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(506) 223-1327            Published Friday, Feb. 9, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 29             E-mail us    
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A.M. Costa Rica/Grettle Calderón
Oh, you Devil!

This diablito from the Rey Curré community gets our vote for the most elaborate mask ever.

The masks are traditional in the Boruca culture and are used for the four-day celebration called the Juegos de los Diablitos. The confrontation between a bull and devils is sometimes described as a metaphor for the Indian fights against the colonizing Spanish or perhaps a more abstract battle between good and evil.

The dance or games of the devils is a unifying factor of Boruca culture. The photographer shot this mask at the Rey Curré events last weekend.

Don't tell environmentalists, but those feathers look a lot like eagle wings and the talons certainly are from a bird of prey.

Puntarenas is where the action is for the next 10 days
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Puntarenas is in carnival until Feb. 18.

For those who missed the Christmastime carnival that was canceled this year in San José, the Pacific coast city offers a traditional event, ending just two days before the start of Lent.

This weekend the big event is the Gran Tope Pilsen Saturday afternoon, but there are fireworks, dancing and even sumo wrestling mosts days of the carnival.

Much of the action is centered on the Paseo de los Turistas, the Parque Abelardo Lobo and the terminal of the cruise ships in the port city.

The carnival kicked off Thursday with 5 a.m. fireworks and an evening contest for queen. Tonight there is an 8 p.m. concert.
Saturday there is a noon mascaradas along the Paseo de los Turistas and a 9 p.m. concert. During the work week the mascaradas or parade of masked figures moves to 3 p.m.

Feb. 16 there is a cheerleading competition preceding another concert as the carnival moves into a second weekend. There are fireworks Feb. 15, 17 and 18.

Puntarenas is known as a town that takes its carnivals seriously, so there also will be many private and public activities and dancing at various bars and restaurants.

The Puntarenas event is one of two big carnivals in the country. Limón has its show in October. The so-called carnival in San José has been just a parade with carnival costumes. No one knows if the tradition will resume this year after the carnival was canceled in 2006.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 29 

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Immigration, police seek
fugitive Korean messiah

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration officials and police are searching the Guanacaste region for Jung Myung Seok, the controversial Koren religious leader who faces allegations of multiple rapes.

Jung integrates sexual relations into his religious activities, purportedly to balance the sin of Adam and Eve, which he claims was sexual in nature.

He is a former follower of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church who also is involved in sexual contact with followers.  Jung's organization is called Providence.

Costa Rican police have been visiting hotels and other tourist facilities on the Nicoya Peninsula for two days after receiving an alert that Jung or some of his associates might be staying there. Police have been setting up roadblocks and checking identifications.

After local television aired a segment about the religious leader Wednesday night, police have received a number of calls about Asians who callers thought were suspicious.

So far there is no solid evidence that the man has entered Costa Rica, and the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería has been unable to document the visit with notations of entry.

The allegations against Jung are extensive. They include events from 1999 to last year. They also relate to his activities while he was staying in Osaka, Japan.

Jung styles himself as a modern messiah, and his followers call him Lord, among other names. Female members should consider themselves as brides of God, and have relations with Jung, his critics claim he preaches..

Jung has been on the run, but still unclear is how the idea that Jung is here got started. It may have been the presence of Japanese reporters that raised local police interest in the case.

His followers deny the rape allegations and say that a holy man like Jung would not behave that way.

Water music is on tap
at Inbio weekend program

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad is hosting a classical concert featuring the works of Georg Phillipp Telemann, Tomaso Albinoni,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Georg Friedrich Händel and Juan Salvador Chin.

The institute, known as Inbio, is a private, non-profit association whose mission is to promote a greater awareness of the value of biodiversity. The event is entitled Música del Agua en medio del Bosque, or water music in the middle of the forest, and is taking place Sunday at 6 p.m.  Some of Händel's arrangements are called water music.

The music comes from different eras so Julio Cordero, an academic, will be providing commentary. The event is in the amphitheater.

The entrance for adults is 4,000 colons (about $8) and the price for students and elderly is 3,000 colons (about $6).  The park is located in Santo Domingo de Heredia, 150 meters north of the Radiográfica Costarricense near Calle 1 and Avenida 7.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 29

This bridge is in daily use — not only from trains but by the residents who live near the court complex. The span is over Calle 15 between avenidas 2 and 6.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

New study of rail trackage will extend all the way to Atenas
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transportation and railroad officials are hiring a company to study the trackage from Universidad Latina in San Pedro all the way to Atenas.

The track is in use by freight trains but officials are hoping to extend the current passenger service to Atenas if the tracks prove to be sturdy.

Meanwhile, plans to run a commuter line to eastern Heredia have not been put into effect because money is lacking and because the railway remains blocked, officials said.

The track study will be done by IMSA S.A, a steel and transportation company. The $22,000 cost will be paid by the Banco Centroamericano de Intregración Económica, said officials at the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

The current passenger line runs from Universidad Latina to Pavas, and this section will be under study, too. The review of the line is expected to take up to three months.

The  Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles has been unable to put the Heredia spur into operation because the line remains blocked at Cinco Esquinas in Tibás.

Miguel Carabaguíaz, the president of the rail agency, said that the Heredia line is important not only for passengers but also for cargo. He said the government hopes that they will be able to market the line as a concession.

The urban passenger train has taken advantage of rail lines that have been underutilized since service stopped in 1998. Cargo service to Caldera on the Pacific has continued over the same lines that will be evaluated. The route also sometimes hosts an infrequent tourist train.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Part of the route to Heredia — the good part

The rail lines to the east between San José and Guápiles are said to be in much worse condition due to the mountainous terrain. That is the section that must be redone if the dreams by some officials of a Caribbean to Pacific rail line are to become a reality. Swift, reliable cargo service between Limón on the Caribbean and Caldera on the Pacific would allow Costa Rica to compete with Panamá for cargo that now goes through the canal.

Showing planned here for film that recounts story of profiteering in Iraq
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A special showing of the movie “Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers” has been planned for Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.  The movie raises some of the political questions about the war in Iraq.

Robert Greenwald ("Wal-Mart: The high cost of low cost," "Outfoxed," and "Uncovered") is the director of the movie, which is meant to depict the story of what happens to everyday Americans when corporations go to war, said a Web site dedicated to the move.

Greenwald represents the lives of soldiers, truck drivers, widows and children who have been changed forever as a result of profiteering in the reconstruction of Iraq, said the Web site. The  political flick uncovers the connections between private corporations making a killing in Iraq and the decision makers who allow them to do so, said the Web site. 

The film is a creation of Brave New Films, a company that
refuses to distribute its movies through corporate America, said the Web site. 

David F. Sagel, the organizer of the screening, said that Brave New Films works are usually shown in small cinemas or personal showings in houses or hotels.  He said that because of the controversial nature they are not shown in major cinemas.  Sagel said that because companies that are profiting from the war are also stealing from the U.S. government, this is an a film that everyone should see regardless of political background.

Segal thought so much of the film that he is presenting it personally.

Any profits are being donated to a group of Costa Rican women who are raising children in very harsh conditions and are struggling to get by, said Sagel.  The event is being held in Escazú and the movie will have subtitles for Spanish speakers.  Entrance is 3,000 colons (about $6). The organizer can be contacted for more information at: 203-8193, or ddsagel@yahoo.com

Yes, it is possible to get lost in a park in the city
It is hard to believe, but I have not taken a walk in Sabana Park since I have been living in this apartment.  I did not walk with my guests in January, partly because at first it was too cold and windy, and then, when Nina was here, we pretty much stayed home and talked, or went out to eat.  Which suited me just fine. 

But I seldom just take walks.  Walking is my transportation to get somewhere.  I did once walk across the park one night after watching an entertainment there.  But it was because I got lost, ended up on the south side of the park and could not find an available taxi.  It was scary in the dark, but I got out of the woods and crossed the soccer field without spotting anyone.  Walking at night alone is not scary until you see one other person.

This particular morning, another beautiful morning, I had to go to the bank.  Since my bank is in the ICE building across the street from the park, I decided it was time I took the walk I had thought about to find out how long it would take me to cross the park to the bus stop for buses that go to Escazú and points west.  This would save me from going downtown.

I much prefer walking on paths and grass than in roads or sidewalks (and I heartily endorse the idea of making sidewalks out of recycled rubber tires), so I wove my way through the woods and past the lake. On the way I passed runners, joggers, grazing horses, people walking their dogs and still others just sitting on the benches by the lake.  There were also a number of sculptures in unexpected places. Surprisingly I came out just a few yards from the bus stop. It had taken me only 20 minutes from my apartment. 

After resting a couple of minutes, I headed back.  But I have a problem.  I don’t like to retrace my steps.  I always want to take a different way home.  This has proved to be something of a problem.  I try to make light of it, like when people comment that I have traveled a lot, I say, “No, it just seems that way because I keep getting lost.” 

When I lived on the Upper Westside of New York City and the transit workers went on strike, I began walking through Central Park to my office on 57th Street — always taking a different route. Some days I would
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

briefly see and wave to colleagues, also walking, but heading in a different direction.  I always got lost.  They did not.  I was always a little late for work.  They were not. Nobody ever reprimanded me, I think because they were holding an office pool on when I would get in.

But Sabana Park is not nearly as large as Central Park.   I calculated where I wanted to go (due north) and off I headed  on a different path towards home.  I saw all sorts of new things, like what looked like very large truck tires but in fact were sculptures made of stone.  I also saw a huge cross on a knoll.  I had never seen that.  As I was approaching the walls of the Estadio Nacional, I knew I was going in the wrong direction.  I also came upon a billboard with a map of the park, but I couldn’t figure it out.  Luckily I saw a taxista who was replacing a flat tire, and he pointed out the direction of the ICE building (about 60 degrees to the right). 

In front of me, as I turned, was the same soccer field that I had walked at night.  This time I crossed it diagonally.  It took me about 10 minutes longer to get back home. 

Walking in the park is a very pleasant way to begin the day. I think it can be added to bed, bath and buses as good places to think. I plan to do it again. But I think I will invest in a compass before I take another walk in the park — there are just so many inviting paths.

Jo’s book, “Butterfly in the City:  A Good Life in Costa Rica,” is available through the 7th Street Book Store, Lehmann’s and Liberia Internacional.  Or contact Ms. Stuart at jostuart@amcostarica.com

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 29

Transparency International lists weaknesses in Tico system
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transparency International, an anti-corruption organization, has a list of suggestions for Costa Rica. The critique is part of an updated Web site that focuses on anti-corruption activities in Central America.   

Huguette Labelle of Transparency International said that despite a decade of progress in anti-corruption laws and regulations, much remains to be done before meaningful improvements are seen in the lives of the world’s poorest citizens, adding, “Corruption traps millions in poverty.”

The following suggestions and shortfalls were outlined on the organization's Web site relating to Costa Rica:

• The executive branch has a distant relationship with the  legislature that results in a lack of budget reports to track finances. 

• The Asamblea Legislativa does not adequately exercise its political power. 

• The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones does not do a good enough job making public the incomes and expenses of political parties and the Constitution fails in the same way for regional elections where candidates depend mainly on private funding.

• The Contraloría General de la República, the general
finance office, has been overloaded with responsibilities which has weakened its ability to support the Asamblea Legislativa.  

The Sala IV constitutional court has taken too much of a role in determining political outcomes that should be decided by governing bodies.

• There are gaps in the government contract administration that leaves open the opportunity for private interest to corrupt the process.

• The services of the Defensoría de los Habitantes, the nation's ombudsman, should be guaranteed in the constitution.

In the 2006 Transparency Internationals Corruption Perception Index, although having received the highest rating in Central America, Costa Rica tied with Namibia in the 55 spot of 163 countries.  The next closest in the region was El Salvador's 57.  Finland, Iceland and New Zealand all tied for the the No. 1 spot while Haiti finished at the bottom of the pack. The index tries to measure the perception of corruption of residents of each country.

The documents said that the weak performance of many countries indicates that corruption continues to assist political elites to launder, store and otherwise profit from unjustly acquired wealth, which often includes looted state assets.

George Bush plans to visit five Latin countries during March
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

President George Bush will travel to Latin America from March 8–14, but Costa Rica is not on the agenda. The U.S. president will visit Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.

“This trip will underscore the commitment of the United States to the Western Hemisphere and will highlight our common agenda to advance freedom, prosperity, and social justice and deliver the benefits of democracy in the areas of health, education, and economic opportunity,” White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters Thursday.

Bush will begin his trip in São Paulo, Brazil, where he will meet with President Luíz Inacio “Lula” da Silva. Snow said the leaders will discuss a range of issues, including energy and trade.

Bush then will travel to Montevideo, Uruguay, to meet
with President Tabaré Vázquez, who visited the president in Washington last May.

Next, Snow said, Bush will travel to Bogotá, Colombia, where he will meet with President Álvaro Uribe and underscore the United States’ continuing commitment to supporting Colombia’s battle against narco-terrorism and efforts to improve the lives of the Colombian people.

From there, the president will visit Guatemala, where he will meet with President Oscar Berger, and emphasize the long, close historical relationship.

The president will conclude his trip with a visit to Mexico “to emphasize our strong partnership with Mexico and to demonstrate support for President Felipe Calderón’s efforts to address poverty and income inequality, restore law and order, fight the common threat of drug trafficking, and strengthen the economic relationship between the United States and Mexico,” Snow said.

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