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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, March 3, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 45          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Students recreating 1856 march of troops to Santa Rosa
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

School children are taking to the highway to recreate the march from San José to the scene of the Battle of Santa Rosa in Guanacaste.

This year is the 150th anniversary of that battle which pitted the Costa Rican expeditionary force against Nicaraguan troops loyal to William Walker and other U.S. filibusters. Costa Rica won the battle in 1856 and went on to defeat Walker's main force April 11 at Rivas, Nicaragua. April 11 is a national holiday.

The Ministerio de Educación Pública said more than 17,000 students, most of them in the secondary grades, would participate. A contingent left San José Thursday to La Garita. They carry a Costa Rican flag that is scheduled to arrive in Santa Rosa in a week.

Friday youngsters will carry the flag from la Garita to San Mateo. Monday students from San Mateo go to Esparza.  The flag goes from Esparza to Puntarenas Tuesday, Puntarenas to Bagaces Wednesday and on to Liberia.  From Liberia the flag goes to Santa Rosa
March 17. March 20 the flag will be carried to the site of the Battle of Santa Rosa.

Officials said the route had been verified by specialists at the Museo Histórico Juan Santamaría. He was the hero of the Battle of Rivas.

There is another series of events connected with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the campaign against the Filibusters in 1856 and 1857. Historian Robert May of Purdue University, Indiana, will give a public speech at 10 a.m. March 14 at the Auditorio of the Facultad de Estudios Generales at the Universidad de Costa Rica. He also will meet with students and diplomats and participate in a conference March 16 at 7 p.m. in the Museo Juan Santamaría, Alajuela.

May has written books on manifest destiny, the concept that God wants the United States to expand bringing liberty and democracy.

Walker and his followers were trying to take over a section of the hemisphere for themselves and perhaps bring it into the United States as a slave state.

Escazú store owner guns down youthful bandit
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men tried to stick up an Escazú cellular telephone store Thursday morning, but the store operator managed to grab a shotgun and kill a 16-year-old bandit.

The drama unfolded in Trejos Montealegre about 10 a.m. when three men approached the store. A shot fired from outside embedded itself in the wall of the store, said agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization. Then the three bandits barged into the store.

They ordered the proprietor and his father into the store's bathroom. But when they were not paying attention, the proprietor snuck out of the makeshift jail, grabbed a shotgun and began firing.
The 16-year-old suffered a mortal wound. A second man suffered a wound in the arm. The third bandit fled.

The 16-year-old died later in an Escazú clinic. Police located a suspect, 22, suffering from an arm wound near the store and took him to Hospital San Juan de Dios. They are seeking a third bandit who escaped in a getaway car.

As the man pulled on to the main road at a major intersection north of San Rafael de Escazú he threw a pistol out the window of his car. Police retrieved it.

Fuerza Pública officers located a suspected getaway car in León XIII, but after an inspection agents decided that the vehicle was not used in the attempted heist.

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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Georgina Butler, the British ambassador, is all smiles at a reception Thursday night as she formally welcomes the BBC World new digital channel to Amnet cable television.

Death penalty ordered
for wandering cattle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

It's not the open range anymore, pardner. Agricultural authorities say they will kill any cow that is found wandering on public property. They cite health risks. Beef cattle producers and dairymen seem to support the decision.

Alexis Sandí Muñoz, director of animal health at the agricultural ministry, said Thursday that the program would begin in a month and enforce an existing 1973 law. This law prohibits pasturing animals in the streets, roads and other public places of the country.

Sandí said that wandering cattle present high risks to other animals because they can transmit diseases, such as tuberculosis and brucellosis. The effort is supported by the Corporación de Fomento Ganadero and the Cámara de Productores de Leche, according to a summary from the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería.

First agricultural officials all over the country will conduct an informational campaign directed to animal owners. The locations where the most cows wander free is in Poás de Alajuela, Coronado and Cartago, said the ministry. Police officials will participate in carrying out the plan.

Jazz ambassadors plan
three free shows here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Alejandro Avilés Latin jazz quartet will be giving a series of concerts and master classes in Costa Rica starting a week from today. This is a program of jazz ambassadors run by the U.S. Department of State.

The group will appear March 11 at Tokú in San Rafael de Escazú at 9:30 p.m., March 13 at 5 p.m. in the Salón Black Star Line in Limón and at 7:30 p.m. March 14 in the Teatro Eugene O'Neill of the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamerican in Los Yoses. All shows are free but the Tokú performance requires tickets that are available at the restaurant starting Monday.

The quartet includes drummer Henry Cole on the bass, Ricardo Rodríguez on the bass and sax players Jason Gillenwater and Avilés.

Our readers' opinion
No new net taxes
for the law-abiding

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I believe Mr. Guzman’s letter properly expresses the correct attitude towards gringos (or anyone) who don’t want to pay taxes. My attitude is that if tax avoidance is the key feature of any one’s involvement here, they are probably not good citizens in other areas of their business dealings. So, go somewhere else.
Taxes (and collecting them) are indeed an important element in the development and growth of Costa Rica.  Infrastructure, security and education will determine if the tourist and development dollars continue to flow to Costa Rica or not. Unfortunately, the government is the only one who can provide these services on a widespread basis. So the key question, Mr. O’Brien, and for that  matter all taxpayers should ask is “Are we getting our money’s worth?”
Collecting a little more from the Gringos is a good thing. Capital gains taxes on real estate will not drive the Gringos out since it is offset with our U.S. taxes.  No net new taxes for the law abiding. It only make sense to pay where you “play.”
VAT taxes consumption.  While not the best tax, it is the easiest to collect since the people who have to collect and pay have something to lose if they don’t comply.
The real key is for the government to make sure that the money they collect is spent wisely and with true benefit to all citizens (and Gringos).  In my local U.S. community, we pay some of the highest taxes in the country.  But we have beautiful parks, the best public schools, transportation services and police and fire services that are among the best.  I don’t mind  paying  (OK, mind a little) since I see the results for me and my family.
So the key for tax collection is for the government to use the money wisely. If they don’t it will not make any difference what laws are in place. People will avoid paying taxes. Or leave. So go to Panamá or Nicaragua. It won’t be long before they see the light, too. The question still will be who will wisely spend the tax  dollars?  I will take my chances with Costa Rica.
T.  Harrison
Chicago Ill.
They will get around
any new tax idea

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding the new tax plan:  In the land of chorizo, it will make no difference if the new tax plan is passed or not because the chorizeros will undoubtedly find a way around them.  Ticos are the most resourceful people I have met, and while the new tax plan may pose some interesting challenges, the chorizeros will still be making their money while laughing all the way to the cantina.  The people who will "suffer" with the new plan are the foreign and local residents who do not know how to work the system.
Daniel E. Martinez
Miami, Florida
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 3, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 45


Defensora wants women's institute minister sacked
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Defensora de los Habitantes has called for the firing of the minister of the Condición de la Mujer and the entire board of the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres.

The defensora, Lisbeth Quesada Tristán, said there was evidence of weaknesses within the organization and lack of leadership.

She also said that employees had been penalized for their personal beliefs and that the institute had failed to make good use of its budget. The institute has a surplus of a billion colons, some $2 million.

Defensora Quesada was appearing before the  Comisión de la Mujer. After the session, the head of the legislative commission,  Gloría Valerín, said she would send some of the information to the Ministerio Público for investigation.

The minister involved is Georgina Vargas Pagan. The institute was last in hot water when it published an almanac which supported a women's right to an abortion, something contrary to administration policies. One institute employee was fired and another suspected at that time. The defensora said these people were punished unjustifiably for their personal beliefs.

Ms. Quesada said her agency's investigation began earlier, in 2003, when women's groups complained about deficiencies in women's institute programs and structural weaknesses in the organization. A former minister, Esmeralda Britton, was sacked in June 2004, for what was called bad management of the institute's money.

The defensora said there were too many open disciplinary cases at the institute and that the number of incapacitated workers rose from 46 in 2004 to 254 in 2005. She said the institute should purchase its own building to provide more space for the job it has been asked to do. She said persons outside the institute should be allowed to participate in its decisions.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Lisbeth Quesada Tristán eplains her report

The defensora also was critical of the institute for transferring half its budget surplus, about $1 million, to national emergency officials to help during the periods of heavy flooding last year.

She said government agencies should attend to their own business first before giving away money.

Ms. Valerín said she would include the defensora's report in the summary the commission prepares within two weeks.

There was no response from Casa Presidencial. The minister is a presidential appointment. The Denfosoría de los Habitantes is an independent agency under the legislature.

Ticos and those who join them leave worry behind
There have been times when I have been worried about something and shown it and heard a Tico say to me “Tranquila.” 

“How can you be tranquila in the face of  ——" and I can fill in the blanks with any number of things that bothered me during my first years here.
Well, evidently, Ticos have figured out a way to stay calm because in a recent poll 51 percent said that they do not consider themselves worried or nervous about anything.  Only 7 percent said they are continuously nervous and 42 percent are nervous about certain things.  Among those things that worry those who do worry, high on the list is walking alone on streets that are considered dangerous (20 percent). 

The two next big worries, both at 16 percent, are money worries and concern that their wife or children might get sick. (Obviously, this poll, which was reported in the daily newspaper La Nación was done of men only.)  From then on, any of the stresses of everyday life affected less than 10 percent of the people, with fear of earthquakes and school exams causing concern in less than 5 percent of those who responded.  So, ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ certainly applies to Ticos.  And, I am happy to say that in recent years that pretty much applies to me.

However, I couldn’t help but wonder what if there were as few worriers in the rest of the world, so I did my own survey.  Well, actually I asked one male in the United States.  He said he was not the nervous type because it is a waste of time to worry about something if you can’t do anything about it.  When he does get nervous (or worried), it is generally about his health.  Next is getting old without having saved enough money. Then he is sometimes nervous about losing his job.  Another worry is that he will die without having lived life to the fullest.  And finally, he is a bit nervous about that extra ten pounds that is hanging over his belt. 

The one thing I am going to worry about when the
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

time comes, is renewing my residency.  My friend, Sandy, has been trying to do that. She is one of the most even-tempered people I know and her comment, after her second visit was, “Immigration sucks.”  She arrived early for her 2 p.m. appointment. 

After waiting three hours watching the officials trying to cram 40 people into appointments before closing time at 4 p.m., she had to make another appointment.  I guess when my time comes it will be a good opportunity for me to finally finish "Remembrance of Things Past." 

Meanwhile, life goes on.  Or it doesn’t.  Last Saturday I attended a memorial gathering to mark a year since my friend Bill White left this planet.  The memorial was held at the artist colony, which Bill began.  Bill was a great music lover so music was very much a part of the occasion.  A choral group of 20 singers from Ciudad Colón sang a medley of folk songs from many countries.  Bill would have loved them. The night before there was a concert at the local church, which I did not attend, but heard was packed with people remembering Bill and enjoying a program presented by members of the National Symphony. 

In contrast, during the week, my friends, James and Alexis, gave a lunch (read feast) to celebrate James’ birthday.  The food was Moroccan, the company international.  One of the guests commented to me afterward, “I am always surprised anew at the interesting people one meets in Costa Rica.”

Life does have its ups and downs and is tenuous, at best.  Perhaps the best we can do while we are here is to not worry and be happy.  Easy for me to say.  I’m in Costa Rica. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 3, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 45

Subdivision work more expensive
Construction costs rising on a par with inflation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cost of constructing a basic home rose nearly 11 percent in 2005, according to an index maintained by the national census agency. And prices took another seasonal 3.55 percent jump in January.

But when adjusted for the 2005 14 percent inflation of the colon, the increase actually was less than a half of percent.

The cost of developing a subdivision, not counting houses, increased 19 percent from January 2005 to January 2006, based on another index. That figure suggests development costs rose faster than inflation.

Both monthly indexes are produced by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censo.

The index for construction prices runs from the 1976 base year when costs then were considered 100 percent. Based on those figures, home construction has increased 21 times.  These startling figures have to be seen in the context of the depreciation of the colon over the years, from 30 to the dollar to the current 503 to the U.S. dollar.

The subdivision prices use 1984 as an index value of 100.

Although both indexes are skewed by inflation, they are useful in that they show trends in the prices of
individual items. For example, building contractors might be able to save money if they realize that material prices traditionally take a 3 to 4 percent jump each January as construction swings into high gear for the dry season.

The census institute keeps tabs on 25 different prices to compile its construction index. These include the price of a meter of sand, an hour on the job by a laborer, the price of a meter of electric cable, the cost of a 50-kilo sack of cement and the cost of a sheet of plywood.

The institute keeps track of 52 elements in the construction of a subdivision, including the price of asphalt, drainage pipes, sidewalks and valves.

The prices are based on repeat visits to 53 construction material outlets within the four provinces of San José, Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago. Prices might be different in Puntarenas, Guanacaste and Limón.

The institute is the same organization that puts out a monthly index of inflation. For February, the inflation rate was .89 of 1 percent, the institute said Thursday.

That is two-tenths of a percent point less than February 2005. The institute calculates a 2.07 rate of inflation for the first two months of 2006. The institute uses a monthly survey of 264 goods and services to determine this rate.

Agents in Guanacaste try to unravel strange murder
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Witnesses in a section of Guanacaste early Monday morning saw a larger man chase down a smaller man, knock him to the ground and then take a metal tube and bash the prone victim around the head.

Then the assailant went to his pickup and drove it back and forth over the man on the ground.  As others passed by, the man in the truck demanded that they help him get the body of the victim into the bed of the truck. They refused until the man produced a gun and threatened to use it.

Police got the report in bits and pieces. Tuesday afternoon agents of the Judicial Investigating
Organization based in Santa Cruz raided the home of the presumed assailant, someone they said provokes fear in his neighbors. They confiscated the pickup for testing. The home is in Villareal, which is near Tamarindo.

Agents could do little because the victim, identified as  Yamil Orias Orias, 36, had not been located.

Then Wednesday a young man spotted a body inside a well between  Santa Rosa and Hatillo. Police recovered the body and identified it as Orias.

The presumed assailant showed up with his lawyer at the Santa Cruz tribunales de justicia.  He is being held for investigation.

Peace Corp and its alumni mark 45 years of service
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Peace Corp is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. Founded by John F, Kennedy in 1961, the corps has hosted more than 185,000 volunteers.

Former volunteers include five current members of the U.S. House of Representatives and one senator, all of whom were honored by Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez, who presented them with Peace Corps public service awards during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Wednesday.

The recipients were:  Sen. Christopher Dodd (Democrat of Connecticut), Dominican Republic, who served in the Peace Corps from 1966 to 1968; Rep. Sam Farr (Democrat of California), Colombia, 1964-1966; Rep. Michael Honda (Democrat of California), El Salvador, 1965-1967; Rep. Thomas Petri (Republican of Wisconsin), Somalia, 1966-1967; Rep. Christopher Shays (Republican of Connecticut), Fiji, 1968-1970; and Rep. James Walsh (Republican of New York), Nepal, 1970-1972.
Representatives from 35 of the 75 nations in which Peace Corps volunteers currently work attended the ceremony.

In part, because of the support of former alumni in Congress and government, Vasquez said the Peace Corps is "at a 30-year high" with the number of volunteers in the field — 7,810 at the end of fiscal year 2005. Twenty-four percent of those volunteers are working in predominantly Muslim countries, he told his audience. Vasquez said the "Volunteers are building bonds of friendship and finding common ways to address global challenges, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic."

Crisis Corps Volunteers, consisting of many returned PCVs, were also deployed in 2005 to Sri Lanka and Thailand to assist with rebuilding tsunami devastated areas, the director said.

The celebration of the Peace Corps anniversary involves events all year long. A list is posted to the Peace Corps Web site.

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