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These stories were published Monday, Feb. 28, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 41
Jo Stuart
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Don't count on any work getting done!
Semana Santa is an early one this year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tomorrow is the first day of March, and a month that contains an early Easter.  In fact, Palm Sunday is less than three weeks away.

The dates are important in Costa Rica because Easter Week or Semana Santa is the period between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. This is a time of religious processions or vacations at the beach.  Hardly any work is done that week.

Easter is Sunday, March 27. Only in 1989 did Easter take place earlier during the last 25 years. Then the religious holiday was March 26. Usually Easter is in April.

But in 2008 Easter Sunday will be even earlier, on March 23.

The day is keyed to the first full moon after the vernal equinox, which is March 20 this year. Easter cannot take place earlier than March 22 or later than April 25, according to several ecclesiastical sources.

The most solemn day of the Christian calendar will be March 25 this year, Good Friday, the day tradition ascribed to the death of Jesus Christ.  Easter, two days later, marks his resurrection and glorification.

As a Roman Catholic country, Costa Rica takes these days seriously. But the less religious already are planning week-long vacations at the beach or in the mountains.

Semana Santa also marks one of the last chances Costa Ricans have to squeeze in a vacation during the dry season. Late March and April are when the country again is under the spell of afternoon rains

Shelter program will teach Heredia kids to be kind to animals
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The humane society in San Rafael de Heredia has almost completed a new course to teach local children about animal care.

Workers at the Asociación Humanitaria para la Protección Animal began planning the program a year ago in conjunction with their shelter.

Mrs. Leigh Monahan, a representative from the society, said by telephone Sunday that the entire program had been funded by donations. "We received money from a foundation in the U.S. and from local members and volunteers." 

The proposed course is planned to host 25 to 30 children three days a week from local grade schools. The children will then have the opportunity to learn about pet care, about abandoned animals, and about the importance of caring for these creatures.

The young students will meet the shelter animals and learn that animals have feelings too and need attention just like every other living creature does in order to survive and lead healthy and happy lives, said the society in a press release.

According to Mrs. Monahan, the school has enjoyed a "good relationship with the ministries during its development. We have been encouraged by the governments willingness to help with the project."

To support the educational program, the society will host its annual fundraiser March 19 at 12:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are 25,000 colons. 

The fundraiser will be held at a home in San Rafael. Persons interested in the fundraiser or in the school itself should contact the society at

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Letters from our readers

Visitor says police
did not help much

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I'm not sure tourists and citizens  living in Costa Rica are aware of what level of service they might be  expecting and actually receiving from local law enforcement officials.

My family has visited Costa Rica three times in the last six years and  encountered few problems until the last visit when we became victims of  crime.  I cannot begin to express to you my complete lack of confidence in  the law enforcement system.

We vacationed at Hotel Las Brisas del Pacifico in lovely Playa Sámara  beginning on Feb. 17, 2005.  Within hours of checking into the hotel,  someone got into the room without forced entry and a cellular phone and  travelers checks were taken.  That was a setback but paled in comparison  with what would happen next.

I promptly reported the incident to the local authorities, the Fuerza  Pública in Sámara.  The frustration commenced when I had to argue with the  desk officer just to take a report!  I also began to feel at a loss when I  saw that he could not spell very well and didn't even know what American  Express Traveler's checks were. 

I had waited politely outside the police  office with the broken window while another trio was speaking with him.  I  would later learn that they were victims from the same day as my incident,  losing a camera, and that I was the third victim that week.  I was already  suspicious that whomever had stolen our things had a key to the rooms, but I  was appalled that I was the third burglary victim and nobody was at the  hotel asking questions. 

At the end of my reporting nightmare that consisted  of a few simple lines and a semi-official stamp, the officer handed the  report to me — which I thought he would need for further investigation. I asked him if he was going to look further into the matter.  His response was  that he had done all he could.  Draw your own conclusions, but if the local  authorities aren’t going to do anything . . . . 

You might ask if this could get worse.  Yes, yes it could.  I returned,  walking the 10 minutes back to the hotel, and I found one of the other  officers from the Fuerza Pública talking to another American couple who had  just arrived within the hour.  Within minutes of their arrival, someone had  entered their room without force, took their bag of clothes, a laptop, and  some cash.  I was certain our blue uniformed warriors would do something at  this point, but the officer's response to my question was that he was  "preventative" and had done all he could (except prevent anything).  That  couple, needless to say, didn't stay, and I was busy wondering just what was  going on.

For the next couple of days I would stop at the police station, the one with  the broken window that exemplifies their level of concern, and ask if they  were investigating or able to help.  The response was that they'd done all  they could. 

At that moment I thought about all of the articles I'd read  about the OIJ and asked if they could perhaps call them in since there was a  rash of burglaries.  The officer looked curiously at the phone on his desk  and told me that I'd have to visit the office in Nicoya in person.  Embarrassment or simply wanting to avoid questions into some operation going  on in Sámara? 

Some of the locals laughed when I told them the story and  asked me what I expected of lazy cops.  The bottom line is that if you're a  victim down there, forget about getting help.  I think the only time an  American gets any police attention down there is if he becomes a suspect.

As a final note, if the USA is going to pump money into the police force for  drug interdiction and other enforcement issues, I think the Costa Rican  government might be able to reciprocate a little by giving some attention to  the visitors.

Mike McLeod 
Reno, Nevada
100 special wheelchairs
to be handed out March 12

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Fundación Roberta Felix is a non-profit Costa Rican foundation whose sole purpose is to improve the lives of the handicapped, especially children in the area of Parrita and Aguirre. We offer special education, therapy, clothes, food, wheelchairs, orthopedic shoes, toys, books, school materials and other donated items to the handicapped children of the zone.

On March 12th at the CAIRE center in Quepos on the road to Naranjito, we will be giving away 100 wheelchairs that were generously donated by the new "Do it Foundation" in Guanacaste.

John Sheehan, owner of the Do it Center Ferreteria in Guanacaste, started a foundation which recently shipped in a special type of wheelchair which is simple to assemble, practical for the tropics and uses mountain bike tires instead of regular wheelchair wheels. These wheelchairs are more practical for rugged environments and afford a higher degree of mobility for the user. He has also assembled a large group of volunteers to assemble the chairs and many wonderful Costa Rican corporations that are helping with shipping and transportation as well.

We had been waiting for a shipment of wheelchairs that never came from another source and had already identified 100 people to receive a new wheelchairs, so we were thrilled to get the call from Mr. Sheehan offering us all the wheelchairs we could want! He brought in 500 on his first shipment!

The majority of recipients are the elderly in the area of Parrita and Quepos and many have been waiting over four months for a shipment that never arrived. They will be happy to hear that we now have these wheelchairs and will be giving them away in the center all day March 12.

It is a special day when foundations in two rural areas of Costa Rica can collaborate and distribute needed wheelchairs to the rural communities here. We are very excited about this and about a new type of awareness in the rural parts of the country. This is a major step forward for the handicapped here in Costa Rica.

The foundation is also pleased to announce that the classroom we built in Palo Seco in Parrita FINALLY got a physical therapist and two teachers and is operational as a special classroom dedicated to children with severe handicaps. It took the Ministerio de Educación a few years, but now more than 30 children will receive special education and therapy in the public school in Parrita. We completed the construction several years ago and are happy to see it being used for it's intended purpose!

Meanwhile at CAIRE we have a schedule of classes and are operational with classes in music, art, English, Spanish, computers, physical education etc. We are going to issue a complete schedule on both the local cable TV station as well as in posters all over the area. These classes are open to all children with any type of disability. We will be starting a regular schedule for physical therapy and speech therapy within a month or two.

The purpose of this notice is to invite readers to attend the event on March 12. I hope you can come and see this event on the 12th.

Robbie Felix 
Manuel Antonio-Quepos

Poverty and greed
cause teen prostitutes

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Poverty and materialism are the causes of prostitution.

Some think that men anxious to touch the flower of youth are the cause of underage hookers. Men are not the enemy. Poverty, greed, ignorance are.

Prostitution blossoms where poverty and materialism fertilize the soul. To rid the world of prostitution, we must rid the world of poverty and greed. 

Wouldn't that be interesting?

Bob Jones
Heredia man was victim
of multiple stab wounds

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen murdered earlier this month died from stab wounds to the chest, according to the report of his autopsy.

The man was Ronald Steven Hayes, who had just moved to a condo in San Pablo de Heredia. 

A farm worker found his body early Feb. 11 at Quitirrisí de Mora, a community between Ciudad Colón and Puriscal west of San José.

Hayes suffered at least five stab wounds to the chest. Two of them punctured a lung and caused fatal internal bleeding.

The body lacked clothes and was contained in a plastic bag. around which was wrapped a rug, said officials.

Theater open house March 7

By the A.M Costa Rica staff 

The Little Theatre Group will hold its next open house and general meeting March 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. The group is based at the Blanche Brown Theatre in Bello Horizonte, Escazú.  Entertainment will require audience particpation with some special improvisations. 
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Two women with ailments are a way of giving up
Sigue Petra con calentura y Juana con calambres

"Petra has fever, and Juana has chills." This dicho is saying that these two women, Petra and Juana, are always sick with something, but they never get any better because as soon as they start to recover they come down with the same old illness all over again.

We use this saying to describe situations that never change or to refer to some necia person who is tedious and never satisfied with anything, but goes on and on about this or that that needs changing. Often, even if we know he or she may be dead wrong, we let them win just for the sake of shutting them up!

When we were kids, my siblings and I liked to do things that did not always coincide with my parents’ wishes, but at the same time they did not want to flat out say "NO." At least neither of them wanted to be the one who said no. So, for example, if we wanted to go to the soccer game with my uncle Oscar — my father’s brother upon whom my mother wasted absolutely no affection — we would always ask permission of my father to go to game. His answer would be: "Of course you can go to the soccer game, but be sure and ask your mother first."

My mother’s answer always was: "What does your father have to say?" We would tell her what he said and she would ask if we told him that Uncle Oscar was taking us. We would say yes, whereupon she would tell us to go and ask him again. Of course, he would say the same thing he said before. This would go back and forth until my father finally ended the matter with, "¡Dios mio! Sigue Petra con calentura and Juana con calambres." 

Their unwillingness to make a decision was a source of tremendous frustration to us kids sometimes. Nevertheless, every Sunday morning we’d slip out of the house and trek down the hill to my grandfather’s bakery for fresh bread and coffee. After that we would go to the soccer game and have a wonderful time. Maybe my hard drinking Uncle Oscar would get into a fistfight or two. Most people knew he was an Alajuela fan, and they loved to tease and insult him in an effort to goad him into a fight.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

When we got home, it was always the same: My mother would ask exactly who give us permission to go to the soccer game with Oscar. My answer was always the same, "no one." Because, in reality, both my parents had shirked making the decision one way or the other. Go to speak to your Father, she would sternly command. 

My Father would scold me for not receiving permission to go to the game, and I would argue that he never said no. Finally, he would end the conversation by throwing up his hands and saying: "Sigue Petra con calentura and Juana con calambres," leaving me with the vague impression that this situation was somehow my fault.

But, we really never got punished for sneaking out of the house on a Sunday morning to go to the soccer game because at the bottom of it neither one of my parents wanted to take the responsibility for offending Uncle Oscar should he find out that they did not really want their children associating with him and his — shall we say ?—"colorful" crowd. 

But we kids loved to hang out with Uncle Oscar. He seemed to know everyone in San José and he loved showing us off as though we were his own kids. Of course, he always bought us whatever we wanted, and the fights were just a little extra added excitement thrown in for good measure. Those were the days!

Eulogy for William White, who operated artists colony
By Jo Stuart
A.M. Costa Rica columnist

My friend Bill has died.  He, as my daughter would say, slipped off the planet at 4 a.m. Friday.  I hope he is in a better place, although Bill would give me a disgusted look for saying that. 

Although I say "my" friend, Bill’s friends number in the hundreds, if not thousands, here in Costa Rica, in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Bill, who was in his late 70s, was a total pacifist who did not believe that war was the answer to anything and so he moved to Costa Rica from Los Angeles in 1992.  He came here because Costa Rica has no military and has not been involved in a war in over 50 years.  He found some land in Ciudad Colón where he refurbished the barn on the property into a house. 

I met Bill at a Democrats Abroad luncheon sometime in 1992, but it was not until he suffered the loss of his daughter, Julia, to suicide, that we became friends and spent hours on the phone.  Eighteen months after her death, Bill’s son David died.  This double tragedy is almost more than any parent can bear.  Bill got busy and began building what would become "The Colony." 

The Julia and David White Artists’ Colony is a place for 
artists of all kinds to spend a month in a serene surrounding doing what they love. This was a logical thing for Bill to do because loved good writing, fine arts and especially, classical music (He knew nothing about pop). 

Because of his other love, Bill was in the process of imagining a path of peace, or gathering names of pacifists and conscientious objectors from around the world.

Bill White
I will miss Bill.  I will miss his outrageous, but very funny sense of humor.  I will miss how much he appreciated me.  But I will have lots of company remembering Bill.  From his dear friend, Francisco and his assistant Royce to the latest person he met, we all will have our "Bill stories" for a long time to come.

We will probably begin at the  Memorial for Bill which will be held at the main house of the Colony at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Costa Rica wins Central American cup in shootout with Honduras
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s international team won the VIII Copa de Naciones de la Unión Centroamericana de Fútbol Sunday night after defeating Central American rival Honduras.

The final round of the Central American cup finals was held in Guatemala over the weekend. Costa Rica defeated Honduras in overtime after finishing 90 minutes of play tied at one goal apiece. In the overtime shootout, Costa Rica prevailed winning 8 to 7. 

Honduras controlled the first half of the game, but failed on several opportunities to score. The Hondurans eventually scored a goal during the 59th minute, but ticos answered 10 minutes later with a goal of their own. The two teams played out the remaining time defensively and waited for overtime.

The cup is Costa Rica’s fifth since 1991. The tournament win, however, does not affect Costa Rica’s position in the World Cup qualifying tournament. The team’s next world cup game takes place March 26 against Panamá.

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Worldwide treaty regulating tobacco enters into force
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The world's first treaty aimed at cutting tobacco-related deaths came into force over the weekend. The World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control becomes legally binding upon countries that have ratified the landmark agreement. 

The World Health Organization says it believes the Tobacco Convention, the world's first international public health treaty, could save millions of lives. Organization officials say tobacco is the second leading cause of preventable deaths globally after hypertension. 

Costa Rica is one of the 168 countries that have signed the tobacco treaty, but the nation’s Asamblea Legislativa has not ratified it. So persons in Costa Rica are not bound by the agreement.

Some 57 countries, including Honduras where the pact was ratified Feb. 16 have approved the agreement. Panamá ratified the pact Aug. 16.

Organization workers estimate that nearly five million people die prematurely every year from tobacco-related diseases. If current smoking trends are not reversed, in 2020, tobacco will kill 10 million people a year, 70 percent of them in developing countries.

The coordinator of the organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Douglas Bettcher, says the treaty is a tool that, if properly implemented, can curb the global tobacco epidemic.

"It is an historical moment and we are very confident that this treaty is going to save lives," said Douglas Bettcher. "It has already started off a powerful process globally and we are very confident that it is going to

continue to do so and it is going to prove itself as a very effective public health tool to really curb this unacceptable burden of disease and death." 

In all, 167 countries have signed the treaty. But, it is legally binding only for the 57 countries that have ratified it. The treaty sets standards and guidelines for tobacco advertising, pricing and smuggling. It also aims to limit non-smokers' exposure to other people's smoke. 

Anti-tobacco activists are concerned that the treaty will be weakened because powerful countries such as the United States and China have not yet ratified it. However, they point out that some of the largest tobacco growers, such as India, as well as big cigarette-producing countries, such as Britain and Turkey, have become part of the treaty.

The director of the Tobacco Free Initiative, Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva says treaty provisions aim to dissuade children from smoking and helping adults to kick the habit.

"The ban of advertising so as not to promote smoking propaganda, publicity, sponsorship and promotion," said Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva. "Measures to raise taxes and prices. One of the most important measures that I can describe is the measure that addresses smuggling, which is a big cause of increasing availability of cigarettes with small prices and cigarettes of totally unknown origin." 

Organization officials accuse the tobacco industry of trying to subvert the treaty by pressuring countries not to ratify it. Leading tobacco companies, such as British-American Tobacco and Philip Morris, deny these charges. They are on record as saying that they believe the treaty is important and that they support it.

Renewed investigation ordered in death of Mexican rights activist
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MÉXICO CITY, México — A Mexican court has ruled an investigation into the mysterious death of a prominent human rights activist more than three years ago should be re-opened.

Internationally known human rights attorney Digna Ochoa was found dead in her México City office in October 2001, after being shot in the head. Prosecutors ruled the death a suicide.

Ms. Ochoa's family and human rights groups have longsaid she was murdered, and filed an appeal.

At the time of her death, Ms. Ochoa was looking into abuses by police and the army, and had reported receiving numerous death threats.

México City prosecutors reacted to Friday's court decision with a statement saying they would be willing to repeat some testing and procedures of their investigation.

Clint Eastwood and cast have a big night at the Academy Award ceremony
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — "Million Dollar Baby" has just won the best picture award at the annual Academy Award ceremonies in Hollywood, and the film's director, Clint Eastwood, also won an Oscar for his work as best director.

Jamie Foxx won the Best Actor award for the movie "Ray," but two more big awards also went to stars of "Million Dollar Baby."  Morgan Freeman won as best 

supporting actor and Hilary Swank took the Oscar for best actress.

Cate Blanchett won best supporting actress for her portrayal of screen legend Katherine Hepburn in "The Aviator."

Spain's movie "The Sea Inside" won the Academy Award as the best foreign-language (non-English) film of 2004. It was Spain's 19th nomination and fourth Academy Award. 

Jo Stuart
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