black market.
  • The motions require commercial locations to have a secure weapon-storage space, which “represents a danger,” according to Soto, because it creates a target for thieves.
  • The motions do not firmly establish the ability to punish or sanction people who don’t report a stolen weapon.

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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Categories: Nacionales

Extreme poverty rises again in Latin America

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 11:06

Extreme poverty in Latin America hit its highest level for nine years in 2017, according to a report by the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) published on Tuesday.

Poverty remained stable at 30.2 percent of the population —184 million people— but extreme poverty increased from 9.9 percent in 2016 to 10.2 percent, or 62 million people, it said.

“The proportion of people living in extreme poverty continues to increase, continuing the trend begun in 2015,” ECLAC said while presenting its annual report in Santiago.

“While the region made great progress during the previous decade and the middle of the current one, since 2015 things have regressed, in particular when it comes to extreme poverty,” added ECLAC executive secretary Alicia Barcena, during a press conference.

According to ECLAC, a United Nations body based in the Chilean capital, poverty should decrease to 29.6 percent —182 million people— in 2018 while extreme poverty will remain stable at 10.2 percent.

It noted that inequality has reduced in Latin America since the early 2000s, pointing in particular to “important” social security measures taken in recent years to contain unfair distribution of wealth.

However, “Latin America and the Caribbean remains the most unequal region in the world with significant levels of poverty including many sectors, even if they have risen out of poverty and extreme poverty, that are still vulnerable to economic cycles,” the report said.

ECLAC considers people in extreme poverty to be those who cannot afford basic foodstuffs.

This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica.We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.

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