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Our 2020 High Season Print Edition is here!

1 hour 51 min ago

The Tico Times 2020 high season print edition is here!

Our latest print edition is now being distributed nationwide.

Pick up a copy to read our favorite Costa Rica destinations; Tico slang; Costa Rica classifieds; and messages from our sponsors. Check out our list of distributors here; we recommend contacting your favorite pickup point before making a trip since distribution is now underway.

Stay tuned for daily coverage from The Tico Times here at TicoTimes.net. Have story suggestions or a Photo of the Day submission? Contact us at alejandro@ticotimes.net.

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Categories: Nacionales

Terminal disease threatens citrus production in Central America

2 hours 31 min ago

Huanglongbing (HLB), a devastating and incurable disease that affects citrus fruits, is impacting Central America, an expert told AFP, threatening a region that gets $866 million annually from this sector.

“Once HLB arrives, what must be done is to learn to live with the disease,” said Xavier Euceda, coordinator of a program to combat the disease with the International Regional Agency for Agricultural Health (OIRSA).

Central America dedicates 703,900 hectares to citrus farming in the hands of some 129,000 producers.

Citrus cultivation, which generates 335,000 jobs in the region, meets local demand and supplies products for export to the United States, Europe and Africa.

El Salvador declared a phytosanitary emergency last week because of the presence of HLB, and now all of Central America faces the threat of this disease that has the effect of drying the trees.

Hard coexistence

“Biologically we cannot say that we are going to completely eradicate the disease from all of Central America because it is not possible,” said Euceda, an expert who in the last five years has coordinated efforts to deal with HLB, a disease originating in Asia where it is known as yellow dragon disease.

There are only two forms of HLB transmission: through a vector insect or by grafting of infected buds.

Symptoms are visible in the plant between six and 12 months after infection.

The damages it produces are a decrease in the level of sugar in fruits, an increase in the level of acidity, and a decrease in the size and alteration of the color and shape of the fruit, with the consequent reduction in the juice content and its impact on the quality of production.

A domino effect

The disease is identifiable because infected plants produce mottled leaves and fruits. The plant, whose performance is affected, dies within two to six years, Euceda explained.

The spread of the disease is related to climate change, he said.

To mitigate the economic impact of the problem, OIRSA trains citrus growers in the region to attend to plantations “with greater discipline” and be attentive to fertilize on time, prune and review soil quality, Euceda said.

The first countries to see the presence of huanglongbing were Belize and Honduras in 2009. In 2010 it spread to Guatemala and Nicaragua, and in 2011 it arrived in Costa Rica.

The expansion did not stop, and in 2016 it was detected in the province of Bocas del Toro, in Panama, according to OIRSA records.

Countries have made efforts to diversify production and install new fruit forests — in the case of Guatemala with Persian lemon; Honduras with Valencia orange and pineapple; and El Salvador with different types of tangerine.

Categories: Nacionales

Pic of the Day: Cerro Pasquí, Cartago

3 hours 21 min ago

Tico Times reader Daniel Bogarin shared his photo of Cerro Pasquí, an extinct volcano near the slopes of Costa Rica’s mighty Irazú.

Bogarin says it’s easy to reach Cerro Pasquí — as long as you know where you’re going. Surrounded by hills and fincas, Cerro Pasquí is a lesser-known destination even for Costa Ricans.

We hope, if you try to find it, that you enjoy the adventure!

Categories: Nacionales

Another indigenous man killed in Costa Rica’s southern zone

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 10:38

On Monday night, Jhery Rivera, an indigenous Bröran de Térraba who was involved in one of four land recovery processes in that territory, was killed.

This new crime against the life of an indigenous leader comes less than a year after the murder of Sergio Rojas, a Bribrí leader from the territory of Salitre, in a crime which remains unsolved.

The National Front of Indigenous Peoples (FRENAPI) issued a statement denouncing the “racist violence that has perpetrated a new murder” and said that “despite our repeated pronouncements and the early warning issued on February 23, two days before the life of another fighting partner was taken away, our voice is once again ignored.”

Given “this panorama of extreme violence against us,” FRENAPI called “urgently for the solidarity of activism close to the indigenous cause and the international community” to demand “that the systematic extermination of indigenous peoples be stopped in Costa Rica.”

FRENAPI noted that since Feb. 23, groups of landowners had come to Térraba to intimidate and attack indigenous people participating in four new territorial recoveries.

These recovery processes are being carried out by 13 families who had issued an alert regarding the “premeditated strategies of non-Indigenous people to perpetrate acts of dispossession and violence protected by state ineffectiveness.”

The statement also said that the territories of Térraba and Salitre are covered by the protection measures established by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) since April 2015 to guarantee life and safety for both indigenous peoples.

“Since February 23, in the territories under the protection of the Precautionary Measures, acts such as the burning of an estate, according to witnesses, have been perpetrated by a landowner with the surname Guadamuz” the statement read.

“National Police have stated that the only way to protect and protect our integrity is to leave the recovered lands.” 

Accusations of Costa Rican hypocrisy

Shortly after the news of Rivera’s murder transpired, the Costa Rican Federation for Environmental Conservation (FECON) issued a statement in which it focused on the incident as “one of many aggressions and violent actions inspired by the racism suffered by indigenous people in Costa Rica.” 

It pointed out that the crime “reveals the hypocrisy of the Costa Rican State, which on the one hand claims to be champion of Human Rights but through its public policy leaves all indigenous populations in our country abandoned and forgotten.”

FECON demanded that the usurpers not belonging to indigenous communities finally leave those territories.

It also underlines the urgency that the murders of Rojas and Rivera do not remain in impunity, and condemns “the perverse spirit of reports and journalistic approaches have been used against land recuperators encouraging violence.”

For his part, President Carlos Alvarado in his social networks condemned the murder and deeply regretted the acts of violence that occurred in that community. In addition, he informed that an alleged perpetrator had been arrested.

Semanario Universidad Logo

This story was originally published by Semanario Universidad on Feb. 25, 2020. It was translated with permission by The Tico Times. Read the original report here.

Categories: Nacionales

Costa Rica dismantles a trafficking network of Cuban migrants

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 09:32

Costa Rican authorities dismantled on Tuesday a network dedicated to the trafficking of Cuban migrants entering from Panama and intending to reach the United States or Mexico, the Directorate of Migration reported.

The network, run by Costa Ricans, charged about $400 to move Cubans from the border with Panama to Nicaragua, and $1,000 to $ 2,000 to continue to the United States.

Ramón Quirós, known as “El Mago”, the alleged leader of the organization, was arrested in southern Costa Rica, and several of his collaborators were arrested in the cities of Puntarenas, in the Central Pacific, and La Cruz, on the border with Nicaragua.

“The Cubans entered Panama legally, as tourists, and subsequently entered Costa Rica where the criminal organization housed them and moved them north on previously established routes to Mexico and the United States,” said Stephen Madden, director of the immigration police

The network mobilized migrants in private vehicles or public transport through different parts of the Costa Rican territory, where they were temporarily housed, until they were taken to Nicaragua by unregulated border accesses, the Migration Directorate said in a statement.

The investigation, initiated in 2018, allowed the identification of 28 Cubans transported through the network, although immigration authorities estimate that the total number of people affected would be much higher.

The detainees in the operation were handed over to the Prosecutor’s Office, which must determine whether it will raise criminal charges against them for trafficking in persons.

Categories: Nacionales

New app helping anglers and students fish smarter, not harder

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 18:13

Since man began taking fish from the ocean, they have used natural occurrences and eventually man-made technology to help them find fish.

Before modern fish-finder sonar, grouper fishermen would pack a heavy brass bell with soap and drop it to the bottom on a line. They would bounce it a couple of times on the bottom and retrieve it. If sand was stuck to the soap, they would move on. If pieces of rock or fragments of coral were embedded in the soap, they knew they were over good grouper habitat and fish there.

There’s a place in the Golfo Dulce near Pavones that, most of the time, the fishing isn’t very good. But if you’re there in a certain moon phase, on a certain tide, you will catch nice 10-pound-plus corvina one right after another.

In the Pacific, off the coast of Costa Rica, if you find a large pod of dolphins, there will almost always be yellowfin tuna swimming below them. Fishermen have been using dolphins to find tuna for years.

Probably one of the most impressive fish-finding methods I witnessed was the first time I fished for tarpon out of Barra del Colorado on the Caribbean coast. The boat had no electronics, and the captain cruised about a mile off the beach and would suddenly stop and say, “fish here.” In a few minutes, we were hooked up. After repeating this several times, I asked how he knew where to stop. “I can smell them,” he said. I thought he was joking until at one stop, I could smell the fish myself.

Fast forward to 2020, and affordable technology has a big part in helping anglers finding fish. Sonar can read downward and sideways. Radar not only locates weather, but also locates feeding birds that are on fish. Knowing what oceanographic conditions are is also important.

FECOP, the sport fishing Federation in Costa Rica, met with INCOPESCA, the government organization that oversees the country’s fisheries to discuss how the Federation could contribute to fisherman, while seeking a sustainability of the resources. They decided to work together on several studies and also to create a mobile application a fisherman can use to help make decisions on where to fish, reducing costs and the footprint left by fuel consumption.

Dr. Marina Marrari a FECOP marine biologist and satellite data expert, took on the task. Teaming up with web and App developers, Sancochero Labs in Quepos, they developed a tool called PezCA several months in the making. It has near-real-time updates on ocean conditions that, as Mararri explains, “helps anglers fish smarter, not harder.

“It is useful for anyone studying or wanting a better understanding of the ocean,” she added.

PezCA PezCA

PezCA is an almost real-time satellite data distribution platform for Central America that allows monitoring of oceanographic conditions in the region, while promoting sustainable fishing practices. A free download, PezCA allows access to daily information useful for the fishing, government and academic sectors, as well as NGOs and the general population.

Using PezCA, fishermen can view maps of sea temperature distribution, chlorophyll concentration, direction and intensity of currents, thermocline depth, altimetry, and depth of bottom — in addition to tidal forecasts and moon phases.

PezCA also allows the online purchase of your sport fishing license in Costa Rica, and provides information on geographical boundaries, fishing areas, current regulations, and biological and fisheries information on the most important species in the region.

Download PezCA to stay informed about the most important events in your community through real-time notifications. It can be downloaded free on the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

For more information, visit www.PezCa.org or www.fecop.org.

Todd Staley has run sport fishing operations in Costa Rica for nearly 30 years and works in marine conservation. He currently is Communications Director at FECOP, the Costa Rican Fishing Federation (www.fecop.org), serves on the International Game Fish Association’s Central America Council, and oversees the fishing operation at Crocodile Bay Resort. Contact him at wetline@hotmail.com

Categories: Nacionales

Authorities begin investigation into Costa Rica data analysis unit for fear of privacy breach

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 13:38

The Ombudsman’s Office of Costa Rica on Monday began an investigation into a government unit for data collection and analysis, and requested support from the Prosecutor’s Office, fearing that the body had violated people’s privacy.

As ombudswoman Catalina Crespo explained to journalists, the institution intends to determine what type of information was collected and for what purpose.

“There is an issue of great national importance, which is the protection of personal data,” Crespo said after meeting with President Carlos Alvarado for two hours to discuss the Presidential Data Analysis Unit (UPAD).

The existence of that unit, heavily publicized last week along the decree that had created it, aroused strong criticism for the possibility of allowing the government access to information considered confidential.

President Alvarado last Friday repealed the decree that had created UPAD and on Sunday ordered the suspension of its work to facilitate the investigation of the Defensoría.

The Minister of Communication, Nancy Marín, explained that the creation of the unit was meant for the government to have “accurate and timely information to guide public policy.”

Crespo said that a technical and legal team from her agency will work during this week with the Presidency to determine if the work of UPAD violated the privacy of citizens.

In that regard, she indicated that she asked the Prosecutor’s Office to carry out a technical report on the work of the unit.

The Minister of the Presidency, Víctor Morales, said that the government has “open doors” for the Defensoría, the Prosecutor’s Office or another public entity to investigate the actions of UPAD.

Morales said that the work done by UPAD was attached to the principle of legality, with full respect for the protection of people’s information, and the public interest.

Categories: Nacionales

Costa Rica to take decarbonization steps this week

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 09:35

Under the direction of the Environment and Energy Ministry (MINAE), Costa Rica this week will take steps toward achieving its goal of decarbonizing its economy by 2050.

A week-long event in San José will feature forums on the process made on the National Decarbonization Plan, which was formally launched a year ago.

According to Casa Presidencial, this week’s forums will include:

  • A presentation of an Inter-American Development Bank economic analysis measuring the profitability of reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
  • A presentation on “advances in the mobility sector” by First Lady Claudia Dobles and representatives of the National Railways Institute (INCOFER). This will include discussions of electric railroads and the announcement of an electric bus plan.
  • The inauguration of an “Integrated Waste Management Action Plan.”
  • A presentation of the “Ríos Limpios” (Clean Rivers) initiative.

“We cannot stop working for decarbonization of the economy so that it’s the milestone of our generation,” said President Carlos Alvarado. “It will go down in history as the opportunity we had and we took to grow and be extraordinary.” 

Among the short-term goals presented last year by Alvarado’s administration are the building of an electric cargo train in Limón (TELCA), the installation of dozens of fast-charge stations for cars, and the launching a fleet of electric busses on public routes.

Longer-term goals of the decarbonization plan include a modern transportation strategy for the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), including a focus on walking, biking, and electric trains.

While President Alvarado has long argued that decarbonization can be an economic boon, Costa Rica is facing its largest fiscal deficit in decades, and Moody’s Investor Services says the country has “no room for error” in 2020 and beyond.

Categories: Nacionales

Pic of the Day: The yellow-tailed oropendola

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 08:41

Start your week as we did: By listening to the unique call of the Montezuma oropendola, a bird endemic to southern Mexico and parts of Central America.

You’ll likely hear the oropendola before you see it. The bird’s bubbling and gurgling mating song is unmistakable. Listen for yourself:

The common name “oropendola” comes from the bird’s bright-yellow tail, which swings like a golden pendulum during the mating call.

A Montezuma oropendola bowing during a mating display. Alejandro Zúñiga / The Tico Times

 

Categories: Nacionales

Slothy Sunday: Onward and upward

Sun, 02/23/2020 - 16:17

January 26, 11:20 a.m. was the last time I saw Pebbles.

Pebbles, the tamandua anteater I had been observing and preparing for release at Toucan Rescue Ranch’s (TRR) Release Site since September, vanished the next day. It was not until three stressful, nerve-wracking weeks later that I would learn the truth of what had happened to her.

January 26. It was a clear, sun-saturated morning in the neighbor’s cattle pasture – the area where Pebbles had chosen to live since New Year’s Day. Little had changed in the last month; she stayed in the same two burrows and didn’t travel more than two or three hundred meters in search of ants and termites. Like any other day, I located Pebbles using an antenna, which picked up radio signals produced every second by an emitter device attached to an adjustable leather harness she wore. The radio waves were converted into a heartbeat-like sound by the receiver box connected to the antenna. Pebbles’ constant 60 beats per minute (bpm) “heartbeat” grew louder when I pointed the antenna in her direction and the closer I approached her.

When I found Pebbles that day, she was eating ants as usual. I remember our last moment together like it was yesterday: Her claws were digging into a fallen tree and her powerful forearms were ripping off the hard skin of the bark to expose the juicy veins of bustling ant highways within. Her long, sticky tongue was like a machine gun raining bullets on the now scrambling army of ants, rapidly firing in and out up to 160 times a minute with deadly precision. A few courageous ants swarmed onto Pebbles’s body to bite and sting her, but she swatted them off with her claws without missing a beat as if they were nothing but a mild annoyance. She was a force of nature, a walking disaster, a god. And the ants were helpless before her power. This dramatic scene was not unique; it would replay with minor variations hundreds of times every day. However, as Pebbles’s devoted observer and caretaker, I never grew bored watching her. Like a powerful queen, she demanded my full attention, loyalty, admiration and awe. Every little moment felt historic and worthy of being recorded in the minutest detail. I just wish that we could have shared more moments together.

Pebbles eating termites. Photo via Toucan Rescue Ranch.

I left early that fateful day to meet with staff from Tirimbina, a nearby biological preserve, to make final preparations for Pebbles’s arrival. My plan was to move Pebbles from the TRR release site in Nazareth to Tirimbina and continue to monitor her behavior for at least six weeks, then take the radio harness off for good. Like TRR, they would pay for my housing and food. In addition, I could use their weather station, GIS maps and laboratory to aid in my research. We decided we would release her on Valentine’s Day – it was a dream come true.

But it was not to be. When I returned from Tirimbina, the evening of January 27, Pebbles’s “heart” stopped. The antenna received 0 bpm, which meant she was out of range and I needed to travel further to find her. That or the radio emitter was damaged somehow. The next day, I walked all around our neighbor’s cattle pasture property with the tracker. Still no signal! This had never happened before, and if the harness were not adjusted, she could outgrow it and die of asphyxiation. I started to panic. I told my supervisors that I had lost Pebbles. I expanded my search area over the next few days, traveling to all the adjacent properties. Still 0 bpm.

We tried everything we could think of. Me, two TRR staff, two cattle ranchers, their five-year-old kid, and three dogs searched the property. No signal, but the dogs smelled something which could or could not have been an anteater. My faculty advisor for this research recommended I try holding the antenna close to a body of water to get a stronger signal. Still nothing. We drove by car on all the surrounding roads. We asked everyone in Nazareth if they had seen an anteater with a leather harness. No signs. No signal at all. My ears hurt from all the static noise from the tracker. Since there was no signal from the tracker even after traveling on the roads, the most likely scenario was that something must have happened to the radio emitter – it could have run out of battery early or something. I started looking for Pebbles without the antenna after that, using only my eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell. I also put out camera traps in areas she used to visit. Still no luck.

I was grasping at straws at this point. A man named Manuel working at Tirimbina said he had caught four tamanduas over four years using bananas as bait. I tried that. Still no results. I put out the food she ate when she was in captivity – a mixture of cat food, sweet potato, avocado, egg, goat yogurt, and insectivore chow – in a bowl to attract her. Nothing came. I read in a research paper that conservationists in Argentina used a bait of liquid cat food smoothie to attract giant anteaters. They put the smoothie in a plastic bottle and built a small cylindrical wire cage around the bottle to ensure it stayed in place and only a tamandua would be able to eat from it. They had camera traps set up to observe which anteater ate from it. I built two of the same devices using the materials we had at the Release Site and deployed them in areas Pebbles used to forage in. We saw a few armadillos, a couple of cows, and even a juvenile ocelot, but no tamandua. I tried my best, but nothing seemed to work. There were too many unknowns, too many variables to consider.

Then, when all hope seemed lost, on the morning of February 18 I found an important unread email. It was sent two weeks ago, but I hadn’t checked my email since Pebbles left. It was from Telonics, the tracking company that made the radio harness for Pebbles. Telonics said they received an email from SINAC about a recovered harness found on a tamandua with a serial number connected to me. I read the email again. Then again. My first thought was – “They have Pebbles! She’s alive! She’s safe! She’s nearby! We can go to Tirimbina together!” I screamed in happiness and relief. We called SINAC immediately. As fate would have it, they didn’t have Pebbles, only the harness. We drove to SINAC’s regional office in Sarapiqui to find out what had happened. We discovered the harness was cut off by a farmworker and damaged irreparably on January 31, only a few days after I lost sight of her. The property where she was found was located about 1.5 km to the southwest of us near Highway 4.

Duncan and MINAE

My heart sank after hearing this. I thought to myself, “She could easily get run over, like the adult tamandua we saw on the highway just a week ago.” I should have been relieved to finally know what had happened to Pebbles and that she was no longer wearing a harness that could have killed her. But, all I could think about was the highway and the lifeless eyes of the dead tamandua I saw. All I could feel was worry and dread. I put on a fake smile and took a picture with a man from SINAC with the recovered harness. Everyone was overjoyed about the good news. “Did you hear the good news?!” they announced proudly to the group chat, “We finally found Pebbles! She’s free now without the harness!” Many sent me messages of congratulations. “Good job Duncan, you did great! We’re so proud of you!” I felt I didn’t deserve to celebrate or receive any praise. Pebbles was still out there facing a whole host of dangers in a human-dominated landscape, instead of a protected natural reserve. It was not a victory for me.

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, though. Trying new things comes with many unknowns and risks. This was the first reintroduction study of a captive-raised tamandua using a radio harness. I didn’t even know if the harness would stay on or not when I started. I’m glad I made it as far as I did. In addition, I was trying to release Pebbles at a place TRR had never released animals before. That being said, I’m immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Pebbles at Toucan Rescue Ranch’s Release Site. I collected some great data on her space use and activity patterns and I trained her well. She has just as much a chance of survival in Nazareth, Sarapiqui as any other wild tamandua living here.

I have now accepted the reality that I will never see Pebbles again and I have tried to move on as best I can. I made plans to volunteer at another rescue center to work with other orphaned tamanduas. I may not have gotten the fairy tale happy ending I wanted for Pebbles, but I tried my best and I learned a ton about how to improve the process of tamandua reintroduction.

Next time, I’ll do even better! It’s only onward and upward from here on out!

— Duncan is from Wimberley, Texas and a student from Stanford University, where he is in his senior year of undergrad majoring in Earth Systems. He has worked as an independent researcher at the Toucan Rescue Ranch Release Site, where he is gathering data to implement a training, release, and tracking protocol for tamanduas.

This article was produced by The Toucan Rescue Ranch. The Toucan Rescue Ranch specializes in helping wild animals recover so that they can be reintroduced into the wild. For more information or to donate, visit the Toucan Rescue Ranch website.

Categories: Nacionales

Pic of the Day: Hot chocolate with a garden view

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 11:11

Minutes outside of San José toward Cerro Zurquí, Sibú Chocolate serves some of the finest Costa Rican delicacies around.

Their San Isidro cottage makes fresh, locally-sourced chocolate to complement a rotating lunch menu that includes a fantastic grilled-cheese sandwich. All of that comes in a quiet rural setting surrounded by a beautiful garden view.

Read our 2015 feature on Sibú Chocolate here. 

It’s one of our favorite restaurants in Costa Rica. What are yours? Let us know on Facebook.

 

Categories: Nacionales

After public criticism, Costa Rican gov. repeals decree that created department with access to ‘confidential’ information

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 16:26

The Costa Rican government repealed a decree that had created a Data Analysis Unit, after public criticism questioned its purpose and scope.

Casa Presidencial announced Friday afternoon that it had repealed Decree No. 41996-MP-MIDEPLAN “as a result of doubts expressed by various sectors.”

The criticism stemmed from a CRHoy.com story detailing the contents of the text, signed by President Carlos Alvarado in October 2019. As published in official government newspaper La Gaceta, the decree gave a government-run Data Analysis Unit “access to confidential information available to public institutions when so required.”

The Data Analysis Unit director responded only to the President, and the decree did not specify what information — confidential or otherwise — the department could collect.

According to Casa Presidencial, the intention was for Costa Rica “to have a permanent department of data analysis, which allows the execution of public policies based on statistics and data science.”

“In the 21st century, governments must work with accurate and timely information that will guide public policy for the benefit of people,” said the Minister of Communication, Nancy Marín, in a statement from Casa Presidencial. 

 

Categories: Nacionales

Bathing with vegetables: The Luffa gourd

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 12:17

I was introduced to the Luffa gourd while living in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, where it grows on every telephone pole in the province.

Guanacaste has a dry tropical forest ecosystem with at least six months of hot, dry weather (November – May) followed by a wet season (June – November) which provides the ideal climate for Luffa gourds.

They aren’t consumed as a vegetable in Guanacaste; rather, they are used as a scrubbing sponge in the shower, hence the common English names of “Dishrag gourd.”

The fruit has a thin skin and pericarp and will dry out quickly in the hot tropical sun, exposing the fibrous network of xylem vessels. The dried skin can be easily removed and the seeds shaken out, and with a few deft carvings with a knife, you can have an incredibly satisfying and exfoliating sponge for your shower.

A cottage industry in the dry tropical regions of Central America is to cut out the matrix of xylem vessels and sew them into a cloth backing for a value-added sponge. I buy these by the dozens, especially those cut out to look like a rubber ducky.

The luffa (often written as “Loofah”) is native to Asia, but was extensively grown in Egypt. The name name luffa was taken by European botanists in the 17th century from the Egyptian Arabic name لوف lūf.

In 1706, the botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort introduced the formal genus name “Luffa,” in the cucumber family.

How the plant was introduced into Guanacaste from Egypt or Southeast Asia is unknown, but was likely due to human intervention. The dried fruit will float, but it seems unlikely they floated across the oceans to the dry tropical forest.

In Southeast Asia, Nepal and India, the immature fruit of L. acutangula (< 5 cm) are eaten as a vegetable, either steamed or stir-fried. I have personally never eaten — or for that matter even thought of eating — the immature fruit, as in Guanacaste it has almost toxic levels of Cucurbitacin.

Cucurbitacin is an exceedingly bitter triterpenoid compound which is a deterrent to herbivory and is common among members of the Cucurbitaceae family, including squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers. It must be effective, as I have never seen any critter with either fur, wings or bug eyes that ever damaged a Luffa gourd! The Luffa seeds are also exceedingly bitter.

The immature fruit eaten in Southeast Asia are likely cultivars or landraces selected with low levels of Cucurbitacin. In contrast, the wild types used as a sponge in Costa Rica have high levels of Cucurbitacin, but when dried, the xylem matrix has no bitterness or smell.

In regions of the dry tropical forest in Central America, Luffa grows wild, and when you want a sponge, you simply yank a dried fruit off a telephone pole.

There is interest in commercialization of this plant, and Professor Todd Wehner at North Carolina State University has initiated a Loofa breeding program. His laboratory is evaluating germplasm for desirable characteristics including fruit length and fiber color.

Jim Nienhuis is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Horticulture. 

Categories: Nacionales

Drug and alcohol detox programs in Costa Rica

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 10:25

When it comes to drug and alcohol rehab, every individual is different.

That’s why the Costa Rica Treatment Center, located in the upscale San José neighborhood of Rohrmoser, tailors its detox protocol to account for everyone’s unique withdrawal symptoms and needs.

For many people, detox is the first step toward recovery, and that’s also true at the Costa Rica Treatment Center. Upon arrival, clients undergo a full examination with qualified medical professionals. If necessary, the Costa Rica Treatment Center’s three psychiatrists and two general doctors will collaborate with a nursing staff to tailor a detox process specific to the client.

Depending on the situation, clients can receive a variety of medications and treatments to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms and, most importantly, ensure their safety. While withdrawal symptoms can vary greatly, patients at Costa Rica Treatment Center can be assured they are receiving the necessary support from medical professionals who are committed to their health and sobriety.

The Costa Rica Treatment Center and its medical professionals are experienced in alcohol detox, opiate detox, heroin detox, meth detox and more. They can provide treatment with methadone, suboxone, Subutex and Buprenorphine to help manage a detox.

Regardless of the substance, Costa Rica Treatment Center ensures all patients receiving addiction treatment immediately have withdrawal symptoms addressed by the right medical professionals to preserve patient comfort and health.

They understand detox can be emotionally and psychologically exhausting, so the community of Costa Rica Treatment Center staff offers the necessary support to protect patient health.

The individualized treatment doesn’t stop at detox. After all, Costa Rica Treatment Center’s philosophy ensures each client develops the necessary internal resources parallel to their detox as a vital component to ensuring successful reintegration into a post-treatment life.

After addressing the physical toxicity of drugs and alcohol through detox, clients meet with their assigned treatment team and create a personalized plan for recovery from substance use disorder.

The treatment plans include individual and group therapies, addiction counseling, physical activity and spiritual development.

Costa Rica Treatment Center is also connected with the English-speaking 12-step communities in Costa Rica, and clients regularly attend off-site meetings and are encouraged to engage in sponsor/sponsee relationships with members of the program. Other activities at the Center include yoga taught by a certified instructor, art therapy led by a certified art therapist and psychologist, and forest therapy led by a certified nature therapist.

Through their personalized detox and treatment plan, the Costa Rica Treatment Center helps promote recovery and long-term sobriety.

Costa Rica Treatment Center is located in Rohrmoser, San José, Costa Rica. It offers 30, 60, 90 and 120-day intensive treatment programs. To learn more about Costa Rica Treatment Center, visit their website at https://costaricatreatmentcenter.com/ or for Spanish at https://costaricatreatmentcenter.com/es/.

This story was sponsored by Costa Rica Treatment Center.

Categories: Nacionales

Migration from Central America to the US drops by 75%

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 17:42

Migration from the countries of northern Central America to the United States has been reduced by more than 75% since last May, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said Thursday in Honduras.

Since May 2019, “the US Customs and Border Protection office has seen a reduction of more than 75% in irregular migration flows on the southwest border” with Mexico, the official said in a speech in Honduras.

Wolf participated Thursday with the Ministers of Security of the countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras), plus those of Costa Rica and Panama, in the Regional Conference of Security.

The official added that the efforts between the United States and the countries of Central America to improve security and economic prosperity are positive.

According to Wolf, in 2018 activists persuaded Salvadorans, Hondurans and Guatemalans to travel in dangerous caravans to the United States, and criminal organizations cheated people by taking away their savings to take them on a deadly journey.

The Homeland Security Secretary said that the Honduran government established checkpoints to search for children not accompanied by adults traveling in caravans, while Guatemalan authorities repatriated more than 700 people.

Wolf believed that joint efforts have resulted in a reduction in homicide rates in Central American countries and said that the International Development Finance Corporation, an institution belonging to the World Bank, is committed to supporting economic growth in the region.

Migrants who left in caravans from Honduras at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 and 2020 argued that they were fleeing insecurity and lack of opportunities in the countries of northern Central America.

Categories: Nacionales

With Ukraine’s support, Costa Rica evacuates citizens from Wuhan, China

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 14:33

The Foreign Ministry of Costa Rica on Wednesday initiated the evacuation of two Ticos who were residing in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 coronavirus that has been labeled as a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

The pair of Costa Ricans were transported from China to Ukraine, where they will complete a mandatory quarantine. If they remain symptom-free, they will then be repatriated to Costa Rica.

“It has been a complex and challenging process in which we have put our greatest efforts to have a quick return of the two people to national territory and to give their families peace of mind,” said Rodolfo Solano Quirós, Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister.

The two individuals, whose identities was not revealed, flew to Ukraine on Wednesday.

A Foreign Ministry photo shows they were transported on a Boeing 737-700 aircraft owned by Ukrainian low-cost airline SkyUp. The flight departed Wuhan and refueled in Kazakhstan before arriving in the Eastern European country.

“The Government of Costa Rica thanks the Government of Ukraine for the solidarity expressed to the Costa Rican people through the evacuation and humanitarian assistance required for these two Costa Rican people,” a Foreign Ministry statement reads.

No Costa Rican citizens — in China or elsewhere — have contracted COVID-19, authorities say. Nearly 400 Ticos reside in China.

Since December, the novel coronavirus has killed 2,118 people in China — the epicenter of the epidemic — excluding Hong Kong and Macau.

Elsewhere in the world, the virus has killed 11 people and spread across some 25 countries.

Information from AFP was used in this report. 

Categories: Nacionales

Panama seizes five tons of drugs from a submersible

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 09:02

Panamanian authorities seized five tons of drugs aboard a “semi-submersible home-made device,” in an operation in which four Colombians were arrested, the country’s National Aeronaval Service (SENAN) reported Wednesday.

The seizure of the drug, the first in the country from these types of vehicles, occurred north of the Caribbean province of Bocas del Toro, more than 300 kilometers northwest of Panama City and approaching the border with Costa Rica, according to Panamanian authorities.

SENAN posted several videos about the operation. One shows a semi-submerged device in motion at sea. In another, the boat is shown, of grayish color, docked at a jetty.

“This is the first finding in Panama of a vessel of this capacity for drug transfer,” said the Panamanian Prosecutor.

Panama broke its drug seizure record in 2019, with almost 91 tons, mostly cocaine. That figure exceeds the previous 85-ton mark in 2017.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, most of the seizures in 2019 corresponded to cocaine (77.9 tons) and marijuana (12.9 tons).

Panama is a bridge of drug passage that drug traffickers try to transport from South America, mainly Colombia, to the United States, the world’s largest consumer.

Last Saturday Costa Rica also announced the largest drug seizure in its history after discovering more than five tons of cocaine concealed in a container that was to be shipped on a ship.

Categories: Nacionales

Tournament in Costa Rica to celebrate women in fishing

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 13:21

Samantha Mumford caught her first catfish in the pond at her godmother’s house when she was just 5 years old.

That was the beginning of a chain of events that had her working at a fly-fishing shop while in college, and then becoming the first woman fly-fishing guide in the Vail, Colorado area. She later moved to Florida, and the draw of big saltwater fish caught her.

Mumford began fishing in tournaments and met her husband, Capt. John Mumford, because of fishing. Nine years ago, they ended up in Costa Rica when John was sent down to run a sport fishing boat, and Mumford partnered with her brother Cody to open Premium Marine in Quepos, Puntarenas.

A conversation some time back with Don Dingman, TV host and founder of Hook the Future, a foundation that introduces young people to fishing, struck a chord with Mumford. Dingman explained he was fishing with a 13-year-old girl who said she really loved fishing but couldn’t become a recognized angler because her father wouldn’t let her fish in a two-piece bathing suit.

The girl gotten the impression from social media that wearing a bikini was a requirement for women. That story lit a fire under Mumford.

“I’ve got a seven-year-old daughter, and I certainly don’t want her growing up thinking that,” Mumford said. “There is nothing wrong with fishing in a bikini, but fishing half naked is certainly not a requirement to be a good angler.”

Mumford rattled off some statistics detailing how women represent the largest emerging market within the fishing industry:

  • 38% of all anglers in the United States are women.
  • 47% of first-time fishing participants are female.
  • 50% of all kids that go fishing … go with their moms.
  • If sportfishing were a “corporation” it would rank 51st on the Fortune 500 list of the United States’ largest businesses in terms of revenue.

With that ammo in hand, the Pescadora all-women’s tournament was born last year.

This February 20-22, the second of what will certainly become an annual event will be held at Marina Pez Vela in Quepos.

“I started the Pescadora in hopes that companies would start making products that are functional for women, such as gloves, fighting belts, sun protection etc. and because there was a need for a classy competitive event where these adventurous women could come and hone their skills,” Mumford said.

Last year’s event was a success. Eighty-one anglers from seven countries released 512 billfish in two days, an average of 23 fish per boat.

More than 180 fish were tagged for research, the most ever tagged in a two-day period. Eleven women caught their very first billfish.

The tournament is built around including women with little blue-water fishing experience, so it is fun and fair for everyone. The turnout is expected to be even larger with this year’s event.

Continuing to celebrate women, the new marine and fishing application PezCA — developed by Dr. Marina Marrari — will be available as a free download for the competitors at the tournament and for the general public. Marrari, a satellite data expert, developed the app for those interested in the ocean conditions in Central America and for fishermen to use as a tool to find the most productive conditions to look for fish.

One can use PezCA to access high-resolution maps of sea surface temperature, chlorophyll concentrations, speed and direction of surface currents, depth of the thermocline, altimetry, and bathymetry, as well as forecasts for tides and moon phases.

Brujas del Mar, a group of women who were put out of work in Puntarenas as shrimp peelers when bottom trawling for shrimp was banned in Costa Rica, are debuting their products at the tournament. They learned how to make fishing lures for the sport fishing industry, and their hand-made artisanal lures are of high quality. They will be highlighting popping lures for inshore fishing or tuna offshore.

The all woman co-op they have created is comprised of determined women feeling the social cost of conservation that many don’t consider.

More information about the fishing tournament is available at www.ThePescadora.com or on Facebook

Categories: Nacionales

Pic of the Day: Swimming under a turquoise waterfall

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 08:45

You’re never far from a waterfall when you’re in Costa Rica.

And while this one — located near Bajos del Toro, Alajuela — doesn’t have the grandeur of the 90-meter tall Rio Celeste Waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park, it does share some of its iconic turquoise hue.

Even better: If you can bear the cold water, you can go swimming in the pond under this small waterfall. Now that’s Pura Vida.

 

Categories: Nacionales

OIJ CR Safe app provides safety advice for tourists

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 00:30

Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) have released a mobile phone application that helps tourists stay safe when visiting the Central American country.

The app, called “OIJ CR Safe” has resources in English and in Spanish for nationals and visitors to access while they travel through Costa Rica. Large sections of the application work offline, meaning an internet connection is not required for much of the functionality.

Upon first launching the application, users can choose their preferred language (Spanish or English) and their nationality (Resident or Tourist).

The “Tourist” menu includes shortcuts to emergency and non-emergency phone numbers, a phone book for OIJ locales, basic safety tips, and links to OIJ’s official social media channels.

Options for Costa Rican nationals include a write-in service to help debunk hoaxes, a more comprehensive set of safety tips, a link to OIJ’s most-wanted suspects, and an OIJ recruitment handbook.

For all users, the OIJ CR App also includes a tip line to report crimes and a map of Judicial Investigation Police offices across the country.

The application is available for free on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Categories: Nacionales

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