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(506) 2223-1327       Published Friday, March 13, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 51      E-mail us
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drangon head
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
'What a job! First we have to dig a big hole, and then the boss makes us dance around in a dragon suit. I'm gonna call my union rep.' This is what two imported Chinese construction workers could be thinking at a ceremony for the
start of the new $83 million national  stadium in Parque la Sabana. A traditional Chinese dragon whose head is at left was part of the festivities.

Story is HERE!


Legislature gives OK to tax break for hiring women
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers have approved on first reading a change in the law that would give employers an income tax deduction if they give jobs to female heads of households.

The tax break would be 10 percent of the net annual salaries they paid the women.

The law also seems to apply to women who own their own small enterprises.

The law is unclear if the tax deduction applies when an employer hires a woman who simply lives alone. The legal change talks about madres de familia who are listed in the Registro Civil as single, divorced or widowed. But there is no clear definition in the law requiring that the head of household be supporting others.

The law was proposed by Cartago legislator Carlos Gutiérrez Gómez of the Movimiento Libertario. A preface said that the law would not be unconstitutional because existing statutes already make a difference in the way women are paid. For example, the Código de Familia says that the man
is the principal supporter of the family and that the wife is obligated to contribute proportionally when she has resources.

Existing laws have not encouraged hiring women because they lack sufficient incentives, said the preface.

It is clear that a woman who is single, divorced or widowed has more trouble moving ahead in life because she has a double function: as a mother and as the provider for the home, said the summary.

The summary also said that a 2004 survey of households showed that 26.1 percent of the families were headed by women. It also noted the disparity in salaries paid men and women at the same educational level.  Women have a higher unemployment rate, it added.

Gutiérrez proposed the law in July 2006 at the start of the current legislative session. A release from the Movimiento Libertario said it had been passed Thursday on first reading. A second vote is needed to send the bill to President Óscar Arias Sánchez. The release said that the bill was one of those to which the executive branch had given priority.


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Our readers' opinions
English efforts in Grecia
were met with obstacles


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:


In response to your news story about the government's new Costa Rica Multilingüe program, we have sent the following email to its organizers:

In January 2008, after reading an article in La Nación newspaper about the need for bilingualism in Costa Rica, a group of English-speaking residents of Grecia de Alajuela began to meet regularly in order to address this issue. We wanted to help our neighbors, who have been so kind and welcoming of us and who were seeking help with their English learning. In February of last year, we met with the president of the Municipal Council of Grecia, who appeared delighted with our idea of "Conversation Cafe" and offered the municipality's assistance in presenting the program we were developing.

"Conversation Cafe of Grecia" began in April 2008. More than 30 Ticos and 15 Gringos gathered at the Casa de la Cultura in Grecia for an hour of stimulating conversation accompanied by free coffee and cookies provided by Gringo volunteers. We have continued to meet every week. The attendance has been wonderful, and volunteers and Ticos have both indicated their pleasure and excitement with the activity. On average, 30 people attend the cafe every Saturday from 4 to 5 p.m.

How ironic that just when we learn of the Costa Rica Multilingüe program, we have been locked out of the Casa de la Cultura in Grecia! We were not told of this in advance. We arrived at our usual time, and the building was locked. The manager of the center refused to open the building for us. She gave us no reason, only the excuse that she did not have the key.

On other weeks, when the Casa de la Cultura has not been available, the Municipalidad has permitted us to use their facilities for our cafe. Those facilities are not conducive for a cafe setting, which has become quite important to the success of the cafe. (Ticos learning to speak English with Gringos are much more comfortable and relaxed when they are presented an informal environment such as a cafe).

Last week, 30 people — Ticos and Gringo volunteers — stood on the street and tried to hold our conversation while competing with the noise of automobiles and passersby. It was stressful and not much fun, but the desire to have our Conversation Cafe overcame these problems. Next week, once again, we will stand on the street and try to have conversations in English. We will not give up trying, although so many obstacles, and even some people, appear to be opposed to our success.

We are so very disappointed with the municipalidad and the Casa de la Cultura of Grecia. They promised us their assistance, and they have been obstructing our success from the beginning. Why? We have been given no reason other than one statement that it is inconvenient for the manager.

Every week, we have come — both Ticos and Gringos — to the Casa de la Cultura. We clean up the messy facility, we bring our own toilet paper and soap for the bathroom, and our own coffee and cups and cookies and tableclothes and other materials, and for an hour we try to have conversations in English in a room that is hot (because most of the fans do not work) and dark (because no one ever replaces the flourescent lights that no longer work). After the cafe, we clean up the room and leave it in much better condition than when we arrived.

Our thanks for our efforts to help our neighbors? We can no longer use the facility. We are meeting on the street.

We wish you very much luck with your program — and you will need it! I have come to the belief that there is underlying resentment among Ticos of the government's efforts to help their citizens become bilingual in English. Some (but certainly not all) Ticos resent this effort. Many may say that they support it, but when they are asked to demonstrate that support in some way, they choose to be obstructions rather than helpers.

Meanwhile, we are determined to continue our efforts to help our neighbors, who despite obstacles and lack of support and their own personal anxiety, keep returning to Conversation Cafe week after week. Our group of more than 20 Gringos have enjoyed our time spent weekly with these young Ticos learning English. It has been educational and entertaining for us as well as for them. We want to continue despite the struggle. We are now trying to find another location for our cafe. Please wish us luck!
Debora Shapiro
Lair Davis
Grecia de Alajuela

English speaker unwelcome,
residency mess shows

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am extremely angry over the article this morning about the Casa Presidencial seeking volunteer English speakers.  The nerve of this office asking for native speakers to help while at the same time the same office is seeking higher standards for residencia. 

I have been waiting for the status of my residencia application for over two years.  It is apparent to me that Costa Rica has no desire to process applicants for temporary residencia.  If Costa Rica wants volunteers to help their citizens speak English, then perhaps they shouldn't propose bills that keep native English speakers from obtaining legal status and living in their country.

If Costa Rica had shown any desire to welcome me as a resident, I would be one of the first volunteers to show my gratitude and give something back to the community.

Pamela Cohen
Grecia

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 13, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 51



stadium time capsule
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Workmen place a time capsule after dignitaries made contributions
Time capsule is first item of business for new stadium
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new stadium being donated by the People's Republic of China will cost $83 million, some $10 million more than the original estimate, according to officials who participated in a ceremony marking the start of work.

The 35,000-seat stadium was part of the pledge Communist China made to Costa Rica in exchange for the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration switching its diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan.

In the ceremony Thursday officials made donations of artifacts and even money to a time capsule which then was buried. Among the material saved for future generations were Costa Rican currency, coins, daily newspapers and other items of daily use. There was no reason given for why the costs soared.

Arias was effusive as he praised the immense generosity of the Chinese people.   Casa Presidencial tried to justify the expenditure in a later press release by pointing out that the stadium could be a shelter for residents during a time of emergency.

The major league soccer teams have their stadiums, but the
new stadium, like the 65-year-old structure before it can house the national selection, the all-star team that participated in World Cup competition. Many youth groups also have used the stadium, as did Luciano Pavarotti when he visited here five years ago. 

Arias, in his brief talk, said that in addition to a soccer field, the new structure would house offices for 32 sports federations, eight meeting rooms, and rooms for various competitions, including chess, table tennis and fencing.

There also is a room for special occasions, such as the inauguration of a new president and artistic and cultural expositions.

The work is being done by Anhui Foreign Economic Construction, which estimated completion in 23 months. Most of the workmen are imported from China.

The site where the former stadium stood is in Parque la Sabana, and that location resulted in a constitutional court appeal from those who remembered that the law prohibited building in the park. They also expressed concern about the lack of parking.

The Sala IV constitutional court found otherwise.


The fatigue of living a root canal kind of week
I ended last week emotionally exhausted.  It came from watching and listening to Cho-Cho-San (also known as Madame Butterfly) suffer the pains of rejection from that cad, Lt. B.F. Pinkerton.  Soprano Christina Gallardo-Domâs did a masterful job of turning suffering into art and with her singing and acting transferred that suffering to the audience at the Centro Cultural.

This week has been one of physical exhaustion beginning with the play “Calendar Girls,” put on by the Little Theatre Group of Costa Rica.  What tired me out was watching all the costume changes the talented actresses managed to execute in such limited time.  I know the dressing room at the Laurence Olivier Theatre, and it couldn’t have been easy for so many to navigate there and appear onstage runway ready.

Then a toothache sent me in an emergency visit to the dentist, which resulted in a root canal.  There is a new ultra modern dental clinic, Prisma (they even have a digital x-ray machine).  The clinic is within a healthy walking distance from where I live, and they gave me an appointment the same day.  For those of you interested in comparing prices, the root canal and post cost $440.

Wednesday was an appointment with the eye doctor.  I telephoned that morning to confirm it, and they acted like they had never heard of me, even though I held in front of me my little yellow appointment slip and had been there before. 

Let me just say that trying to straighten out a confusion in a language you can manage well enough in a face-to-face discussion where you get other visible clues, is not that easy over the phone.  In short, it can wear you out.

Then I had to pay attention to the persistent pain in my tooth that continued after the root canal. This was not my usual reaction from a root canal done by my regular dentist, and I had no desire to eat soup and take aspirin for an extended time . . . like the rest of my life. 
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com


So I went back to the clinic and Telma Rubinstein, the dentist, examined the tooth and seemed to grind and polish and whatever, and when she was finished it felt much better.

Although walking to the clinic is downhill, that means, of course, that it is an uphill haul back home.  So I took a bus.  Has anyone noticed?  The bus fares have gone down.

Home, I contemplated calling Amnet to cancel an amplification of service I recently had them install.  I rarely use it, and I have no schedule of what it has anyway, so I might as well save the money.  But I really don’t want to have another telephone discussion right away. 

Meanwhile, passing the Sabana Park, I noticed two orange metal structures.  The beginning of the new stadium?  They are located quite a distance from where the first stadium was.  In fact, they are much closer to where I live.  I remember being told that it will be built so that the goals are east and west instead of north and south. 

When I lived above Barrio Lujan, I could hear the roar of the crowd every time there was a goal at the Saprissa Stadium in Tibás. But then, if I opened my window, part of the roar was coming from the houses in the neighborhood.  Actually, it is a kind of special experience.

There is always something new and different to look forward to.  Better that it is the sound of soccer (more accurately called fútbol) and the roar of a happy crowd than the moans that a toothache brings or the sighs of a totally tired typist. 



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Mexican border violence becomes a hot topic in Congress
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Escalating violence on the U.S. - Mexico border has U.S. lawmakers demanding to know what U.S. government agencies are doing to stem the flow of illegal weapons from the United States to Mexico and to prevent narcotics from entering the United States. The situation on the border was the subject of four congressional hearings this week. Mean while, the White House is reviewing requests to send more troops to the border.

With the Mexican government recently sending an additional 3,000 troops to the border with the United States to combat drug cartels, and Mexico's army and police involved in increasingly violent clashes with drug traffickers, U.S. lawmakers —‚ particularly those from border states — are more worried than ever.

U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California opened one of four hearings on the situation noting that Mexico now has 45,000 troops engaged in a violent struggle, which she noted is about equivalent to the number of troops the United States has in Afghanistan.

"The United States and this Congress cannot ignore our role in assisting our neighbor and our ally in this fight, and, of course, in preventing that violence in slipping into the United States," said Ms. Sanchez.

Rep. Mark Souder, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Border Subcommittee, says escalating activities of Mexican drug gangs threaten U.S. border cities and states, and have consequences well beyond the border:

"The consequences of the continued vulnerability along the border are clearly evident in the violent crime and drug-related death rates throughout the United States," said Souder.

Souder and other lawmakers want Congress to bolster the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to deal with the violence, and assist the Mexican government.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat who chairs the full House Homeland Security Committee, says violence has increased despite the best efforts of President Felipe Calderón.

"The cartels have resorted to extraordinary violence and gruesome tactics to protect their turf and profits," said Thompson.
Thompson notes that U.S. assistance includes $197 million released last December as part of the Merida Initiative, a security cooperation pact with Mexico and Central American countries that funds training, equipment and intelligence against drug trafficking, transnational crime and money laundering.

Testifying on Thursday were several U.S. homeland security, customs, border, intelligence and immigration officials.

Alonzo Pena, the Homeland Security attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, said the level of violence in Mexico actually reflects success the Mexican government has had in fighting criminal groups.

"While there is violence in Mexico, it is not, and I repeat not, an indication of the government of Mexico's inability to maintain control," said Pena. "Rather it is an indication of President Calderon's success in confronting transnational criminal organizations in Mexico."

Vice Admiral Roger Rufe, the agency's director of operations coordination, said the Barack Obama administration's new Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, receives frequent briefings on a situation he describes as alarming.

"The trend of increasing drug cartel violence in Mexico is alarming," said Rufe. "Rival trafficking organizations vying for control and against the government of Mexico's anti-drug efforts have fueled increased levels of violence amongst the competing traffickers and against those who seek to enforce Mexican law."

At the White House Thursday, spokesman Robert Gibbs had this response when asked about recent remarks by President Obama in media interviews about the border situation, and the possibility of deploying additional National Guard troops to the border area:

"The president enumerated again that our long-term challenges relating to many policy decisions around the border are not going to be solved in that long term through the militarization of the border. Obviously there have been specific requests that have come for additional National Guard troops to be deployed there based on the escalating violence in Mexico."

Gibbs said Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano will be reviewing such requests. 


pianist duarte
Jonathan Duarte
15-year-old pianist wins
a top international prize


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A young Canadian-Costa Rican pianist has won a top prize in an international competition. He is Jonathan Duarte, who was awarded second prize in the prestigious American Protégé 2009 International Piano and Strings Competition. The concert will be April 11 at the Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Center, New York, where he will perform Sergey Rachmaninov's "Prelude in C Sharp Minor."

The pianist, just 15 years old, competed by performing the Beethoven "Sonata Opus 53 No. 21 Allegro con Brio," and the Rachmaninov "Prelude." He competed against other young pianists from France, Italy, China, South Korea, Netherlands, Russia and United States. These countries have an impressive history of producing talented pianists, but young Duarte succeeded because, in the judges’ words,  “your playing reflects musicality, intelligence and technical expertise.”

The pianist is a student of the Instituto Superior de Artes and the Universidad Nacional, under the direction of Dr. Alexandr Sklioutovski. This year, he will participate in other international and national competitions.

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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

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.

Newspages
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.

Classifieds
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.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Statistics
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.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Golfito quakes rupture
sea floor and release gas


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gas, presumed to be methane, is bubbling up in the Gulfo Dulce, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico at Universidad Nacional in Heredia.

This means that the impermeable floor of the seabed has been fractured, the Observatorio said.

The discovery was attributed to the national emergency commission. The Observatorio said that the sulfuric gas activity has been seen since Wednesday night, when the first of many earthquakes hit the area.

The location is a kilometer south of the Isla Pelícano. The area is due south of the community of Golfito.

The Observatorio said in a release that a similar gas release happened near Puerto Jiménez on the west side of the gulf in 1983.

The release suggests that there are appreciable deposits of gas under the gulf.  The Servicio de Guardacostas de Costa Rica and other government agencies are keeping an eye on the area.

There was a flurry of quakes in the gulf Thursday, following three significant ones Wednesday.

And at 5:23 p.m. a quake estimated between 6.2 and 6.5 took place in the Pacific about 280 kilometers (174 miles) south of Punta Burica at the southern tip of Costa Rica.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was 335 kilometers (210 miles) south of Golfito and 310 kilometers (195 miles) south of David, Panamá. The Geological survey estimated the quake at 6.2. and the Observatorio said 6.5.

The significant quakes Thursday were at 7:57 a.m. at a 4.3 magnitude and at 10:30 a.m. at a 4.0 magnitude, said the Observatorio. Both were felt in the Central Valley.

And there were hundreds of lesser quakes during the day and evening. Some were felt slightly in San José, as was the 5:23 p.m. quake in the Pacific.

The Golfito quakes are taking place where the denser Cocos Tectonic plate slides under adjacent Panamá Block.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 13, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 51


Latin American news digest
Annual art show opens
in San Rafael de Escazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 100 artists are showing their creations at the  Embrujarte in San Rafael de Escazú through Sunday.

The Cruz Roja said that it would benefit financially from some of the transactions there.

The event is in the Plaza de Deportes. Works include paintings, photographs, etchings, watercolors and sculptures.
 
Admission is free, and the Cruz Roja said it would be selling some non-art items, such as reflective safety vests.

The name of the show is a pun on Escazú reputation as a haven for witches. The name translates to "bewitching art."
 
Biden to attend two summits
during his Latin American trip


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. vice president, Joseph R. Biden, will attend a Latin summit in Santiago de Chile March 27 and 28 before visiting Costa Rica.

That was made known by Casa Presidencial Thursday. Biden, and his wife, Jill, who holds a doctorate in education, will be here March 29 and 30, Casa Presidencial said.

The government said that Biden's visit was a recognition by the United States of Costa Rica's role as a strategic partner in the region. Costa Rica is hosting its own summit of Central American leaders March 30, and Biden is expected to attend.

Also invited, according to Casa Presidencial, are presidents Elías Antonio Saca González of El Salvador, Alvaro Colom Caballeros of Guatemala, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales of Honduras, Daniel Ortega Saavedra of Nicaragua and Martín Torrijos Espino of Panamá.

Also invited is the prime minister of Belize, Dean Barrow. And Casa Presidencial said an invitation will be extended to whoever wins the Salvadoran presidential election this Sunday.
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