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These stories were published Monday, Jan. 21, 2002
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Afternoon crowd gathers for the major-league production.
A giant political rally takes over Paseo Colon
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was no traffic moving Sunday afternoon on Paseo Colon as members of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana showed up in force to support their presidential candidate. 

The event was one of a number over the weekend as the presidential campaign moved into its final stages, culminated with the vote Feb. 3.

The sea of red and blue Social Christian party colors on Paseo Colon was punctuated by Costa Rican flags. So no one became bored,  a handful of strategically placed stages along the major thoroughfare hosted musical groups.

The productions paled in comparison to the giant stage set up a few feet east of Toyota where a professionally choreographed troupe preceded the 5:35  p.m. talk by Abel Pacheco, the candidate. The party constructed a set that contained a typical Tico home, complete with tile roof high upon metal supports. A series of four stages held presentations and later Pacheco and his runningmates.

His talk paralleled the musical presentation, stressing the cultural diversity of Costa Rica. 
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The show had Indians, European immigrants, Chinese railroad workers, Caribbean banana employees, all dancing.

Pacheco, whose talk was styled as a big hug said he was a candidate not for himself but for old people, young people, the many races that make up Costa Rica, the disabled, farmers and others. He promised action against illegal logging by "people with no conscience" and more security in the more crime-infested barrios of the major cities "to bring hope to the badly protected."

He called the party turnout "the biggest my eyes have ever seen," although hard numbers were difficult to find. Supporters had come from all over in buses and in columns of marchers. As Pacheco finished talking, a giant fireworks display began from the volleyball courts in nearby La Sabana Park.

Similar events were held by the other two candidates. Rolando Araya of the Partido de Liberación Nacional was in Heredia earlier in the afternoon for a big rally. Ottón Solís of Partido Acción Ciudadana was in Alajuela.

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There's a lot in common with Ticos and culture that brought 'Harry'
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

More than most cultures, magic is alive in Costa Rica, and that’s why Harry Potter will do well here. There seems to be parallels between the Celtic consciousness that spawned the boy wizard Harry and the deep Tico spirituality.

"Harry  Potter y la piedra filosofal," the Spanish version of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone," is drawing lines at local theaters. A few youngsters can be seen abroad on the streets and in malls wearing a wizard cap and gown.

But in a larger sense, both cultures walk with magic every day. Is there anyone in Costa Rica who does not know a real witch, a "bruja," in Spanish? Want to whip up a potion to do good or evil? Well, the Public Market is a good place to start for magical plants and maybe a potion or two.

The Harry Potter movie is an exceptional work, bound to be an all-time classic. The story is Cinderella, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Babe Ruth all rolled into one. Poor 11-year-old Harry, an orphan, lives a life of servitude in the home of a selfish aunt and uncle until he is called to enroll in a school for wizards. Kind of like "Betty la fea" for kids.

Harry and two sidekicks fight an evil that invades the school, and Harry becomes the star of "quiddich," a rough-and-tumble rugby-type game played on flying broomsticks.

Indeed, the movie, which closely follows the book, is the age-old battle between good (Harry and pals) and evil ( the dark Lord Voledmort who killed Harry’s parents). And good vs. evil is a constant preoccupation of predominantly Catholic Tico society.

The movie unfolds as if director Chris Columbus was reading Joseph Campbell’s "The Hero with a Thousand Faces," at the same time he was reading the script. Campbell’s book was the one that inspired Star Wars, and, like Luke Skywalker, Harry descends to the depths of his Hogwarts School for a final confrontation with evil.

Campbell wrote his academic study on the cult of the hero because similar tales can be found in every culture. That’s probably because the hero tales are such fun, and so is Harry.  Movie producers even brought in an old steam train and magical station platform to whisk Harry off to school. Who does not love a huffing, puffing steam locomotive?

Author J. K. Rowling is a single mother who started the book while living in a small Edinburgh apartment on welfare. Now she is at work on the fifth of the planned seven-book series. The title is "Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix." And a second Harry Potter movie, "The Chamber of Secrets," might be out as early as this fall. Daniel Radcliffe, known to BBC viewers for his role as David Copperfield, is the stoic eyeglass-wearing Harry.

The viewer or reader can quickly see Rowling’s Welsh heritage in the Potter series. Her legacy is a land of druids, giant oak trees and spirits and things that go bump in the night. And there are those slightly strange folk who seem to have a second sight or a special gift, the fey folk. So it makes sense to gather up these people and send them off to school for training.

Rowling’s alter ego is Hermione, a slightly overbearing female spell-casting sidekick of Harry. 

"The idea that we could have a child who escapes from the confines of the adult world and goes somewhere where he has power, both literally and metaphorically, really appealed to me." 
—J.K. Rowling

As the books continue to come, the affinity with a spiritual society will become clearer. Book five of Harry turns darker with murders and pervasive evil. Rowling’s heritage and her time as an office assistant with Amnesty International seem to figure in the mix. Hermoine becomes deeply involved in civil rights of elves, in another book, and the series will run the risk of becoming a bit too preachy.

But until then, "Harry y la piedra filosofal," receives the strongest of recommendations. Some versions of the film can be seen in English with Spanish subtitles at selected theaters. Others have been dubbed in Spanish.

Here are some selected Harry Potter Web sites:

Warner Bro.’s official site:


Scholastic, the Web site of the book’s publisher:


A Canadian Broadcasting Webcast with J.K. Rowling:


Devil worship criticism

Some readers have criticized the Harry Potter books for encouraging the black arts, witchcraft and Devil worship. Author Rowling replies that the books are strongly moral, that Harry and his friends, while sometimes wrong, follow their conscience.

When confronted with this criticism, she said she used to give her critics detailed, well-reasoned answers but "now I just think they need psychiatric help."

A new but experienced entry into daily newspaper publishing
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With little fanfare, The Tico Times joined the daily online newspaper world Friday with a small note on its Web page that it is providing a daily news.

The weekly print publication joins A.M. Costa Rica in providing daily news via the Internet. The Tico Times already had a Web page. In fact, it was among the first newspapers to go online. However, the Web page only was updated once a week after the print edition appeared.

The decision by the weekly newspaper now gives readers in Costa Rica, the United States and elsewhere the opportunity to obtain news at the speed of light and without the burden and cost of a newsprint product.

Newspapers shipped to the United States and Canada from Costa Rica frequently take a week or more to arrive. The Tico Times has run advertising showing that it is using the Internet to deliver electronic copies of its newspaper more rapidly to a printer in Kansas where U.S. and Canadian papers are printed.

In addition to speed, readers can’t beat the price of an Internet newspaper. A Tico Times print subscription costs $61 in the United States and $96 

in Canada, according to the newspaper’s published rates. A.M. Costa Rica and the Tico Times Internet edition are free. 

In general, newspaper subscription prices, not only here but in the United States, pay just the cost of newsprint, delivery fees and postage.

But online newspapers are not free to advertisers. A.M. Costa Rica this morning publishes its first paid advertisements. And ad rates have been posted on an Internet page

However, the newspaper said that it would continue its tradition of free classifieds for readers, although it soon will eliminate the use of graphics in free advertising. Graphics, such as logos and photos slow the delivery of the page to readers, some of whom have irregular Internet hookups.

The newspaper also said it would restrict the size of free classified advertising to eight to 10 normal typewritten lines.

In the number of classified ads, A.M. Costa Rica seems to have become the dominate Internet medium by which English speakers conduct business. In addition to a classified page, the Internet newspaper has special tourism, real estate and employment pages.

Embassy closed
for King birthday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff 
and wire services

The U.S. Embassy will be closed today in honor of the 73rd birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the assassinated U.S. civil rights leader.

The embassy offices and consulate will open again Tuesday for normal hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., said an embassy release.

In Washington, President George Bush said King was "a modern American hero whose leadership rallied people of all races to rise up against injustice."

"The events of Sept. 11 of this year, Bush said, "have given us renewed purpose in rededicating ourselves" to Dr. King's "dream" that he spoke of on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963. King in his famous "I have a Dream" speech, said he envisioned a world where his children would live in a nation where they would be judged by the content of their character — not the color of their skin. 

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington that day for the "March on Washington" to press for racial equality. Afterwards, King and other civil rights leaders met with then-President John F. Kennedy at the White House. 

King, an ordained Baptist minister, received the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. 

On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. His killing sparked widespread and violent riots throughout parts of the United States. 

James Earl Ray confessed to killing King, but recanted later and said he had been framed. Numerous conspiracy theories arose surrounding the slaying. Ray was convicted and sent to prison, where he died in 1998. 

Increasing impact
feared for airlines

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

GENEVA, Switzerland — Airlines in Africa, Asia and Latin America will increasingly feel the economic effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the International Labor Organization reports.

Representatives of workers, employers, governments and non-governmental organizations  from around the world will meet today through Friday at ILO headquarters in Geneva to discuss possible solutions to the economic crisis that was originally felt by airlines in North America and Europe, said a press release.

Topics to be discussed at the meeting include the regulatory framework governing the airline industry and obstacles to consolidation of airlines, according to the release. 

"Tension is building up between existing rules and the demands of globalization," the report states. Policies to promote consolidation within the industry also encounter opposition from trade unions, the report says.

An ILO report prepared for the meeting says that short-term forecasts for the industry are "all negative" and that recovery will be delayed by the worldwide recession, increased security costs and passenger safety concerns. The crisis will force some airlines to cease operations and others to re-nationalize or receive subsidies, the report says.

For every airline layoff, the report says, at least four airport ground jobs and three support services jobs are lost. 

Now dollars must be
swapped for pesos

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Eduardo Duhalde says all bank accounts in dollars will be converted to pesos to help avert a collapse of the nation's banking system.

Two major newspapers, Clarin and La Nación, quote Mr. Duhalde saying his intent is to maintain the purchasing power of the national currency.

Duhalde, Argentina's fifth president in the last month, pledged in his inauguration speech to return people's savings to them in the currency originally deposited.

But Argentine banks, which hold deposits of nearly $44 billion, demanded the change in policy after the government ordered that all of their loans be made in pesos.

Early this month, the government devalued the peso, which had been pegged one-to-one to the dollar. The official exchange rate is now 1.4 to the dollar, but reports say its value in currency exchange houses has weakened in recent days to less than two to the dollar.

In his comments to the press, Duhalde indicated the bank account conversion would complete the "pesofication" of the economy that began on Jan. 6 when Argentina abandoned the one-to-one parity of its peso and the dollar.

Argentina imposed banking curbs on deposits last month to stop a run on the banks. The action has led to almost daily rioting.

At least 17 people were injured Friday when police clashed with demonstrators in the northern city of Santiago del Estero and the central city of Rio Cuarto. Argentina has defaulted on its $141-billion public debt.


U.S. diver dies
at isle del Coco

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen named Hunt with an age of 38 years died last week in the Isla del Coco while scuba diving, according to police.

The man was diving under the eye of an instructor at the popular diving location Wednesday when it appeared that something abnormal had taken place. The man was pulled from the water and rescue techniques applied without results, police said. The body was taken to the morgue of the Judicial Investigating Organization for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Isla del Coco is about 500 kms. (300 miles) west of the southernmost tip of Costa Rica in the Pacific.

Executive arrested
in credit card probe

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man identified as a sales executive of a credit card company in San Pedro is being investigated in a probe of the fraudulent use of such cards, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The suspect, whose name was not given, is alleged to have created applications for credit in the names of other people, falsified the signatures on the forms and then used the credit cards that were generated by the forgeries.

Investigators said that when they arrested the man Thursday he had three such cards on his person and that the cards had been used in transactions amounting to 1 million colons (nearly $3,000).

Vagina Monologues
showcase Feb. 4

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Little Theater Group will hold an open house Monday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. to showcase its newest production, "The Vagina Monologues."

The opening performance is Friday, Feb. 22, at 7:30 p.m. The director is Susan Hall Liang whose last production was the comedy/thriller "Deathtrap".

The play is based on the book by Eve Ensler and has been an off-Broadway hit for years. The play has been running in San José in Spanish. The book is based on interviews with over 200 women about their memories and experiences of sexuality. The play, "The Vagina Monologues" gives voice to women's deepest fantasies and fears, guaranteeing that no one who reads it will ever look at a woman's body,  or think of sex, in quite the same way again, said a description at the New York play’s Web site.  The book’s publisher is Random House.

The theater is located in Bello Horizonte, which is entered by the first left west of the Los Anonos one-lane bridge. To reach the theater, a driver goes left again at the y-intersection. The theater is adjacent to a home about 400 yards to the east of the intersection.

"At first women were reluctant to talk," Ensler writes.  "They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn't stop them." 

Ransom request
awaited for Garnier

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators said there has been no contact by presumed kidnappers with the family of Fabio Garnier, 35, who has been missing since Thursday night. He is presumed to have been kidnapped because he is the son of a well-known football figure.

He was reported to have left his job at a rental car company on Paseo Colon Thursday, but no more was heard until his car was located at Multiplaza mall in Escazú. He lives in Rohrmoser, another western suburb.

During a kidnap case, it is not unusual for police to report that there has been no contact when, in fact, negotiations are underway with the crooks. However, in this case, government officials are making an appeal for the kidnappers to begin negotiations.

Rebels and government
just make the deadline

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — The government and leftist rebels have agreed to immediately open talks aimed at signing a ceasefire by April 7.  The agreement came late Sunday less than four hours before a government deadline for progress to be made or the peace talks abandoned. 

The agreement also calls for immediate talks on halting rebel kidnappings of wealthy Colombians, a tactic used by rebels to finance their activities with ransom. And the government will discuss a crackdown on right-wing paramilitaries accused of terrorizing and murdering civilians suspected of aiding rebels. 

Both sides also agreed to let an international commission monitor their negotiating progress. 
Sunday's agreement came after five days of talks in a rebel-held stronghold in southern Colombia. Government troops have been poised near there for days, ready to retake the stronghold if negotiations failed. In a goodwill gesture, President Andres Pastrana now says the rebels may remain in their stronghold until April 10. 

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