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(506) 223-1327              Published Monday, Jan. 9, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 6               E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Will someone please turn up the heat!
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The rain has mostly stopped.  Summer's started, so where's the heat?  That's the question Ticos are asking as a cold front moved through the Central Valley dropping temperatures to 15 Celsius (59 Fahrenheit) Sunday evening. 

Also chilled are the Caribbean coast and the northern zone. Although the temperature may be pleasant for North Americans, many Costa Rican homes are designed for ventilation and not for low temperatures.

And the windy weather brought gusts of around 40 kph (about 25 mph).

The weather as a whole hasn't been cooperating since the beginning of the year.  Landslides brought on by rain constricted traffic on the Braulio Carrillo highway about 12 to 14 kilometers north of the Zurquí tunnel this weekend, and showers dumped rain periodically throughout the Central Valley, the northern zone and the Caribbean.

Even getting a dose of rain was the bullring at
Zapote where another weekend of Costa
Rican-style bullfighting was staged. Saturday night the stands were nearly empty as a steady rain fell.  Bulls are more sure-footed in mud, so several participants slipped and were trampled by bulls, thanks to the condition of the arena.

The low temperature forecast today is only one degree warmer at 16 C and the high in San José is predicted to be only 21 C (70 F), according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.  The institute has also predicted rain throughout the day today in the Central Valley. 

Meanwhile, the Pacific coast resorts are basking in seasonable temperatures. The low temperatures there were expected to be in the low 20s (high 60s F) and reach as high as 29 C (84 F) in Quepos and Golfito during the day.

The five-day forecast shows temperatures in San José becoming higher by Tuesday.  The rest of the country shouldn't fluctuate much, the weather institute said.  By Friday, temperatures will be rising slightly, the institute said. 

Palmares fiesta beginning this Wednesday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For those who still need a good party now that the holiday festivities are over, the 12-day Fiestas Palmares promises to be a good time.

The festivities start at 6 p.m. Wednesday with the Noche de Luces.  Thousands of lights will illuminate a parade, and a half-hour later the first match of Copa Palmarín youth soccer tournament will kick off.  The celebration doesn't conclude until Jan. 23, nearly two weeks later with a fireworks show.  In the middle are concerts, sporting events, dances, more fireworks shows, parades and more.

One of the highlights of the show is the Festival Ranchero which starts at 7 p.m. Saturday.  Mexican mariachi Pablo Montero is scheduled to perform.  Montero has released six albums, one of which landed him a nomination at the 2004 Grammy Latino awards.  The show will be broadcast live on Channel 7.  Tickets range in price from 5,000 colons ($10) to 20,000 colons ($40).  For tickets, call 453-1414.

Another popular festival is the Festival Infantil which is aimed at the younger partygoers.  It starts at 9 a.m. Jan. 17.

Besides the youth soccer tournament, several
sporting events are included in the celebration.  The Clásica Palmarín mountain bike race is Saturday.  The course is 37.5 kilometers long and climbs 480 vertical meters.  It costs 3,500 colons to enter.  There is also a fishing tournament Sunday, a 13.5 kilometer run Jan. 21 and a boxing tournament the same day.

Three bands are also scheduled to perform throughout the festival. Grupo Simba Musical will perform Sunday at noon.  Reik a three-piece band from Mexicali, Baja California will play Jan. 22.  They list Robbie Williams, John Mayer, Incubus and Radiohead among their inspirations.  That same day, Elefante from Mexico City will perform. 

For those looking for a little more hedonism in their partying, the Carnival Apache starts Jan. 20 at 5 p.m.  There will be music, fireworks, masks and a women's motorcycle group called Las Viudas Negras, among others. 

The Palmares festival will also have a tope though it probably won't be as large as the one that wraps through the capital during the holiday season.  However, hundreds of horseback riders are expected to show up for the event Thursday. 

For more information on the festival, go to www.fiestaspalmares.com.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 9, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 6

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Jade museum being moved to the first floor at INS
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo del Jade has closed while workmen move the world-class collection of pre-Hispanic ornaments from the 11th to first floor of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros in north San José.

The museum is one of the most visited in the country, despite constricted hours that only let visitors in during the daytime working hours of the insurance institute.

Two years ago, officials at the institute proposed an exterior elevator to carry visitors to the 11th floor. The suggestion then was that the museum could be open longer hours to accommodate tourists. But President Abel Pacheco stepped in an rejected the idea because of its costs.
Some 30,000 persons visit the museum in a year, the insurance institute said.

The jade pieces are in context in the museum with statues and other displays showing how they were worn by the Indians who lived in Costa Rica before the Spanish conquest. In addition, the museum contains a collection relating to 20th century and contemporary Indian peoples.

The collections contain ceramic, stone and other types of material elaborated by the Indians.  In all, the museum has more than 7,000 jade pieces, but only about 2,500 have been on display.

Officials gave no idea when the museum might open.  The 11th floor facilities was closed for one year for remodeling just five years ago.

Tourist luggage thefts
blamed on gang of four

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested four Peruvians suspected of winning tourists' confidence through conversation and then taking their baggage.

The four suspects, identified by the last names Arango León, Fernández Vilchez, Angulo Polonio and Angulo Brenes, are accused of stopping tourists at bus stops throughout San José, officers said.  The four were always unarmed, officers said.  Two of the group would talk with the victim and when the opportunity arose, the other two would relieve the traveler of his or her luggage, police said. 

“These are people of great power of conviction and ease with words.  That was their principal weapon since they never used weapons,” said Edwardo Guzmán López, head of the unit. 

The arrest of the four happened immediately after a Canadian tourist, identified by the last name Baulinger, became a victim at a bus stop, officers said Saturday.  Officers said they followed a Hyundai Accent matching the description of the one used by the thieves and arrested the four suspects inside, officers said.  Police also found Baulinger's luggage, they said. 

Officials credited the tourist with making a quick report of the theft which resulted in the arrests.

Firemen getting job
of handling animals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Faced with an ornery dog? Call the same people who fight the fires.

Perhaps encouraged by the efforts of firefighters when a burglar was caught in the clutches of a rottweiler, the role of the Cuerpo de Bomberos is being expanded.

With the support and money from the World Society for the Protection of Animals, certain members of the fire-fighting units will get training on how to handle animals.

Héctor Chaves León, director de bomberos, said the idea is to set up a team for the control of animals. He said the idea was to expand the role of firemen to include handling other kinds of diverse risks citizens may face. Some 12 firefighters will be picked for the first animal training session.

Firemen were able to drive away a guard dog Nov. 10 when police could not. The firemen had to use a high-pressure hose on the rottweiler guard dog to get him to surrender his hold on the burglar he caught and to whom he delivered fatal wounds.

The dog would not let go of his prey even though his owner arrived at the scene and tried every way to drive the dog away including firing shots into the air.

The incident took place in Lima de Cartago when two men tried to burglarize a mechanics shop. The 25-year-old illegal Nicaraguan immigrant suffered multiple bites from the dog. The animal maintained the burglary suspect in his jaws for more than an hour and a half until firemen arrived. Death later at a nearby hospital was attributed to excessive loss of blood.

The operator of the shop declined to shoot the dog during the lengthy attack and police did little. The lack of action for some 90 minutes became the subject of an international incident. The government of Nicaragua took strong exception to the lack of aid afforded one of its citizens, even though he was here illegally.

Indiana profs to help
free plants of disease

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of professors from Purdue University in Indiana is scheduled to visit a farming cooperative in Palmares Wednesday to help with a development project in the town, said the U.S. Embassy. 

The visit is the first stages of a plan called the “Programa de Material Propagativo Limpio,” which should help free Costa Rican crops from some of the illnesses that infect them, the embassy said.  This trip is only a fact-finding mission.  When they leave, the professors hope to have a development and implementation plan for the project, the embassy said.

Costa Rica was chosen for the project because almost 90 percent of the ornamental plants in the United States come from here and Guatemala, the embassy said.  If this project achieves the desired result, it would be applied to all the countries that export ornamental plants to the United States, the embassy said. 

The program is part of a larger overall effort involving the Central American Free Trade Agreement here.  During the negotiations for the agreement, each country involved was allowed to establish an agricultural sector that the county would like to optimize to gain access to the United States market.  Costa Rica chose this sector, the embassy said. 

Elderly protest bus treatment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some older residents say bus drivers are discriminating against them because they are using government-approved discount tickets.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, which regulates rates and conditions on buses, said it has received 36 complaints against 21 bus companies by persons 65 or older who said that in some cases only a limited number of persons with discount tickets were allowed on a bus.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 9, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 6

The Tico way of saying you have to pay the piper
El que quiere celeste que le cueste.

“He who wants the sky should have to pay.” The meaning of this dicho seems pretty clear: If you want something valuable, you’re going to have to pay. Another interpretation might be: If it’s worth having, it’s worth working for.

My son’s fiancée is a very pretty young lady. She is also amiable and quite intelligent. I like talking with her very much as she is knowledgeable on a variety of subjects and is a good conversationalist, especially for one of her fairly tender years. I  feel lucky that she will soon be part of our family.

Over the Christmas holiday she, her mother and her sister were at our house, and they were talking about what they had decided to get each other as a Christmas present. I was sitting there listening, but to save my soul I couldn’t understand what it was they were talking about.

Finally they explained to me carefully what they had decided to do.  Since all of them had been “afflicted” with very sparse eyebrows, which apparently had been a great social burden to them all their lives, they had decided to undergo a cosmetic process whereby new eyebrows would be tattooed onto their foreheads!

My eyes opened wide in disbelief, my lower jaw fell in complete astonishment when I finally understood what these women were about to put themselves through!

The ladies tried to reassure me by saying that this was a fairly routine cosmetic procedure, but to no avail. Even their protestations that their lack of eyebrows had always made them feel self-conscious did not move me.

To my mind this was purest vanity and nothing more, and I could not for the life of me understand why three otherwise very intelligent, sane, reasonable women would wish to undergo such torture. But, since it wasn’t my body, who was I to pass judgment?  I threw up my hands and told them I hoped they would be pleased with the results.

The evening following the infamous tattooing I called to ask how it had gone. The sister answered the phone. “Ayyy!” she wailed. “You won’t believe it!” And she began relating to me their tale of woe.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

First their driver decided to take a “short cut” that ended up getting them stuck in a horrible traffic jam caused by a horrendous accident in the road up ahead. By this time the number of women in the tattooing party had grown to five, and they were all getting  frantic as the traffic refused to budge and the hour of their appointments rapidly approached.

Suddenly the decision was unanimously taken to walk the rest of the considerable distance to the beauty parlor, located in Escazú.

Their cab had become ensnared in the traffic mess at the Pavas-Hatillo interchange on the periferica (a sort of beltway around the City of San José). So the women found themselves hiking for several kilometers along the open highway, across bridges and overpasses, all  the while enduring the bleating horns, rude catcalls, and audacious whistles from the drivers and passengers of passing vehicles. To make matters worse, not all of the ladies had worn the most sensible of shoes.

Finally, dusty, exhausted and humiliated, they trooped into the beauty parlor.

Now the tattoo torture could get underway. But since they were late for their appointment, the work had to be done in rather a hurry causing some of the women to undergo considerably more discomfort than anticipated.

When next I saw them, on New Year’s, I had to admit that the end product of their ordeal was really quite remarkable. The tattooed eyebrows did seem to accentuate and bring out the beauty of their eyes.  But for me, the obvious pleasure these happy results brought these women also gave new meaning to el que quiere celeste que le cueste.

New type of insurance will pay off if cell phone taken
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national insurance monopoly has launched a new type of policy that will cover cellular telephone users who might be the victims of a robbery.

An estimated 8,000 cell telephones are taken each year in the country by criminals, according to the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the telecommunications monopoly.  This was the statistic cited by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros as it announced the new policy.

In another marketing twist, the insurance will be available at the store that sells cellular telephones or from a private insurance agent. In case of loss, the payment will be made quickly at the point of sale, the agency known as INS said.

The policy is designed for the new GSM telephones that take advantage of the new lines just made available by the telecommunications institute.

Luis Javier Guier, executive president of INS, said the insurance cost would be reasonable. He said the premium on a 100,000-colon cell telephone would be 7,250 a year. That's a $14.50 premium on a $200 telephone. He said this was about half of the premium on a similar telephone in the United States.

In the latest cellular telephone robbery, a young man
in San Juan de Desamparados was accosted in front of his home by two men in a car. They stabbed him in the stomach and took the telephone. He is Marcos Quesada, who was hospitalized overnight after the Saturday evening incident.

Guier said that having the cellular telephone insurance would give users security in that they know they would not suffer a significant financial loss if the instrument were stolen. Persons have been killed resisting cellular telephone robbers in San José.

Under the plan, theft or robbery victims would have 48 hours to report the event by telephone and 15 days to present the appropriate paperwork to obtain a new one, the institute said.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad also maintains a special line to report stolen cellulars. The company is able to deactivate the stolen cellular immediately and quickly issue a new chip accessing a telephone line when installed in a new device.

Th INS announcement said that the government agency was preparing other forms of insurance that can be sold to customers at stores and other points of sale. The announcement did not elaborate. However, the agency faces the loss of its monopoly status under the proposed free trade treaty with the United States, which is being considered now in the Asamblea Nacional.

Gasoline was down but consumption of hydrocarbon fuels was up 3.63%
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans used 3.63 percent more hydrocarbon-
based fuels in 2005 even though rising world oil prices caused a 2 percent decrease in the sale of gasoline, according to the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo.

The big boost was in jet fuel, which increased nearly 24 percent in the year, said the government refinery.

Litleton Bolton, president of the refining and distribution agency, said that increased tourism was the reason the sale of Jet A-1 fuel rose from  1,178,139 barrels in 2004 to 1,460,064 in 2005. He
said as a result, the refinery would be constructing a new fuel distribution terminal at Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela and conducting a feasibility study at Daniel Oduber Quirós airport in Liberia.

The company sold 5,354,398 barrels of gasoline in  2004 compared to 5,243,860 barrels in 2005, Bolton said. The sale of diesel was up 5.32 percent from 5,286,502 barrels in 2004 to 5,567,658 barrels in 2005.

In all its forms, Costa Ricans consumed the equivalent of 15,892,246 barrels of hydrocarbon-based fuels in 2005 compared to 15,335,027 barrels in 2004.
Costa Rica imports all its petroleum.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 9, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 6

Overseas Investment Corp. promotes self in Nicaragua
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Nicaraguan investment promotion agency PRONicaragua have concluded an agreement to help encourage U.S. small-business investment in the Central American nation.

As part of the agreement signed Friday, the investment corporation staff will train PRONicaragua personnel to inform potential U.S. small-business investors of the corporation's programs, services and support for various projects. The corporation provides political risk insurance and financing for U.S. investors overseas.

Robert Mosbacher Jr., president of the Overseas Private Investment Corp., explained the benefits of investing in Nicaragua and Central America Friday.

"Nicaragua, and Central America generally, are dynamic emerging markets that U.S. small businesses should consider in their expansion plans. As the region's investment climate continues to improve, lucrative opportunities await American companies that invest now," Mosbacher said.

The corporation's partnership with PRONicaragua will alert far greater numbers of U.S. small businesses about available programs than the corporation could reach alone,  Mosbacher added.
Juan Carlos Pereira, executive president of PRONicaragua, an independent Nicaraguan government agency, also signed the agreement.

Pereira said PRONicaragua has developed a sizable portfolio of potential projects ready for presentation to potential U.S. investors, all of whom will benefit from a knowledge of U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp. support.

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp. was established as an agency of the U.S. government in 1971.  It helps U.S. businesses invest overseas, fosters economic development in new and emerging markets, complements the private sector in managing risks associated with foreign direct investment, and supports U.S. foreign policy.  Because the corporation charges market-based fees for its products, it operates on a self-sustaining basis at no net cost to taxpayers, the announcement noted.

The political risk insurance and financing help U.S. businesses of all sizes invest in more than 150 emerging markets and developing nations worldwide.  Over the agency's 33-year history, the corporation has supported $164 billion worth of investments that have helped developing countries to generate more than 732,000 host-country jobs and $13 billion in host-government revenues.  These projects have also generated $69 billion in U.S. exports and supported more than 264,000 American jobs, the agency said.

Scientist find that reef predators do not diminish useful parrotfish
By the University of Exeter news service

It may be no surprise that marine reserves protect the fish that live in them, but now scientists from the University of Exeter have shown for the first time that they could also help improve the health of coral reefs.

In a paper in the prestigious journal Science, Peter Mumby and colleagues looked at how a marine park in the Bahamas was affected by the return of the reef’s top predator, the Nassau grouper. Researchers were concerned that an increase in groupers could have an adverse effect, because they feed on parrotfish which play a vital role in maintaining the reef ecosystem. The parrotfish are the gardeners of the reefs and strip excess seaweed.

Mumby is from the School of Biosciences at the University of Exeter. “While an increasing number of larger predators is essentially good news, we had concerns that this might result in a decrease in the numbers of parrotfish, which could ultimately damage the health of the reef," he said. "More than 20 years ago sea urchins in the Caribbean were wiped out by disease, leaving parrotfish as the main grazer of reef surfaces. The fish use their teeth to remove seaweed from the reef which allows new corals to settle and grow. This grazing process is essential to the health of the system."

Caribbean reefs are still trying to recover from the devastating effects of El Niño in 1998 which caused
widespread damage around the world by a process known as bleaching. The increase in water temperature caused the coral to lose its color.

"What we have found is that marine reserves might provide exactly the right conditions to allow this to happen, Mumby said.  "Interestingly, once parrotfish reach a length of around 28 cms. (about 11 inches), they become too big for even the largest grouper to swallow. This ‘escape’ from a risk of predation means that most reserves are unlikely to reduce the amount of grazing even after the number of predators rises.”

Scientists report that a new wave of destructive coral bleaching is sweeping through reefs in the Caribbean from Florida and Texas in the north to as far south as Costa Rica and Panama, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Bleaching is centered in waters near the U.S. Virgin Islands. Reports of bleaching also have come from Tobago and Barbados in the southern Antilles.

Coral bleaching is associated with environmental stresses that include increased sea surface temperatures, scientists say. This causes the coral to expel symbiotic micro-algae living in their tissues that provide corals with food.

Losing their algae strips the coral of color. Prolonged bleaching for more than a week can lead to coral death and the loss of coral reef habitats.

Four suspects will face criminal allegations relating to sex offenses
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested suspected sex criminals throughout the Central Valley this weekend in relation to three different crimes. 

Police in Orotina arrested a 67-year-old man identified by the last names Azofeifa Hernández and a 36-year-old woman identified by the last names Ramírez Segura who had a national warrant out for their arrest in relation to the sexual abuse of a minor with a mental disability, police said.  The complaint was filed two years ago by the youth's mother, officers said.  The pair was arrested in a home in Orotina Friday police said. 

Officers with the Fuerza Pública in Alajeula arrested a taxi driver who had a semi-nude 12-year-old girl in his car in a rural part of the area, police said.  Officers
said that when they approached the taxi, the 41-year-old suspect, identified by the last name Chavarria, jumped out of the car and said “I made a big mistake, I made a big mistake.”  Chavarria is married with three children, officers said.  

The girl told police that the man had told her he would pay her 1,000 colons to accompany him, officers said.  Police said that they tried to find the girl's mother but she wasn't home.  She didn't arrive at the police station until 12:20 a.m. to pick up her daughter, officers said.  The girl is now under the care of Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the national child protection agency.    

In a separate incident, officers arrested a 65-year-old man identified by the last names Jiménez Rojas in San Pablo de León Cortés who had a warrant out for arrest for sexual abuse, officers said. 

Jo Stuart
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