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(506) 223-1327            Published Monday, March 12, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 50           E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Wheeling along!

Sunday was a great day for kids, particularly those kids who had an inside track with the oxcart drivers.

Among those you can count Lorgy and Kisbell Brenes Artavia and a preoccupied Brandon Brenes Artavia in the background.

The youngsters were fortunate to get a ride from Escazú Centro to their hometown of San Antonio de Escazú as part of the Día Nacional de Boyero.

More photos are HERE!

Meter starts running Friday on cell phone Internet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The agency that regulates prices has set a rate for Internet via cellular telephones, and the free ride for users will end Friday when the rates are officially published.

But in addition to announcing the new rate structure, the agency, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, issued a blistering critique of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE.

ICE sought a $10 a month rate from those who wish to get Internet service and e-mail on their cell phones. The regulating agency in the person of  Fernando Herrero, the regulador general, said that the company grossly underestimated the number of potential users, would be providing a slow service and failed to do any type of market study. For these and other reasons, the agency set the rate at 3,500 colons or about $6.75.

ICE estimated that some 13,000 users would take advantage of the service that has been offered free as part of a pilot program for five years.  That
number would be about 15 percent of the capacity of the system. The regulating agency's experts estimated that some 82,000 persons would take advantage of the service. Some 32,000 use it now for free.

The regulating agency also noted that the service offered by ICE was much slower in speed than similar services offered in other countries. Even though such services might cost $20 in places like the United States, marketing packages tend to blur the cost, said the agency.

The service is available for persons using cell telephones with the GSM technology, and ICE tried to figure in the entire cost of that system in its financial calculations, said the agency.

Instead, the first four years of the system should not be considered in assessing costs to Internet users, said the agency.

The agency gave ICE six months to put together a persuasive marketing study. And it said that customers could get rebates if the service offered by ICE fell below a series of technical levels.

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Costa Rica
Second newspage

Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 12, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 50

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children play game to learn
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
A board game gives children information on their rights and includes some warnings. It was on display at a fair in Parque España Sunday. A more manageable table-size version also is available.

This might be a crime
that just didn't happen

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is a story about what didn't happen over the weekend.

No one was gunned down by a 40-caliber Glock pistol equpped with a laser sight. No one was hit by illegal bullets that are designed to expand when they enter flesh.

This shooting did not happen because several police agencies set up a roadblock near Parque Okayama in San Francisco de Dos Ríos. The idea was to check out the drivers of vehicles, locate those who were the subject of an arrest warrant and also those who were driving cars that did not belong to them.

The big catch of the evening was a 21-year-old with the last names of Marín Rojas. His vehicle was one of 164 that went through the police checkpoint. But officers were able to determine that he is named in an arrest warrant for murder. And it was in his car that police said they found the quality Glock pistol, the laser sight and three clips with 15 illegal bullets in each.

A companion with the last names of  Brenes González also was detained.

Police said they do not know where Marín was headed with the handgun.

Participating in the roadblock was the Fuerza Pública, the Policía de Tránsito, the Policía Municipal and the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Talamanca residents
will be trained as cops

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement officials will recruit and train some 60 men and women from the Indian communities of Talamanca in southeastern Costa Rica in an effort to solve the growing crime problem there.

That was one of the outcomes of a visit to the area by top officials Friday. They also visited the Municipalidad de Limón Saturday.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that the individuals selected would be trained in the  Escuela Nacional de Policía and be incorporated into the Fuerza Pública upon successful completion of the training.

Fernando Berrocal, the security minister, and Francisco Dall´Anesse, the nation's chief prosecutor, led the delegation that met with residents. The ministry reported that the major concerns were an absence of police officers, robbery and thefts in which tourists and locals were victims, the continuing drug trade and other problems.

Berrocal said that the area would be getting seven new patrol cars by the end of the month.

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Costa Rica
third newspage

Tex Mex restaurant
Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 12, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 50

oxen panel
    Arias Sandí family proud of their home                  . . . Isolina Aguilan sells orchids              . . . Fallas and Garita kids having fun
The parade was a step back into Costa Rican history
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

About 150 teams of oxen and their handlers, friends, riders and fans made their way from Escazú Centro some 3 kilometers uphill to San Antonio de Escazú Sunday. This is the annual celebration of the Día de Boyero or oxcart handler.

There are a lot of oxcart parades during the year, including the one in early December that brings statues of saints into San José. But the one Sunday was the big daddy.

The gigantic beasts, all surgically altered bulls, give a picture of what Costa Rica was like when the only way coffee beans got to the coast was in carts pulled by the
 oxen. And the participants wore clothes and accessories that were true to the theme.

Residents along the way have a treat each year as the procession passes by their homes. The Arias Sandí family was quick to point out their traditional home, complete with roof tiles, was consistent with the historic theme. Isolina Aguilar nearby marketed her prize orchids.

For Sofia, Maripaz and Catalina Fallas and fellow cart travelers Aldo and Paulette Garita and friends, the ride had some excitement. The team or yunta pulling their cart bolted slightly and gave them a heart-stopping scare.

The wind Sunday was welcome by all but the balloon vendors. For most the breeze cut down on the heat.

Osen parade
A long trail of participants at San Antonio
yunta of oxen
A team is called a yunta in Spanish
Photos by
Saray Ramírez Vindas

These are the fixing for a mascarada

A saying for making something good from the bad
Hacer de tripas chorizo
“To make chorizo from tripe.” This dicho may not sound too appetizing, especially to those of us who love good chorizo: Mexican, Italian, or Costa Rican. It’s true that sausage is often made from leftover scraps of meat, but good quality chorizo does not usually include animal innards.

This dicho, however, really has very little to do with food. Rather it refers to trying to make something good out of something bad. It is actually the reverse of the English expression, “you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear,” and has more in common with “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Though it may indeed be impossible to create a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, sometimes a happy result can be achieved from humble materials and a little imagination. We’ve been having some work done on our house lately and have expanded the size of our front garden by almost half. We have also installed a new parilla (barbeque grill) and wet bar out there.

But, while building the grill and the bar we came up just three tiles short. I searched high and low, but could not find any more tiles to match the ones we’d chosen for the counter top and backsplash. I did, however, find a few that were left over from an earlier renovation project, which I felt could be worked into the design even though they did not match the ones we were using for the grill area.

Sure enough, by placing one of these more decorative tiles at either end of the backsplash and a third one in the middle, we managed to finish the job and add a little ornamental touch. Perhaps another English expression also applies here: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
Frequently modest entities can be used to create something that is more than the sum of its parts, and the least complex course of action may prove to be the most elegant solution to life’s most difficult problems. Often we complicate existence needlessly while failing to take advantage of the simple pleasures that can make life so much more enjoyable.
When I lived in Ecuador I always claimed to be a vegetarian because I did not wish to eat cui, or “guinea pig” in English, because these little rodents reminded me

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

too much of rats, which I find totally revolting. But there was a down side to this little charade because, as a result of my feigned vegetarianism, I missed out on a lot of delicious meals that included beef, pork, or chicken. Even though I was actually trying not to offend Ecuadorian sensibilities, I was needlessly complicating my life when a simple, honest explanation of my culinary likes and dislikes would probably have sufficed.

My host family in Ecuador had a stall in the local market where they sold chickens, among other things. I often helped out the family by working in the stall. The mercado was a very big place where it seemed nearly every other vendor sold chicken. Additionally, all of the chicken vendors had got together and decided to fix the price so that they all charged the same per kilo. As a result, our stall’s chicken sales were very lackluster.
One day I was working in the little shop by myself when a couple of ladies came by to purchase chicken. In the course of our conversation I casually mentioned that our chickens were actually of higher quality and more expensive than those of the other vendors in the market. But, because of the agreement among the merchants, our product was sold at the same price as the inferior chickens of the other shop keepers.

I did not know this to be the absolute truth, but in any case the word spread like wildfire that our chickens were the best bargain in the market. Sales suddenly soared! And, my host family’s fortunes improved significantly. I really felt like he hecho de tripas chorizo. Or was it perhaps de pollo?

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rock and roll pollo

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A.M. Costa Rica
fourth news page

Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 12, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 50

Are you considering doing business with a burglar alarm company?

If so, you should contact me first
for my opinion

From a hotel owner:

'At this time we have a deposit and all looks good!!  Thank you for your help, and I must say your paper is impressive, and I had no idea you had such a circulation around the world.  Received many inquiries for our hotel for that reason.'

She used our classifieds!

Bush backs Uribe during his quick Colombian visit Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President George Bush traveled to Colombia Sunday amid tight security in a show of support for President Alvaro Uribe.

Bush came to Bogota at a critical time. President Uribe, his strongest ally in the region, is dealing with a political scandal involving members of his inner circle. And in Washington, Democrats in the U.S. Congress are questioning the Bush administration's request for billions of dollars over the next few years in additional aid to Colombia, which remains the world's largest producer of cocaine.

Bush says "Plan Colombia," the program set up to battle narcoterrorists, is worthy of continued U.S. support. And he stressed he has confidence in President Uribe.

"You have set high expectations for your nation," said Bush. "I appreciate your determination. And I am proud to call you a personal friend, and call your country a strategic partner of the United States."

During a joint news conference, Bush spoke directly about the political scandal that has rocked Colombia, the revelation that some of President Uribe's allies had ties to paramilitary commanders.

"I support a plan that says there will be an independent judiciary analyzing any charge brought forth and when someone is found guilty there will be punishment," he said. "That is the kind of plan I support. And it happens to be the kind of plan the president supports."

Uribe said the prosecutions, trials and sentences handed down are proof of just how far Colombia has come in its fight against insurgents and drug lords.

"Instead of being afraid of telling the truth, we have been supporting truth," said Uribe. "Instead of looking for ways out of justice, we are trying to support justice as much as possible."

Bush is the first U.S. president to visit Bogota in a quarter century. Security was extremely tight for his visit with more than 20,000 police deployed in the city. They stood 
Bush in Brazil
White House photo by Paul Morse
U.S. President George W. Bush and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva speak at an enthanol production facility in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Friday. The United States and Brazil signed an agreement for mutual help with  biofuel technology.

just a few meters apart, lining his motorcade route. And
the entire visit, which lasted less than seven hours, played out largely in the confines of Colombia's presidential palace and an adjacent city square that was closed to the public.

Bush received a red-carpet welcome in the square. But there was also a raucous welcome from protesters, including one group that clashed with police within sight of his motorcade.

Bush's critics here in Colombia charge the United States is putting too much money into military aid and not enough into funding programs to help the poor and the disadvantaged.

Before leaving Washington, Bush announced an increase in U.S. funds to help meet basic needs in Latin America, such as housing, health care and education. Colombia remains the largest U.S. aid recipient in the region and one of the largest in the world, just behind the Middle East and Afghanistan. Most of the American assistance funds that go to Bogota, about 70 percent, are targeted for Plan Colombia.

Some lawyers ended up a reluctant members of the board
By Dennis Rogers
A.M. Costa Rica special correspondent

The president and former employees of the law firm that formed many of the shell companies used by Luis Enrique Villalobos found themselves defending their names in court Friday. These “paper companies” were sold with the names of young lawyers and even former aviation minister Carlos Víquez’s domestic servant on the board of directors.

The Víquez bufete or law office managed getting permits and other legal matters of several companies related to the Villalobos’ aviation businesses and formed 22 shell companies. Among them was the favored Servicios de Soporte al Turismo that was used to make payroll for Villalobos employees.

Lawyers Antonella Dare and Mónica Dadas told the court Friday of the consternation that shook the firm at news of the July 4, 2002, raid on the Villalobos high-interest investment operation and how all resigned en mass from their positions as officers.

They professed to have no knowledge of what the companies were used for and never had any connection to their administration. Ms. Dadas referred to the use of their names as common and an “obligation” of employment, while Ms. Dare said repeatedly that she had “learned a lesson” from letting her name be used casually by others.

Their names also appeared as officers on some Panamanian holding companies, particularly one called Helícopteros del Istmo, which was technically the owner of many Villalobos
companies. Similarly, both women said they’d had no part
of the administration of those companies and had only ever been to Panamá on pleasure trips, although Judge Manuel Rojas called to the court’s attention an overnight trip that Ms. Dadas took in 2001.

In Costa Rica three persons are required to form a typical corporation, although members of the board of directors do not have to be shareholders. That's why lawyers frequently put the names of their employees on such documents.

Víquez himself testified that his specialty is aviation law and the other companies were not part of his professional relationship with Enrique Villalobos. Lawyer-client privilege, versus Víquez’ role as a notary public which is not protected by such privilege, interfered with questioning as he several times referred to Villalobos to the objections of the defense. Eventually presiding judge Isabel Porras stated that the official record (on her computer) would ignore those references, though telling him as a lawyer he ought to know how to answer. Víquez took responsibility for involving others and left hastily as soon as he was dismissed.

Prosecutor Walter Espinoza is trying to tie together the operations of the Ofinter S.A. money exchange, identified with Oswaldo Villalobos, and the high interest operation identified with the fugitive brother, Luis Enrique Villalobos.

The Oswaldo Villalobos defense is expected to begin its presentation either today or Tuesday. The list of defense witnesses has been cut to just 11 persons, giving those connected with the trial hope that it may end within a week or two.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 12, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 50

Another leg toward the national surf championships takes place this weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The seventh competition of the Federación de Surf de Costa Rica will take place this weekend at Santa Teresa de Malpaís at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Competition starts both days at 7 a.m. The immediate reward for a winner will be the Playa del Carmen trophy, but competitors also are earning points toward a season competition. Only two more competitions remain after this
weekend for the championships.

In addition, members of the Costa Rican junior team to participate in the International Surfing Association's world championship in Portugal in May will be selected.

Jairo Pérez of the Cantón de Garabito will be trying to defend his lead in the junior, under 18, division this weekend. Pérez already has 3,430 points, followed by  Carlos Muñoz of Playa Esterillos Oeste, who has 2,255.

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Jo Stuart
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