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(506) 223-1327         Published Friday, Jan. 18, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 13             E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Next year she'll be in the tope!

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A.M. Costa Rica photos/Elise Sonray
Some temptations just cannot be fought
Palmares hosts the horses for festival's first full day
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Parking: 4,000 colons ($8). Bathrooms: 200 colons (40 cents). Entrance to the dance club: 2,000 colons ($4). Bringing your own beer: a good idea.

Or at least that's what most of the spectators seemed to think at the horse parade in Palmares Thursday afternoon. The street was full with people laughing, dancing and — drinking beer. The crowd on the sidewalk was so thick it was  hard for anyone to move, much less get a view of the parade. Some even started the celebration with drinks on the bus ride to the festival. Many parade spectators had set up their own tents complete with lawn chairs and coolers full of Imperial and Rock Ice.

The horse riders themselves were not to be left out. The men and women in cowboy hats sipped on cans and plastic cups. Many of them were mounted on their horses, but not moving an inch. Instead they joked with people in the crowd, toasted with beers, and laughed with their fellow riders. One intoxicated man in the crowd actually managed to boost himself onto the back of a woman's horse against her many protests.

“The tope is the day with the most accidents,” said Nancy Cruz Ramírez, Cruz Roja chief of first aid at the Fiestas Cívicas de Palmares. In the first 24-hour period of the festival about 100 persons needed assistance from medics, said Ms. Ramírez. The majority of cases were mishaps, she said. The chief said so far this year is comparable to last year and that the bull fighting days would most likely be busy times as well. “But we are well prepared,” said Ms. Ramírez. There are about 65 Cruz Roja workers stationed at the festival, she said.

The drinking and yells from the Tope were away from the amusement area where most of the children congregated. Tickets are 500 colons each ($1) and the number required vary depending on the ride. Children were all laughs and smiles as they waited in fairly short lines for the carousel and bumper-cars Thursday.

Foods like chop suey, Salvadorian pupusas, and chicharrone can all be found at the festival. There is also fried chicken, candied apples and the franchised Taco Bell and Pizza Hut stands. Appetizers start at around 1,500 colons ($3), and one can buy two small slices of pizza or three cans of beer for the same price.

Aside from the rides and games, there are reggaeton dance clubs or “mega-bares,” bands  playing outside, gambling games, and smaller 
palmares horses
And the horse had dancing lessons

palmares rides
The obligatory midway rides.

bars, some complete with cumbia dancing. Many of the “mega-bares” feature their own concerts and entertainment. Descriptions are available on the festival's website, Big concerts, bull fighting and a ranchero festival will be held this week and next. The festival runs through Jan. 28.

If people wish to avoid the hassle and cost of parking, buses to Palmares, west of the metropolitan area, are available for 605 colons ($1.20), 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. near the Coca Cola station in San José. Police are stationed along the highway pulling over drunk drivers and speeders, so traffic can take much longer than usual. It's best to estimate at least two hours to get to the festival from San José and perhaps longer to get back, depending on the time of day.

Traffic was a mess Thursday evening because the Policia de Tránsito were pulling over drivers  randomly to check for alcohol near Juan Santamaría airport.

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Job survey finds optimism
among employers here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new survey reports an optimistic future for Costa Rican employment. Some credit is being given to employers anticipating approval of the free trade treaty with the United States.

The data came Thursday from Manpower Inc, the employment service company, which has been doing a census of employers since 2006.

Manpower said that 32 percent of the employers contacted expect to increase their workforce. That percent is 6 points higher than the number anticipating more employment in the first trimester of 2007, said the company.

In all, Manpower surveyors contacted 620 employers all over the country.  Just 5 percent said they expected to reduce the number of their employees. Some 57 percent said that they would not be making any changes.

Among those areas anticipating hiring more people were employers in the construction field.

Eric Quesada, Latin American director for Manpower, said that approval by voters last Oct. 7 of the free trade treaty might be a reason for the optimism.

Internationally, Manpower repeats the same survey in 27 countries and talked to 52,000 companies. Costa Rica was among the top 10 countries that reported the likelihood of more employment.

The report from Costa Rica is in contrast with concerns in the United States about a recession. U.S. stocks were down dramatically Thursday as fears grow about the faltering U.S. economy.

The Standard & Poors index of 500 stocks was off almost 3 percent, and the Dow Jones average lost a sharp 2.5 percent.

In congressional testimony, U.S. central bank chief Ben Bernanke expressed support for efforts to stimulate the economy, after a string of downbeat economic reports.

A Federal Reserve report showed manufacturing declining sharply in a key area, while a separate government study said the number of new homes under construction in 2007 dropped by 25 percent, the steepest drop for that industry since 1980.

And Merrill Lynch, one of the biggest brokers, reported a nearly $10 billion quarterly loss, the worst in the company's history.

President George Bush is scheduled to offer ideas for stimulating the economy in a speech on Friday.

Owners of animals get
favorable court ruling

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's jurisprudence took another strange turn Thursday when the Sala IV constitutional court threw out a jail term for those who let their dogs bite other persons.

The magistrates said that the jail term of from five to 15 days was not reasonable nor proportional when compared to other penalties for other crimes.

The magistrates also wanted to give judges in such trials more flexibility than mandating jail terms, said Fernando Cruz Castro, one of the magistrates. The account of the decision and a summary came from the Poder Judicial press office.

The case came to the court from the Tribunal de Casación Penal del III Circuito Judicial de Alajuela. The section of the law that was thrown out stems from a 2002 revision.

The section penalized the owners of animals who — through negligence or abandonment — allow the animal to damage other persons. The section not only refers to dog but to all animals, including cows, horses and similar. The magistrates said that the animal owners lacked the intention to damage other persons.

The Sala IV decision is retroactive to 2002, said the Poder Judicial.

Robber stabs man in neck
on downtown pedestrian mall

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man walking on the San José pedestrian boulevard around midnight Wednesday became a victim of an apparent robbery attempt and suffered a stab wound to the neck, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The man, identified as Oscar Rojas Vargas, 23, was between the Hotel Balmoral and Hotel Presidente, a well guarded and heavily traveled section of the pedestrian boulevard even at that hour. That section is between calles 7 and 9.

Another man approached Rojas, and a struggle ensued. Rojas Vargas was at Hospital Calderón Guardia in delicate condition Thursday night. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday,  Jan. 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 13

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Dig, they won't

The ceremony was far from the route of the new highway, but President Óscar Arias Sánchez and Karla González, the transport mininster, managed to find a photogenic road-building machine Thursday for the obligatory photo at the start of the construction of the San José-Caldera highway. The third person was not identified. The 77-km. (48-mile) stretch has been 30 years in the planning.

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Neighbor kills well-armed suspected robber in la Uruca
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A presumed robber died Wednesday night when a La Uruca resident confronted him and shot him in the head.

The man, carrying two pistols, died near his ski mask and briefcase of break-in tools.

The Judicial Investigating Organization is looking into the  circumstances of the death. At first the identity of the dead man was not known. Later Thursday agents identified him as Michael Alonso Falcone Marín, 27, of Hatillo.  The Fuerza Pública took the man's body to the Morgue Judicial.

Agents said the man was wielding a pistol and threatening a victim when a neighbor shot him.

Falcone died in an apartment building in La Uruca near Hospital México.  He wore a bulletproof vest at the time of his death, said officers.  Another man accompanying Falcone fled to a waiting vehicle outside the building, they said.  Agents presume a total of three men were involved in the abortive robbery.
Two 9 mm. pistols were recovered from the scene, agents said.

Neighbors in the area have been continually plagued by criminals and have organized themselves into a citizen patrol.

In another incident, this one Thursday, a police roadblock in Sabana Norte stopped a car containing five Colombians. Each had at least one pistol. The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública reported that the pistols had had their serial numbers altered. One weapon had been adjusted for automatic fire, which is against the law, said officers.

One man showed a permit to carry a gun. He is a dual Colombian-Costa Rican citizen. However, police said they want to check the validity of that permit.

Another man had false identity papers and passports from three countries, officials said. The ministry said that the men who have no legal right to stay here probably would be deported to Colombia.

So close and yet so far when you have a reluctant knee
I have been gently but rightly reprimanded for writing about malls and plazas without really knowing much about either.  Sometimes I write about a topic in the hopes of learning more from my readers.  That is what has occurred in this case.

First of all, Grady has told me that the Outlet Mall in San Pedro is falling on hard times while the San Pedro Mall always has people in it.  (It always had people — in the food court and in line for the movies — but not in the stores.)

More importantly, I have learned that there is a considerable difference between a closed shopping mall and an open plaza, the latter is what La Ribera is.  I have learned that a plaza is more service than shopping oriented, which is why, I suppose, they make it convenient for you to park close to the place you are going to rather than where you must pass 20 stores to get anywhere.   Having discovered that I can pay my Caja insurance at the Banco Nacional, I have reduced the time for that chore.   It used to take me close to an hour, when I lived in the city. Now it is just a matter of minutes to walk down the hill and go into the Banco Nacional at the Plaza La Ribera. 

I wish the Plaza had a movie theater showing the latest releases, but there is the handy farmacia where I can get my blood pressure taken for free, and there is even a shoe repair shop — something that is very hard to find anywhere lately.  (I was told some time ago that the men who used to shine shoes, and were always present on the sidewalks of San José are now car guards in the streets.  People don’t get their shoes as dirty as they used to when they walked more.)

Walking is my favorite exercise, and I know that people actually walk the malls in some countries in order to get exercise.  La Ribera is perfect for walking OUTSIDE in the fresh air, either along the covered walkway if it is
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

raining or too sunny, or skirting the walkway if I feel I need more vitamin D from the sun.  I can still look into store or restaurant windows, and the walkway is nice and level. 

That is important right now because having discovered a new way to exercise— on that many appended chair where I could strengthen my legs and arms, and even my abs, I overdid it, and have torn a ligament or tendon or something in my knee and even walking is painful, let alone trying to climb anything. 

I am no stranger to pain (is anybody?), but I have seldom taken even an aspirin in the past years.  Curiously, my "over exertion" happened about two days after I told my friend Irene that I never had any joint pain.  Every time I say something like that, I get zapped.   Now I understand how easily people with knee problems can get addicted to pain pills.  I can hardly wait until it is time to take my next one.

The very kind physical therapist who comes twice a week to the Residencia spent 45 minutes Monday using electricity, ultrasound and massage on my knee.  Yet the next day it was worse. Mavis tells me that I don’t have very good luck with physical therapists.  She remembers my broken wrist.  The doctor, who also comes twice a week, told me Tuesday that if my knee was not better in two days I would need to have an ultrasound or x-ray to see if was broken.  The good news is he gave me more pain pills.  The bad news is that he told me that I should not walk — not even to the Plaza Ribera.  That is a pity because the weather lately has been blue skies and cotton clouds.

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Foundation report says remaining free Caracas TV outlet remains under siege
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Employees and directors of Globovisión, Venezuela’s only remaining independent 24-hour news and information channel, have survived more than five years of attacks and death threats for exercising their free speech. The Human Rights Foundation released a report this week detailing human rights violations against the people who work there.

Globovisión general manager, Alberto Federico Ravell, and his 430 colleagues are the third case in the foundation's Caracas Nine project.

Under Ravell’s leadership, Globovisión has suffered numerous attacks against its equipment, employees, and directors — attacks that the Venezuelan government has encouraged and that have been carried out by government supporters, said the foundation.

There have been more than 25 violent attacks against journalists, cameramen, and technicians and equipment has been vandalized 17 times. Two fragmentary grenades were launched at the Globovisión headquarters in Caracas. Globovisión offices in the city of Maracaibo were also attacked and damaged.

Globovisión journalists have received multiple death threats, and the government has threatened to shut down the network just as it shut down Radio Caracas Television, said the foundation.
Globovisión news teams have been hospitalized after being attacked in the field. Cameraman Larry Arvelo, for example, was attacked on the job by government security forces Dec. 6, the foundation reported. Globovisión’s 430 employees live in constant fear of being assaulted at any place and time by government partisans and agents of Venezuelan state security, it said.

“Globovisión, like all independent media, is an instrument of free expression. Through it, many Venezuelans peacefully express their ideas — and some dissent from the policies of the Venezuelan government,” said foundation founder Thor Halvorssen, adding:

“HRF seeks protection for Globovisión, its employees, directors, and equipment, and urges the Venezuelan government to comply with the national and international rules that protect and guarantee the exercise of human rights in Venezuela, principally the right to life, property rights, and the right to freedom of expression.”

The Caracas Nine campaign promotes awareness of human rights abuses and seeks legal protection for individuals persecuted and endangered by the Venezuelan government. The nine cases featured in the campaign are emblematic of the widespread human rights abuses directed against those who openly criticize Venezuela’s government, the foundation said. Francisco Usón, whose case was the first taken up by the foundation, was freed from prison on conditional release Dec. 24.

Chile calls its ambassador home in territorial dispute with neighbor Perú
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chile has recalled its ambassador to Perú for consultations about a growing dispute over the countries' maritime border.

Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley said Ambassador Cristian Barros has been called home to discuss the issue. He did not elaborate.

The summons comes a day after Perú filed a complaint
with the International Court of Justice in The Hague about the dispute.

Perú has long claimed the area near the Chilean port of Africa. It says the limits at sea between the two countries have never been defined.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet says treaties signed in 1952 and 1954 clearly define the area as Chilean territory.
Chile summoned Barros home over the same issue in August, after filing a formal protest with Perú.

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