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(506) 223-1327         Published Monday, Feb. 25, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 39            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Expats risk half  their assets with lengthy love nest
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

This is how to trap an expat into marriage, a big payoff or a lifetime of alimony payments.  It is not just a woman’s guide, but as public service to men and even expat women to save them from themselves in Costa Rica.

Many men come here to play around with women.  Many of them are married in their home country, and they come here because playful women are plentiful and they seriously believe their wives will not catch them.  Others are here because no other women will have them.  A smaller number of women are in the same categories, but the sex most affected is male.

In Costa Rica, the one-sided laws favoring women get men into trouble and they usually do not even know they are in trouble until it is way too late.

“Some women swindle with domestic violence law” and “Judges are a girl's best friend when extortion's afoot,” cover some of the ramifications of living with a woman in Costa Rica.

However, many have asked what constitutes a legal marriage in this country when two people live together.  The answer is a surprise and so are the repercussions:

Here are two phrases every expat should know.  “Union libre” means living together.  In the 1960s it was called “living in sin.”  Today such a state is called “committed relationship of mutual interdependence.”   Costa Rica law upgrades two persons living together for three years to a “union de hecho” or union in fact. This means they are living together as if they were a married couple.

In some parts of the United States, living in a committed relationship of mutual interdependence for six months designates two people as domestic partners.

In Costa Rica, if two people live together for two years where one is 100 percent dependent on the other, the law states the dependant has rights to some type of financial support after a breakup.  This has been true for some time, and many people do not know it.  Constitutional Vote 0346-94 overturned as unconstitutional Article 49 of the Rules for Disability, Old Age and Death where children were a prerequisite for one party to obtain benefits and rights in a relationship of less than three years. Now offspring are not necessary.

In other words, expats who pay for their partner's  every whim are making a big mistake.  Paying for everything makes the other member of the relationship a dependent, and the fine line between “union libre” and “union de hecho” narrows dramatically.

Girlfriends living as a dependent or past the magic threshold of three years of living in “union libre” can file a simple court case against their boyfriend to have the court determine them legally married.  Once the case is decided, the woman can ask the court to validate their right to their mate’s assets.  The rule of thumb is a 50-50 split of everything they can get their hands on or know about.  If the man disagrees, the court will auction off everything and split up the dough.

The dependent partner can file an action up to two years after a breakup.

Some expats believe they are safe if they do not cross the three-year mark and they can do
tied up and branded

anything they wish.  This is not true at all.  They are damned from the outset in Costa Rica with many different laws a woman can use to hog tie a man and skin him financially. 

What is really scary, and expat men need to listen up to save themselves from a big faux pas, the domestic violence law makes no distinction between “union libre,” or “union de hecho.” The law just refers to a relationship — any relationship no matter how short.

Gay activists in Costa Rica are petitioning the legislature to revalue the whole law regarding “union de hecho.” They want the time reduced dramatically in determining domestic partnerships following the examples of the United States and other parts of the world.

Instead of living together without a plan and eventual getting skinned, expats in Costa Rica could follow a new plan: They could exercise a little discipline in a relationship. And it would not be a bad idea to keep quiet about major assets outside the country.

If a man insists on getting romantically involved with a woman in Costa Rica, it is better to date someone with her own life and a real income — the emphasis here is on “real” — than a person that will be totally dependent. And those wealthy expat women who find Costa Rican boyfriends should also follow this rule.

An expat should wait a prudent time before
thinking of marriage or moving in with a partner.  Before marriage, an expat should sit down with a legal professional and draw up a prenuptial agreement with the proposed partner to protect assets.

Article 37 of the Family Law 5476 regulates these agreements between men and women in this country.  Preparing a prenuptial agreement is done before or during a marriage outlining the distribution of past, current and future assets of the parties to the marriage.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2008, use without permission prohibited.

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Police ban Tibás camping
for Iron Maiden appearance

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The heavy metal band Iron Maiden is due to perform here Tuesday, and police are already banning excited fans from camping outside the stadium, said officials.

Iron Maiden, hailing from London, is often called one of the most influential bands of the heavy metal era. The group, formed in 1975, has a strong following in Costa Rica and will perform in Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibás Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Young people had already set up camp outside the stadium, when police told them to leave Friday afternoon, said José Fabio Pizarro, director of Fuerza Pública. The heavy metal fans, who planned on camping out for four days, wanted to guarantee the best seat possible, said Pizarro. But they would have blocked others from accessing the stadium, he added.

Later Friday afternoon, officials from the municipality of Tibás joined police in dispersing the groups camped outside of the concert site.  Not only were they a security hazard they were blocking the roadway by the stadium, said Fuerza Pública officials.

Officials announced soon after, that followers of the band will not be permitted to camp outside of the stadium until Monday night. Pizarro said that the fans would have required unnecessary police attention.

Ottón Solís warns Arias
on nation's money strategy

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The leader of the nation's major opposition party has asked the president to make clear the administration's fiscal policy.

The leader, Ottón Solís of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, made the request in a letter made public Friday.

Solís said that he was worried about dangerous trends in the country's economy due to the increase in the nation's external debt.

Solís noted for President Óscar Arias Sánchez that there is a continual deficit in the country's balance of payments, that is the difference between imports and exports. According to the Banco Central that was $3.6 billion accumulated by the end of 2007.

Solís noted that Costa Rica has revalued the colon against the dollar and that some financial entities are betting on additional revaluations. But he said that few countries have revalued their currency while there still is a major deficit in the balance of payments. Nov. 22, the Central Bank revalued the colon about 4 percent against the U.S. dollar.

Solís said the real value of the colon was based on the competitiveness of Costa Rican workers. But, he added, the monetary policies by the Central Bank to keep inflation low hurt savings and competitivity.

Solís is trained as an economist, and he wrote his letter, which may be the opening bell for his 2010 presidential run,while he is a visiting professor at the University of Florida.

He said he wanted the administration to disclose why it was continuing to obtain loans from outside the country, including China, when sufficient funds exist in pension plans within the country to cover lending needs.

He also suggested a tax on private banks and other entities that bring funds into the country.

There was no immediate response from Casa Presidencial.

More cocaine discovered
on bus and in air passenger

By the A.M. Costa Rica Staff

Officials discovered two drug shipments over the weekend, one in a bus and one being smuggled by a human, said authorities.

The Policía de Control de Drogas, discovered 7 kilograms (abut 15 pounds) of cocaine in the bathroom of a bus at a border checkpoint Saturday, according to police reports. The international bus was traveling from Panamá to San José, said officials.

Police seized the drugs at the Paso Canoas checkpoint. They did not detain any people, however, said officials. Policía de Control de Drogas agents were on site to collect information from passengers, and to see if they had any relation to the shipment, said officials.

In another cocaine trafficking arrest, officials detained an Italian woman at Juan Santamaría airport. According to reports, police noticed the woman when she vomited 19 packets of cocaine while waiting to board a flight to Milan, Italy.

The Policía de Control de Drogas detained the woman whose last name is Madonia, at the airport Tuesday, said officials. It was not until the weekend, that the woman finally expelled all 77 packets of the drug, said officials. In total, officials said that the woman carried 693 grams (1.5 lbs) of cocaine inside of her body.

New traffic system becomes target

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San Jose's intelligent traffic signal system is being damaged by thieves who steal the system's cables. The latest theft was early Thursday along Avenida 12. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas put out a call for citizens to keep and eye out for thieves. The latest theft detached three signals lights from the central system, officials said.

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Beach residents near Quepos threatened with bulldozers
By Dylan Ferguson
Dylsey News Service

Residents of the southern Pacific community of Mata Palo are in shock and angered after Municipalidad de Aguirre workmen removed trees and fences and served residents with notices of impending property destruction. The sudden move by the municipality is another controversy stemming from the sporadically enforced maritime zone law.

The 1977 maritime zone law does not allow possession or occupation of coastal regions from high tide mark to 50 meters inland. The next 150 meters from this public zone is known as the restricted zone, and occupation may only be granted by special government lease, or concession.

While the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo approves concessions, they are granted and administered by the municipal governments.

Residents of Mata Palo allege that Thursday, municipal police officers and two officials from the Aguirre municipality entered the area with chainsaws and cut down trees and fences along the beach and in front of several area residences. The officials gave five-day notices to individuals who own property within the restricted zone without official concessions, providing a Tuesday deadline for property destruction.

Some residents were told that heavy machinery was being brought in on Tuesday or even today.

One individual who was given such a notice is Edward Ramsey, a Costa Rican citizen of 17 years who has owned beach front property since 1981. Ramsey, who is a pensioner, claims his residence was erected in 1972, five years before the maritime zone law was enacted. But the
property was rebuilt in 1992, Ramsey claims, from the original materials.

He said he has been asking for a concession continually since he moved in, but has had an informal agreement with the municipality. He has approached the mayor, Oscar Monge, about the notice, and claims he has been given a two-week extension as a verbal agreement. But he remains unconvinced: “The verbal stuff was how I got into trouble in the first place,” he said.

Meanwhile, several lawyers have filed for a stay with the Corte Suprema de Justicia to delay the destruction, according to local resident Richard Letendre.

Letendre says of the affected residents: “A lot of these people are Ticos, and they have nowhere to go.” He maintained that a number of the residences, in addition to Ramsey’s, predate the maritime zone law.

Ramsey added that the community is already greatly affected by the loss of fences.

“There are no police here,” he said. “Fences were the only bit of protection we had.”

The municipality’s crackdown on construction in the maritime zone began in earnest two weeks ago, when property, including the local police station, was razed in the neighboring township of Playa Linda. Edward Ramsey claims he was told by Monge that the municipality wants all restricted zone property without a concession removed within the next two months.

One victim of these periodic crackdowns on maritime zone structures is the famous Mar y Sombra restaurant in nearby Quepos, which fell to a bulldozer more than a year ago.

precolumbian pots
Photos by the Cuerpo Nacional de Policía of Spain
Two of the pieces from the Patterson collection that Costa Rica wants returned
National museum fighting to recover archaeological treasures
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican government is seeking repatriation of 457 priceless pre-Columbian artifacts taken from Costa Rica and now held in Spain.  The artifacts, from Costa Rican Leonardo Patterson's collection, were seized in Santiago de Compostela.

The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, which filed complaints about the artifacts in 2007, is working with national and international authorities to recover the objects, said museum director Francisco Corrales.  

The museum received a CD Aug. 30 from local agents of the International Police Agency. The disk held images of archaeological pieces confiscated by the Spanish police. The artifacts were later determined to be of Costa Rican heritage, the museum said.

Marlin Calvo, head of the department for protection of cultural heritage at the museum, said that the museum has documents citing the date the artifacts left Costa Rica and the date they entered Spain. 

In Costa Rica, the laws declare that archaeological objects are part of the national archaeological heritage.  Costa Rican legislation was established stating that all archaeological objects from the pre-Columbian era obtained after Oct. 6, 1938, are properties of and can be reclaimed by Costa Rica. 
Authority is given to the national museum to conduct any legal, diplomatic or administrative means for the protection of these artifacts. 

“We hope they respond to us through the Costa Rican ambassador in Spain to know the present state of the legal situation of the pieces," Ms. Calvo said.  "We hope this takes shape as rapidly as possible so that the pieces return to Costa Rica.”

Patterson's collection may be valued at as much as $100 million, according to Spanish press reports. The public became aware of it when some key pieces were put on display in Santiago. Costa Rican artifacts make up just a small part of the total. There also are Mexican, other Central American and south American artifacts.

Patterson, who is from Limón, once held a diplomatic post in the Costa Rican government and served for a time in New York at the United Nations. He probably would not be facing any criminal action in Costa Rica because the museum said that a prosecutor has asked a judge to archive the investigation because the archaeological pieces are presumed to have left Costa Rica more than 10 years ago. That would mean that no court action is possible due to a statute of limitations.

The government of Perú also has expressed an interest in the collection being held in Spain.

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Latins in Britain upset by proposals for immigration reform
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Latin Americans living in Britain are showing their disgust with proposed immigration reforms announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week.

Brown was immediately accused of treating immigrants into Britain as second class citizens after he announced the proposed laws, which will require those wishing to become residents to “earn their citizenship”.

Social welfare such as health care and housing may be withheld from immigrants until they have completed a one- to three-year probationary period, the length of which depends on the individual's behavior. Probationary status is only reached after completing a two- to five-year period of temporary resident status.

MINKA News, a London-based news provider for Latin Americans living in the United Kingdom, released an outraged newsletter in response to the changes.

“The law could mean that benefits are cut off from hundreds of thousands of children,” claimed the newsletter. “Today, in the UK, every minor receives a weekly benefit of around $30 to guarantee access to milk and healthy foods. The new reforms would cut this off from children born in Britain but whose parents, although living in Britain and paying taxes, still do not have citizenship.”

Extra taxes are another point of resistance, as the green paper states that visa applications will increase in price by around 10 percent. Once in the country, migrants will be expected to undertake community integration activities, such as voluntary work.

There is a sizable resistance to the proposal within the House of Commons. Members of Parliament, including

Diane Abbot who represents a London constituency and is black, have pointed out that the new measures would discriminate mainly against non-white immigrants from Third World countries, such as those in Latin America. The millions of immigrants into Britain from European Union countries are not required to obtain a visa.

Isaac Bigio, an international analist who studied at the London School of Economics, contributed to the MINKA newsletter, highlighting that the announcement comes shortly before London's municipal elections. He called for the Latin American community to unite in using these elections to put pressure on the government to change these plans.

Costa Ricans living in Britain are few, with only 200 Costa Ricans officially registered with the country's embassy in London. Explanations for the low emigration from Costa Rica include that, unlike many Latin American countries, Costa Rica has never had the political circumstances to make refugees of large numbers of its citizens.

Emigration in the other direction is, in fact, far higher, with an estimated 4,100 British citizens living at least part of the year on Costa Rican soil.

Other Latin American populations living in Britain are large. Approximations put the number of Bolivians at up to 20,000. A large proportion of these have been described as having "irregular immigration status," meaning that their movement into Britain is undocumented, and therefore they would be deeply affected by these changes.

Home Office ministers say that the reforms will give immigrants a clear path to citizenship that will emphasize contribution and responsibility to the country in return for rights and benefits.

If the laws are passed, they will be scheduled to go into effect in April 2009.

As expected, brother of Fidel Castro takes over president's job in Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba's leadership has chosen Raúl Castro to become the nation's president, after nearly 50 years of leadership by his brother Fidel.

Cuba's National Assembly confirmed the transfer of power to Raúl Castro, from his brother, Fidel. Officials announced the decision at a meeting Sunday to select the 31 members of the governing Council of State, which includes the presidency.

Raúl Castro told delegates in the 614-member assembly that he will continue his brother's work to lead the Communist nation. He said he accepted the responsibility placed upon him, adding that Fidel can never be replaced.

The 76-year-old Raul had been serving as acting president since July 2006, when his brother temporarily handed over power to undergo intestinal surgery. Last week, Cuban
state media published a letter from Fidel Castro, saying he
would not stand for re-election as president because he remains frail following the operation.

At the start of Sunday's assembly meeting, delegates applauded when Fidel's name was called, but state television showed his chair was empty. The 81-year-old has not been seen in public since his operation but there have been photos.

Since taking over temporary power, Raúl Castro has called for a national debate to find ways to strengthen the Communist state, improve economic activity and correct income inequality.

In a statement early Sunday, Condoleezza Rice, U.S. secretary of State, called on the Cuban government to begin a process of peaceful and democratic change, including the release of political prisoners. She said the Cuban people have a right to hold democratic elections and to engage in a dialogue about the island's future after what she called "five decades of tyranny."

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Verdi's operatic masterpiece to be performed in Teatro Melico Salazar
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

High culture does not come to Costa Rica with great frequency, so operatic souls will be pleased to hear of the arrival of an Italian-produced "Rigoletto" to San Jose.

Two Ticos and two Guatemalans will be part of the cast, who will perform in Teatro Melico Salazar Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"Rigoletto" was Verdi's first operatic masterpiece in his later career, and it is now one of the 10 most performed operas in the world

The title character is a hunchbacked jester to a duke. The nobelman lustfully pursues women, whether they are married or not, often against their own will.

Rigoletto is happy to be the duke's accomplice until the time that the duke's affections fall on his own daughter, Gilda.

Unknown to Rigoletto, Gilda and the duke have fallen in love,
and the young lady gets abducted to the palace.

However, a father of one of the duke's previous conquests has proclaimed a curse on the duke and his jester, which bears itself out, using Gilda as a sacrifice.

The story develops over three acts, and was first performed in Venice in 1851.

Directed by Massimo Pezzutti, with musical direction by Bruno D’Astoli, this production began its 10-date tour in Guatemala in January, with 16 Italian singers, including  Mauro Augustini and Omar Camata in the role of Rigoletto

The two Costa Rican participants include the soprano singer Giselle Santamaría, and the  tenor Gustavo Hernández.

Performances will be held at the downtown theater. Tickets are on sale from the theater box office, Bansbach Intrumentos Musicales, Heladerías Häagen-Dazs, Hipermás, Maxibodegas, El Observatorio, and by calling  207-2025, or logging on to Ticket prices start at 10,000 colones.

Art Galleries ....

Rembrandt exhibition opens to high acclaim in downtown San José

Rembrandt etching
Hailed as the most important exhibition of the year, a collection of the Dutch master Rembrandt's etchings opened amid much praise Thursday.

The 48 etchings usually reside in Amsterdam's Rembrandt House Museum, where the artist lived for about 20 years from 1620-40. They were collaboratively chosen from a wider collection by Dora Maria Sequiera, the director of Museos del Banco Central and Ed de Heer, the director of the Rembrandt House Museum.

Although now better known for his marvelous paintings that capture intense emotion, facial expression, and deeply contrasted light and shadow, the etchings that are now on show in San José are considered by art buffs to be just as important.

“Rembrandt was the most influential and original etchers possibly of all time,” said de Heer. “He is a shining beacon because he changed etching from a reproductive medium to a fully fledged artistic medium.

“He used all sorts of different techniques to get all the possibilities out of the medium — he printed on copper plate, parchment, even sheepskin to make luxurious editions of prints. He didn't want any two to be the same.”

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Chicken suits, foot photos brought to Galeria Nacional by art colony residents

nancy ennisThose with a sharp eye who look closely at Nancy Ennis' collages will find a man in a chicken costume haunting each one.

In some, he is the main focus of the piece, and in others he is as invisible as a smudge behind a layer of material.

“One of my kids gave me this photo of their Dad when younger,” said Mrs. Ennis, as she pointed out the eerie figure, standing amid her as-yet unhung exhibition in the Galeria Nacional. “I like it because my ex-husband was a very funny man, although very irresponsible.”

Mrs. Ennis, an American who lives in New Jersey, has been creating artwork on Costa Rican soil for the last six weeks, working in a private artists colony in Ciudad Colon.

She is one of several dozen who seek out Costa Rica's tropical climes each year to spend a residency in the Julia and David White Artists' Colony.

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Imagen V show has a few gems but a pack of clinkers, too

videoartshowNew media art is always a bit hit and miss with the potential to come across as a foundationless piece of pretension if it is not done well.

The Bienal Iberoamericana Inquieta Imagen V, a competition for video artists from across Latin America, is a good example of this, containing a few pieces that engage well with the subject and make the most of their medium, but many that leave the viewer cold.

Most of the works are video projections, some as short as a pistol shot and the flight of birds and some as long as a didactic letter that teaches about identity, isolation and fuschia flowers.

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Exhibit condemning illegal fishing would be better elsewhere

For a while now, a large marquee has been standing outside the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporaneo in San José.

In it hangs what has variously been described as an enormous bee hive, a throwback to sixties glow lamps or a swarm of schooling fish.

The last explanation is the one that the artists propound. Huge, blue, glowing and transparent, the structure extends almost four meters down from the ceiling, nearly equaling its height with its width. It tapers towards the end, putting one in mind of a chrysalis, and its outside is made totally of clear nylon wires.

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Mistaken identity? No such thing, says new exhibition

historiaoficialCosta Rica is a land of volatile volcanoes, orchids, coffee fincas, Catholicism and Ticos.

Or you could say it's a country of wide seashores, football stadiums, fast food restaurants and beach towns overtaken by Gringos.

Some are clichéd symbols of a tourist nation, while others are part of the country's changing culture, but all are involved in Museo de Arte Costarricense's new exhibition that challenges viewers to reconsider their own perceptions of the nation.

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Festivals ...

Puntarenas Carnival a mix of the traditional and the modern

If you didn't know otherwise, you could be forgiven for thinking that Puntarenas Carnival is largely about scantily clad ladies fighting it out to be crowned queen of the show.

However, the organisers claim that the carnaval tradition that will fill Puntarenas with people dressed in luminous feathers, steel bands, and brightly-coloured dancers, has roots that go back for thousands of years, to pagan celebrations of Baco, the God of wine.

Over time the carnaval has become related to Christian tradition, the date changing with that of the Easter week, and always falling around the time that Lent begins.

Back in Medieval times, games, dances and a lot of banqueting was the indulgence to get people prepared for lent, before it was placed under strict prohibition by King Carlos I of Spain in 1523, and not restored until the reign of Felipe IV who came to the throne in 1605.

The tradition has certainly revived itself effectively, with carnavals now taking place all over the globe, and the Puntarenas Carnaval is Costa Rica's grandest party of the year.

2008's crowned carnival queen, chosen from a line-up of 10 girls in stringy bikinis, will parade through the streets to start off the celebrations on Feb. 14.

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Mini-mall comes to the rescue of the not-rich-but-hungry

food court

For those in the know, there is a clean, affordable, relatively quiet gastronomic surprise off the pedestrian mall in downtown San Jose.  Between Arenas clothing store and the Patio Restaurant, behind a perfume counter and a Pops Ice Cream sits a food court without a McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway or Church's Chicken in sight. 

Tropical Food is a counter selling relatively healthy food.  While their batidos aren't as delicious as the ones found at FrutiLand in Mall San Pedro, the water-or-milk-
blended-with-fruit drink is a refreshing treat to carry during your walk along Avenida Central.  A batido with the fruit of your choice mixed with water costs 650 colons, with milk, 750 colons.  That's from $1.30 to $1.50.

Adding honey or granola takes you up to a still-reasonable 900 colons ($1.80).  The store also peddles fruit salads, ranging from 700 to 1.600 colons ($1.40 to $3.20).

Marisqueria produces delicious looking and smelling seafood dishes.  A customer-friendly hanging chalkboard lists their menu and respective prices.  A small corvina ceviche will set you back 1,950 colons ($3.90).  Get a small rice with shrimp for 2.150 colons ($4.30), 2,800 ($5.60) for a larger serving.  Or try one of the fish filets prepared several different ways, the cheapest being with oil and garlic for 2,600 ($5.20) colons, the priciest fish filet dish is 3,600 colons ($7.20) for relleno with ham and cheese.

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Festive season proves troublesome even for established restaurant

vealBeing a chef in a busy kitchen must be a pretty stressful job, but around Christmas stress is something any successful restaurant should factor in as inevitable.

On a second visit to well-reputed French restaurant Le Chandelier, it soon became obvious that the staff were poorly equipped for the onslaught of Christmas party diners on a Tuesday night, leaving the usually decent food to deteriorate into a procession of almost inedible starters and bland entrees.

Set in an old San Pedro house with brick ceilings and wooden beams that was converted into a restaurant around 15 years ago by Swiss owner Claude Dubuis, Le Chandelier purports to offer French cuisine that has been developed over generations of experience.

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A great meal is not all in the presentation

musslesandfondue120407With a vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees lining the pathway and posh lighting, one would not expect Saga restaurant to be settled behind a dull parking lot in Escazú.

Although this restaurant may look out of place, it doesn't deviate much from the norm in Escazú, an area many would classify as suburban sprawl.

The majority of the cuisine at Saga seems to fit with the setting: classy presentation, yet lacking any profound flavors. Although the restaurant boasts itself as an “international food restaurant” on its Web site, much of the inspired cuisine is lacking the depth which would be found in authentic dishes.

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Dramatic Arts...

Sunny days in San José complemented by free concerts

MAFconcert The hot dry days are being put to good cultural use by the Museos del Banco Central with a series of outdoor concerts in the middle of the downtown area.

Hundreds of shoppers stopped to lean over the balcony in Plaza de la Cultura for the first concert, when the Costa Rican singer MAF and her band played a sunny set of pop tunes outside the doors of the museum.

Although the series is named 'Conciertos en las gradas', fewer people sat to on the steps outside the Museo de Oro than stood around the edges, looking down at the stage.

Miriam Jaraquín and Blues Latino will bring piano and accordion, flute and saxophone to the stage at midday on March 2., with an acoustic jazzy sound.

The final concert of the series will be on March 29., with trio Villegas playing some classic Spanish rock from 2 p.m.

Cultural prizes handed out to 2007's cream of the crop

Premio Magón

maria eugenia dengoA woman who devoted her life to the improvement of Costa Rica's education system was yesterday announced as the winner of 2007's Premio Nacional de Cultura Magón.

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National Culture Prizes

Hot on the heels of the Premio Cultural Magón winner have come the announcements of the numerous other national culture prize winners.

María Elena Carballo, minister of Cultura y Juventud, read out the long list of Premios Nacional de la Cultura 2007 Tuesday, in a conference at the Centro Nacional de la Cultura.

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Books ...

Land use in Costa Rica documented by Fulbright scholar

Forty years of living in the jungle, moving between secluded forestry stations and research labs, has led Louisiana resident and NASA veteran
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce to write a book about the changing uses of land in Costa Rica.

After winning a presitgious Fulbright scholarship in 1998, he came back to Costa Rica to revisit forest sites that he worked on over three decades earlier as a graduate student. 

Some of the earliest satellite technology available was used in 1966 to take arial photographs of Costa Rica's countryside, and the
book compares these black and white shots with up-to-date images.

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New book dwells on the social aspects of food

Food is not just a selfish pleasure or a way to stifle hunger, but is central to the evolution of art, according to a new book published by Museos del Banco Central.

Artworks by Costa Rican painters are the main content of the hardback book, “Imagenes para Comer,” which follows the representation of food in art since still life painting became popular in the Renaissance.

Full-color pictures of both traditional and modern works are far more common than recipes, as the author Marjorie Ross only provides seven recipes within the book.

All are traditional Costa Rican dishes showing influences from different sections of the community, such as corn fritters, white beans and chorizo and fruit salad.

The book focuses on the meanings that food has within society, and how these are portrayed by art.

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Size of bet should be inversely proportional to skill levels
In no-limit hold’em, much like video games and karate lessons, you need to master one level before you can move on to the next.  In karate, as your skill level increases, your instructor presents you with the next belt.  But in poker, only you can decide when it’s time to graduate to the next level.  That’s a tricky proposition for some players because it’s difficult to assess your own progress. 

In poker, you’ve got to start at the bottom level and work your way up.  This advice applies to the limits that you play and the sizing of the bets that you make.

All beginners should start out with a no-limit betting strategy based on making large-sized bets.  Then, as skills increase, bet sizing should decrease.  Here’s why.

When you make small raises before the flop, other players will simply be more likely to call those bets.  That means you’ll end up facing difficult decisions after the flop.  More post-flop decisions mean more variables to consider with more money at stake.  Advanced players excel in these situations. Beginners suffer the consequences.

Fortunately, there is a betting system that can help shift the advantage back to the novice player.  By making excessively large pre-flop bets, novices can force better players to lay down their marginal hands. 

But the question still remains:  What’s the correct amount to bet?  Well, bet sizing should be proportional to your skill level.

A rank beginner playing at skill Level 1 needs to make very large raises -- five times the big blind.  With blinds at 50/100, a novice who decides to play should bet 500.  This size bet will protect you against a looser and tougher opponent whose goal is to outplay you after the flop.  If you do make it to the flop, keep betting large with a pot-sized bet.

As you improve to skill Level 2, slightly reduce your pre-flop bet size.  With blinds at 50/100, bet out 450 pre-flop, and 90 percent of the pot size after the flop.

The trend continues as you improve to the third skill level.  Now, lower your pre-flop bet to 400, and bet out 80 percent of the pot after the flop.

When you reach Level 4, try betting 3 ½ times the big blind,

and then follow it up with a post-flop bet equal to 75 percent of the pot.

Congratulations if you’ve made it to Level 5!  You’re now an experienced and accomplished player.  Your bets and raises should adhere to the industry standards: three times the big blind pre-flop and 65 percent of the pot after the flop.

Note:  Too many beginners make the mistake of starting at this level’s betting scheme.  If you’re a beginner, start with Level 1 betting!

Okay, once you feel that you’ve mastered the game — you’d be wrong, by the way, poker is a game that can never be mastered — it’s time for an aggressive style of betting.  At Level 6, bet 2 ½ times the big blind, and follow up with a bet of 50-60 percent of the pot after the flop.  At this advanced level, you’ll need to rely on a set of multi-dimensional poker skills which includes the ability to read people.  Quite frankly, this level’s betting scheme is inappropriate for most players.  There will be far too many tough post-flop decisions and the risk of making costly errors in post-flop play increases significantly.

Without a doubt, the toughest part about selecting the proper bet size is that you must be your own harshest critic.  Swallow your pride and be completely objective about your own poker skill level.  Only then can you implement an effective betting strategy.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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