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These stories were published Friday, Feb. 4, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 25
Jo Stuart
About us
Law enforcement officials will try to boost security on buses
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bus operators sought help from law enforcement Thursday to stem a rash of stickups.

Security officials immediately ordered beefed up patrols in the San José and Alajuela routes where recent bus holdups have taken place. They also said they would create a training program for an estimated 4,000 bus drivers in the Central Valley from Cartago to Heredia.

Bus operators were represented by the Cámara Nacional de Transportes. Security officials included Rogelio Ramos, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. 

Officials from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes attended, as did representatives from the major law enforcement agencies.

The training program will be largely preventative, officials said.

Buses are prime targets for small-time, impulse robbers. Most buses travel at night and in poorer areas. In addition, money is easily available from the boxes drivers carry.

Passengers on the bus are easy targets, too, unless they happen to be off-duty policemen. In one incident last year, a Judicial Investigating Organization agent shot dead a robber who tried to hold up a Heredia-bound bus.

Visits to the hospital bring a wake-up call
My friend Bill is in the hospital. I have been there to visit him five times with no luck. He either has been sleeping or I have been told I am outside visiting hours. As I was sitting in the waiting room one of those times, I saw hanging on the wall what looked like a shallow blue, flat-bottomed boat about seven feet by three with straps and a foam pad. It had a label in English — Basket Stretcher. 

I wondered idly if that is where the phrase "basket case" came from. "We’re bringing a basket case into the hospital." Actually I always thought the phrase referred to the state of one’s mental health. I was beginning to think that I would soon be a basket case if I couldn’t at least touch base with my friend. We have talked on the phone almost every day for the past ten years. We usually talk about what is going on in the world and make each other laugh a lot. We have not talked for several days, and I am having withdrawal symptoms. Besides, we haven’t been able to discuss the voting in Iraq. 

We would both agree the Iraqi people are a very brave people — risking death in order to vote for a list of candidates they hardly knew for a democracy whose first order of business, besides creating a constitution, seems to be to get a military large enough to protect it. President Bush told them to brave the dangers and go vote, and they did. He didn’t seem to have the same faith in U.S. voters. When voting day was nearing in the 
U.S. and there was word of a possible terrorist attack, the administration immediately said it might postpone the election.

There has been much mention of the procedure of having people dip their fingers in ink to show that they had voted. That is not so unusual. Costa Ricans do the same after they have voted. The difference is that when they drive around and proudly wave their inked-stained fingers, they do it without fear of being a target of anyone who wishes them 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

ill. That is another nice aspect of living here.
Bill’s problem is that he is not as young as he used to be but he has been treating his body as if he were. My mother at 90 (she is now 96) said something I think she borrowed from George Burns: "If I had known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself." So would we all, Mom. 

Talking with other friends, I think Bill is not alone. Growing old as they say, is not for sissies. Nor is it for people in total denial. 

I think a lot of us spend considerable time complaining when our bodies (which, when you think about it have gone through a lot of wear and tear and abuse when we were young) don’t respond the way they used to. Many of us are reaping the results of those heedless days of youth. 

I just hate it when I have to pause after the first flight on the way to my apartment. It is not that I am totally out of shape and should push myself. I had scarlet fever as a kid and then I smoked. I was left with future heart problems. I have to be kind to my heart, not curse it. (Maybe I’ll send it a valentine on the 14th.) 

Or maybe I will just do what will support it, like eat things that are good for me (I hope, Bill, you are by now up and able to read this) and engage in exercise that will help to strengthen it. In short, we should just realize that yesterday is gone, this is now, and follow the advice of Baba Ram Das. Remember him of the 60s? His advice: "Be here now." 

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Grandson is being held
in grandmother’s murder

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 30-year-old grandson faces an allegation that he attacked his wheelchair-bound 98-year-old grandmother and stabbed her to death in her own home.

The bloody event took place in the Azul section of Turriabla about 10 a.m. The dead woman was Clemencia Calvo Calvo, who was well-known to her neighbors because she always took the sun on the sidewalk in front of her home.

The exact reason for the attack in not known, but neighbors said they heard the woman screaming for help. They called the Fuerza Pública.

When officers arrived, they found the suspect, identified as Erik Calvo Calvo standing over the body of his grandmother. He was apprehended there although a second report said that neighbors grabbed him first and roughed him up.

According to a statement released by the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública Thursday the suspect Calvo had previously been convicted of aggravated assault and had displayed mental problems. 

Big police response 
aids in trio’s capture

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three suspects, including a U.S. citizen, were detained by officials in Curridabat Thursday afternoon after bandits attempted a robbery at the Preko Factory. According to officials, three men attempted to rob the mechanical workshop and took hostages when the Fuerza Pública arrived. 

In a joint effort between the Fuerza Pública, the Judicial Investigating Organization and the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional, the three suspects were taken into custody after they escaped from the factory briefly. More than 80 law officers participated.

After attempting to rob the workshop, the robbers fled into a wooded area behind the shop. Officers from the three governmental agencies worked together to track the suspects down.

A Judicial Investigating Organization spokesperson identified the three suspects as Marchena Villegas, origin unknown, Lamond Paine from the United States and Coronado Obando from Nicaragua. 

Officers found a 9 mm weapon and an M-13 submachine gun at the crime scene.

"The action was a success due to the coordination between the different authorities," said Fuerza Pública Comisionado Randall Picado.

Verdi’s tale of prostitute
will be staged here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Teatro Melico Salazar will be host to the opera "La Traviata," this month and next.  Performers from the Teatro Colón of Buenos Aires, Argentina will present the opera which has been organized by the Asociacion Voces Liricas, Artes Plasticas Latinoamericano and the Artistic Production group Rivadavia. 

The title of the opera "La Traviata," means the lost woman. It was first produced in Venice in 1853. The plot focuses on reformed prostitute Violetta Valery who falls in love with a baron, whom she then marries, moving out of the city. Finding it hard not to go back to her old ways, the protagonist escapes back to the city, breaks the baron’s heart and dies from consumption. 

The three-hour production will feature over 150 workers made up of singers, dancers, orchestra members,  chorus, and technicians. This production will feature three sopranos sharing the role of Violetta Valery. The soprano Holly Gash from Pensacola, Fla., will be one of the performers sharing the role.

It has been 13 years since the opera "La Traviata," composed by Guiseppe Verdi, was performed in Costa Rica. The opera will run for seven days beginning Friday, Feb. 25, with performances Feb. 26 and 27. It also will run March 1, 3 and 5.  Tickets are now on sale at the ticket office of Teatro Melico Salazar and cost $10-$40. Special discounts are available for BAC San Jose and Credomatic customers, group discounts are also available. 

Quake near Desamparados

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 2.5-magnitude earthquake rumbled through the Central Valley Thursday, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica.

Seismologist Caristian Garita of the observatory said the quake struck two kilometers (about 1.3 miles) south of Desamparados at 5:24 p.m. The location is in the mountains south of San José.

Intel declares dividend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Intel Corp. board of directors has declared an eight-cent-a-share quarterly dividend on the company’s common stock, according to a press release Thursday. Intel maintains two manufacturing plants in Heredia.

Intel, the largest computer chip manufacturer in the world, will make the dividend payable March 1.

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A road show of great places to eat when on the run
The long line of visitors has been winding its way through our guest space since Thanksgiving, and we have turned into a road show. With friends in tow from far away places, we often go to Rio Tarcoles to see the crocks, then on to Carara for scarlet macaws. Another fine dual destination is Poas Volcano before 9 a.m. followed by La Paz Waterfall Park. Sarchi’s furniture stores, Grecia’s snake farm and the old cane mill at Los Trapiches are a trio. 

The Saturday fruit and vegetable market in San Ramon is special. With grandkids or other peewees, we head for Tilapia Park in Turucares, for the fishing pond. Ultimately the "Pura vidas" and "How lovely"s turn into "Am I the only one who’s hungry?"

I suspect that all of us have our favorite wateringholes out on or off the byways. I’ll start the show and tell, but you will have to help expand the list. 

Heading south from Rio Tarcoles and/or Carara, the highway reaches sandy beach Playa Malo in only 15 minutes. Abutting the sand at the southern tip of the beach sits a large seafood restaurant. The bowls of seafood soup are huge and laden with an assortment of tasty morsels. Entire fish, deep fried, ceviche and lobster specials for about ¢4000 are other popular choices. Gourmet fare? Not quite, but the backdrop of brown pelicans lining the gunwales of the beached pangas and sea breezes enrich the fare. 

From my home, I can scan the top of Poas after sunrise for clouds. If there are none, the volcano will usually stay clear until 9:15 or 9:30 a.m. So off we go in a hurry to beat the cloud cover. After viewing the teal waters and yellow fumaroles in the crater and meandering leisurely back to the park headquarters, we proceed back to the Vara Blanca turn off. At Vara Blanca, we turn left to La Paz Waterfall Garden and its marvelous triple threat: butterfly enclosure, hummingbird feeding area and descent through cloud forest along three grand waterfalls. The buffet, offered for a fee at the entrance is fair, but my choice is always to retrace steps to Vara Blanca, and turn left a short way for very good and moderately priced French food at any hour, any day at Colbert

If you are not returning to Vara Blanca, but rather, continuing down the Caribbean slope, e.g. for a boat ride on the Sarapiqui River, you will pass an unassuming restaurant and store called Mirador, on the right side of the road about six kilometers past the waterfall bridge. Standard Tico food is served on the back deck before great views and amidst the buzzing of active hummingbird feeders. Beyond are trees full of silver-throated and blue-gray tanagers and a vista back to the falls. In the terrarium, tarantulas or rhinoceros beetles roam and don’t seem to mind being handled. No, of course they are not edible. 

From Grecia northwest (the road ultimately reaches Alajuela) cane dominates the lush hillsides and undulates in the pre-harvest winds. Extraction of the 

Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


sweet juice historically dates back to pre-Columbian times. Los Trapiches houses picnic grounds, a swimming pool, park, a Nineteenth century Scottish waterwheel-driven cane press and an open air cafeteria/soda. The fare during the week is standard sandwiches, casados and gallo pinto.

On Sunday, when the waterwheel turns and the press spews liquid amber for making tapa dulce, from the open stoves emerge olla de carne and picadillo, prepared by hand by two charming local women. The food fills. The rustic ambiance soothes. 

The Saturday fruit and vegetable market in San Ramon is fun. Great variety and cheap prices make it so. When you leave the autopista and head north into town, the road leads to the church square. A little farther north, a tall narrow lime green second church is visible. Behind it is the feria. If you can resist the grilled corn batter cheese pancakes in the market and stay until lunch time, Mino Arias offers very tender inexpensive steaks just off the northwest corner of the town square. Danilo refuses to sell you a cut unless it has been properly aged, therefore fork tender. 

Turucares is a pretty town south of La Garita guarded by a four-way stop sign. A few minutes east of the stop, in the direction of Ciruelas, a sign for Tilapia Park points south down a well maintained gravel road. Trucks from the quarry below chug up and down the road from Monday through Friday, but on weekends, it becomes the gateway to the Land of Oz for tykes who would catch fish. 

Snuggled in the crook of a wooded ravine below the quarry, a manmade fish pond beckons. Munchkins rent hand lines for ¢100 and a bag of bait ample to serve six of them for another ¢100. The rule is simple: you pay market prices for the fish you catch. There are even pondside benches and canopies for shade and buckets for the fish. Best of all, the cool open air restaurant serves whole fried tilapia and good tilapia ceviche, cold beer for the elders and hot dogs, burgers, fries, ice cream and refrescos for the munchkins who love the place. Parents and grandparents kick back and eat and drink. Pura vida. 

Ministry decides to close major park one day a week
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M Costa Rica staff

The national park Rincon de la Vieja will be closing every Monday until further notice. The decision to close the park was made by the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía because officials said they do not have enough staff to run it. Closure of the park will begin Monday.

The decision has been criticized by the Camera Nacional de Turismo de Costa Rica or tourism chamber which said that tourist companies will be greatly affected. The chamber said that tourists who have previously planned to visit the park will have to make other arrangements. 

In recent years the park has seen a significant increase in visitors. In 2001 the park received  15,000 visitors, in 2004 the amount rose to 42,000, making it the most visited park in Guanacaste. The chamber said that the financing for the park is insufficient to hire more staff. 

The park contains the active Rincon de la Vieja volcano, thermal pools, bubbling mud pools and lagoons as well as hundreds of different types of flora and fauna. The park has an extension of 14,000 hectares. It is situated on the Cordillera de Guanacaste and Alajuela and is 25 kms. (16 miles) northeast of Liberia. 

The chamber said that the government has to pay attention to such places of high value for the tourist 

industry. "We cannot accept that they keep doing things that are against the interests of tourist companies because of badly administered government funds. If the park is generating more visits then there must be more funds to contract the personnel needed to keep the park open when tourists want to visit."  said William Rodríguez, president of the chamber.

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Indictment says pair pushed unapproved baby formula internationally
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Federal officials said that two Florida residents made and marketed unapproved baby formula in the United States, Central America and South America.

The disclosure came Thursday as the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, Fla., announced the indictment and arrest of Brian Bishop and Patricia Bishop of Broward County, Florida.

They are principals in Baby’s Best Laboratories, which made the product. They also face a securities charge because they issued $1.14 million in stock.

According to a press release, the two defendants, have been charged with a 75-count indictment, which includes wire fraud and the introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce. 

The produce was called "Baby's Best II," and was distributed for consumption by infants.

The statement says that the indictment alleges that the defendants used several different companies, including 

Baby’s Best Laboratories, to distribute formula that was not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The statement also says that the defendants distributed food products whose shelf life had expired. 

The defendants contracted a foreign distribution center in July 2000, to distribute the unapproved and expired product throughout Central and South America, said the indictment.

The foreign distributor returned the product, complaining that the product was expired and requested fresh product.  The defendants repackaged the expired, unapproved product with a later expiration date, said the indictment.  In an effort to conceal the fact that their product had not been FDA approved or tested, they removed the following legend from the bottom of the cans: "NOT FOR INFANT FEEDING" and "TEST SAMPLES ONLY," the indictment said.

According to the statement, the defendants also offered investment opportunities in their company, Baby's Best Laboratories and sold approximately $1.14 million in stock. The indictment claims that they misrepresented the product to would-be investors.

Ramos favors central control of casinos under new legislation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative commission that is considering casino controls heard the security minister say Thursday that licensing should remain in the hands of the executive branch of the national government.

Even then, the regulatory power should not be vested in a single minister or small group, said the minister, Rogelio Ramos. He also said that casinos were not in themselves a place of vice.

Consequently he came down squarely in favor of regulation and not prohibition.

The alternative to central government control is 

licensing by municipalities, which is the case now.

Another witness, Guillermo Hernández of the Instituto Costarricense Sobre Drogas, suggested that casinos should be required to report transactions of more than $10,000 as international travelers and banks do now.

Ramos is the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. He used the example of the United States as a place where casinos are controlled.

Casino legislation has been under discussion for more than two years. Several deputies, members of the committee, said that the goal should be legal casinos that generate employment and taxes for the government.

Jo Stuart
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