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(506) 2223-1327       Published Friday, March 6, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 46      E-mail us
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Spectators view what is left of the landmark Kahiki restaurant after the fire in Tamarindo.
Tamarindo fire
Photo by Patrick Smyth

Tamarindo landmark restaurant is victim of blaze
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sparks from a brush fire ignited the thatched roof of one of Tamarindo's leading restaurants, and the subsequent fire leveled the establishment.

The Wednesday afternoon fire also destroyed an office, a surf shop and one other store in the Pacific coast vacation resort.

The restaurant was the Kahiki, operated by Kahiki Restaurants S.A. Jim Reilly said via e-mail Thursday that the company plans to rebuild but owners first will take stock of the situation and not make any final decisions for a few days. The Polynesian style restaurant's Web site described it as an open-aired traditional thatched roof rancho, with its native woods and bamboo decor. The principal operator is  Susanne Koomen.

Tamarindo residents said the restaurant was a place
where locals congregate. It is on the road to Langosta, 100 meters south of Supermercado 2001 in the structure that also was occupied by Iguana Surf.

"Just an awesome place where locals hung out for breakfast every day, and where tourists could sample New York style food with a Costa Rican
flare," said Patrick Smyth, a resident who photographed scenes of the blaze.

The blaze that ignited the commercial area came from a brush fire that charred more than 1,000 acres outside the town. Another, smaller blaze broke out Thursday but was put out by residents.

Firemen from Santa Cruz and other stations responded to the brush fire, but they had problems getting water, residents said.

Dry season fires are frequent in the area.

Stadium cornerstone ceremony scheduled for Thursday in La Sabana
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thursday President Óscar Arias Sánchez and others will gather at the northwest corner of Parque la Sabana to place the cornerstone for the nation's new soccer stadium.

This is the $72 million gift from the People's Republic of China that will be constructed with mostly imported Chinese labor.

The stadium, which replaces one built in the 1940s, was a part of the deal in which Costa Rica dumped Taiwan in favor of diplomatic relations with the Communist country. The deal was finalized when Arias visited mainland China in October 2007.

The imported Chinese construction employees will work three shifts a day to erect the 35,000-seat stadium.

The stadium plan survived a court challenged by supporters of the park who pointed out that there were restrictions on construction there. The site also has been criticized for the minimal parking that will be available there. Arias will not have to worry about parking. He lives just a few blocks west.

Casa Presidencial made the announcement about the 1 p.m. ceremony Thursday after Arias met with Wang Jiarui, minister of international affairs of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.


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Armed target of robbery
kills one of three bandits


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The armed robber had a knife and threatened the pedestrian. The pedestrian had a pistol and shot the robber dead.

This happened Wednesday night about 7:30 p.m. near the Embassy of Nicaragua on Avenida Central in San José.

Two other robbers fled, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. The dead man, between 25 and 30 years of age, has not been identified. The would-be victim left, and agents are trying to locate him. However, investigators said the case obviously was one of self defense.

The incident is another example of citizens arming themselves in Costa Rica to counter a rapid rise in street crime. Another would-be robbery victim gunned down a bandit in south San José near Hospital Clinica Biblica two weeks ago.

The victim in the Wednesday killing may not have a gun that is legally registered.  There are many unregistered weapons being carried by otherwise lawful individuals who may not have become involved in the lengthy process to obtain a carry permit.

The area along Avenida Central in Barrio La California between the Asamblea Legislativa and the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet is the scene of many robberies.

Election tribunal decisions
cause free speech concerns


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Efforts by the Tribunal Supremo de elecciones to keep elections fair are coming under criticism.

The tribunal has issued rules on advertising that even include the Internet.

Raúl Silesky Jiménez, president of the Colegio de Periodistas, the communications professional group, said that the public must be alert to any tribunal actions that could be interpreted as excessive use of its powers or an act of intimidation against news reporters or media of communication.

Silesky noted that the tribunal already has begun a case against Radio Rica for not providing weekly reports of advertising placed involving the Oct. 7 referendum on the free trade treaty. The tribunal said the radio station had not provided complete information.

The latest resolution, noted Silesky, is that the tribunal will punish election advertising on the Internet. The tribunal will insist that e-mails about candidates and pre-candidates be sent only to those who have requested them. The tribunal has outlawed mass Internet mailings.

The Tribunal has stopped short of outlawing Web pages or electronic exchanges between party workers.

The tribunal is specifying these rules because the nation's general election is coming on the first Sunday in February 2010. Already politicians are declaring themselves as pre-candidates seeking the nomination of their party.

The Tribunal has specified rules that can appear to be restrictions on free speech. For example, advertising is prohibited for the three days immediately before elections. Opponents of the free trade treaty wanted to extend this ban to news items because U.S. officials made comments favorable to the pro-treaty side just before the vote.

The tribunal also has established rules that prohibit current officials from making endorsements of candidates.

The legislature is considering additional laws that will restrict political donations.

Oxcart fans have two days
of festivities this weekend


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The party is in Escazú Centro and in San Antonio this weekend for the Día del Boyero, the day of the oxcart driver.

Those who make the haul uphill with the oxen and the carts can see the new memorial to the boyeros carved from concrete by artist Mario Parra. The work was inaugurated Thursday. It is more than 210 feet long and more than 12 feet high in the park of San Antonio.

Oxen, called bueyes, sometimes get a workout in rural areas, but many of the oxcart drivers today are hobbyists. The party begins just after midnight Saturday in Escazú, and that will be a day of dancing, bands and folklore. A special emphasis will be on the International Day of the Woman with a female marimba group from Guatemala at 2 to 4 a.m. (yes. a.m.). There is a 6 p.m. Mass for deceased boyeros.

The music starts at 5 a.m. Sunday with the 10 a.m. morning parade running from Escazú Centro. Festivities continue in San Antonio until 8 p.m.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 6, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 46


Government still hopes to develop major convention center
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica still hopes that a private company builds a new convention center here.

The nation's convention proposal suffered a setback when the government of Taiwan scrapped a $25 million planning project as Costa Rica severed diplomatic relations in favor of the Peoples Republic of China in June 2007.

The government hoped to construct the convention center near the Centro Nacional de Distribución de Alimentos and the Real Cariari Mall. The site has been donated by the Programa Integral de Mercadeo Agropecuario. That is west of San José on the Autopista General Canãs between downtown San José and Juan Santamaría airport.

Thursday Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the tourism minister, said he hoped that a private company would finish construction of an international convention center during the last quarter of 2010. He said the government is talking to three firms that want to build their own projects. He said the investment ranges from $12 million to $400 million.

Benavides said he had met with the companies, but he would not name them. He said one site is near the international airport, another is in Tres Rios and another is in San Antonio de Belén.

The Feria de Valencia, the exposition center in that Spanish city, already has announced it hopes to put in a $250 project near the international airport.  The concept is supported by the Cámara de Exportadores de Costa Rica and the Grupo Interbolsa.  The project would be 320,000 square meters or some 79 acres. A hotel also is planned, 
according to the company announcement Sept. 1, 2007.

Benavidas talked about the proposed convention centers during a meeting called to express the country's support in these kind of gatherings to augment tourism.

The Confederatión de Organizadores de Congresos y Afines de América Latina meets here next week. This is a  professional group of organizations that design and put on conventions or supply the material needed for such events. About 45 firms will be represented at the convention, which will be held in the Hotel Ramada Plaza Herradura Convention Center west of San José through Saturday.

Not a lot has been heard from the Feria de Valencia since its announcement 18 months ago, although the firm has set up an international division that is active in Dubai and Moscow.

Because the proposal was based on a public offering of stock here through Interbolsa, financing plans may have suffered reverses from the current economic crisis.

Benavides spoke about financing and suggested that the government still wanted part of any convention center. He talked about a direct contract without bidding as the quickest way for a project to be started. But he noted that there are other, higher priorities for the government.

He did say he wants to see construction started this year.

Beside the Herradura center, several other venues exist in Costa Rica, but convention organizers want something much larger. The Expoconstruction show which is being held this week said it moved from Herradura to Heredia this year to get more space.


Supreme court magistrate retains job for eight more years
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ana Virginia Calzada will remain a magistrate in the Corte Suprema de Justicia for another eight years. She kept her job because opponents could not muster enough support to remove her. The deadline for a vote is today.

According to the Costa Rican Constitution, a magistrate keeps the job if there is not a two-thirds vote to remove him or her by the Asamblea Legislativa. The continuance of Ms. Calzada did not even come to a vote. She serves on the Sala IV constitutional court.

Despite the lack of a vote, even President Óscar Arias Sánchez has expressed concern about how the various governmental powers can be frustrating. He has proposed a rewrite of the Constitution. The Sala IV frequently vetoes laws and projects that have passed through other government branches.

In the legislature support for the magistrate basically came
down along the same lines as support for the free trade treaty with the United States. Sala IV magistrates have made decisions that free trade opponents see as favoring the present government.

First magistrates reversed the prohibition and allowed Arias to run for president for a second time. They threw out an amendment to the Constitution and let stand a rule that presidents cannot serve consecutive terms.

Then, it seemed, every court appeal relating to the free trade treaty came down supporting the government's position, although many votes were not unanimous.

The other consideration among a few lawmakers is that the supreme court magistrates are in charge of law enforcement. They appoint the nation's chief prosecutor to head the Ministerio Público and they have final authority on the Judicial Investigating Organization and the lower court judges. So the current wave of criminality ultimately is the responsibility of the magistrates.


In this chill nothing is better than good soup and a view
Late afternoon last Saturday the streets were teeming with people. They even overflowed into the stores.  As I passed in the bus, I decided I would have to make another trip downtown and do some walking. 

Monday I did just that.  Someone told me that when it was cold “up North,” the wind blew here.  Well, on Monday the wind was blowing with that icy edge to it that it has had recently, so walking was not the usual pleasure that it has been. 

I have mentioned pleasant eateries downtown with good food and reasonable prices.  High on my list is the luncheon buffet at the Magnolia Restaurant in the Club Colonial, on Avenida 1 between ninth and 11th streets. The variety of dishes is well-balanced, always a soup and salad, vegetables, usually prepared in two different ways, rice (of course) and two or three main dishes. Often one of of the main courses is pork,  which I have found to be better prepared than in most restaurants. 

I’ve made a habit of trying the soup because it is usually so delicious. One day I had chicken soup, so filled with julienne vegetables and chicken that I passed on the salad.  I chose the vegetables in a cream sauce, one little ravioli, just to taste it (sauce was a bit too sweet for me — I think it was “Chinese style”), and pork chunks with potatoes.  There was also beef and onions. I could have eaten more pork, but instead chose the pastry filled with pudding made with sweetened condensed milk. I bypassed the fresh pineapple or the Jello figuring I could make those. With my dessert I had a cup of good strong, hot coffee.  This all came to 3,000 colones (about $5.35 at the current exchange). 

The Magnolia has a pleasant windowed area in the front of the restaurant that is light and as close as one can get to a sidewalk café in this wind and weather. Or for that matter, any time of the year in San José.  And it is not so overly air conditioned that you shiver while you eat.  It is also far from the milling crowds around the gaming tables.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com


There are sidewalk cafes in many towns on or near the beaches and even elsewhere.  But in San José the strong breeze (which at times works itself into an annoying wind) and the traffic, makes them rare. 

The Soda Tapia on the wide avenue bordering Sabana Oeste is so old it is a long-standing landmark.  Although it is a sidewalk café, it might more accurately be called a “parking lot café” since customers drive up to the front of the restaurant and park. Handy for them, but they block the view of the foot traffic and more importantly, the park across the street.  Still, it is always busy.

Ticos are not as keen on views as I am.  I once decided it was because at every bus stop, or traffic light, even, if you look around and up you will see beautiful mountains, or more nearby, a park.

At the other end of the Parque la Sabana, the west side in front of Teletica Channel 7, is a collection center for recyclables. They are taking plastic and bottles and containers, cardboard, newspapers, and aluminum. Everything should be clean because they do not want to collect bugs, as well. People will be there to collect your throwaways from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on the first Thursday and Friday of every month

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people would stop throwing their trash in public places.  Perhaps we need more large well-marked trash cans in more visible locations.  That would certainly improve the view from any café, bus, or bus stop.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 6, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 46


Talk will explore strange lights and other mysteries at Isla del Coco
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Isla del Cocos is known for its breathtaking beauty and legends of buried treasury.

However, a speaker March 24 will talk about the mysteries of the speck of Costa Rica some 600 kilometers (372 miles) off the country's Pacific coast.

The speaker is Oscar Sierra, who has a Power Point presentation on the island. According to the sponsor, The Speaker's Forum, the mysteries involve strange lights seen
surrounding the island by park guards, a park guard who says he was contacted by extraterrestrials and an historian who reports a bright light entered his room when he was staying on the island.

The man also said he had a paranormal experience on the site of the legendary pirate's treasure on the island.

The talk will be at 7 p.m. at a location in Bello Horizonte de Escazú. Admission is 1,000 colons for the forum.

More information is available at 2289-6333 and 8821-4708.


Ousted Cuban officials go public to acknowledge their mistakes in letters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two top officials ousted in Cuba's political shakeup have acknowledged their "mistakes" and resigned from all posts in the government and Communist party.

In letters published in the official newspaper Granma, ex-cabinet chief Carlos Lage and former foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque said they assume responsibility for the errors they made, without specifying what they did.

The two men were among 10 officials removed when Cuban President Raul Castro announced a major reshuffling of his cabinet Monday.

Perez Roque was removed outright from the cabinet, while Lage was removed as cabinet chief, but held on to his post
as one of Cuba's vice presidents on the policy-making council of state. Castro's brother, former President Fidel Castro, said he was consulted on the leadership changes and accused two of the officials of being seduced by the "honey of power" to take on an "unworthy role." Media reports say he was referring to Lage and Pérez Roque.

Fidel Castro dismissed suggestions that the changes showed a shift from "Fidel's men" to "Raul's men." Raúl Castro has said the changes were intended to make Cuba's government more compact and functional. He formally took over from Fidel in February 2008, after assuming power provisionally in July 2006.

A U.S. State Department spokesman, Gordon Duguid, said Tuesday the department was monitoring Cuba's political shakeup closely, but refused to elaborate.


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A.M. Costa Rica

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

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A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

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Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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Tourism job candidates
have information online


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asociación Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo has set up a job site for the industry on the Internet. It is  www.empleosenturismo.com.

Tourism operators can find personnel through the site. Job-seekers are posting information and, after registering, employers have access to the information.

The association is the same one that puts on Exportur every years. The service is free, the association said. The Web pages also will allow the association to keep an eye on employment trends in the industry, it said.


Colombia right-wing leader
extradited to United States


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A former Colombian paramilitary leader has been extradited to the United States on drug charges, despite objections from human rights groups that say sending him away could leave hundreds of murders unsolved.

Security was tight Thursday as Ever Veloza boarded a plane belonging to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, handcuffed and wearing a bullet-proof vest. The extradition comes one day after another one of Colombia's most-wanted suspects with links to paramilitaries, Miguel Angel Mejia, was flown to the U.S. to stand trial on drug charges.

Veloza, known as Hernan Hernández, was a leader of the rightist United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist group. He was captured in 2007 after refusing to obey a Colombian government order for paramilitary leaders to surrender.

Veloza has admitted involvement in more than 2,500 murders. Human rights groups and victims' families say his extradition will allow many crimes committed under his command to go unpunished. 


Businesses in  Guadeloupe
begin to reopen after strike


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Businesses have begun to reopen on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, after a 44-day general strike that had paralyzed the territory ended with promises of pay increases.

Unions and authorities signed a deal late Wednesday to end the six-week dispute over wages and the price of staple goods.  The agreement calls for workers to receive a $250 wage increase to compensate for high prices. 


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