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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, March 6, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 46          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Guanacaste beach resorts 'isolated,' ad says
Tourism chamber frustrated with road failures

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism chamber in Guanacaste is frustrated with failed government promises to fix the roads.

The chamber took out a full-page ad in the Spanish-language La Nación Sunday to say that tourism is suffering because of the bad roads.

The chamber cited a drop in demand for rental cars, tour cancellations, a drop in hotel occupancy and complaints by tourists, among others.

The chamber also cited the higher cost for businesses and for workers who travel from Santa Cruz, Liberia, Filadelfia, Cartagena and other Guanacaste communities to work in tourism, mostly at the Pacific beaches.

The organization, formerly named the Cámera de Turismo Guanacasteca, said that the beach communities, including Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Conchal, Potrero and Flamingo are practically isolated by the deplorable state of the national highways.

The chamber said that government officials promised to begin road work in December,
and repairs of key routes have not even started although March has arrived.
The chamber also took a shot at President Abel Pacheco, who cited in a television talk an increase in the arrival of tourists at Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia.

The chamber reminded the president that the first scheduled international flights into Liberia were made because the private sector gave financial guarantees and paid to remodel the airport terminal.

Pacheco blamed 14 hurricanes for the damage and lack of resources to fix them. The government plans to float a $100 million bond to fix roads using the fuel tax as an asset. But the proposal moves slowly.

Some tourist wholesalers are not booking Pacific destinations because of the roads, the chamber said, adding that the damage to the image of tourism for the country is incalculable.

The chamber ad said that it doubted that the government would make good on its promise to fix the roads and that if work does not start soon, the entire high season through Semana Santa will be ruined.

"It's a shame that the myopia of our officials put in risk the No. 1 generator of foreign exchange," said the chamber.

Illness of zoo worker leads to flap over health of citizens
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An employee at the Simón Bolivar zoo in north San José has come down with  leptospirosis, and the discovery of the disease is causing a flap in health circles.

The disease produces a high fever and sometimes causes liver damage and death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The disease is caused by exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals, said the centers.

An environmental group assumed that the source of the disease was the zoo and issued a warning that was quickly picked up by the Ministerio de Salud. The disease is not known to spread from person to person, said the centers, adding that the usual source of transmission was through contaminated food or water or through skin contact, particularly when the skin is broken.
Animals may carry the disease and show no symptoms.  In addition to wild animals or some zoo animals, the disease may be carried by cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, and rodents, the centers said.

The health ministry has asked the zoo operator, the non-profit Fundación Pro Zoológicos, to provide protective clothing for employes, including boots and rubber gloves.
It was the Asociación Preservacionista de Flora y Fauna Silvestre that publicized the employee's illness. However, the gravity of the sickness is not known.

Health officials are supposed to tour the facility today. The zoo operator has been involved in controversy for years. In addition to environmental and animal rights groups, the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía wants to end its contract as manager of the zoo and a related facility in Santa Ana. The environmental group also said that domestic animals frequently visit the zoo and can bring infections to the outside world.

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Solís acknowledges Arias
as the president-elect

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ottón Solís, the presidential candidate of the Partido Acción Ciudadana, moved Friday to quell a rebellion in his party against the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

In a short, televised speech he accepted his opponent, Óscar Arias Sánchez, as the legitimately elected president. But he also leveled criticism at the Tribunal.

Some Solís supporters were demanding a second round of elections, claiming that neither candidate got 40 percent of the popular vote. Both men were in a tight race with Arias winning 18,000 more votes of 1.6 million cast.

The Solís activists counted all votes cast, including blank ones and mutilated ones, to show that Arias won slightly less than 40 percent. The Tribunal said before the election that the percentage would be of the valid votes cast. Other activists presented complaints to the Tribunal and questioned the neutrality of the Tribunal's magistrates.

Solís said he accepted his defeat and had sent a letter to Arias acknowledging that and stressing some policy points. Solís is seeking 8 percent of the gross national product to be earmarked for education in the national budget, repair of the battered highways and a security initiative.

He also said he was disappointed that some in the Tribunal preferred to cover the truth.

Solís 6-year-old political party did not have the network to supervise polls all over the country, particularly in Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limón where Arias won heavily.

Solís said that everyone should pray for the new president.

The action was more symbolic than a concession speech because Arias and his followers have known they had won the presidential race since a day or two after the Feb. 5 voting. Solís was the one who held out hoping that disqualifications of some polling place totals would turn the tide.

The Tribunal has not yet made an official declaration of a winner.

Free trade road shows
for Florida, treaty nations

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Briefings about the U.S. free-trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic are being held in several Florida cities and in some of the countries covered by the pact, thanks to the U.S. Department of Commerce and Enterprise Florida.

Enterprise Florida, a partnership between the Florida state government and Floridian business leaders, announced last week that the road shows about the treaty feature presentations by commercial officers and trade experts from the U.S. public and private sectors.

The shows, which are intended to help businesses and entrepreneurs capitalize on the opportunities offered by the free trade treaty, are designed to increase trade between Florida and the countries party to the pact.

President George Bush signed the trade pact into law Aug. 2.

Presentations about the treaty will be held in the Florida cities of Miami, St. Petersburg, Orlando and Jacksonville. Briefings also are scheduled in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Guatemala City; San Salvador, El Salvador; and the Honduran cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

The treaty is designed to eliminate barriers to trade, investment and business between the people of the United States and the 45 million people of the trade pact's other signatory countries: the Dominican Republic and the five Central American nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Enterprise Florida said that collectively, the six other treaty nations are Florida's No. 1 trading partner.  Florida's main exports, it said, include computer products, aviation and aerospace equipment, fertilizers and telecommunications and medical equipment.

Puerto Rican woman
dies in flaming crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 26-year-old Puerto Rican woman died as the result of a flaming auto crash Sunday morning while she was on her way from San José to her Escazú home.

The woman was identified by the last name of González. The Judicial Investigating Organization is handling the case.

No one knows exactly why the woman's car left the highway, rolled over twice and ended up in a ditch. She was pinned in the car, and would-be rescuers were forced back by the flames.

The crash took place on the Próspero Fernández highway in Sabana Oeste afer 4 a.m.

Emergency chopper ride
touches down in Sabana

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An emergency helicopter flight turned into a diversion for Sunday visitors at Parque la Sabana when the chopper had to land there because it was the closest available spot to the Hospital Nacional del Niños.

The helicopter from the Servicio Nacional de Vigilancia Aérea was on a mercy flight with a 4-year-old passenger. The boy, Sebastián García García has suffered a serious machete wound to the right foot.

The helicopter left its Alajuela base at 8 a.m. Sunday for Boyey de Xiqiari in southeastern Limón. The pilots reported that they had to hike 30 minutes to get the boy to the spot where the helicopter landed.

On the return trip, the boy appeared to be in need of immediate hospitalization, officials said, so Fuerza Pública officers cleared a spot on the south side of the park in western San José.

This was the fifth such mercy flight for the air service this week, officials said.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 46


Visa woes still keep Cuban baseballer stuck here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Spring training for the New York Mets begins today, but power hitter Michel Abreu won't be there.

U.S. businessman Richard J. Sims said consular employees of the U.S. Embassy here have not yet issued the Cuban refugee a visa so he could fulfill the major league baseball contract he has.

Sims said that Abreu had a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy last week but that the consular worker there said he was unfamiliar with the situation and sought advice from more experienced officials.

The baseball player spent the rest of the day fruitlessly waiting outside the embassy, Sims said.

Embassy workers continued to claim they did not know what to do to get the Cuban refugee a U.S. visa so they referred the case to Washington, D.C., Sims said.

And that is where the case stands.

Abreu lacks a passport because that was being held by Cuban officials to keep him from defecting. He has refugee status in Costa Rica. Sims said that Abreu's Washington, D.C., law firm even sent a message to the embassy here suggesting that a business visa could be issued on the strength of the contract with the Mets.

Meanwhile, Abreu, a popular figure in Cuba, has been playing baseball with a students in a university league in San José.

Elaine Samson, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy here said Sunday that the matter now rests in the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the merged entity under the Department of Homeland Security. She said a tourist visa was inappropriate because the Cuban was going to the United States to earn money.

Actually Abreu is going to spring training but will not be paid. His Washington law firm, McCandlish Holton, sent FAXes to David Dreher and Nadi Castro, both at the U.S. Embassy, Friday explaining that a

File photo
Abreu when he played for a Nicaraguan team

single-entry non-employment business visa would be appropriate.

Sims and the lawyer's letter said Abreu expects to spend a couple of weeks in spring training and then be sent by The Mets to the Mexican league for a break-in period. A section of the law for a B-1 business visa specifically mentions foreign athletes who enter the United States for training.

If Abreu makes the majors, he will have to get another visa while he is in México.  Sims says the athlete will suffer a setback if his arrival at training camp is delayed.

Sims also said that U.S. newspapers have characterized Abreu, who usually plays first base, as the best free agent in major league baseball. The player is living in San José and has experienced difficulty in even getting an appointment with a U.S. consular official.

Abreu lost a $425,000 signing bonus with the Boston Red Sox last year when he could not get a visa.

Here are some great expressions when you are angry
¡Andate al Infierno! y te llevás un saco de carbón pa’ que te dure más

“Go to hell! And be sure to take a bag of charcoal so you can stay longer.” This is rather a long dicho, but I think it is a very clever and witty way of letting off some steam in a frustrating situation.

It’s difficult to drive more than a few blocks in Costa Rica without encountering some infuriating motorist who simultaneously disengaged his brain when he engaged the transmission. You might be tempted, in such situations, to roll down the window and shout: ¡Andate al infierno! Y te llevás un saco de carbon pa’ que te dura más at the ignoramus. But, perhaps it would be better to simply mutter these soothing words under your breath, as some ignoramuses have been known to react in an undesirable manner to such chiding.

I believe that everyone should learn how to swear, especially in his or her native tongue. Swearing is a wonderful way of relieving tension through words rather than actions. The problem is, however, that swearing may sometimes provoke actions on the part of others, which we are unprepared to handle. In today’s dicho the insult of the first part ¡andate al infierno! is softened and somewhat offset by the wit of the second part, te llevás un saco de carbon pa’ que te dure más. Usually, in English at least, an insulting oath is not followed by such mitigating drollery.

But, if you are really angry at someone, and prepared to pay the consequences of your words, you might hurl voy a poner tus dientes a bailar en una esquina de tu boca at them, meaning: “I’m going to set your teeth to dancing in one corner of your mouth.” At this point, of course, you should probably be prepared to either fight, or run like hell.

But when we catch ourselves feeling this kind of anger it’s time to try to calmarnos “calm down,” or llevarla suave “take it easy,” for the sake of our health. Not only because someone is likely to beat

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

the tar out of us, but also because we might give ourselves a heart attack. 

There are ways of expressing one’s anger without bursting a blood vessel in the process. We Ticos like to use humor, which is designed to relieve tension rather than creating more of it.

Whenever I drive around Costa Rica with my dear companion he never fails to get angry over the crazy way some Ticos drive, and he is very colorful in the aspersions he launches at the culprits. But when he starts limiting his insults to English, I know that he’s really mad.

I always say, “Hey that guy doesn’t hear you. And even if he did, he wouldn’t understand what you’re saying. If you don’t calm down you are going to turn blue from screaming and give yourself a heart attack for nothing. Just say vete al infierno y si gustas yo te regalo una tonelada de carbon para que la pases más calientico.
This is, of course, an elaboration of my own invention on today’s dicho. It means: “Go to hell, and if you like I will donate a ton of charcoal to you so you will be even cozier.”

I wish to take this opportunity to thank María Mayela Padilla for her book “Dichos y Refranes de Costa Rica,” which has been an invaluable reference resource in preparing this column.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 46

More Latin women holding jobs, U.N. labor study says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new study by the United Nations finds that an increasing number of women now hold jobs in Latin America's urban areas, rising from 39 percent of the total working population in 1990 to 44.7 percent in 2002.

The study was released by the U.N. International Labor Organization to commemorate International Women's Day, which occurs each year on March 8.

The study attributes the boom in female participation in the labor market to better schooling, urban growth, declining fertility rates and new cultural patterns that favor the autonomy of women.  A substantial increase in the number of female-headed households, which ranges from 19 percent to 31 percent of total households depending on the country in Latin America, also has played a role.

But the study, "Women's Labor Force Participation Rates in Latin America," showed mixed results for women in access to quality jobs, unemployment compensation, remuneration and social protection.  The study said domestic service represents 15.5 percent of the total female employment in Latin America.

Maria Elena Valenzuela, co-author of the study, said one of the reasons so many women are employed in
domestic service in Latin America is that many women from medium- and high-income households have entered the labor market.  In other words, many poor women "can only find paid employment by working for the better-off," she said.

The study found that unemployment in Latin America is higher among women than for men.  In 2004, some 9.4 million women from urban areas were unemployed -- 6.8 million more than in 1990.  Although unemployment negatively affected both sexes, the increase was far greater in the female labor force.

About half of the women employed in Latin America in 2003 were in the "informal" jobs sector, which usually means the jobs pay little and job security is poor, as opposed to the formal economy where there is better pay, job security and benefits.  The  study said gender inequality is compounded by discrimination on ethnic grounds, meaning large numbers of women from indigenous groups and of African origin face disadvantages and exclusion.

In Brazil, for example, 71 percent of black women work in the informal sector, a bigger proportion than black men (65 percent), white women (61 percent) and white men (48 percent).  In Guatemala, only 10.6 percent of Indian people with some form of employment worked in the formal economy compared to 31.8 percent of non-Indian workers.  

Former Ecuadorian president gets out of jail as security charge dismissed
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

QUITO, Ecuador — Former Ecuadorian president Lucio Gutiérrez has been released from prison after a judge cleared him of charges of endangering national security.

The judge announced the release Friday in a courtroom in this, Ecuador's capital. In response, Gutiérrez said he wanted to "thank God and the Ecuadorian people".
Ecuador's lawmakers voted Gutiérrez out of office in April last year, after he made substantial changes to the Supreme Court and later disbanded it altogether. He was arrested in October for saying his ouster was illegal.  The judge Friday found that making that statement did not break any laws.

Vice President Alfredo Palacio replaced him as president and remains in office.  Gutiérrez has vowed to run for the presidency again in October elections. But he has very little voter support

George Clooney and Rachel Weisz win Oscars for acting performances
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

This year's Academy Award for best supporting actor has gone to George Clooney for his role in the CIA spy thriller "Syriana." Rachel Weisz won the best supporting actress award for her role as a social activist in "The Constant Gardener."

Clooney and Weisz were given the awards — the first ever for each — Sunday night at the 78th Annual
Academy Awards in Hollywood.

The much-anticipated ceremony, known as the Oscars, is being watched on television by millions of people around the world.

The British film "Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit" won the Oscar for best animated feature — while the Academy Award for best documentary went to "March of the Penguins."

Chávez goes to the people to build a self-defense force against U. S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela has begun military instruction of civilian reservists who, according to officials there, would conduct guerilla warfare against foreign aggressors. About 500,000 civilians have begun training. They will train on weekends for four months of weapons and resistance tactics.

Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, has accused the
United States of plotting to invade his country.

Chávez has begun the civilian training program to build up a force capable of resisting a more powerful foreign force.

Washington has denied it has any plans to invade Venezuela and has warned that Chávez is becoming a threat to Venezuela's democracy and regional stability.

Jo Stuart
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