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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, March 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 49          E-mail us
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Massive march today may just be the beginning
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The massive march planned for this morning by public employees is more than just union members flexing their muscles. This event appears to be the start of a prolonged campaign against the central government.

The march today probably will not turn violent, and it will be great theater for expats. The public employees are forming at Parque Central at 9 a.m. to march to the Asamblea Legislativa.

For motorists that means Avenida 2 and adjacent streets will be closed at least through noon. But that also is the best location for pedestrians to watch the demonstration.

There is a different tone for today that rivals some of the anger that accompanied opposition to the Central American Free Trade Treaty. Many of the public employees see President Laura Chinchilla as a stand-in for Óscar Arias Sánchez or his brother Rodrigo.

In fact, a poll on the Web site of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados asks if the Arias brothers are the power behind the throne in Costa Rica. Óscar Arias was instrumental in gaining approval of the free trade treaty, a document that public employees correctly believe jeopardizes state monopolies where they work.

The more current complaints are salaries. The Asociación Nacional de Educadores seems to have a legitimate gripe. The organization asks that they be paid correctly every 15 days. The government has been behind on teacher salaries.

Every organization likely to march today opposed Ms. Chinchilla's tax plan because they think that it takes from the working class for the benefit of the elite. Fernando Herrero Acosta, the finance minister, did not help matters when he suggested in a forum that some public employees might be fired and pay cuts ordered to help the central government's financial predicament.

Albino Vargas Barrantes, secretary general of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said in a published piece that Herrero provided the wick to blow up the barrel of powder. Vargas speaks of the reaction of workers in Greece and Ireland and other locations in the European Union.

The marchers also oppose the central government decrees that set salary raises. The decree was issued in January when collective bargaining
anti-tax graphic
Asociación Nacional de Empleados
Públicos y Privados graphic

Union graphic shows a man inundated by taxes. The artist uses the Spanish word impuestos.

failed to achieve accord. The teachers correctly note that the 2.33 percent wage hike just covered inflation.

The association headed by Vargas is clear that it wants no more taxes. "My heart tells me no!" says a slogan. And that contains echos of the no group that opposed the free trade treaty.

The Chinchilla government froze salaries and hiring of public employees. The president's fiscal plan taxes many food items that are not taxed now, and it does so with a 14 percent value-added tax instead of the existing 13 percent sales tax.

The government's financial advisers are deeply concerned by a budget that is supported nearly 50 percent by borrowing for current expenses. The unions are demanding better collection from tax evaders, although the government is taking steps in that direction.

The current financial situation is not sustainable, all involved agree. Aside from cracking down on tax evasion, the unions have other ideas to solve the basic problems and they see the extensive social system Costa Rica has constructed under threat. Vargas' association has urged approval of a law to end bank secrecy, for example and to beef up the tax police.

Francisco Villalobos, who has directed the Tributación tax collecting department for nearly three months noted in an interview that he cannot hire more people to enforce the laws because of the hiring freeze.
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Adults in youth gang case
held in money laundering

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two adults linked to a juvenile gang that terrorized a San José neighborhood are facing money laundering charges.

They are accused of safeguarding money, weapons and other items that the young toughs took illegally. The Poder Judicial identified them as a man with the last names of Arce Acuña and a woman with the last names of Durán Zúñiga. They were being questioned by the organized crime prosecutor Wednesday.

These were two of the five adults detained Tuesday in 20 raids that also netted seven juveniles. The Juzgado Penal Juvenil de San José began a hearing Wednesday afternoon to determine what to do with the youngsters, aged 13 to 18. They are accused of running a protection racket in Barrio Sagrada Familia where they would shoot up the homes of those who did not pay.

They also are accused of armed robbery, attempted murder and a host of other crimes ranging from last October.

Neighbors in the neighborhood filed many complaints but some did not because they were threatened, agents said Tuesday.

The case is reminiscent of "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens in which the adult criminal Fagan directs a gang of youthful pickpockets, although the present group are far more violent.

Efficient energy use
is theme of Friday expo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza is putting on its first expo of efficient energy use.
The post graduate institution, also known as CATIE, will hold the expo Friday in the Henry A. Wallace building on its Turrialba campus.

The goal is for citizens to learn of the various ways they can save energy. The event is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A number of companies will have displays promoting their products.

Design festival scheduled
for this weekend in city

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo is presenting its first Festival Internacional de Diseño from Friday through Sunday in the Gimnasio Nacional in Parque la Sabana.

The hours Friday are from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.. Saturday and Sunday the hours are from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Costa Rican designers and 14 foreign individuals will attend.

Weekend festival has concert
targeting senior citizens

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The twin festivals of Transarte and the Fiesta del Verano take over San José parks this weekend.

The Banda de San José plans a concert Saturday specifically for seniors. The band will play at Parque Morazán but there are other activities for seniors in the Centro Nacional de la Cultura, which is just east of Parque España.

Other events will be in Parque Nacional. Long rows of tents already have been set up for exhibitors in Parque Nacional.
Transarte is just one weekend, but the Fiesta de Verano also took place last weekend.

Dominicalito run/walk
benefits life guard corps

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Third Annual Playa Dominicalito 10K Race /5K run/walk and the Toucan 2K for kids 12 and under is March 20.

"We created this community event to benefit one of the very few lifeguard programs in Costa Rica here in Dominical and also the elementary school in Dominicalito, plus we wanted to be able to provide an active health-focused event for the community," said Dave West, a local businessman, who with his wife, Deb, are promoting the event.

The event starts at 7 a.m. with entry fees ranging from 3,000 to 7,000 colons depending on the distance a participant plans to travel. Registrations are being accepted in Quepos, Uvita and San Isidro as well as Dominical and Dominicalito. A number of local merchants are supporting the event.

Dominical is one of the few beach communities with a highly trained and professional life guard corps. However, the community has had to pinch colons to keep the staff. They have saved many lives. More information is available HERE!

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 49
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Traditions from the Osa are on display in Guadalupe
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Diablitos and the famous masks are probably the best-known aspects of Boruca culture. And a group of artists from the Cantón de Osa have captured the native tradition as well as the flora and fauna of their areas to stage an exposition in the Central Valley.

The show is at the Escuela Casa de Artista in Guadalupe. That is part of the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. The location sometimes is referred to as the Galería de la ECA.

The five artists are members of the Asociación de Artistas de la Península de Osa, based in Ciudad Cortés. There are 19 works in the exposition in all. Many address native Costa Rican traditions.

The Baile de los Diablitos is an event that takes place in several of the Boruca villages at different times in the beginning of the year. The dance actually can be a three-day affair much appreciated by tourists.

The Diablitos or Devils represent the ancestral Boruca people. The other participant is the bull, which represents the conquering Spanish. In one battle after another the disguised Boruca participants fight, die and are reborn. The climax is the defeat of the bull and the burning of the bull garb.

Although the various bailes de Diablitos are well-known, not many of the Central Valley residents have attended, and that is the purpose of the exposition, said the Escuela Casa de Artista.

There is a mentality in the Central Valley that when people talk about the Cantón de Osa, they talk about the natural beauty but ignore the native traditions, the history and the rest of the people there, said Yorjanny Trejos, one of the artists.

The exposition runs through March 29, then the artists and their works are off to the Festival de las Esferas in Palmar Sur, the school said.

The Escuela Casa de Artista is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Guadalupe. The location is 100 meters west and 50 meters south of the  Cementerio de Guadalupe.
Boruca mask
Elaborate Boruca mask by Yorjanny Trejos

vaile de diablitos
The bull is surrounded by diablitos in another work by Yorjanny Trejos.

Playas del Coco bar owner dies in possible bike robbery
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bar owner from Playas del Coco is dead, and he may have been the victim of bicycle robbers.

The Judicial Investigating Organization identified the man by the last name of Camacho. He was 43, they said.

Camacho left his home about 11 p.m. Tuesday. His body was found not far from his home Wednesday morning. Agents said that he was traveling on a bike valued at 400,000 colons or about $800. The bike, his cell telephone, jewelry and money were missing, said agents.
The man showed bruises, scrapes and a bullet wound in the neck, agents said.

If he was killed because of the bike, he is the second person to have become a murder victim for that reason. A Central Valley man died Jan. 30 in La Unión in a robbery.

The first victim was a competition cyclist.

Police have stepped up patrols on bike paths and during announced competitions. There have been several arrests, including one in Guanacaste last week. But these cases did not involve murder.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 49

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So who do you contact to apply for this kind of job?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day scientists have made a startling discovery: Guinness beer tastes much better in Ireland than other parts of the world.

Honest. It was all part of a 14-country taste test.

Costa Rica was not included because the only Guinness available here comes from bottles, and true Guinness comes from the tap. Slowly.

According to the Institute of Food Technologists, four researchers from four different countries traveled around the world for a year to collect data on Guinness and related factors.  They participated in 103 tastings. Some 42 were in Ireland and 61 were elsewhere. They visited 71 different pubs in 33 cities and 14 countries, the institute said.

The study, published in the Journal of Food Science, applied statistical corrections for adjusting for researcher, pub ambience, Guinness appearance, and the sensory measures mouthfeel, flavor, and aftertaste, said the institute.

Tasting scores for pints of Guinness were generally high all around the world, yet tastings in pubs in Ireland scored significantly higher, said a summary reporting the study.

This study aimed to test the much-pronounced but poorly supported theory that “Guinness does not travel well,” said the institute.

The researchers said that the results are subject to further verification because of limitations in the study design. In other words, they will seek another grant to do more pub crawling.

Guinness is the signature dark beer of Ireland, and it is known for the creamy head and the need to pour the liquid slowly.

St. Patrick's Day this year is a Thursday, which could mean a long weekend for those drinkers who start early.

Poll supports affirmative action for women in politics

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Most opinion leaders in Latin America support affirmative action to boost parity and the political participation of women, according to a poll by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to the third survey carried out between November 2010 and January 2011, involving public and private figures from throughout the region, 64 percent of respondents were in favor of quota laws. In addition, 78 percent continue to think that political parity encourages changes in the exercise of authority and leadership styles, while 67 percent support penalties for parties that do not comply with the quotas laid down by law.

The general results of this poll involving academics, politicians and social and religious leaders point to the growing positive political influence of women, as this improves the representative nature of the democratic system and strengthens democracy itself, said the commission.

In the three years the commission has carried out the
consultation, the figures show almost unanimous support for some policies aimed at facilitating the political participation of women, encouraging them to enter the labor market, implementing community childcare and health care services and expanding state facilities for pre-school childcare.

In this sense, the percentage of leaders who believe that men should be encouraged to increase their participation in household tasks has increased with each poll: 76 percent in the first in 2008, 81 percent in the second in 2009 and 84 percent in the latest.

The 2010 consultation confirmed attitudes towards pro-parity affirmative action, as 63 percent of those consulted hold this view. The main reasons are the influence of women's movements (48 percent take this view), the electoral context (22 percent), the example given by female presidents (15 percent) and the agenda of international institutions (12%).

Furthermore, most of the region's elite believe that the main opposition to political gender parity lies with the main political parties (66 percent).

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10 charged in Juárez killings
of U.S. consulate employee

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. law enforcement officials announced Wednesday that 10 Mexican nationals associated with a notorious criminal gang have been charged in last year's murder of a U.S. consulate employee and two other people in Juárez, Mexico. 

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and other law enforcement officials at a Washington news conference.

Holder said 35 people with links to the international criminal gang known as Barrio Azteca have been charged with various counts of murder, racketeering, drug trafficking and money laundering.

The murder charges stem from last year's killing of a U.S. consulate employee and two other people, when gunmen opened fire in Juárez as the victims left a birthday party.

Holder said his office is working with Mexican officials to have those charged in Mexico extradited to the United States.

"Of the 35 defendants, 10 Mexican nationals were charged in last year's murders in Juarez, Mexico, of United States consulate employees Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, her husband, Arthur Redelfs and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another United States consulate employee," said Holder. "Seven of the 10 defendants charged with these murders and two other indicted defendants are in custody in Mexico."

Holder said 12 of those arrested were taken into custody on Wednesday by law enforcement agents in Texas and New Mexico.

FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry says the joint U.S.-Mexico crackdown targets an international criminal organization known for what U.S. officials call its "militaristic command structure."

"This takedown is an important step in disrupting and dismantling one of the most powerful and brutal gangs operating along the U.S.-Mexico border," said Shawn Henry. "As the attorney general noted, the Barrio Azteca gang has transformed from a prison gang to a sophisticated transnational organized criminal enterprise.  Its members have committed unspeakable acts of violence, terrorized communities on both sides of the border and murdered the innocent."

Mexico's deputy attorney general was on hand for the announcement at the Justice Department.  Despite the ongoing violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, Attorney General Holder said U.S. and Mexican officials are working more effectively than ever in the fight against criminal gangs.  

Ex-Mexican police chief
shows up seeking asylum

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. immigration officials say a 20-year-old woman who received death threats after becoming police chief of a violent Mexican border town is seeking political asylum in the United States.

Authorities said Tuesday that Marisol Valles is in the U.S. and will be allowed to present her case to an immigration judge.

Valles is the former police chief of the town of Praxedis G. Guerrero.  She had taken leave March 2 to attend to personal matters and was due to return to work last Monday.  The town's mayor fired her when she failed to show up for work without giving notice.

When she accepted the job last year, Ms. Valles said she wanted people to live without fear.

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Embassy warns its guests
against eating peanuts here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is not a lot of news citizens can use in the stolen cables that Wikileaks is leaking. But cables from the U.S. Embassy routinely warn arriving State Department employes against eating peanuts here.

"Visitors should be careful not to eat peanuts or products  made from peanuts grown in Costa Rica because they may harbor aflatoxin, which is suspected in the causation of liver cancer," says routine cable after cable directed to new arrivals while they still are in the United States.

The embassy was just involved in an aflatoxin dispute when local rice producers claimed imported U.S. rice was unsafe. However, the question of peanuts never came up.

The cables also warn arrivals against a host of other problems, including crime and pirate taxis. The cables also show that State Department visitors are not always housed out of town. The Embassy reports every year that due to the crime situation visiting State Department employees are note housed downtown. However, that is not always the case, the cables show.

U.S. likely to participate
in judicial wiretapping unit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy is expected to provide some support for the judiciary's new telephone eavesdropping center.

Anne S. Andrew, the U.S. ambassador here, met with  Luis Paulino Mora, president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia. With the ambassador were two U.S. anti-drug employees.

The Poder Judicial, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad and the Instituto Costarricense contra las Drogas agreed last week on the outline of how the project would be financed. It will be located on court property in  San Joaquín de Flores de Heredia.

Officials see the center as a tool for catching organized crimes including drug traffickers. Costa Rica does not yet have cheap, disposable cell telephones that drug gangs use elsewhere to defeat eavesdropping.

The extent of the U.S. participation in the project was not mentioned in a summary from the Poder Judicial, but the donation of some equipment is likely. The center will cost about $1.5 million. It has been in the works for years.

Cruz Roja plans race

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The rescue corps plans its fifth Carrera y Caminata Cruz Roja Cartago Sunday with the slogan "We always run for you. Today run for us," The Cruz Roja benefits from registration fees that are 5,000 colons (about $10) for a 8.7 kilometer competition with prizes. A recreation run of 4.5 kilometers has an equal fee.

Registrations close Friday, and there is room for 800 participants.

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