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(506) 223-1327         Published Tuesday, March 13, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 51           E-mail us    
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Xenophobia claim against Costa Rica thrown out
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Interamerican Human Rights Commission has thrown out a case brought against Costa Rica by the Government of Nicaragua on technical grounds.

Still, Costa Rican officials are calling the decision a vindication. Nicaragua alleged discrimination against Nicaraguans in the wake of two deaths here of its citizens.

The first was the well-publicized death of a Nicaraguan sneak thief when guard dogs continued to attack him for some 90 minutes while police and others simply watched. The second was the death of a Nicaraguan who got in a fight about the dog case with some Costa Ricans.

The Washington, D.C.,-based human rights commission, which is an agency of the Organization of American States determined that Nicaraguans had not exhausted the judicial remedies that existed in Costa Rica.

In fact, police officers involved in the dog case are facing judicial action. It was firemen who eventually forced the dogs away from the dying man by using streams of water.

Still, Bruno Stagno, the foreign minister, called the decision a "ratification of the impeccable tradition of human rights in Costa Rica."

By throwing out the case, the human rights commission eliminated the possibility that Costa Rica would be hailed into the Interamerican Court of Justice, which happens to meet in Costa Rica.
The commission also said that Nicaragua has not supplied any proof of the allegations of discrimination against Nicaraguans by the Government of Costa Rica.

The 72-page decision was not available, but a summary was provided by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, which had argued Costa Rica's case before the commission. The original petition went to the commission in February 2006. Nicaragua alleged a climate of xenophobia and discrimination against Nicaraguans here. The case was pushed by the previous government of Nicaragua and then-president Enrique Bolaños.

The man who died in the dog attack was Natividad Canda Mairena. That happened Nov. 10, 2005.  José Ariel Silva Urbina was the man who died outside a bar when he was attacked by a group of Costa Ricans. That was Dec. 4, 2005.

Costa Rica has fought the allegations on procedural grounds since it was filed. For example, Costa Rica said that Nicaragua failed to show that the cases involving the dead Nicaraguans were not being investigated.

The commission also concluded that it had not received evidence that the death of Canda was an example of the discrimination alleged to exist in Costa Rica.

The commission also said that the new immigration law that the Nicaraguan Government and others thought was too harsh is being revised in the Asamblea Legislativa.

Lawmakers are moving to return Día de la Madre to Aug. 15 date
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers are moving to eliminate the three-day Día de la Madre weekend authorized by the previous legislature. There is a strong movement to return the official celebration and the holiday associated with it to Aug. 15.

The new law that was passed last year makes the holiday the Monday following the date. The three-day weekend was pushed as a tourism incentive, but many Costa Ricans were irked by the change. Aug. 15 also is Assumption Day in the Catholic calendar commemorating the belief that the Virgin Mary never died but was assumed bodily into Heaven. There also is a close association between the image of the Costa Rican mother and the Virgin Mary.

This year Assumption Day falls on a Wednesday, and the measure has such support that it may be passed by then.

Assumption Day is Aug. 15, too

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 51

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Minister Arias gets new hip
at Escazú private hospital

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Where do high-ranking Costa Rican government officials go for medical treatment?

Certainly not to the public hospitals operated by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

One such official is Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, brother to the president and minister of the Presidencia, which is equivalent to the president's chief of staff.

Arias has been suffering from hip problems and had a replacement of the left hip last April.

Monday it was time for physicians to work on the right hip. And they did so at the private Hospital CIMA in Escazú.

Arias underwent a 90-minute surgery about 3:30 p.m. He is expected to leave the hospital in about five day and then undergo some therapy.

Jaime Ulloa, the physician in charge of the operation, said there were no complications at all, according to a statement from Casa Presidencial. The physician estimated that Arias would be back working in Casa Presidencial in several weeks.

When Abel Pacheco, the former president, suffered problems with exhaustion, he usually checked into Hospital Calderón Guardia, a public facility.

Country Day School
will be staging 'Pippin'

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Country Day School will present the musical "Pippin" March 22, 23 and 24 at the school in Escazú. All shows are at 7:30 p.m.

Country Day School has a long tradition of successful plays like "Midsummer Night’s Dream," "Grease," "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

"Pippin," which hit Broadway in 1972, is a self-discovery tale of the son of Charlemagne.

Daniel Mermelstein is Pippin. Joshua Slowiczek is the diabolical Leading Player. Luis Diego Granera is Charlemagne. Lilly Leyh is Fastrada. Ashley Ledford is Bertha.  Ingrid Garcia is Catherine. The show is directed by  Lisa DeFuso of Country Day's drama program. 

Admission is 3,000 colons for adults and 2,000 colons for students and teachers. Reservations are available at 289-8406.

Charity event planned
for Parque la Sabana

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Association of Residents of Costa Rica is presenting a major charity event, a multicultural fair, March 24 at the east end of Parque La Sabana.

The event, "Regreso de las Flores," will feature clubs and charities promoting their activities and embassies supporting the cultural aspects, said Ryan Piercy of the association. Also sought to participate are any groups that are marketing a cultural product, like crafts, he said.

The object of the funds raised from participants will go to the Hospicios de Huerfanos San Jose and its early stimulation program for children, said the association. The event will take place on the esplanade in front of the Museo de Arte Costarricense.

There is no entry fee for visitors.  The Charity Committee of the organization may be reached at 233-8068. The group hopes to raise 1.5 million colons or about $2,900. Also sponsoring the event is Banco Cuscatlan.

Hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 51

Super grasshopper
takes to the streets

Remember those little grasshoppers the youngsters make and sell at traffic lights?

Well they have been eating their Wheaties. The new version is nearly a foot long, not counting antennas.

Youngsters were selling the new, improved giant grasshopper in the downtown last week.

The fake insect, of course, is constructed with palm fronds and sports bent sticks for legs. The going price is from 300 colons to 500, from 60 U.S. cents to $1.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Transport minister gives in to Paquera ferry protesters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a surprise move, the transport minister has authorized continued service of the Ferry Peninsula even though the operator lost the concession in a public bidding process.

The minister, Karla González, took the action because residents of Paquera had conducted a sit-in at the ferry dock near that town, which is on the west side of the Gulf of Nicoya.

Residents had been protesting since at least Thursday because that was the date the Ferry Peninsula was supposed to surrender the route to Naviera Tambor, a second company that operates two ferries, including a new $5.7 million vessel purchased in anticipation of having exclusivity on the route.

The ferries run from Puntarenas to Paquera and they are a vital link in tourism and travel to the southern part of the
 Nicoya Peninsula. The route is supervised by the Minsiterio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, which has been trying to finalize the concession since 2003.

The Ferry Peninsula has been prone to breakdowns and cannot accommodate as many passengers as the newer vessels. It also makes the crossing slower. It is operated by the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera. The association employees many locals.

Under preliminary terms of the agreement, the Paquera association will be able to operate its ferry until December. The Tambor I and Tambor II of Naviera Tambor S.A. will run the same route, and there is no information on how passengers and vehicle traffic will be shared. The new Tambor II can carry 150 passenger cars and 500 persons.

The Paquera association has made at least six failed appeals to the Sala IV constitutional court against Naviera Tambor alleging irregularities in the bidding process. 

Caja union says strike of medical professionals will not take place today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The union that represents the bulk of the public hospital and clinic workers has called off its strike that was scheduled to start today.

The organization is the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social.
The agreement was reached Friday night with the central government, but specifics were announced by the union Monday.

The main dispute was about money, and the union said that the authorities of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social will apply 2005 salary increases that had not been distributed and enter into other negotiations.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 51

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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!

Checks and penmanship seem to be on the way out
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

There was a time not so long ago when every American child was taught penmanship in school. Drilled in each little nuance of cursive script, over and over and over again.

They'd draw elegant loops and serifs, swirls and pigtails, capital letters and lower-case letters on the blackboard and on lined paper, until the fingers hurt.

And as soon as that course was over, most slouched into block printing or a lazy scrawl. Every chance they got, they typed rather than hand-wrote notes, letters, school papers, grocery lists — and e-mails when computers came along.

But there was always one last bastion of the handwritten word: the bank check. Time after time, Americans would scratch the name of the person who was getting the
money, and the amount in numerals and words. Then they'd scribble a signature at the bottom of the check.

But these days, bank checks are becoming an outdated relic. Thanks to credit cards and electronic payments, Americans are writing 25 percent fewer checks than ten years ago. So few, in fact, that the Federal Reserve has closed more than half of its check-processing centers. In more and more retail stores, when presented with a check, the clerk runs it through a scanner that deducts the money instantly, then hands the check back to the customer.

The merchant and the bank have no further use for it.

Americans still write signatures on credit-card receipts and contracts and the like. And they still scrawl "I love you" on an occasional greeting card. But that's about it. So if for those looking for a good job in America, there are two definitely not recommended: penmanship teacher and handwriting analyst.

Bush pushes for immigration reform during Guatemalan visit
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President George Bush says he is hopeful there can be U.S. congressional action by August on immigration reform. The controversial issue dominated his talks in Guatemala City with Guatemalan President Oscar Berger.

Ten percent of all Guatemalans have immigrated to the United States, many of them illegally.

Bush says he knows they want a better life for themselves and their families. He says one answer is to help them find jobs at home. Another is for the U.S. Congress to implement his plan for immigration reform — a proposal that includes a temporary guest worker program.

"I am optimistic we can do so," said Bush. "It is going to be tough work, don't get me wrong. But I believe we can get a comprehensive bill out of the Congress."

Appearing at a joint news conference Monday with the Guatemalan president, Bush said he would like to see bills clear the House and Senate by August. But he noted immigration is a complicated issue, and acknowledged there is no consensus among congressional Republicans.

"I readily concede the situation needs to be changed and I hope I can convince a majority of the House and the Senate to change the law in a rational way," he said.

During their joint news conference, both presidents talked about the strong ties linking their countries. But there was clearly a divergence of views on the deportation of illegal
Guatemalan migrants caught in the United States. When a Guatemalan reporter asked about a recent raid on illegal
 workers at a factory in Massachusetts, President Bush stood firm. He said the United States will enforce its laws.

"It is against our law to hire somebody who is in our country illegally," said Bush. "And we are a nation of law."

Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush left Guatemala City and went by helicopter to the countryside. At his other stops in Latin America, he has talked about the twin topics of trade and aid in official settings. But here in Guatemala, he went directly to the people.

He shook hands with people in the crowd in a busy square in the town of Santa Cruz Balanya, stopping before a church that was rebuilt after a 1976 earthquake with help from the United States.

Bush also visited American and Guatemalan military doctors, nurses and technicians providing healthcare services to the poor. And he loaded crates of lettuce onto a truck at a farm cooperative that has benefited from both U.S. aid and the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

"We want people to realize their God-given potential," he said. "You have proven that if given a chance, you and hundreds of others can succeed and that's what we want."

But not everyone welcomed the president. During his visit to the countryside, he stopped to tour Mayan ruins. Mayan leaders said they plan to cleanse the site of "bad spirits" after his departure.

From Guatemala, Bush traveled to Mexico's Gulf Coast, the last stop on his five-nation Latin American tour, whre he was to meet with Filipe Calderón, the Mexican president today.

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