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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, Jan. 13, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 10          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Florida announces campaign to capitalize on trade treaty
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. State of Florida has launched a campaign to help its business community capitalize on the opportunities presented by a recently enacted U.S. trade pact with five Central American nations and the Dominican Republic.

The campaign, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce, includes education and marketing outreach efforts to increase trade between Florida and the countries in the trade pact, which President George Bush signed into law Aug. 2.

The campaign is being launched by a group called Enterprise Florida, a partnership between the Florida state government and business leaders.

The announcement comes at the same time a trade delegation from the State of Indiana is visting Costa Rica.

Lisa Nason, Enterprise Florida's vice president for communications and organizational development, said that her group will 
establish at the end of January an   information, research and data Web site to help the Florida business community better understand the mechanics of carrying out international trade with the Central American nations and the Dominican Republic.

Ms. Nason said that collectively, the six nations in CAFTA-DR are Florida's No. 1 trading partner.  Florida's main exports, she said, include computer products, aviation and aerospace equipment, fertilizers and telecommunications and medical equipment.

The trade pact, known as CAFTA-DR, is designed to eliminate trade, investment and business barriers between the United States and the 45 million people in the Dominican Republic and the five Central American nations that signed the trade pact: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Only Costa Rica has failed to ratify the treaty.

The treaty will go into effect on a rolling basis, according to the U.S. Office of the Trade Representative as each country approves the complementary legislation, such as elimination of tariffs, that put the pact into force.

NASA high-flying research craft to sample air over Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. aircraft will be flying over Costa Rica to collect information on ozone and ozone-destroying radicals, aerosols, and the physical properties of clouds, according to the U.S. National Aeronautic and Space Admininstration.

The flights are designed to obtain high-quality measurements of the tropical atmosphere to validate data from Aura satellite launched July 15, 2004. The goal is to improve modeling of global air quality and climate change predictions, said NASA.

Using research balloons and the  WB-57F high-altitude aircraft, the project will collect data on the largely under-sampled tropical tropopause layer, said a NASA briefing paper that also explained this is the region of the tropical atmosphere that lies between 12 kms. or 7.5 miles and the thermal tropopause, some 16 kms. or 10 miles high.

NASA photo
A WB-57F high-altitude aircraft at takeoff
The mission will include flights from near the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, to Costa Rica. Some 12 flights sill take place from Jan. 19 to Feb. 14.

The WB-57F can fly about 3,600 kms., go for about six hours, and reach an altitude of 60,000 feet, NASA said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 10

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Ciudad Colón orange fair
will begin Feb. 16

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They may be squeezed rather than eaten, and they may be green, but the oranges in Costa Rica are still just as tasty and sweet as those produced in Florida and California.  To celebrate the popularity of the fruit, the Canton or Mora is holding the Feria Expoturística de la Naranja Feb. 16 through the 26 in the old market of Ciudad Colón.

This is the seventh such festival, which happens annually, and organizers said that this time they hope to distinguish the cultural aspects, the food, the traditions and the farmers of the region as much as the fruit itself. 

Visitors can buy oranges at the fair for cheaper than they normally cost at the store, organizers said.  In addition, basic grains, honey, indiginous art and much more will be for sale, organizers said.

The Canton of Mora has some 120 orange farmers that work some 400 hectares of orchards, said the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería.

New stops specified
for Cartago-San José bus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new company is taking over the bus route between San José and Cartago at midnight Saturday, and new bus stops have been designated.

Officials also have adjusted the routes to keep buses traveling from Cartago from using Avenida Principal.

The company Lumaca has two routes between Cartago and San José. One passes through San Pedro and the other goes further south through Zapote.

But San José stop for the Cartago bus via Zapote will be on Avenida 2 opposite the Teatro Nacional. The route via San Pedro will have its stop also on Avenida 2 one block east of the building of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

In Cartago, the route via San Pedro to San José will board a block and a half north of the Cartago ruins opposite the restaurant As de Oros. The bus taking the route via Zapote to San José will board two blocks north of the ruins.

The bus passing through San Pedro will enter San José via Avenida Principal and turn north to pass by the Estación al Atlantico and the north side of Parque Nacional. Passengers will get off opposite the Hotel Del Rey. Officials said they wanted to keep the bus from passing along the south side of the Asamblea Legislativa.

The bus via Zapote will enter the city in the south and approach the center of town via Calle 3 to the stop opposite the Teatro Nacional.

U.S. Embassy closed
for Martin Luther King Day

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the
U.S. Embassy will be closed Monday.  The embassy will return to it's normal hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at gaining equality for blacks in the United States.  He was assassinated April 4, 1968. 

Musicians from Cornell
plan Matapalo concert

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Wind Ensemble of Cornell University will be in Matapalo, Guanacaste today, where the 45 student musicians will give a free concert for the community. The orchestra members also will distribute musical instruments and share their skills with students from area schools.

The ensemble is directed by Cynthia Johnston. She will lead the group in its first public concert in the Central Valley at the Parque Central de Tres Rios at 7 p.m. Monday. Wednesday the orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m. at the Teatro Eugene O'Neill at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Los Yoses.

During the visit here, the orchestra members also will meet with the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil at Country Day School.

The wind ensemble of the Ivy League university in Ithaca, N.Y., has adopted Costa Rica as its principal project for the 2006 school year.

Talamanca farmers plan
agricultural fair there

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For the sixth year, farmers from Talamanca in Limón have organized a fair to show visitors all of the agricultural products of the region as well as traditional art and food. 

The fair, scheduled for Feb, 10, 11 and 12 will bring some 25 groups of organic farmers and artists to Suretka, Talamanca.  There will also be performances and sporting events, organizers said. 

The majority of the producers are indiginous to Talamanca and use environmentally friendly techniques to farm their crops, organizers said. 

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Third news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 10

Lazy days and a son with a craving for gallo pinto
Whatever happened to the lazy, hazy days of summer? It seems every time I have met someone in the past week the greeting has been "Can you believe this cold weather?" And then, suddenly, the sun came out and a taxi driver said to me "That sun is really hot, isn't it?"

"Yes," I said, smiling happily. But that leaves lazy. Going downtown it looks as if it is still the Christmas rush. People are everywhere going in and out of stores in the restaurants, filling the streets. I recall seeing movies of city scenes that showed the streets milling with people. I figured they were using thousands of extras to fill the streets, but that is the way downtown San José looks all the time.

Also precluding a lazy time is the visit from my son. He went on a short excursion and on the way had some gallo pinto. Now he has a craving for gallo pinto, and we are trying to figure out where he can find some at seven o'clock in the morning. I tried to explain how to get to various possibilities. He, in turn, asked useless questions like, "What street is that on," "What's the name of the street?" Explaining the bus system and bus routes is no easier. What seems so simple to me is baffling him.

I then tried to explain the very logical layout of the city — all the streets and avenues stemming from Avenida Central and Calle Central and how odd and even works.

However, before I could explain further, he said, "If there are no signs telling us the names of the streets. What good is your explanation?" I allowed as how that was a point well taken. You just have to be here a while to get the idea. Finally, at 8 a.m. he decided to try a local B&B that served breakfast. On the way he stopped at the little sidewalk café/soda on the corner (the one I suggested in the first place). The gallo pinto was okay. The pretty young lady behind the counter and the people-watching were okay, too.

Then, like most visitors to this country, he wanted to look for something to take back home. I decided it was easier to go with him than to explain how to get
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

to the stores. I insisted we take the bus. Justin is 6 feet, 4 inches, and he found the seats cramped (actually, he banged his knee on the seat in front). Standing was no easier — a bump would send his head into the roof. Very tall people are the exception here. I like it that way. When I attended a reception at the U.S. Embassy, the tall Marines and other protective types standing around me made me feel like I was in the redwood forest of California.

I had some errands to run, so I sent him off to where I thought he would find a place to get a haircut. On his own he found (on Paseo de los Estudiantes) a beauty college and got a satisfactory haircut for 500 colons (about $1). Later a shoe shine cost him $2. But with tennis shoes and so many cars, the shoe shine business here has fallen on hard times. My friend Anabel told me that all the shoe-shine people have gone into business guarding parked cars on the city streets.
After finding just what he was looking for and lunch at the very busy News Café, we headed home. I again insisted we take the bus, telling Justin to entertain himself by reading all the signs along the way. I am addicted to sign reading. And there are plenty of public ads in San José to satisfy my addiction. I learned Justin has inherited this habit.

This is his third visit to Costa Rica. He wanted to wait until he had studied Spanish before he came again. He has enjoyed himself much more this time because he can communicate with people. I am impressed at how well he does.

Once again home, I was just too tired to finish this column. Maybe tomorrow will be my kind of lazy day with time to write.

Three Gringos in business
Sportsmens Lodge adds nine more rooms and plush penthouse
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Many North Americans and Europeans dream of opening a business in Costa Rica but most are put off by the thought of the mountain of paperwork, the snail's pace legal and permit system and the horror stories of ventures gone sour.  However, one North American has overcome those obstacles and now manages a thriving hotel and sports bar in Barrio Otoya. 

He is Bill Alexander and his operation, the Sportsmens Lodge, has just opened a new wing with 10 rooms including a massive penthouse suite that goes for $250 per night.  When Alexander came here seven years ago, he spoke no Spanish and his background was in groceries and banking.  He sold those off to move south and in October 2004 he opened the Sportsmen with his father, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif. 

The original hotel and sports bar is in a mansion dating to 1906.  It was converted to a hotel in 1986.  Including the new wing, the entire operation now has 22 comfortable-looking rooms that mostly house gringo sports fans. The bar serves North American and Tex Mex style food. 

The penthouse suite on the top floor of the new wing is 900 square feet.  It has a master bedroom and a loft, a living room, a 42-inch high-definition

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling
The new wing has a mostly glass front
TV, a stereo system, Internet, an enclosed sun deck with two jacuzzi tubs, a full kitchen, two bathrooms, city and park views, large windows, and a bar among other amenities.  The other rooms start at $49 per night.

Illinois native maintains the Tico cantina tradition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

By and large, Tico bars – the ones that fall under the cantina label – don't have much going for them.  Everyone tends to be a bit cranky. They are generally packed to the overflowing point with testosterone, and the bathrooms are better left unmentioned.  However, the beer's cheap and generally, that makes up for the rest of the downfalls.

The cantina motif seems to be what Harry Hart, owner of Bar y Restaurante Antiguo Poás is striving for, but with Gringo-friendly food and prices as well as a lot better facilities.  The kitchen serves American hot dogs for a dollar or 500 colons and American breakfast all day long.  There is also normal bar food served on tables with tablecloths and place mats.  But for the Ticos, Hart has provided a bocas menu as well.  The beer's cheap, Tuesdays it also goes for a dollar or 500 colons, and the modern bathroom doesn't even remotely resemble the standard issue cantina variety. 

“We have Tico prices with Gringo service,” Hart said.

The result is a mixture of styles that draws an international crowd.  Hart has decorated the interior with international flags, and a favorite customer, a merchant seaman from Norway, donated a large Norwegian flag that hangs over one of the tables.

“He liked the place so much, he moved right down on the corner,” Hart said.

Poás has been open since April 5 and now that all the permits and paperwork are out of the way, Hart said that things are running smoothly.  He speaks little Spanish but has surrounded himself with enough trustworthy friends that opening the bar, gaining the necessary permits and paying the necessary taxes and such wasn't too difficult.  He's been coming to Costa Rica for 20 years.  

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling
Harry Hart, left, and his Bar Poás staff
The native of Rockford, Ill., worked on a military base at Andross Island in the Bahamas for 19 years.  During that gig, he would save up his money and time off and come to Costa Rica on vacation.  Eventually he decided he liked it here so much that he would make the move.  He found the building at a good time when the former owner was trying to get rid of it, he said.  And now that things are running smoothly, he is happy with the result.  His only plans are tentative ones to open a hostel above the bar, but that operation is only in the planning stages. 

One of Bar Poás' biggest draws is its ease on the wallet.  Beers are normally 600 colons but Hart has a slew of promotions.  Everyday specials include two shots of rum, tequila or scotch for 1,000 colons.  Tuesday night, a glass of wine goes for 1,000 colons, Wednesday, big beers are 600 colons and Thursday is karaoke night, though Hart's thinking of doing away with it.

It's loud and it drives away the gringos,” he said.

Irish bar is the new arrival on Avenida 1
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In San José there's plenty to do: parks, dance clubs, music clubs, theater performances bars and a slew of other activities to keep ex-pats occupied.  But one thing was missing.  San José didn't have a good Irish bar. 

To remedy that lapse Adrian McAteer opened the Tica Irlanda on Avenida 1 Dec. 1.  The Irishman from Chicago bought the place, the former Goya, when he saw it for sale from Austin, Texas.

Although the bar is only beginning to attract attention, he has big plans with a kitchen, live music and Irish whiskey in the works.  “But we're going to take baby steps,” he said.  The kitchen comes first, and he is waiting on a live music permit.   

McAteer grew up in Newry, Ireland, and immigrated to the United States in the early 80s because it was in his blood he said.  He played guitar and sang Irish songs in Boston before a recession there forced him west to Chicago. 

He opened up his own bar in the Midwest city but once the economy in Ireland picked up, many members of the community moved back home, and the scene in Chicago dried up, he said.  He went south to Austin, Texas. Although he speaks very little Spanish, he decided that San José needed an Irish bar and came here. 

When asked about the challenge of starting a business in a country where you don't speak the language, he brushes it off.  He says the key is to have a good lawyer and do what you say you're going to do.  But the change isn't quite as drastic as one would imagine.  Oddly enough, the city is reminiscent of his native land.

“It reminds me of being a kid growing up in Ireland.  The people like to sing, they like to dance, they like to drink.  There's coffee, chocolate, rain. 

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling
Adrian McAteer at Tica Irlanda

The sandwiches and empanadas are the same.  It's a lot like Ireland,” he said.

The inside of his bar is decorated as such.  The furniture and all the pictures on the wall – with the exception of McAteer with Oprah Winfrey – are from Ireland. He appeared on an Oprah segment about growing up in Ireland during the troubles. 

He envisions a place where people can come and see live music.  On weekends, he can be seen playing guitar and singing his Irish songs. Plans are in the works to start an open mike.  The Tica Irlanda is one of the only places in town that serves Guiness even though the beer is from Jamaica and in bottles.  But he stands by it:  “I wouldn't serve it if it wasn't right.”

A.M. Costa Rica

Fourth news page

Good grief!

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of your advertising budget on paper?

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 10

Black market peso exchange included
U.S. assesses threats of money-laundering techniques

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U. S. government has released the inter-agency U.S. Money Laundering Threat Assessment, the first government-wide analysis of its kind, which investigates money laundering vulnerabilities across a spectrum of techniques used by criminals.

"Before you can effectively treat a problem, you must first have an accurate diagnosis. The Money Laundering Threat Assessment integrates information contributed by sixteen government agencies, as well as vital Bank Secrecy Act data provided to Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to evaluate the range of current and emerging U.S. money laundering threats," said Stuart Levey, Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "This is an example of government cooperation at its best."

Sixteen U.S. bureaus, offices and agencies collaborated on the assessment from the Departments of Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and the U. S. Postal Service.

"One of our critical missions is to protect the integrity of our financial system. This comprehensive assessment is a significant step towards stemming the flow of illicit proceeds into the United States and insuring that our financial institutions are not utilized to facilitate terrorism or criminal activities," said Chris Swecker, assistant director, Criminal Investigative Division of the FBI.
Each chapter of the money laundering threat
assessment profiles the characteristics of a specific method of money laundering, outlining the current legal and regulatory landscape and presenting known patterns of abuse, geographical concentrations, and real-world case studies.

"Our teams of civil and criminal investigators are committed to the government's National anti-money llaundering efforts," said Richard Speier, acting IRS chief, Criminal Investigation. "The scope of our commitment is demonstrated by the fact that the IRS has on-going civil and criminal investigations in each of the 13 identified categories found in this threat assessment."

The laundering methodologies investigated range from banks and money transmitters to alternative methods, such as casinos and trade-based money laundering. The assessment also looks at new and emerging industries, such as online payment systems and stored value cards, which are vulnerable to illicit financial activities.

"From Hawalas to the Black Market Peso Exchange to the bulk smuggling of cash across our nation's borders, DEA is targeting drug traffickers' tainted profits like never before," said Donald C. Semesky Jr., DEA's chief of financial operations. "Last year, DEA seized a record $1.9 billion from the pockets of greed-driven drug traffickers worldwide. The money trail that leads to drug traffickers' wallets is the same trail that will lead to their ultimate demise,"

The full Money Laundering Threat Assessment is available HERE!

Presidential poll in Chile favors Michelle Bachelet in Sunday's runoff
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet remains the front-runner for Sunday's runoff election, as the final day of campaigning draws to a close.

Poll results issued Thursday suggest the socialist Bachelet will get some 45 percent of the vote on Sunday, compared to 40 percent for her rival, businessman Sebastian Pinera, the candidate of a
rightist alliance. Fifteen percent of the 1,200 people surveyed last week said they were undecided.

If elected, Bachelet will become Chile's first female president. She shares her center-left support base with current President Richard Lagos, under whom she served as defense minister.

Bachelet won Chile's first round of elections in December with 46 percent of the vote, just short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

Brazil says that U.S. wants to torpedo its arms deal with Venezuela
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil's foreign minister has said he has seen indications the United States wants to block a sale of Brazilian-made military aircraft to Venezuela.

Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told reporters Wednesday he intends to discuss the matter with U.S. officials and try to convince them not to prevent the sale. He says he believes Venezuela is a threat to no

one and that disagreements over internal policies should not restrict transfers of technology.

Amorim's comments came after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Tuesday alleged Washington wanted to veto his deal with Brazilian aircraft-maker Embraer because the planes use U.S. technology.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said the U.S. had let Brazil know it had concerns about Venezuela's arms acquisitions.

Jo Stuart
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