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(506) 223-1327            Published Monday, Feb. 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 26             E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Two Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones officials accept the registry of voters today from  volunteers who worked at a polling place. The two men also delivered the actual voting documents.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Arias lead cut to 3,250 votes
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(posted at 3:15 p.m. Monday)

The tight presidential elections got even tighter this afternoon as the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones said the gap between the two leading candidates was a mere two-tenths of a percent, some 3,250 votes.

An election magistrate, Luis Antonio Sobrado, speculated that two weeks might pass before a winner is proclaimed. Both the campaign of former president Óscar Arias Sánchez and that of Ottón Solís are urging a recount.

Under the election law, the Tribunal must do that anyway, and officials had planned to start a hand count earlier today.

That was before the closeness of the race became known. Magistrates and employees of  the Tribunal now are taking great care due to the tight vote.

So far 88.45 percent of the votes have beencounted. Sobrado, in a quick afternoon press conference, was even talking about a 




591,769 588,519 122,948

runoff between the two leading candidates. He is one of the five magistrates.

The 2:45 p.m. report from the Tribunal gave Liberación Nacional, the party of Arias, 591,769, some 40.51 percent of those cast.  Solís, the Partido Acción Ciudadana candidate, had 588,519 or 40.29 percent. That's a difference of 3,250 votes
The vote totals represent 5,451 polling places or 88.45 percent of the locations. Abstentions still were in the 34 percent range, possibility because Arias had been considered a shoo-in.

Earlier story HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 26

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A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling
The Sportsmen's Lodge put on dancers as its own halftime entertainment during a private party Sunday.

Booze ban bamboozled
by thirsty Gringos

By Jesse Froehling
the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was no shortage of alcohol downtown Sunday night even though the ley seca was in full effect.  Although several popular Gringo establishments were closed, some managed to circumvent the temporary election prohibition on alcohol by inviting patrons to bring their own booze for the big game. 

Superbowl Sunday happens to fall on election day in Costa Rica and, as a result, owners were trying to cut their losses.  Several establishments such as Bar Poás, Mac's American Bar, Tica Irlanda, The New York Bar and Nashville South chose to simply close.  A call to one well-known North American watering hole yielded an answered telephone and although the worker maintained that the establishment was closed, background noise that sounded like a packed house was audible. 

Those that did stay open treaded the line.  The law says that alcohol cannot be sold or distributed.  The Hotel Del Rey and the Sportsman's Lodge were allowing patrons to consume liquor as long as it was brought in from the outside.  Others, like Rock n Roll Pollo were open but not serving alcohol.  The Colonial Casino was also open but entrance to the second floor where the game was being shown cost $20.  Approximately 50 patrons were present, and there was no alcohol in sight. 

At the Sportsman's Lodge, bottles of beer and hard liquor were scattered along any flat surface but all of it was brought in from outside, said owner Bill Alexander.  At halftime Sunday approximately 150 persons were present, and Alexander said he turned away nearly 60 more.  The temporary prohibition cost him some $5,000, Alexander said.

However, one popular gringo hangout remained open and booze was still for sale.  The Horseshoe Casino was serving beer as long as the buyer placed a bet at the casino's sports book, a worker said.     

No matter where they bought their beer, Gringos ignored the elections and celebrated the holiday that is the Superbowl with gusto.  Ron, a patron at the Sportsman Sunday, lived near Seattle for a while but his childhood in Pittsburgh means that black and gold will forever run through his veins.  He cheered for the Steelers.

In fact, most of the Sportsman's patrons seemed to be cheering for the Steelers.  Evan is getting ready to move here and his buddy Willie skipped here for a few days while on a business trip to Miami.  They had carted in a cooler full of chilled Imperials which sat in easy reach under their bar stools.  Neither one of them seemed too preoccupied with missing the game in the United States.  It's not too difficult when the halftime entertainment is a live dance show by the Pilsen girls and your team secures their fifth Superbowl trophy. 

Seahawks lovers are hoping they won't have to wait another 30 odd years to see their team play for the championship again. 

Final score:  Steelers 21, Seahawks 10. 

Punk Rock mainstays play
San Pedro in only local gig

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In the latest example of North American culture dripping south, southern California punk rock sensations Strung Out played its first and only Central American show at Planet Mall in San Pedro Friday. 

The 14-year-old band is not a lightweight.  Since forming in 1992, the band has sold some 500,000 copies of the eight albums they released – all on the legendary underground label Fat Wreck Chords.  That company has also worked with other punk rock heavy hitters such as Lagwagon, Propagandhi, NOFX and Rise Against. 

Strung Out has toured extensively throughout the United States and Canada and has also appeared on the Vans Warped Tour, the summer punk rock and extreme sports festival. 

At the show in Planet Mall Friday night, the formula was much the same as it is in the United States.  The crowd may have been a bit less animated than is typical for the band's shows in the North America but the mandatory angst-filled teenagers were in attendance pumping their fists and banging into each other in the mosh pits that formed.  Their show was also a bit shorter than usual – they played for a little over an hour and at times lead singer Jason Cruz seemed frustrated.  When he cried out, “How's everybody doing,”  after a couple of songs, he got a relatively un-amped reply.  So he employed sign language to make sure his message wasn't getting tangled up in the translation.  “You guys doing alright?” he asked.  This time he annunciated clearly and employed a thumbs up gesture to make sure his message got through.  The crowd answered.

Strung Out had planned on playing a second show at Mal Pais Surf Camp but the municipality yanked the band's permit because the scheduled date fell on the same day as the presidential elections, said a worker at the camp.    

This is the band's first trip to Costa Rica, but lead singer Jason Cruz said on stage Friday that the band would be back.  According to their Web site, they have plans to tour in Mexico as well as South America. 

In addition to Cruz, other members of the group are  guitarists Jake Kiley and Rob Ramos, bassists Chris Aiken and Jordan Burns on drums. 
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A.M. Costa Rica

Third news page

This story was posted at 3 a.m. Monday
Arias appears to have won
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Óscar Arias Sánchez appears to have squeaked out a narrow victory over his closest rival Ottón Solís to become the nation's next president.

Both candidates say they want to wait until later today to see the final results of the election, but Arias had about a 7,700-vote lead, something less than 1 percent.

Arias appeared about 2:30 a.m. before supporters at the Hotel Corobici where he thanked them for their efforts and said that in respect for democratic institutions and the Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones any celebrations should be deferred until tonight.

Arias said later that he had expected to win by 43 or 44 percent. Solís was not supposed to get more than about 30 percent of the vote, according to polls.

More election news below

Arias likened the vote totals to that of Richard Nixon, the U.S. president who won election in 1968 against Hubert Humphrey by less than three-quarters of a percentage point.

With Arias was Laura Chinchilla, the Liberación Nacional first vice presidential candidate.

In San Pedro a subdued Solís of Acción Ciudadana also said he would await the final report of the vote.

The tribunal said at 3 a.m. that Arias captured 525,342, some 40.7 of those cast. Solís had 517,622, some 40.1 percent.  The figures were based on returns from 78.5 percent of the polling places.

Solís was strong in the provinces of San José, Alajuela and Heredia. Arias was ahead in Cartago but had strong advantages in Puntarenas, Guanacaste and Limón.

Otto Guevara, the Movimiento Libertario candidate, was in third place with 108,366 votes representing about 8.4 percent of those cast.
Unidad Social Cristiana candidate Ricardo Toledo had 44,976 or about 3.5 percent. This is the party of President Abel Pacheco.

Some 12 other candidates shared the remainder.

The Liberación victory continued in the voting for deputies. Unofficial accounts suggest that the party will have 25 members in the next Asamblea Legislativa. Acción Ciudadana is expected to have about 15.

Libertarians seemed to be winning six races, and Unidad Social Cristiana seemed to have a good chance of winning five seats. However the legislative races are not as clearcut as the presidency.

The election pretty well guarantees passage of the proposed fiscal plan that would 




San José
64,950 11,457

525,342 517,622 108,366
generate $500 million more in taxes and enact global taxation. Both Arias and Solís support more taxes.

Less certain is the future of the free trade treaty with the United States. Unless that document is passed by a lame duck Asamblea Legislativa before May 8 when the new president takes over, the treaty with the United States may never pass.

Arias strongly favors the treaty, and Solís says it should be negotiated. Arias said last week that the election was all about the treaty. Passage probably requires 39 votes in the legislature.

Pre-election polls suggested that Arias would win in a walk, with perhaps 47 percent of the vote. No one except perhaps some Acción Ciudadana activists expected Solís to give Arias the run of his political life. Pollsters said he would get about 25 percent, something less than he received in 2002. The polls probably influenced the election.

Pollsters will have to re-examine their methods. Solís said earlier Sunday that "the surveys were not useful in these circumstances." It appears that the pollsters failed to register enough of the youth vote, a demographic group that supported Solís strongly.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the candidate's brother, appeared before party faithful about 11:30 p.m. at the Hotel Corobici and encouraged them to go home. The crowd rejected his advice with cheers, and they stayed. They wanted to wait for Arias.

The campaign was placid. Arias staked much of his campaign on his presidential term in 1986 to 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize he received for engineering the Central American peace plan. He refused to debate Solís in the last weeks of the campaign. Sunday night he characterized himself as a conciliator and a negotiator, suggesting he would be able to deliver on his legislative agenda.

Arias also incurred the wrath of employees in the state monopolies for his support of the free trade treaty that would open some fields to outside competition as well as his many business interests.

A very secret vote

  Children await their turn to vote   at the Museo de los Niños

Processions of cars and trucks
punctuated the Sunday
afternoon with blaring horns.

The day was more like a party than an election
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday was a day of celebration in Costa Rica as politics took on a party atmosphere.

A chilly morning rain in the Central Valley did not dampen spirits, and all day politicians appeared on television and radio urging the citizens to vote. About 34 percent did not make it to the polls, perhaps because they thought incorrectly that the election was a done deal. In fact, the election was the closest in Costa Rican history. About 515,000 eligible voters did not make it to the polls, which are called mesas here.

Police reported little trouble. The biggest disturbance came when Óscar Arias Sánchez showed up at his polling place to vote. Reporters and photographers pushed, shoved and clawed their way to vantage points despite a human barricade thrown up by police and security officials. The Partido Liberation Nacional candidate took a long time depositing his three paper ballots so that photographers could get a good photo.

A second minor disturbance took place outside the Catedral Metropolitana where most of the presidential candidates went for Mass early Sunday. Protesters shouted and waved signs in opposition to the free trade treaty with the United States. One man was led away by Fuerza Pública officers.

All over the country some 11,000 officers were providing security for the 6,163 polling places and for the transportation of the completed ballots.

By midnight, the presidential election was too close to call, but Arias won the children's vote. Some 70 voting locations had been set up for youngsters to break them in early for their civic duty. Liberation prevailed in that trial voting. More than 40,000 youngsters voted, incliuding hundreds at San José Museo de los Niños.

Television stations spent hours in the morning and afternoon somehow finding stories for election day. Candidates were interviewed and re-interviewed. News helicopters flew overhead.

The president of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, Oscar Fonseca, began the report of voting about 8:30 p.m. by giving the results from the Isla del Coco, the tiny national park in the Pacific. Election officials made a special effort to bring the ballots to the 33 adult voters on the island. The announcement was greeted with applause by those assembled at the Tribunal in San José. They included diplomats, international observers and newspeople.

A.M. Costa Rica/Jose Pablo Ramírez Vindas
María José Castri Martínez, 4, Casts her vote in the mock election for youngsters. She was at the Museo de los Niños.

Another first was that ballots were provided sightless voters in braille. In the past, persons who could not read the ballots had to get help from officials at the polling place. But this year, an organization of advocates for the disabled objected, and the Tribunal produced a 17-page braille book containing an outline of each candidate.

For persons with impaired vision, a special large-type booklet was prepared.

All day party activists drove through the city with vehicles decorated in party colors: green for Liberación, yellow and red for Acción Ciudadana and solid red for Movimiento Libertario.

About 6 p.m. the major gathering points, such as the traffic circle at the Fuete de Hispanidad at Mall San Pedro were closed to traffic to let citizens gather.

Accion Ciudadana activists camped out at party headquarters in San Pedro. LIberacionistas were at Hotel Corobici, and Libertarians had their gathering at the San José Palacio.

This Liberación supporters were having a great time flagging down motorists and encouraging them to vote.

A.M. Costa Rica/Silleny Sanabria Soto

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Fourth news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 26

Perfect dicho for those who can't make up their mind
No es ni chicha ni limonada

Ni fu, ni fa, someone who can never make up his mind.

Chicha we have talked about in previous columns. It is a traditional drink of the Indigenous people of Costa Rica, and one often finds it at festivals and fiestas. It can be made from sugar cane, but  sometimes it is also made from pineapple or other fruits. It is a fermented spirit, and it helps to put people in — how shall I put it  — a more festive mood. You will find folks drinking chicha at the  year-end carnival in Zapote, and also at the recent Palmares  festival. And, of course, everyone knows what lemonade is.

Put quite simply, no es ni chicha ni limonada means that something or someone is neither this nor that.

Yesterday we had a national election here in Costa Rica. Of course this column was written before the results of this event were known,  but nevertheless this dicho has much to do with the election and  those who did or didn’t participate in it.

Many people chose not to vote. They either couldn’t make up their  minds (ni fu, ni fa) or they used the excuse that all of the candidates were all alike (no es ni chicha ni lemonada). Somehow these nonvoters have gotten the idea that because they didn’t  participate in the electoral process they are not responsible for the kind of government we wind up getting stuck with. In reality, however, these people who don’t think that the election was important enough to make a decision one way or the other as to how to vote are actually more responsible than anyone if the government turns out to be rotten.

These civic slackers, it seems to me, are also often among the first to complain because the roads are not fixed, or crime is on the increase, or the garbage is piled up all over the street, as is the case in Tibás, for example. Maybe if the electorate doesn’t care much then the politicians who do find themselves elected might just get the idea that they don’t need to care much either. They might say, with a shrug, “Es ni chichi ni lemonada to me if the garbage gets collected.”

Maybe the politicians who have been doing such a lousy job of running Tibás will have been voted out

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

of office yesterday. One would certainly hope so. But if not, then the people most responsible for maintaining that regime in office will be those who did not make  the decision to vote.

Most Costa Ricans, I imagine, woke up this morning with a feeling of new hope, hope that things are going to be better, that the future looks a little brighter. Of course there are also many who woke up with the sour taste of disappointment on their tongues. But now it’s  time to work together for the good of our country. Those we elected yesterday have a job to do, and it is our job to see to it that they carry out the tasks we’ve elected them to do. Our responsibility as citizens does not end after the ballots have been counted. That only  signals the beginning.

I was talking with a friend from the States the other day, and I told him about how when I was a kid we used to get up at 4 a.m. on election day, dress in the colors of our party — well, the party of our parents — and go down to work at the polling places. It was fun, and  we always wanted to be pleasant and cheerful so that our congenial attitudes would attract voters to our party. Then, as now, youth represented hope for the future. But, these election–day activities also taught us much about the responsibilities as well as the benefits that democracy confers.

Elections in Costa Rica, as far back as I can remember, have always had a festive atmosphere about them. This sometimes confounds friends from the U.S. But I explain to them that what we are doing at election time is actually celebrating the wonderful right that we have as Costa Ricans to decide our own future. And that, I believe, is indeed a thing to be celebrated!

Five years later, Canadian gets to see criminal trial in land fraud case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian who has waited five years for a trial in his land fraud case will finally go to court at the end of this month.

He is Ram Rajpal who was the owner of a Costa Rican company that had as assets four pieces of real estate.

In February 1999 while Rajpal was in Canada undergoing triple bypass surgery his corporation, Inversiones Rajpal S.A., mysteriously agreed to merge with another Costa Rica corporation. Or at least that's what the papers filed at the Registro Nacional say.

Since then Rajpal said he has had two court appearances in which he asked judges to transfer the properties back to him. Both times the judges refused because they wanted to await the outcome of the land fraud trial.

Three properties in Limón, totaling some 200 acres, and an Heredia lot of about 1,000 square meters are involved.

The trial date was fixed after Gregory Campbell, a Canadian consul, wrote a letter to court officials.
"Why does it take five years to get a trial, Rajpal asked.
Five persons are defendants, including the notary whose name appears on the document that told the mercantile registry that Rajpal's company had merged. The Canadian investor said the notary denies all knowledge of the transaction and said that his notary books and documents had been stolen.
The notary was under suspension at the time the

Ram Rajpal
paperwork was filed, so the registry should not have even accepted the document, Rajpal said.

Rajpal came to Costa Rica in 1985, made some investments and ran a textile company. When he decided to return to Canada, in part for medical treatment, he notified Tributación, the tax agency, that his company would not be conducting business or paying taxes for a time.

Three of the five defendants are lawyers.

Land thieves frequently look for property owners who are out of the country. More recently, A.M. Costa Rica has recommended the use of mortgage certificates by property owners who want to safeguard their holdings.

BBC World joins ranks with other digital television offering by Amnet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Amnet had added digital television channels to its cable offerings.

Among the new channels is BBC World, a flashy television version of the reliable communications standby.

Although the BBC station will be on a digital station, Amnet is previewing the news network on Channel 23.

The digital channels are an extra for the cable company. Subscribers must pay a small amount extra to obtain a converter box that provides a digital feed to conventional televisions
The BBC network is strong where the BBC is strong. Over the weekend, demonstrations in Thailand, Middle East politics and the Red Sea ferry tragedy dominated.

Digital channels are in the 200s, and the converter box is a way of providing digital coverage for television sets that are not yet digital. Amnet provides cable television coverage in part of the metropolitan area, Nicoya, Santa Cruz, Filadelfia, Playas del Coco, Tamarindo, and Guápiles.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission says that digital television in place of the current analog technology allows broadcasters to offer television with movie-quality picture and CD-quality sound.

Jo Stuart
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