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These stories were published Friday, Jan. 28, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 20
Jo Stuart
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Fishman quits to reserve right to be a candidate for president
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Luis Fishman, the nation’s second vice president, resigned Thursday.

The action was seen as part of a strategy to make a presidential run. The Costa Rican Constitution says that anyone who has held the job of vice president or a cabinet post 12 months prior to the election is ineligible. The presidential and legislative election is Feb. 6, 2006. Fishman told television viewers that he was not yet a candidate.

Fishman was basically a vice president in exile. He had a falling out with President Abel Pacheco before Pacheco took over in May 2002. Fishman did not participate with the administration and maintained his own private office. 

He generally is considered a master stategist who was the engineer of the Pacheco victory.

Any other cabinet ministers who seek to run for the presidency will have to resign by Feb. 6 to be eligible.

Gambling is a good way to meet new people
Gaming is a pastime that is enjoyed by both tourists and residents in Costa Rica.  Nowadays there probably is a gambling casino near you if you live in San José or near a new hotel.  I enjoy going to a casino both because I enjoy roulette and because I get a chance to meet people I would not normally encounter.

Most casinos have various games.  There is canasta, a form of roulette that has numbered Ping-Pong balls in a wire basket instead of the wheel, and some have a roulette wheel. There are card games and slots.  I can’t talk much about anything but roulette or canasta because I don’t play them.  When I play, I usually go to the Colonial because it is spacious, comfortable (except for the over enthusiastic air conditioning) and because it has become like the famous TV bar, Cheers, to me.  ("Everybody knows your name") and I see some of the same people over and over.  I also meet visitors to Costa Rica. 

The Colonial also has some other attractions, like free buffets for gamers on Saturdays and holidays and free bocas and drinks.  Other casinos also offer perks.

Once, at roulette (or canasta), the minimum bet you could put on the table was four chips, whether they were dollar chips or colon chips.  Now the Colonial has a minimum of 10 chips.  Ten dollars every play is pretty high. One thousand colons seems high to many but not impossible, except at times for one player.  I’ll call her Maria.  Maria must be 80 years old and is small and wrinkled.  Her favorite number is 13, and she usually plays until it hits.  If it doesn’t, she tells me mournfully how much she has lost.  The croupier often challenges the number of chips she has played, and Maria responds by demanding, "Cuentelos"  (count them) whereupon all of us at the table join in to count them.  If there are not enough and she doesn’t have any more, someone will exchange a chip and give her what she needs. 

The favorite number of another player, a Chinese gentleman, is 19.  If he is anywhere around (and I swear that when he is near a table 19 hits), the croupier, and often the players will call out "Nineteen!."  And he replies, "Oooh, Nineteen."

I am not known for any particular number, but I was pleased the other night when some 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Ticos at the table were talking and then one of them (Frankie) said to me, "We were just saying you are good people — always calm."  That is not always true, sometimes I get very irritated at the bad manners at the table.  I figured that maybe they were saying that to encourage me to be calm. They are very forgiving.

The other night I was talking with a fellow from Louisiana and the topic got onto politics and the U.S.  We were agreeing that the policies of the current administration were alienating many countries.  He mentioned the small sum President Bush had first offered to the Tsunami disaster.  I was deploring the war in Iraq.  A voice from a tall man a few feet from the roulette table interrupted us with, "The United States is the greatest country in the world, so don’t knock it." His voice had an edge of challenge, but he was obviously upset.

We both hurriedly explained we were not knocking the country, we were criticizing the current administration.  Unfortunately, many Americans think the administration is the country.

Later, my Louisiana acquaintance told me the man had approached him at the cashier’s window and explained that he had just come from another club where they were "trashing the United States."

When I left that evening, I happened to look up, and I saw a new banner on a building on Avenida Segunda.  It had, printed in large red letters: "Fuera Yankis de Irak.  Viva la Resistencia Iraqui!"  (Yankees out of Iraq.  Long Live the Iraqi Resistance.)  At least that is what I saw as the taxi drove past. 

As much as I am against the war in Iraq myself, it hurt to see the sentiment so strongly stated in this land where the people are so moderate and forgiving.  And I understood how that other American felt. 

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Three foreign tourists relax in the shade at the entrance to Parque Nacional Cahuita.

Tourist trade cut drastically
at key Caribbean locations

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourism in Cahuita has fallen off 85 percent, according to a local official.

Even though the Caribbean coast town was largely unaffected by the wave of record rains that hit in early January, tourists still are avoiding the area. The town is known for its black sand beach and nearby Parque Nacional Cahuita.

Cahuita depends nearly 100 percent on tourist income. So the guide, hotel and restaurant businesses are in a slump.

The town and nearby Puerto Viejo did not suffer the heavy flooding that hit the community of Sixaola and northern Panamá to the south or Limón to the north. During the peak of the rain some buses were halted because roads were out or flooded elsewhere and some tourists were stranded. But that was the week of Jan. 9.

This is the high season in both communities where the bulk of their tourist dollars are earned.

Hellen Simons is president of the Comite de Desarollo Integral de Cahuita. She will make a trip to San José next week to seek help for the community.

But the most important thing, she said by telephone Thursday, is to let tourists know that the community was not heavily damaged by the two weeks of rain and that the beaches and national park still are great destinations.

Another problem affecting all Caribbean tourist communities are the landslides that have closed the Braulio Carrillo highway, the main route from San José to the Caribbean slope. Alternative routes exist, but the closure has turned off many tourists, Ms. Simons said.

The community is in serious financial trouble and parents who work in tourist or businesses indirectly dependent on tourism worry they cannot afford to send their children to school. Classes start Feb. 7.

Tourists who are interested in visiting the Caribbean can get a first-hand report on road and weather conditions by calling the development committee at 755-0000 or 755-0232, the tourist information office there.

Two Miss Costa Ricas
will be picked tonight

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Miss Costa Rica will be crowned tonight at a pageant held at the National Auditorium in San José. The event will begin at 8 p.m. and will be carried by Teletica.

Two winners will be crowned at the event: Miss Costa Rica and Miss Costa Rica Mundo. Miss Costa Rica will represent the country in the Miss Universe 2005 pageant in Bankok, Thailand. Miss Costa Rica Mundo will represent the country in the Miss World 2005 pagent in Sanya, China.

Nine women made it to the finale of the pageant. They range in age from 20 to 23, and many of them are students at universities throughout the country.

The National Auditorium is located at the Museo de Los Niños on Calle 4 and Avenida 9.

Annual fair opens
in Pérez Zeledón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The annual agriculture fair of Pérez Zeledón is on this weekend. The fair organized by the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia will feature farm animals as well as organically cultivated fruits and plants. The fair will run through Sunday, Feb. 6. 

Arts and crafts as well as orchids will be on sale. Modern to vintage farming machinery and vehicles will also be on exhibit. Other activities for the spectator or participator include the bucking bronco, rodeo and a bullring. 

There will also be concerts and sporting activities such as mountain biking, five-a-side football and boxing. Prizes will be handed out Sunday for the best non-pedigree dog, known as zaguates in Costa Rica.

The ministry will have an educational stall at the fair. Adolfo Morales Mata, coordinator of the event, said experts will be at the stall to answer any questions that the public may have regarding cultivation of crops and cattle. 

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The contest between the area's Italian restaurants
A friend invited me to a poker game the other night, and between hands someone mentioned my choice of Di Bartolo’s Café as the No. 1 Italian restaurant for 2004. I got a few pats on the back for my choice and left with my shirt intact from the game due to a little bit of luck, but not without fomenting some dissent. "If you don’t stir the pot, the sauce will burn." 

Jorge thought my choice was too expensive and praised Cerutti in Escazú as a better value. Nickolas disagreed. He thought that Jorge’s choice was good, but actually more expensive than Di Bartolo. I checked my notes at home later and found a reference from a reviewer who said that Cerutti was the most expensive Italian restaurant in Costa Rica. 

Carlos thought that the restaurant I had mentioned in Piedades served very good food for much less but thought that the name had been changed to something he couldn’t remember. We all agreed that all three are fine restaurants. Jaime raised two green chips, and all conversation ended.

When I go to a new restaurant, I try to remain anonymous. I never carry notebook and pen, and I have other companions, preferably female (inexplicably less suspicious), ask about the chef or what is in the brown sauce. 

If reservations are in order, they are never in my name. We always use a credit card with my wife’s surname (different from mine) on it. Some times I’m recognized and a Keystone Cops scene of ingratiating behavior disrupts dinner. The downside of anonymity is that nearly all the information is secondhand from a waiter who is trying so hard to please that he or she is incapable of ever saying "I don’t know." So was the case with the restaurant in Piedades. It used to be called Ristorante Grand Canal. Its new name is Da Marco after the chef, Marco De Nando. 

Since it was my third and final trip to Da Marco before writing this column, I chanced discovery and engaged the chef in conversation on our way out. Contrary to what a waiter had told my wife a few weeks before, the chef was from Verona, not Genoa. He proudly showed us a print of an ancient amphitheater in his hometown hung next to the kitchen door.

My assessment: charm, very good food, large portions and moderately priced, particularly when compared to Jorge’s or my first choices for 2004. 

The indoor and outdoor eating areas are both more rustic and comfortable than formal or elegant. The two-tone earth color tile floor and pale walls reflect soft light from the blue-grey Venetian glass fixtures. Antique prints and contemporary Grand Canal paintings cover the only wall that isn’t glass looking out on garden. The waiters were relaxed, friendly and attentive. Dress was casual. The other diners all appeared pleased to be there. Each seemed to smile with approval at the platters of food as they were carried to other tables. 

Is it romantic? Yes and no. If romantic to you means regal with grand floral arrangements and violins, no. If it means charming, cozy and conducive to intimate conversation, then, by all means, yes.

Marvelous steaks, large and tender, as good as any 

Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


steakhouse offering we have tried and less expensive than most. I particularly liked it draped in melted gorgonzola for ¢3,600. Sixteen different rich risottos including one made with squid and its ink complement choices of 27 pastas. 

Of the pastas, only taglierini with jumbo shrimp or lobster cost more; the remaining 25 range from ¢1,600 to ¢2,700, including ravioli and gnocchi. The meat dishes cost from ¢2,500 for chicken in a pesto cream to ¢3,900 for steak in brandy or porcini mushroom sauces. Seafood dishes begin at ¢2,400 for corvina ala plancha and top out for lobster or jumbo prawns at ¢4,900. 

Thirty or so pizzas range from ¢1,350 to ¢2,200. The ones with prosciutto di Parma or seafood are ¢2,800 to ¢3,200. Also: six salads -  ¢900-¢1,700, six carpaccios all for ¢2,200, 15 reasonable antipasti and desserts that I never had the capacity to try. Figure 461 colones to the U.S. dollar.

By now, you must know that I like eggplant and anchovies. So, among my favorites were an appetizer of paper thin slices of eggplant in a tomato parmiggiana sauce (¢1,600) and al dente penne with a rich putanesca (in the style of prostitutes) sauce of tomato, capers, black olives and real anchovies (¢2100). A friend loved the salmon and avocado fettucini. The closest thing to a criticism was that the portion size of the mixture of  Italian national cheeses was too small for everyone to taste each of the four varieties. Other portions, especially the pastas, were very large.

Stars ´´´
Cost $$ (up to ¢4,000) with very few exceptions. 
The poker group — a sophisticated bunch who know a lot about food — also ´´´

Location: From the highway to Ciudad Colón heading west, turn left at the flashing yellow light just past where four lanes narrow to two, towards Piedades. On the right side as you climb the hill you will see the building and its sign. Enter to the right of the building and park past the gatekeeper for a hotel. 


EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Karpman is a food critic in the newspaper’s editorial department. As such, he alone is responsible for selecting the restaurants he reviews subject to general approval by the editor.

Newspaper policy forbids a writer or other employee from accepting complimentary tickets, food, rooms or other items of more than a nominal value.

Non-toxic efforts suggested to end a plague of insects damaging anona 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministrio de Agricultura y Ganaderia has created an advice pack for farmers of the anona fruit in Costa Rica.

Anona or custard apple
In 2004 crops of anona in Aserri and other areas were destroyed by a plague of insects. The fruit is called custard apple in English.

The ministry’s pack advises how to protect crops without the use of pesticides. Juan Jose Castro Retana, head of the Aserri agency of the ministry, said that in 

2003 108.4 tons of the fruit were harvested in comparison to 2004 with only 73.8 tons. Castro said that represented a loss of 32 percent.
"The main cause of such a great loss in the anona market is the attack of different insects. Because of the level of damage to crops and the economic effect it is called a plague," said Castro.

Castro said that the best way to combat the insects is to make sure fallen fruit is collected, put into bags and thrown away. When selecting fruits for packaging, those that are damaged should be disposed of in the same way. Pesticides should be avoided, Castro said, as not all of the insects are damaging as they help the process of pollination.

Young fruit frequently are put in net bags to protect them from insects.

The fruit is of the Anona family of the Guanabana, a prickly green skinned fruit with a sweet tasting soft center, sometimes used to help arthritis sufferers, hepatic disorders and dysentery.

The ministry also suggests making traps for the insects that lay their eggs on the blossoms or the young fruit. 

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Guadalupe neighborhood faces a rash of set fires
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The fifth fire in two weeks burned through a field behind Colegio Napoleón Quesada in Guadalupe Thursday afternoon. All of the fires were started by an employee of the college, according to the director of security at the secondary school, Rey Calderón.

Two officers from the Fuerza Pública joined several firemen and put out the scattered flames across the field. According to Sotero Garcia, a Fuerza Pública officer, the fire had started around noon. He said that locals had called the Fuerza Pública soon after.

Calderón watched as the field burned. "You can see where he started the other fires. This is the fifth one in 

the last few days," he said. 

"He comes in here and starts a fire whenever he wants," said Annabelle Gómez, a resident. "It’s so dangerous," she said while she watched the fire. The field is covered with knee-high weeds.

Claudio Masis also lives near the school. "We are tired of it," he said. "The Fuerza Pública keeps saying that they can’t arrest him unless the school files charges. The guy is ruining the neighborhood though."

The smoke trailed west from the school. The smell hung in the air throughout Guadalupe and parts of San José. Small particles even floated through the air, landing several miles away.

U.S. citizen  held by immigration will face scam allegations in Florida
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. citizen arrested Wednesday will face federal charges in Florida involving a $10 million employment scam.

He is Spencer Peter Golden, 44, who last returned to Costa Rica in June. He is believed to have been involved here with a call center in La Sabana where he lived.

Golden, who may have used other names in Costa Rica, 

is accused of operating a telemarketing scheme from 1997 to 2002 in which his company used classified ads to encourage job seekers to make advanced payments for high-paying postal jobs, according to a spokesman for the security ministry. The jobs never existed and the job-seekers never had their money refunded, said the spokesman.

Technically, Golden is being held on an immigration detention. However, the U.S. government is expected to seek extradition. 

Sting operation nets anti-aircraft missile on Nicaraguan black market
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The State Department confirmed Thursday that Nicaraguan authorities, with help from the United States, this month recovered a Soviet-era portable anti-aircraft missile that had apparently been put up for sale by black marketers. The United States has asked Nicaragua to investigate how the weapon got into unauthorized hands.

The United States is commending Nicaraguan officials for the successful recovery of the Russian-made SA-7 anti-aircraft missile, but also calling on authorities in Managua to investigate whether other missiles provided to that country during the Soviet era might be unsecured.

The comments follow a report by the Washington Times newspaper Thursday that Nicaraguan police, in an American-assisted "sting" operation, confiscated one of the deadly weapons that three Nicaraguans had tried to sell them.

According to the newspaper account, the black marketers were demanding several hundred thousand dollars for the missile and claimed to have several more.

The Washington Times said it was not known if the 

Nicaraguans had sold other SA-7s before being arrested. It said the episode has "sounded alarm bells" in Washington, where U.S. officials have been openly concerned that portable air-defense missiles could be acquired by terrorists.

The SA-7 missile and launcher weigh less than 10 kilograms (22 pounds), have a range of almost 5,000 meters (three miles), and are capable of bringing down a commercial airliner approaching or taking off from an airport.

Two SA-7s are believed to have been fired at an Israeli airliner leaving a Kenyan airport in 2002 but missed.

Nicaragua accumulated nearly two thousand of the missiles when the Marxist Sandinista movement was in power in the 1980s.

A State Department spokesman said the newly revealed case suggests there might be a stockpile of unaccounted for missiles in the hands of the Nicaraguan military or other parties. He said the United States has asked the Managua government to investigate.

The Washington Times said U.S. officials suspect that those caught trying to sell the SA-7 this month are middlemen representing elements within the military who have a secret stash of the weapons.

U.S. endorses El Salvador's Flores for OAS job vacated by Rodríguez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States has formally endorsed the former president of El Salvador, Francisco Flores, to become the next secretary general of the Organization of American States. The endorsement will boost the ex-president’s chances.

Flores appeared at the organizations’ headquarters Thursday to address the permanent council and present his case for becoming the institution's next secretary general.  The former Salvadoran president, who is 45, hopes to win the support of a majority of the 34 member states.

Flores' candidacy received a strong boost when the U.S. representative to the organization, John Maisto, formally endorsed him during Thursday's session.  Later at a news conference, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, who is in charge of Latin American affairs, explained the reasons for the Bush administration's endorsement.

"President Flores represents a new generation of Latin American leaders: thoroughly modern, dynamic, forward leaning, who view the challenges of our 21st century globalized world not as threats to be shunned 

but as opportunities to be embraced," he said.  "He is a Central American visionary, fresh and creative in his outlook, who deeply appreciates the benefits of regional action and hemispheric unity."

The U.S. endorsement came as no surprise, since Washington had earlier made clear it would support a former president from Central America for the job.

However, two other contenders are believed to have wide support in the hemisphere, including Chilean Minister Jose Miguel Insulza, who may get the support of large countries like Brazil and Argentina.

In his speech Thursday, Flores said he would seek to revitalize the organization and emphasized the need for the institution to combat poverty, promote economic development, and develop rapid response mechanisms to natural disasters.  He also called on member states to hold the election to pick a new secretary general by the end of February.  The countries have until June to decide.

The organization has been without a head since last October, when former Costa Rican president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez stepped down less than a month into his tenure to return home to face corruption charges.

Jo Stuart
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