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These stories were published Monday, Feb. 14, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 31
Jo Stuart
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Juan Alvarez rests and smokes under the ‘Espiritu del Vuelo’ finished in 2004 and commissioned by the Banco Central de Costa Rica.

The artist is José Sancho. The large piece just showed up on the northwest corner of the bank property.

The title translates to ‘Spirit of Flight’

A.M. Costa Rica/Joe Medici

St. Valentine's Day is more inclusive here
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff 

St. Valentines Day is not only about romance in Costa Rica but about friendship and family, too. Feb. 14 is the day when cards and presents are exchanged between loved ones. 

It is not only Costa Rican couples who celebrate this day. Gifts and cards are often given to friends and family who make a point of coming together on Valentines Day. 

The way in which Valentine’s Day in Costa Rica 

is celebrated is more inclusive than in other parts of the world. Not everyone has a secret admirer, but most have friends and family with whom they can celebrate the day with. 

As with many traditions there are varying stories on why and when Valentines Day began to be celebrated. Some experts state that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on Feb. 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside Feb. 14 to honor St. Valentine. 

Police get tough with drugs on Pacific coast
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A  coordinated force of police, immigration agents and even environmental officials swept through Quepos, Parrita and Puntarenas centro Friday evening and Saturday morning. They arrested 156 persons.

The aggressive action was part of the Fuerza Pública’s zero tolerance effort against drugs, principally marijuana, crack and cocaine, officials said.

In all, some 62 persons were arrested on drug allegations and 16 persons were held as fugitives from justice, said a spokesman for the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. the rest were held on other charges.

The sweep began at 5 p.m. Friday and lasted until 2 a.m. Saturday.

Detained were 20 persons police found in the Quepos cemetery, which is a gathering spot for drug users.

Two establishments were closed because police said they did not have the proper permits to dispense liquor.

Involved in the sweep were Fuerza Pública officers from Puntarenas, the Policía Especial de Migración, the Policía de Tránsito, the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía and members of the canine unit as well as officers from the Municipalidad de Aguirre.

Juan José Andrade Morales, director of the Pacific region of the Fuerza Pública, issued a call for residents to file complaints against drug dealers and suspicious persons in the area. He listed several much-sought fugitives who were captured in the raids, among them armed robbery suspects.

Meanwhile, on the Caribbean coast police set up a roadblock Saturday near the Indian communities of Chiroles and Suretka, Cantón de Talamanca, and detained a man who is suspected of carrying a sack of marijuana in his vehicle.

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Pacheco leaves hospital and promises to stick around
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco left Hospital Calderón Guardia Sunday afternoon and returned to his Pavas home shortly before 3 p.m.

The president is expected to be at his office in Casa Presidencial today, although in a statement he said that physicians told him to watch out for stress. Pacheco was accompanied by his wife, Leila Rodríguez, on the trip home.

In a statement released by Casa Presidencial, Pacheco said that he was treated like a king at the hospital. "Everything went very well, the examinations, everything," he said.

However, Pacheco said that "It is difficult to be president if one loves the people and not suffer stress."

Pacheco went to the hospital Thursday after suffering a chest pain shortly after starting work about 8:30 a.m. 

The pain aroused fears that the chief executive had suffered a heart attack, but physicians later said that was not the case.

In addition to stress, acute indigestion could have caused the pain. And Pacheco referred to this possibility when he left the hospital, noting that he also is a physician, although he has practiced as a psychiatrist for years.

"Costa Rica ought to relax,:" the president said. "I am not going to leave them alone. I will be here still for many years."

Pacheco is 71, and his term runs until May 2006. He cannot run for re-election.

Fishing contest organizers
hopes to include locals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Organizers from the Jacó Billfish Tournament hope to turn their young tournament into a perennial event that incorporates the local community. The tournament, scheduled to begin March 16, is designed to benefit local schools and to reflect the local community’s respect for fishing.

The strictly catch-and-release tournament will be fished out of Los Sueños Marina in Playa Herradura. Fishermen will target marlin of all types and all Pacific sailfish. 

According to tournament director Garvan McColgan, creators of the first year tournament have big goals. "We would like to see the tournament flourish over the next few years. Turn the entire week surrounding it into a party for the locals and all of the entrants."

McColgan said over the telephone from New Jersey Sunday night that organizers want to find ways to integrate local communities into the tournament. "The fishermen in that area have been using circle hooks and other techniques to preserve the wildlife there for years," he said. "We want to make sure that the locals who work so hard to preserve the area are rewarded."

According to McColgan, a large percentage of the money from the tournament will be donated to the local schools. "We want this tournament to be part of the local culture, not just your regular resort tournament where participants are confined to a hotel," he said. "We want our participants to work with the local fisherman and to become a part of the area."

Shooting of U.S. tenant
results in murder trial

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican goes on trial Wednesday accused of the shooting death of a U.S. citizen Jan. 15, 2003, in Paquita de Quepos.

The victim was identified by court officials as Stephen William, 54 when he died. The accused is identified by the last names of Mejías Morales. He will be tried in the Tribunal de Juicio de Aguirre y Parrita.

A court announcement of the trial said that the U.S. citizen was behind on his rent several months and Mejías was the father of the owner of the property who evicted the victim and removed his personal belongings. That caused a heated discussion that ended when Mejías pulled a gun and shot the tenant twice — in the stomach and neck, said the court announcement.

The victim died in Hospital México a week later, said the court officials.

Conservation center picks
international directors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sarapiquí Conservation Learning Center announced the formation of an international board of directors. Officials from the center say that the board will help to expand and integrate community and environmental programming. 

According to a release made by the center, nine members were chosen for the board. The persons were chosen based upon their personal and professional abilities and geographical position. 

The center’s international board president, Andrea Holbrook, said that the formation of the board would help the center connect with other institutions. She said that the center would benefit from "active board members who are involved in guiding the center and helping to obtain much needed resources."

Executive Director Greg Basco reiterated those thoughts and said that the center "is poised to make great strides in promoting a greener Sarapiquí region."

The center was formed in 1997 with the mission of linking local communities and conservation through education and ecotourism in the Sarapiquí region. For additional information about the center, check the Web HERE! 

Elderly passport seekers
get expedited service

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans older than 65 years can now obtain their passport without the need of an appointment, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería announced Friday. The new ruling will also apply to the disabled and those who are responsible for transporting them.

"Our objective is to offer the best customer service, especially to those who, because of their age or physical condition, need to be attended to promptly," said Marco Badilla, director of Migración 

Those wishing to apply for a passport must go to window 6 at the passport department between 7 a.m. to 3. They must have a copy of their cédula de identidad. In addition those who transport the disabled must present their drivers license, B3, B4 and C2 and a letter from their employer stating their position. 

For an additional cost passports can now be mailed.

D.C. event features Latin theater

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican delegation arrived at the Festival Internacional de Teatro Hispano in Washington, D.C. last week for the opening ceremony.

The festival celebrates Hispanic culture and several prominent Costa Rican artists, including Alberto Cañas, author of "Naturaleza Muerta con Violín."

The festival will run through March 19 at the Teatro de la Luna.

Classical guitar concert

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Julia and David White Artist Colony in Ciudad Colón will host a concert entitled Latin American Music for Classical Guitar Saturday at 10 a.m.

The concert is part of the ongoing Concerts at the Colony series. The price for the concert is 2,000 colons ($4.33). More information is available at 249-1414.

The Concerts at the Colony series is held the third Saturday of each month at 10 a.m.

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Judical investigators seek to learn reporters' sources
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The inspection arm of the Poder Judicial is seeking information on how newspeople obtained documents relating to corruption allegations against two ex-presidents and their associates.

Armando González, a supervising editor of La Nación, revealed this in an opinion article he wrote for the Sunday edition of the Spanish-language newspaper.

González said that in recent days the Inspección Judicial sent agents to the communication media to question reporters about their sources. The Corte Suprema de Justicia has the right to conduct these investigations of possible leaks, said the editor, adding that such probes approach violations of fundamental human rights.

González cited international treaties, two decisions of the Interamerican Court of Human Rights and a British decision supporting his thesis that protection of information sources is basic to freedom of the press.

Reporters for La Nación and Teletica, Channel 7, had extensive access to documents and evidence relating first to the scandal involving Eliseo Vargas Garcia, the executive president of the Caja Costarricense de Seguros Social. That case involved Corporación Fischel and a commission on a $39 million deal involving the Caja and medical supplies from Finland. The case eventually broadened and involved Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier.

Vargas quit his job and did some jail time, Calderón still is in jail for investigation.

Reporters displayed extensive knowledge of the details of these cases and displayed a number of canceled checks and other documents either in the newspaper or on television. The documents could only have come from investigators.

A second case involving former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría also was disclosed day by day on 

television and in the newspaper. Rodríguez, too, is in preventative detention while his ties to Alcatel, the French communication company, are investigated. He faces allegations of corruption.

Prosecutors sometimes try to build a case on public opinion by releasing selected data to the public through the news media. When Rodríguez arrived in Costa Rica after a brief stint as secretary general of the Organization of American States, he was faced with hostile crowds. Some spectators beat on the sides of the police van that carried him.

In countries where juries decide the guilt or innocence of accused individuals, there is a long tradition on what prosecutors might make public. Leaks are common in these situations, too.

In Costa Rica, a three-judge panel decides guilt or innocence, so there is less concern about public opinion.

While the Inspección Judicial agents are talking to reporters, another scandal is growing. During a pimping trial, a former law officer detailed contacts between the accused and highly placed judicial officials, including a criminal judge.

That was testimony in the trial last week of Sinai Monge Muñoz, who is accused of running a prostitution ring that included many minor girls. Her customers were highly placed, and the woman bragged of being beyond the law, officials said. She managed to win acquittal in a similar case in 1994.

Even though she has been in preventative detention since Oct. 9, 2003, judicial inspectors have yet to arrest any of those who might have provided her with judicial immunity. The name of the judge has not been made public.

Meanwhile, in the United States several reporters in unrelated cases are facing jail time because they will not reveal the sources they promised to protect.

Monkey all dress up still wears shorts to the theater
La Mona aunque se vista de seda, Mona se queda

"A monkey dressed up in silk is still a monkey." We use this dicho sometimes to make the point that even though some people like to pretend they’re something they’re not, they are still the same underneath. 

This is roughly similar to combination of the English expressions "like a wolf in sheep’s clothing," and "you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear." But I believe that la Mona aunque se vista de seda Mona se queda is capable of much greater subtleties of meaning.

Of course we know that money does not automatically confer a sense of good taste or "class" on a person. I’m often reminded of this fact when I go to a performance at our National Theater and I see people sitting in the front orchestra in shorts and t-shirts. They must believe that because they’ve got money they’re entitled to behave in any way they like. But for Costa Ricans, our Teatro Nacional is a source of national pride and the crown jewel of our cultural life. 

Showing up in shorts and t-shirts to us is a rather audacious display of disrespect. In other words, a monkey sitting in the most expensive seat in the house is still a monkey. Or, as the  author Dorothy Parker once paraphrased another famous English expression: "You can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think." I wonder, would they dress the same way for the Metropolitan Opera House or Carnegie Hall? Hmm.

I use the example of the National Theater, but it could be practically anywhere. I remember a few years back when we were at the Arenal volcano a group of tourists entered the restaurant in La Fortuna where we were having dinner. Inspired, I’m sure, by vast quantities of strong drink they were carrying on at the top of their lungs bellowing "let the rumbles begin" — whatever that means.  It soon became impossible for my friends and I to carry on a conversation in a normal tone of voice. So, we quickly finished out meal and fled. 

The weather was terrible that visit to the volcano; rainy and cool with the mountain continually shrouded in clouds. So, we decided next day to move on to Puntarenas, where the weather was predictably hot and we could at least enjoy the beach. The evening of our 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

arrival on the coast we decided to go to our favorite 
restaurant, a little French bistro, which, though admittedly somewhat pricy, has by far the best fare in town. 

No sooner had we crossed the restaurant’s threshold than we heard it: "Let the rumbles begin! HA! HA! HA!"  "Oh, no!" I said. "The monos have followed us!" We laughed and decided to take our dinner outside in the heat rather than put up with a bunch of screeching monkeys for the sake of air-conditioning.

I don’t mean to sound like the proverbial party pooper. I like to see people having fun as much as anybody, but it seems to me that sometimes when people come here to visit Costa Rica they think they picked up some sort license when they got their passport stamped at the airport that allows them to do some of the most outrageous things in some pretty unusual public venues, things they would never dream of doing back home in Chicago or Dallas. 

One of my brothers-in-law is also a great friend, and he loves to be rowdy and noisy, and it’s true that he does enjoy his guaro. He adores karaoke, and when we go out together we go to places where other people are likely to be loud and our antics are not going to annoy anyone. We have fun making jokes, talking and laughing loudly. We much prefer this to putting up with a lot of monkeys decked out in cheap silk. 

For my little chinchilla!
Happy Valentine's day 

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Environmental groups lukewarm on new fishing law
Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M.  Costa Rica staff 

Environmental Organizations have cautiously welcomed the approval of a new national fishing law. The law was passed Thursday and aims to establish more regulated fishing of Costa Rican waters that will ensure the conservation of marine wildlife. 

The creation of a fishing law has been in debate since 1995 when part of the old 1948 law was declared unconstitutional. The new law prohibits the de-finning of sharks in Costa Rica . Fines and prison sentences will be handed out to those who are caught. In addition there are also strong personalities for those caught harming turtles. The law also demands that shrimp fisherman use a special net that allows turtles to swim free. 

"Finally Costa Rica has a law that regulates the fishing industry. The law establishes 17 new types of fines that that authorities will impose. In addition, the law prohibits de-finning of sharks as well as sport fishing in National Parks," said Maria Virginia Cajiao the legal director of MarViva.  MarViva is a non-profit organization which works to protect marine life in Central America. Ms. Cajiao said that the new law is not based on conservation of marine life but on making the most of fishing resources in a sustainable way. 

The Programa Restauracion de Tortugas Marinas has said that it opposed parts of the new law. The group said that the law promotes the exploitation of marine resources in Costa Rica. "The last thing national fisherman and marine species need is more fishing boats in our waters, in our region," said Randall Arauz, president of the organization. Arauz said that despite the new law marine species will still be threatened. 

The Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Agricultura has begun checks carried out by coast guardsmen and a group of U. S. government supervisors. The checks of shrimp fishermen were carried out from Playa Flamingo in the north Pacific to Playa Dominical. 

James Story, a marine biologist from the U.S. Department of State, said that these types of checks are applicable to those countries that export shrimp there.

"All countries that want to continue exporting prawns to the United States have to protect their marine species with the use of special equipment to extract turtles. If they don’t, we will cancel the exportation," said Story. 

The United States prohibited the importation of shrimp from Costa Rica in August 2003 because it said that fishermen were not using the nets with turtle escapes. A year go importations were again permitted after Costa Rica to steps to improve enforcement.

Centro Cultural announces year schedules for both of its art galleries
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Centro Cultural Costarricense Notreamericano has released full schedules for its galleries in San Pedro and in la Sabana. The center’s galleries are used to display a wide variety of art in order to provide new cultural activities throughout the year.

The Sophia Wanamaker Gallery in San Pedro began the New Year with the exhibit "Realism Lírico." The exhibit features art by Jane Goldman from Boston, Mass. In her work, Mrs. Goldman uses a combination of light and shade to bring her marine plant life watercolors and engravings to life. The exhibition opened Feb. 3 and will run through Feb. 24.

The gallery will then open two exhibitions entitled "Muebles y Esculturas en Madera Residual" and "Cataratas." The exhibitions will be shown together from March 1 to March 16. Muebles, features north American artist David Chiarappa, who creates wooden sculptures from drift wood. Cartaratas features paintings by North American artist Hilda Green. Her work features the uses the vibrant array of colors found in Costa Rica. 

March 31, the gallery will open an exhibition called "UtilizARTE." The exhibition will run through April 28 and will feature local ceramic pieces created from a utilitarian vision. A few weeks later, May 16, the gallery will open "Testigos," an exhibition featuring graphite caricatures created by Charlie Vargas. The show will run through June 16.

July 23, the gallery will open the 2005 Maestros Costarricenses, exhibition. The annual event recognizes artists that have that have helped to shape Costa Rica’s national art. The show will close Aug.17. 

From Sept. 7 through Oct. 3, the gallery will host an exebition that researches Costa Rica’s Latin American identity, through words and photos. The gallery’s season will close at the end of November after the final show, "Costacuarela 2005." This annual exhibition, showcases the best works available from the National Association of Watercolorists.

To the west of San José, at the Galería La Sabana in Sabana Norte, the center has created a similar schedule. The first exhibition of the year features the images of dances created by Julio Sequeira. The exhibition, entitled "Danza Imagen," will run through Feb. 23.

Then in April, the gallery in Sabana will open "Artesanías de Punta Islita." The exhibition features  local art created in Punta Islita and runs from April 2 through the 25. The next exhibition, entitled "Tejido Bolillos" opens May 21 and runs through June 13. This show features Eastern and European textile techniques. 

The next show, "Peregrinación," opens June 20 and runs through Aug. 18. The exhibition features watercolors created by Juan Carlos Camacho. Then in September, the gallery will host a photography exhibition, entitled "Fotoveritas." 

The show will feature photos take by local students at Veritas University. The show will run from Sep. 10 through Oct. 13. 

The final show of the year features engravings and silkscreen prints created by Sebastián Mello Salaberry.  The show will run from Nov. 5 through Nov. 28. 

For more information, contact the Sophia Wanamaker Gallery at 207-7554 or the Galería Sabana at 207-7501

Country will host biofuels conference next month
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San José is set to host an international biofuel conference in March. The conference is slated to run from March 29 through 30 at the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú.

The conference, entitled the Central Biofuels Conference & Expo, will focus its attention toward the use of biodegradable fuel alternatives, including sugar cane. Representatives from the fuel and the sugar industries will join research scientists to discuss the latest in biofuel technology and ways to promote its use.

Conference organizers will try to develop allies in regions where biodegradable fuel crops are productive. With these allies, organizers said they can work to reduce the world’s overall dependency on fossil fuels. 

Topics for discussion at the conference will be government incentives for biofuel use and the 

emergence of new ethanol and biodiesel markets. Conference attendees will also have the opportunity to discuss biofuel’s role in the Kyoto Protocol and the Caribbean Basin Initiative.

Costa Rica serves as a strategic ground to hold the conference due to its proximity to sugarcane plantations and to the United States. The United States is one of the largest fossil fuel consumers in the world. Even a small biofuel commitment in the states would represent a large market.

The conference is expected to draw more than 500 delegates from around the world. Many of the delegates have conducted serious research in the field of biofuel.

Several large corporations have lined up as sponsors for the event, including Delta-T, a high tech energy-processing firm, Sugar Online and Ethonol Marketplace. The conference will be managed by the Stratton Group, a South Dakota-based branding firm. 

Taxi driver dies strange death that smacks of vengeance in shady motel
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The murder that took place Saturday in San Francisco de Dos Ríos has all the makings of a crime of vengeance.

The scene was the motel Suite del Paraíso, a well-known location for sexual encounters.

Shortly before 10 p.m. employees of the hotel heard cries. They entered Room No. 16 to find a man on the floor with his hands and feet tied in adhesive tape,  He was mortally wounded by knife wounds that targeted his groin and genital areas.

The victim, identified from his papers, was William Murillo Rodríguez, a taxi driver from Orotina. He had 

been hired to give a ride to the San José area to a man and woman who hailed him in Orotina.

Murillo died before Cruz Roja paramedics could provide much aid.

The sports utility vehicle that served as his taxi was missing, and employees at the motel said they saw the vehicle leave a short time after it had arrived.

Because of the nature of motels in Costa Rica, one can rent a room without ever seeing the attendant. So police have few leads, except that law officers in Orotina, which is about 58 kms. (36 miles) west of San José, said that the woman who was in the taxi was a blonde.

Murillo is believe to be the former manager of a hotel.

Jo Stuart
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