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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 3       E-mail us
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There still are reasons to continue celebrating
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you thought that Christmas was long past, you are selling short the Catholic culture of Costa Rica. Today is a special day, el Día de los Reyes Magos.

And then there is still a series of rezos al niño as families retire the figure of the Christ Child and the obligatory household nativity scenes.

Los Reyes Magos are better known as the Three Wise Men in English. Christian tradition holds that three great kings or wise men or astronomers, attracted by the nativity star, traveled from somewhere east of Bethlehem to the manger holding the newborn Jesús. The Bible only mentions the visitors to the Christ child briefly in the Gospel of Matthew.

Of more practical use for expats is the knowledge that Latin children expect little gifts on this day. This day is celebrated with varying degrees of emphasis all over the Latin world.

Some families hold dinners laced with prayers to commemorate the visit by the three kings who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. Many homes have a tradition of adding the figures of the wise men to the nativity scene the previous evening.

Rezo al niño is a religious event with a lot of social interaction and even music thrown in. The evening prayer session is not held on a special day but on a convenient day throughout the month.

Many foreigners are surprised that such activities take place all through January. One year the Museo Nacional had a public rezo al niño that took place as late as Jan. 25 just before the nativity scene was dismantled for the year.

A typical rezo al niño is an hours long production with live music, much prayer, food and sometimes even fireworks. The prayer is centered around the rosary, the assembly of 54 beads Catholics use for prayer and meditation.

A musician frequently is part of a team that makes the neighborhood rounds. Also present could be a mistress of ceremonies who leads the prayers and perhaps other assistants. The family and invited guests gather around the nativity scene, sing hymns and recite the rosary. Although the event is called rezo al niño or prayers to the child, Catholics wisely
nativity scene
A typical nativity scene

suspect that the easiest way to the son is through the mother. So the dominant prayer is the "Hail, Mary."

One round of the rosary is 59 separate prayers. The mistress of ceremonies provides half a prayer and the assembled faithful respond with the remainder. In the Catholic faith, a full recitation of the rosary is four rounds or 20 decades, but with food waiting and restless children, a single round is the norm in all but the most religious households.

Sweet cakes and even a punch with alcohol for the adults round out the evening, and within a day the nativity scene is packed away for the coming year.

In Costa Rica there is no separation of church and state, so nativity scenes are found at many public facilities. And a few offices will even have truncated rezos al niño during the last half hour of a workday.

The rezo tradition is not universal, but national level politicians and other luminaries frequently can be seen in a family crowd reciting the rosary. Some prestigious clubs and organizations hold sessions for members. For example, the Costa Rica Tennis Club holds its rezo Friday evening.



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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 3

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clothing for identification
Judicial Investigating Organization photos 
Clothes agents hope will identify individual

Agents seeking some help

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators are trying to identify the skeletal remains found Saturday in a corral in Playa El Rey, Quepos. They are seeking the help of the public and have provided photos of the dead individual's clothes. The person is presumed to be a man. The individual was dressed in beach sandals, wore a modestly priced watch and had on short pants, agents said. They said information could be telephoned to  2777-1511 or 2777-0511.

Tax seminars designed
to aid expat community


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A law firm here has joined forces with a tax expert to provide a series of three seminars on U.S. taxation and expats. One seminar is in Panamá Jan. 19. One is in San José Jan. 21, and the final seminar is in the Marriott Los Sueños near Jacó Jan. 23.

The presenter is Florida lawyer Paul Kennedy, who specializes in tax matters in Palm Beach.

Arcelio Hernández Mussio said his law firm was motivated to provide a service to the expat community in Costa Rica, and he and his associates thought that the information Kennedy can provide to the expat community is very important and can be very helpful, especially in these difficult financial times.

"Expats need to attend because they need to be properly informed about their tax obligations and rights under U.S. tax laws," said Hernández.  There have been several cases here where people get into trouble with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service because of poor or inadequate advice regarding those rights and obligations, he added.  He is the founder of Bufete Hernández Mussio & Asociados in San José and Jacó.

"Also, keeping up with the latest changes in IRS policy is difficult, which is why people need to seek professional guidance, as this entity is as complex as it gets," he said.
 
The staff at the U.S. Embassy here has not publicized even the most basic tax information for expats, and an Internal Revenue Service agent visits only briefly. In some cases expats have been reduced to trading information lifted from U.S. government Web pages and other sources via online discussion lists.

The Panamá seminar is in the Hotel Plaza Paitilla Inn in Panamá City. The San José session is at the Best Western Irazú. All seminars require prior registration that is available at the law firm's Web page.

Costa Rica states position
on invasion of Gaza Strip


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is calling for an immediate halt to hostilities in the Gaza Strip. A statement released by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto stressed the grave humanitarian impact on the civilian population there. Israel has invaded the strip to reduce the number of rockets that Hamas fighters shot into Israel.

The foreign ministry said that as a country of peace and defender of human rights, Costa Rica insists on respect for the Geneva conventions and the reestablishment of aid to the civilian population. The statement urged the parties to return to dialog.

Two river pollution cases
addressed by high court


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered a stop to the pollution of two rivers but in a limited way.

The court has ordered a stop to the operations of Servicios Mecánicos de Miramar S.A., a gravel extraction firm, to stop pollution of the  Río Lagartos.

The court also took action on a case filed over pollution of the Río Virilla against the Municipalidad de Tibás, specifically at a point in Calle El Martillo. The appeal said that individuals have stacked trash and garbage on the banks of this river. Tibás has perpetual garbage pickup problems, and the Virilla is heavily polluted.

Three held in Guanacaste
after messenger is robbed


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers captured three suspects in Filadelfia, Guanacaste. Monday shortly after robbers took some 5 million colons (about $9,140) from a company messenger.

The messenger was taking the money to a bank from a service station in Belén de Carrillo when he was confronted by the three robbers, who carried firearms, police said.

Police were able to follow the suspects even though they changed cars, police said. The suspects were identified by the last names of Torres Romero, Sánchez Rojas and Jiménez Meza.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 3


Another festival becomes center of attention in just 8 days
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If the 10 days of Fiestas de San José in Zapote fed an addiction, there is another festival that starts in just eight days. It's the Fiestas de Palmares, put on by the Asociación Cívica Palmareña.

The Palmares event has always been well attended by residents of the metro area, and it earned the reputation as a drunken bash.

This year the association has been meeting with the beer company Cervecería Costa Rica to find ways to reduce alcohol abuse and undesirable conduct.

Tránsito officers always make a large haul of drunk drivers on the roads leading away from the festival. This year a
draconian drunk driving law provides another reason to cut down on the intoxicated drivers.

Festival organizers also are trying to maintain the family nature of the event with the goal of attracting more visitors. The Municipalidad de Palmares also has a stake in reducing alcohol consumption, too. For those who cannot avoid excessive alcohol use, there is plenty of public transportation.

The association is expected to announce restrictions on beer and other measures this week.

The festival starts at 6 p.m. Jan. 14. The popular tope or horse parade starts at noon Jan. 15. That same evening the bullfights begin. The festival runs until Jan. 26. A full outline of events is HERE!


U.S. consumer product police opening regional office here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be opening a regional office in Costa Rica, the U.S. Embassy said Monday.

The agency, known by the initials FDA, polices food, medical devices and a host of other products that can harm U.S. consumers.

The agency routinely inspects and sometimes rejects products that are shipped to the United States from Costa Rica.

Such shipments are expected to become more frequent now that the free trade treaty with the United States and Central American countries has gone into effect.

In the last few years, the agency had rejected shipments of coffee from Aserrí, seafood packaged in Heredia, breast implants, chile sauce, medicines and medical devices for suspected incorrect labeling, adulteration or other paperwork flaws, including lack of a label in English.
In one case of a seafood product the agency remarked of a product shipped from Costa Rica: "The article appears to consist in whole or in part of a filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance or be otherwise unfit for food."

The FDA says it is working to establish offices overseas in parts of the world where the agency believes in a much closer working relationship with its counterpart regulators.

In November, Mike Leavitt, secretary of Health and Human Services, and Andrew C. von Eschenbach, the agency's commissioner and a physician, opened FDA's first overseas offices in China, the agency reported on its Web site. That was after some health scares over imported Chinese toothpaste and other products.

In addition to Costa Rica, other planned locations for offices by the end of 2008 are India, Europe and the Middle East, the agency said.

Leavitt is expected to visit Wednesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the embassy and to meet with President Óscar Arias Sanchez.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 3


OAS chief Insulza bows out of presidential race in Chile
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Chilean head of the Organization of American States has withdrawn from his country's presidential race.

Jose Miguel Insulza, the organization's secretary-general, made the announcement Monday during a news conference in the Chilean capital, Santiago. Insulza said he would support former President Eduardo Frei, who held power from 1994 to 2000.

Both Frei and Insulza are members of the ruling center-left coalition.

Insulza's decision comes after a recent poll showed him lagging behind Frei before a presidential primary scheduled
for April. Frei will face José Antonio Gomez, a Social Democrat, in that primary.

Whoever becomes the coalition's candidate will face businessman and conservative opposition candidate Sebastian Pinera in the presidential elections scheduled for December.

Insulza held various positions during the Frei administration, including that of foreign affairs minister. Insulza also served as interior minister during the 2000 to 2006 administration of President Ricardo Lagos.

He has been in his current position since May 2005 when former Costa Rican president Miguel Ángel Rodriguez Echerverría was forced to resign.


Slide in Guatemala kills at least 33 persons who braved dangerous road
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Rescue workers in Guatemala are searching for victims of a massive landslide that covered a road in the northern part of the country Sunday, leaving at least 33 people dead, 15 others injured and dozens missing.

The incident happened when part of a mountain collapsed in the state of Alta Verapaz, some 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) from Guatemala City.  Officials say the landslide brought millions of tons of earth and rock crashing down
onto the road, which was being used by day laborers returning home from work. 

Authorities say the victims apparently ignored warnings not to use the road, which was closed in December after a similar rock fall left two people dead. 

The latest avalanche swept across the mountain road connecting the towns of San Cristobal and Chicaman. 

Guatemala's rugged terrain is vulnerable to floods and landslides.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 3


A.M. Costa Rica
users guide


This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Statistics
A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


Auto sales, a key indictor,
is lowest since the 1950s


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Vehicle sales in the United States were sharply lower for nearly all auto companies, and the two largest U.S. manufacturers reported the lowest number of sales in nearly five decades.

Although sales numbers are not as available in Costa Rica, vehicle sales also are 20 percent fewer than in 2007, according to some dealers.

General Motors reported Monday that its sales dropped 31 percent in December, and fell 23 percent for all of last year.

It sold fewer vehicles in 2008 than any year since 1959.

Ford says its U.S. sales plunged by almost one-third between November and December, and about 20 percent for all of 2008, the lowest number of sales in 47 years.

Chrysler reported a 53 percent plunge in December. For the full year 2008, the company's sales slid 30 percent.

Japan-based Toyota and Honda fared better than their American competitors in 2008, despite suffering greater declines in December.

Toyota reported a 16 percent drop in U.S. sales for 2008, and a 37 percent decline in December.

Honda's U.S. sales dropped 35 percent in December, and 8 percent for the year.

Skyrocketing gasoline prices first slowed vehicle sales in the beginning of 2008, but recent declines in energy prices have done little to help the industry recover.

The U.S. economic crisis has limited access to loans for many potential buyers, and job cuts have discouraged others from buying vehicles.

U.S. automakers are a key part of the American economy, and lawmakers are considering giving the industry more financial aid to survive the economic crisis.

The Bush administration has already given $13 billion in loans to General Motors and Chrysler.

Critics of an even bigger bailout say the companies should not be rewarded for bad business practices, such as pumping out gas-guzzling sports-utility vehicles instead of energy-saving hybrids.

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