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These stories were published Monday, Jan. 17, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 11
Jo Stuart
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Rain continues in soaked Caribbean as officials hope for best
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rain is continuing on the Caribbean slope and in the northern zone, thanks to a cold front that is expected to linger for several days more.

The rain-drenched area so far is not reporting any new disasters, but some 2,000 persons remain in emergency shelters, according to the latest statistics from officials.

The heaviest rain was reported falling in the Alta Talamanca and the ríos Banano, Estrella, Telire and Sixaola were rising slowly. It was these rivers, and primarily the Sixaola, that caused major damage in southeastern Costa Rica last week.

The rain and bad weather caused the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias to stop air supplies to the Talamanca region. The commission reported it has distributed 93 tons of food and 40,000 liters of water, mainly in the Sixaola and Talamanca areas. Land distribution continues.

Road damage $6 million

Arenal tourist route open


Nearly all of the 2,000 people displaced from their homes are in the Sixaola and Talamanca regions.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional renewed a warning about landslides and flooding.

Some rain fell Saturday and Sunday in parts of the Central Valley, but nothing to the extent of the rain that slammed the Caribbean the week before. In one 24 hour period, 14 inches of rain fell at one measuring station near Limón. That was why the community of Sixaola, among others, was flooded to the roofs of the houses.

He wields his stick with certainty in 'mache'
By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Every day you can see them gathering in Parque Central around the large chalked-out circle. You know the guys, huddled together down by Avenida Segunda, smoking cigarettes, cracking jokes, and playing some strange game that involves a weathered tennis ball and a stick. They are playing mache III, a truly Costa Rican game that contains elements of bowling and hockey.

Francisco Delgado Soto, also known as "Tango," was once a famous soccer football player in Costa Rica and still has the muscles to prove it. Today, however, he spends his time inviting people to play a quick match of mache, a game he said he invented several years ago. 

The basics of the game are relatively simple. Two players take turns pushing a tennis ball with a stick towards three wooden cylinders in the center of the chalked out circle. The cylinders have small blocks stacked up on them, and the point of the game is to knock the blocks off of the cylinders.

A reporter’s first game was awful. Tango jumped around the ring laughing as the gringo reporter continuously pushed the ball too hard and missed the cylinders completely. Tango, on the other hand, moved the ball with ease and slowly knocked all of the blocks off of the cylinders and pronounced himself as the winner. "I invented mache for Costa Rica," he cried out in victory. 

Tango’s English was far from fluent, but he was able to use short little quips. "You must be patient to win at mache," he insisted. The crowd had doubled in size for the second round. Several Ticos began cheering for the large and lumbering gringo that had taken on Tango. "America, si" several people asked. 

Tango walked around the ring, lapping up the attention and instructing his new American friend on how to play. "You must move slow and watch the ball carefully," he said. 

A.M. Costa Rica/Joe Medici
Triumphant Francisco Delgado Soto still loves to win, especially when the victim is a new player of mache.

The reporter quickly jumped out to a 4 to 2 lead following Tango’s advice. Tango was not worried, however. He patiently waited for his opponent to make a mistake. "No game is over, till is over," he told the crowd. 

Almost in response to Tango’s assertion, the reporter pushed the ball entirely too hard and missed his chance to win the game. 

Tango graciously thanked the gringo for playing and invited him to come back any time. "Mache is a beautiful game, you think?" he said as shook the reporters hand. "Come back and play soon. Mache is a good game." 

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Girl airlifted to hospital
due to bite from snake

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An 8-year-old Guápiles girl, bitten by a snake a week ago, ended up on a rescue flight from Limón to San José Sunday.

Her family thought she had simply injured herself but sought medical attention when the wound did not heal. The girl is Lizeth Fonseca Salas, who lives in El Coco in Guápiles, officials said.

Doctors described her situation as urgent, so the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea picked up the girl and carried her and her mother to Juan Santamaría International Airport. There she was taken to the Hospital de Niños for treatment.

Comisario Oldemar Madrigal, director of the air service and pilot of the flight, said that bad weather did not interfere with the flight. The service is an arm of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The pilot said that the effort would save the life of the girl.

Arias makes it official
in Liberación Nacional

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The man many Costa Ricans think will be the next president made it official Friday.

The man, former president Oscar Arias Sánchez formally enrolled as a precandidate in his Partido Liberación Nacional. A precandidate is someone who seeks his party’s nomination, which will not be determined until a convention this summer.

However, Arias would seem to be a shoo-in as the party’s standard-bearer. No other person has enrolled as a precandidate. The deadline was Saturday. The main opponent, Antonio Alvarez Desanti, has left the party and started his own organization.

Arias was the benefactor of a controversial Sala IV constitutional court decision that voided part of Article 132 of the Costa Rican Constitution. That article prohibited anyone who had served as president from running again. The court said this was an unjustified restriction on an individual’s rights.

Arias will be 64 next Sept. 13. He served as president from 1986 to 1990. His Central American peace plan ended warfare in Nicaragua and earned him the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1987.

Arias is not without opposition from former supporters. In fact, several anti-Arias Web sites are springing up, including one that features a photo of Arias with a slash across his face. Arias does not seem to have a Web site as a candidate, but he has had a presence on the Internet with The Arias Foundation, which he heads.

New research center
inaugurated at Carrara

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new scientific research center was inaugurated Sunday in Parque Nacional Carrara. Members of the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, administrators from Parque Carara, and researchers from Florida, inaugurated the new center early Sunday morning at the park near the Pacific coast.

The research station was built to help volunteers, students, and researchers, study the natural habitat of the forest. The park is known for its diverse species of mammals and its population of scarlet macaws.

The station received funding from the University of Costa Rica, the environmental ministry and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. 

Bar Central owner
Linda Greissel dies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friends plan a private gathering Tuesday in memory of Linda Greissel, 53, the owner of Bar Central in Escazú, who died Friday morning at her Santa Ana home.

Mrs. Greissell was from Vancouver, Canada, and came to Costa Rica about 12 years ago.

She was a member of the Canadian Club and associated with other local organizations, including the American Legion. She was well-known in the expat community.

Mrs. Greissell is survived by a daughter, her mother and a sister, all in Canada.

Most-wanted fugitive
falls into police hands

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers are congratulating themselves because they were able to arrest a much-sought fugitive Friday.

The man is David Enrique Rodríguez Rodríguez, 28, who faces a litany of allegations ranging from murder to bank robbery.

Police said that his crimes were marked by great violence. He is a suspect in a number of carjackings in which motorists were threatened and made to surrender their vehicles at gunpoint.

He faces an allegation of participating in a robbery at Banco Popular in San Francisco de Dos Ríos Sept. 28, 1999.

The murder involved is that of Álvaro Vega Rodríguez that took place in Desamparados de Alajuela Aug. 10, 2001.

The arrest is without a doubt the most important of recent years because of the violent nature of the crimes, said Rogelio Ramos Martínez, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The arrest was made about 8:45 p.m. Friday after a policeman recognized the fugitive and officials set up a cordon. They trapped him once before, but he escaped during a firefight in which an associate died.

Officials attributed the arrest to the work of Comandante Eduardo Guzmán, who commands the metropolitan unit of the Fuerza Pública. He maintained an alert for the fugitive for a year, officials said.

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Moros loses some of its sinister connotations here
Hay moros en la Costa

"There are Moors on the coast." This dicho is very interesting because of its historical basis. As many of you may know, the Moors were the Muslim people who invaded the Iberian peninsula from North Africa (probably Morocco) in 711 A.D., overthrew the Visigothic rulers and occupied most of present day Spain until they were finally driven out by Queen Isabella and Kind Ferdinand (of Christopher Columbus fame) in 1492. 

So this dicho makes reference to the idea that there are spies lurking about. We employ it when there is someone in the room we don’t want to overhear our latest gossip (or vinazo, if you recall last week’s column). My parents used to use this expression when they were discussing matters of a private nature and one of their large-eared progeny appeared on the scene.

Another related word in Spanish is moroso, an adjective meaning dilatory or delinquent, someone who doesn’t pay his bills or taxes on time.  The development of this word is a pretty good indication of the low esteem in which Christian Spain held the Moors it was driving from its soil. 

The whole history of the relationship among Muslims, Jews and Christians in Spain is fascinating. For example, an interesting side note to the political and religious upheavals of 15th century Spain that is still with us in ordinary speech today is that a dish made with the combination of red beans and rice is referred to in Spain, and some parts of Latin America, to this day as moros y cristianos or  Muslims and Christians. Whereas, the same dish made with black beans is called judeos y cristianos or Jews and Christians. I’m sure no one will need any explanation as to which ingredients of these dishes represents which ethnic or religious group. 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

Of course, here in Costa Rica black beans and rice is called gallo pinto, thus removing the socio-religious connotations from this staple of the Latino diet (Costa Ricans really don’t eat too much red beans and rice). 
Moros en la costa means that there are dangerous people watching us that could hear or see what we don’t want them to be privy to.  It implies a separation between us and them. 

Of course in the New World all this Iberian history gets filtered through the prism of Latin American culture, well known for its rich diversity. Here we have a little bit of the moros y judeos in all of us mixed up with our wonderful indigenous heritage, Spanish traditions and topped off with our own special brand of Christianity. 

And what a marvelously spicy and tantalizing dish it makes! Here moros en la costa has lost a lot of its sinister meaning — often referring to nothing more than children with big ears —  and rice and beans is really all just gallo pinto.

Customer service improvement promised by big firms
By Clair-Marie Robertson 
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican companies have decided to improve their customer services after Deloitte & Touche published its evaluation of the country’s largest companies.  Deloitte & Touche said that many national companies have realized that the arrival of new competitors with new products and services has required them to develop a culture based on customer service.

Deloitte and Touche evaluated 70 companies and, according to the report, companies achieved good results relating to customer services, quality of products and product knowledge, although many companies did not seek to go the extra mile and exceed expectations regarding prompt response and query resolution. 

The Corporación de Supermercados Unidos, Etipres and Cemex of Costa Rica said that customer services is reviewed through interviews or market studies.

After Deloitte & Touche published its findings, the Insitituto Nacional de Aprendizaje of Costa Rica, a government agency, announced that it will invest $325,000 to teach English language skills to prospective employees aged between 17 to 35 years of age. 

Edna Camacho, the director of the Costa Rican Investment Board, said that the project is a joint effort between 20 companies and the institute. The idea is to improve the language of those working in customer service call centers.

Camacho said that the courses will be based on technical conversational English and will begin Feb. 9. The courses will finish in October and will have 250 graduates. 

Camacho said that several international companies have expressed an interest in moving some of their operations to Costa Rica. "There is the possibility that this will create over 6,000 jobs." 

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Key road opened
at last at Arenal

The La Fortuna- La Union de Arenal road, blocked by slides Wednesday and Thursday, finally was opened Sunday. The key tourist route along the north side of Lake Arenal has been in disrepair for years. But the slides were caused by heavy rains.

Photo by Dave Warner
Cost of fixing flood-damaged roads continues to climb
By Clair-Marie Robertson 
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cost of repairing the roads damaged in the Limón floodings is estimated to be more than $6 million. This is according to officials at the Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes who discussed the situation Friday.

Randall Quiros Bustamante, the minister, said that 90 percent of the damage is on the network of county roads in Limón. 

"This was an extraordinary occurance, something which we did not anticipate," said Maria Elena Lopez, a vice minister. "The rainfall in Sixaola, Limon, was the highest registered for 35 years," she noted.

Quiros said that a cleanup operation has already begun on the principal national routes in the area which have been affected by landslides. These areas are Route 32, San Jose-Guápiles; Route 36, Limón-Sixaola; Route 34, Costanera Sur; Route 10, the old road from Limón to Turrialba; Route 126 from Vara Blanca to Heredia, and Route 702 La Fortuna to Chachagua to the east.

Works on the road between Bribri and Sixaola will begin immediately at an estimated cost of $1.3 million. The work is expected to be completed within two months, said Quiros. The repair of the roads will help much needed supplies be delivered to the affected areas. 

Friday also was the day that Costa Ricans donated 

A.M. Costa Rica/Clair-Marie Robertson
Volunteers help the Cruz Roja pack and sort emergency supplies for flood victims in Limón. Some 2,000 still were in shelters Sunday.

clothes and food to those affected in the flooding in Limón. They raised $445,000. "Un rojo por un hermano," organized by the television channel Teletica, brought together stars from football, television presenters and musicians. All were there to encourage the public to donate a thousand colones each to help the Cruz Roja carry out its work in the affected areas. 

Jo Stuart
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