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A.M. Costa Rica

Your daily English-language 
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Monday through Friday

These stories were published Friday, March 18, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 55
Jo Stuart
About us
No donation to cancer research
Yellow bracelets here are knockoffs of Nike's
By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Shoppers looking to buy bracelets to help fund cancer research should steer clear of vendors downtown after a rash of counterfeits hit San José earlier this month.

The bracelets are rip-offs of the popular Lance Armstrong Live Strong bracelets manufactured for Nike, Inc. Proceeds from the official wristbands are donated to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

'They’re just bracelets.'

Lance Armstrong, the cancer-surviving cyclist who has won a record six consecutive Tour de France titles, helped to design the yellow bracelets. The bands are emblazoned with the words "LIVE STRONG," his foundation’s motto. The motto is a reference to Armstrong and other cancer survivor’s determination to beat the disease. 

The official bracelets are sold for one U.S. dollar at stores through North and South America. All of the money earned from sales is then donated to the foundation. Nike’s Web site says that the company has sold over 40 million bracelets, which translates into a $40 million donation.

The counterfeit bracelets sold downtown are available for anywhere from 500 to 2,000 colons. A vendor, who identified himself as Rafa, said that he didn’t know anything about cancer research. "They’re just bracelets," he said Thursday afternoon on Avenida Central. 

Several vendors had staked out a post on the street near the Plaza de la Cultura. They had hundreds of the counterfeit bracelets taped to cardboard and were peddling them to locals and tourists alike. 

Lydia Weeks, a customer care rep at shoe manufacturer Nike, said the official bracelets come in packaging that differs from the counterfeits. The official bands also have the 

A.M. Costa Rica/Joe Medici
'Rafa' displays his bracelets

words "Made in China" etched onto the interior of the band. 

Miss Weeks said that Nike has encountered a few phony wristband operations. She said that the company has had a larger problem, however, with people reselling the popular wristbands for profit. 

The Live Strong bracelets hit stores in North America in May 2004 and became an immediate hit. During the summer 2004, Nike stepped up production on the increasingly popular bracelet and broadened their availability. 

The bands became so popular that other companies and groups began creating their own versions. Other cancer foundations, AIDs awareness groups, and a few commercial companies created their own bands. The vendors also have copies of these bracelets. 

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The stampede to the beaches is well underway today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Semana Santa has arrived, at least informally. Technically Easter Holy Week kicks off Sunday, which is Palm Sunday.

But don’t stand in the doorway of public offices today. Employees, except for those in critical areas, will be leaving on a week’s vacation. And the waves of vehicles heading for the beach already have begun.

Banks, embassies and many stores will be closed Thursday and Friday. Employees who have to work Thursday and Friday are entitled to double pay.

Chain supermarkets also will be closed Friday and have short hours Thursday. So traditional goodies for the Easter dinner have to be purchased earlier in the week or on Saturday.

Some merchants close for the entire week.

A.M. Costa Rica will be published, except for Good Friday, March 25.  That day is one of the three legal holidays in the year when a news edition does not

appear. However, the newspaper will be updated in case of emergency or a major news event and readers will be notified via the daily digest e-mailing list.

Alcohol sales are banned Thursday and Friday. Municipal police officers will be putting seals on bar doors and on freezer cases of markets. Liquor displays will be draped with black plastic and official warnings.

Casinos, too, will be closed Thursday and Friday.

Tránsito officials estimate that nearly 2 million Costa Ricans will be on the move during the vacation period, which ends Monday, March 28.

The religious nature of Holy Week will be respected by many processions, particularly on Good Friday marking the death of Jesus Christ. Each church has some form of procession and special services.

According to Christian tradition, Christ was crucified in a hurried manner because the Jewish Passover was to begin at sundown. This year, however, because of the way the two holidays are figured astronomically, Jewish Passover does not begin until sundown April 23.

Readers give their opinions

He wants more positive
news in A.M. Costa Rica

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am only guessing that you must be of Gringo origin? While I appreciate the effort you are putting into writing articles and publishing them, I do not like the content. The newspaper sounds like my parents in upstate New York: crime, sickness, corruption, money. I am not sure if you live in Costa Rica, but if you do, why? 

The Costa Rica you portray sounds like the cesspool of the world? Why not go back to Boca Raton or Miami or similar useless places and keep up with all of the "world is so horrible" stories there? They are plentiful. You only seem to prefer news that instills a culture of fear and loathing?

Anyway, I think you should change your content to be more positive and less doomsday.

Juan Carlos D'Imperio 
Zancudo, Costa Rica

 He doubts free trade
will reduce phone rates

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am compelled to reply to Phil Mattingly's disingenuous and sarcastic letter entitled "Who needs free trade and bullying Gringos". Well, for one, I don't.

Mr. Mattingly's sarcastic tone does little to convince CAFTA's opponents. In fact, it does the opposite by implying that those of us against the treaty are too ignorant to see its virtues. I would argue, on the other hand, that it is Mr. Mattingly who is on the wrong side of this issue. More importantly, he needs to tell the truth rather than spout the "company line" with regard to the reality of free trade and its impact on Costa Rica.

Just a couple of years ago, when I lived suburban Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the U.S., I was unable to have a broadband internet connection because the "market" in the area was not profitable. Upon relocating to Costa Rica, I obtained a broadband connection immediately, and it has been more reliable than the dialup connection I had previously.

In the U.S. we had two cell phones with notoriously poor service from Cingular Wireless, and we paid about $85-$90 per month. Also, we could not get GSM lines. In Costa Rica, we have three GSM lines that we use as much as we like and pay less than $25 per month for all three.

My land line base rate for local calling in the U.S. was about $60 per month because I needed to have a special line in order to avoid calls to Houston (less than 10 miles away) being "long distance." In Costa Rica, my land line costs me about $10 per month, and I can call anywhere in the country without long-distance fees.

As for insurance, I am more than satisfied with my CAJA medical insurance costs of $37 per month through ARCR and thus far the medical care we have received is equal to or superior to the care we received in the U.S. The times we have opted for uninsured private medical care in Costa Rica, the out-of-pocket costs have been about the same as in the U.S. after our health insurance company paid its portion. And perhaps even more important, the personal interaction with Costa Rican doctors and medical staff is vastly superior to what you often find in U.S. medical "factories".

Apart from costs, even more frightening is the provision in CAFTA allowing the U.S. government to sue Costa Rica and its neighbors for corporate "lost profits," the inadequate safeguards to protect the environment, and the inability of Costa Rican farmers to compete effectively against subsidized U.S. farming conglomerates.

Anyone believing that telecommunications or insurance costs will go down because of CAFTA just doesn't understand the U.S. free market system. Frankly, it's difficult to imagine that telecommunications or medical costs could be any lower than they are in Costa Rica right now. And if a market is not profitable enough in the U.S., your service provider will simply cease providing you that service. The same thing will happen in Costa Rica if the free market zealots have their way.

I will use one sarcastic quote from Mr. Mattingly's letter to illustrate the point that he is either uninformed or that he has a personal agenda: 

"You don’t have to allow competition with your labor union-controlled, government-owned monopolies like your phone company. After all, it would allow you to pay less for your phone service and have better service and quicker connections." 

The implication is that, under CAFTA, I can have three GSM cell phones for less than $25 per month and a land line for less than $10 per month. That is ridiculous on the face of it and raises the question of Mr. Mattingly's credibility and motivation.

Steven A. Roman, Ph.D. 
San Antonio de Belén, Costa Rica

He prefers Hugo Chavez
to U.S.’s Roger Noriega

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your article on Roger Noriega struck a nerve with me. He said that the president of Venezuela was not cooperating with American efforts to take over his country and, therefore, he, Chavez, represented an unpleasant character. Noriega indicated he wanted to continue the U.S.'s destabilazion actions in Venezuela so that its natural resources (oil) could be controlled by the world elite. I guess most other countries in Central America are already under the control of the ruling elite because Noriega had pleasant things to say about them!

Noriega (what's his relationship to the ex-president of Panama?) is a politician and talks in reverse of the truth as they all do. When he says that Nicaragua and Costa Rica are friends of the United States, they really mean under control of the U.S. Meanwhile Venezuela is run by people who are taking care of the poor, building schools, roads and hospitals for the poor. 

When was the last time you saw a road built in Costa Rica that served the poor? When was the last time you saw in Costa Rica a hospital or clinic built that served the poor? Costa Rica complains of no money as it's excuse for potholes, lack of health care, and lousy education. Then how come Costa Rica owes over $4 billion to the world bankers? Where did the money go?

The Central America Free Trade Agreement is bad for all countries in Central America. It just allows the U.S. and European bankers to put the final strangle hold on their colonies in Latin America. It forces these countries to produce certain agricultural products and not produce others which will have the effect of wiping out the small farmer and producing large commercial farms owned by foreigner bankers. It will lower the wages and increase prices in central America. It will force fascism and slavery upon us. 

Maybe it's time to move to Venezuela and support the people, not the bankers!

Bob Jones
Tilaran, Costa Rica 

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Editus to give benefit concert
for Women’s Club scholarships

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A three-time Grammy award-winning group will perform a benefit concert for the Women's Club of Costa Rica at the National Auditorium May 8 at 5 p.m.

The group, Editus, is native to Costa Rica and has played throughout the Latin America and the United States. The trio has embraced their Latin heritage by combining Caribbean influences with Jazz harmonies and classical design. 

Proceeds from the concert will go to provide scholarships for disadvantaged students, and funds to improve rural schools.

Tickets for the concert are 10,000 colons ($21.50) and all seating is reserved. For more information contact Grace Woodman 249-1208, Linda Manoll 249-2345, or Pat MacKinnon 285-1276.
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By Sunday
32 Teams

A block behind the INS building in Barrio Amón

Some additional thoughts on 'the quick and the dead'
Condolences and expression of sympathy from readers have been very touching and heartening to me.  And I thank all of you. Although Bill White was a stranger to many of you, and you know me only through my column, you took time to express your thoughts and prayers.

One e-mail (which I cannot now seem to find) said it was sad that we don’t project when we experience a loss to think of the many deaths and losses that war brings, and that if we did, there might be fewer wars.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t mourn the innocent lives lost in Iraq and those left behind.  Bill and I talked about "collateral damage" just about every day, and what a cold and dismissive word that is.

I have also received a number of explanations of the meaning and origin of "the quick and the dead."  John tells me that it is originally from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and also a phrase in the Catholic Mass in a prayer about the last judgment when God will come to judge everyone — "both the quick and the dead." 

Robert gave me the explanation that it came into use in World War II. As a soldier, If you heard a clink of metal or saw the glint of reflected sunlight, you hit the ground fast. Because there were two types of soldiers: the quick or the dead. I never learned that use, but I did read "The Naked and the Dead," a remarkable novel about World War II. (Another remarkable novel about the war from the other side was "The Iron Cross" by a German writer whose name I cannot remember.) 

I do remember the phrase, "Loose lips sink ships."  Fortunately I was not so little when I first heard that phrase, or I probably would have spent the rest of my life with my lips tightly pursed looking angry and uncommunicative. 

I rather like Silverado’s explanation: he said "the quick and the dead" started in the U.S. Wild West where everyone was trying to be known as the fastest draw.  There were two kinds of gunfighters: the quick and the dead.

And even my editor, Jay Brodell offered his research.  The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable of 1898 says, "Quick ? living, hence animated, hence, fast, active, brisk."  I guess I was not as far off when I was little as I have

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

thought. I also bet that Shakespeare probably used the phrase somewhere in one of his plays.

And Mike diagnosed the condition of going somewhere and leaving my thought behind.  He said it is "destinesia."  Thanks, Mike.

I also received two invitations to visit the University of Costa Rica campus again. On Tuesday night there was a free piano and viola concert in Room 107 of the music building.  I again got a chance to walk the campus, this time at night. The pathways of the campus are not well lit at night and everything looks pretty mysterious.  I passed a stand of bamboo and crossed a creek I could hear burbling. 

Heading in the direction of traffic noise and lights, I found my way to a taxi.  I did not feel afraid. But I am not sure if that is because I could sense there was nothing to be afraid of — I have no idea what the incidence of crime on campus is — or if I was being another foolish tourist, who because she is in another country, feels that everyone will look kindly upon her.  Either way, I made it home safely.

Quite a few people are concerned that Costa Rica is no longer the paradise that it used to be.  I am sad to inform you (my point of view, only) that along with global warming and, the global market, there seems to be a growing global angst as the chasm between the haves and the have-nots grows. 

Side by side with the growth of religion there seems to be the growth of anger and violence.  I cannot explain it. Perhaps some people are not content with their lot. In Costa Rica, most crimes hit home because everyone knows either the victim or someone who knows the victim.  As I have said before, Costa Rica is a small town.  That is its charm, and sometimes its pain.

Off to Heredia in the search of an authentic paella
When the Moors occupied Europe, they introduced sweets, table grapes, nuts, pasta, and rice, among other comestibles. Spaniards learned from them to cultivate rice along the Mediterranean coast and to match the grain with the dish to best absorb and express the flavors. Among the wealthy, it was fashionable to add more expensive and sweeter ingredients. Thus, the foremothers of arroz con leche were born of rice, almond milk, cream and honey. 

After the Moors were expelled during the Inquisition at the end of the 15th century, the waterways they built to grow rice remained. Marsh malaria became so prevalent that rice production became illegal, but farmers chose to break the law rather than to starve. The royal decree banning cultivation was lifted in 1860, about the time that paella first appeared in the fields of the Albufera region of southern Spain. 

Fieldhands built open fires and cooked local short grain rice in shallow pans with whatever they found in the fields: rabbit, chicken, artichokes, snails, tomatoes and peas from their gardens, dried beans from home or, if they lived along the coast, fish, mussels or crabs. In the past 145 years, literally thousands of variations on the paella theme have emerged, many bearing no resemblance to the original or ideal.

To be "authentic" what characteristics should the ideal paella preserve?

First, it should be cooked over an open fire. The little bit of smoky flavor from wood is ideal but less practical in the home or restaurant than in a field. A friend uses a dash of Liquid Smoke in his kitchen over a pair of adjacent gas burners. He rotates the pan a half turn every few minutes. The heat should begin very intense and then diminish during cooking. Just before serving, however, the cook should raise the heat to form a browned thin crust of crunchy rice on the bottom, the socarrat.

The pan should be wide and shallow, fit to the width of the heat source to assure even cooking. If it has the traditional pair of handles, it can be placed on a trivet on the table. Intact presentation is a must.

The essence of paella is the rice, all but bursting with the absorbed flavors of the ingredients. The choice of rice is therefore all important, and it must be absorbent, firm when cooked and not so gluten rich that the individual grains stick to each other. The short grain Bomba variety native to southern Spain seems to work best, but requires twice the cooking time of other short grain varieties  (30 rather than 15 minutes). Undercooked rice is hard, overcooked mushy. The goal is plump, tender and dry on the outside. Basmati is too fluffy, Asian too sticky, long grain insufficiently absorbent and Arborio too creamy.

The last "authentic"  feature is saffron. Even poor Spanish farmers looked upon the color and aroma of a few strands of the precious crocus stamens as essential. Our Spanish neighbors 55 years ago cooked over charcoal in the back yard and made paella with a mixture of paprika and turmeric, garlic, chicken necks and wings, chorizo, clams, pimentos and peas. Saffron was unavailable.

Joan and I ordered our paella in advance by phone as we headed off to Santa Domingo de Heredia to Ceviche Del Rey with two lifelong friends. The oldest in a chain of Peruvian seafood restaurants, the Santa Domingo 

Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


branch has the reputation for the best paella. The other branches are not identical and garner mixed reviews. 

We were greeted by a very attentive and friendly waiter and waitress in clean and pleasant surroundings, appropriately simple for a meager mall entrance, neither lavish nor romantic.  The other diners were feasting on large platters of seafood dishes, a variety of smashed potato appetizers and giant bowls of parihuela, typical Peruvian seafood soup loaded with goodies in an enormous deep bowl. The ceviche was Peruvian style with a little hot sauce and sweet red onion offset by yam and corn.

Our paella came to the table in a pair of pans for two, visually splendid and delightfully aromatic. The surface displayed a half lobster tail, crab and giant prawn for each diner plus shrimp, octopus and green lip mussels. The rice was plump and flavorful, the seafood minimally overcooked but still delicious and plentiful. A little garlic added flavor and green peas and sweet red pepper added color. As a dish of seafood and rice, it hit the mark. All four of us were pleased. 

But was it paella? Does it even matter? No saffron, no bottom crust, no smoky essence, a little unabsorbed puddle of broth on the bottom. For about $11 a person, we ate very well and even had a leftover doggie box that went well, mixed with fluffy scrambled eggs for breakfast. We sampled a few desserts that were decent and had a reasonably priced Chilean white with the meal.

Ceviche Del Rey, Santa Domingo de Heredia, in El Centro Comercial across from the library

´´´ for the paella

$$$ for the paella

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Monday through Thursday. 11:30  a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Word of Mouth:

S. Yamada writes that a Japanese toxicologist friend has reservations about the safety of Costa Rican sushi and sashimi because of a practice of storing fillets next to whole fish. It seems that there is potential for whole fish to spread surface bacteria to the fillets. I have noticed fillets next to whole fish in many markets, but not in display cases in Japanese restaurants. We might all take notice in the future. Thanks for the heads up, Yamada-san.

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Banking, mining and media hit, too
Nicaraguan assembly votes to raise taxes on casinos
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — The Asamblea Nacional of Nicaragua closed for the Semana Santa holiday Thursday after a stormy session that increased taxes for three areas of the national economy and passed a controversial measure hiking importation taxes for radio, television and print media.

The banking, casino and mining industries will pay increased taxes in the coming months as the result of a fiscal reform package passed by the assembly in the face of a 600 million cordoba ($37 million) current account deficit for the current year.

The banking industry will increase monthly payments to the income tax system and expand coverage of insured accounts to strengthen the financial system and avoid a repetition of the series of costly bank failures as seen in the year 2000.

The casino industry will increase tax payments to an estimated amount of 45 million cordobas ($2.7 million) in the current fiscal year. The casinos and slot machine industry will pay a device fee of $25 per month for every slot machine that is authorized by the national police and a table game tax of $200 dollars per month. 

Still pending is a complete gaming regulation bill which is being refined with participation of representatives of 

the casino industry and Dirección General de Ingresos (DGI), the Nicaraguan tax collecting authority. The DGI is receiving technical assistance by representatives of U.S. Agency for International Development and the US Treasury Department. This assistance is prompted by an accord similar in character to the agreement signed Wednesday by Costa Rican tax authorities with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

The mining industry lost a number of waivers for the introduction of mining equipment that will result in higher importation and production costs. The mining sector is dominated by gold mines located in the triangle near the municipality of Rosita. The passage of the tax measures was critical for Nicaragua to continue in the program of fiscal cooperation with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

In addition to the tax reform measures proposed by Enrique Bolaños, the president of Nicaragua, the assembly in an independent bill also eliminated the tax waiver for importation of equipment, vehicles and prime materials such as paper and ink for the broadcast and print media. 

This highly unpopular measure was decried as an act of vengeance committed by the members of the assembly for the persistent criticism of political corruption by the press and broadcast media against the two majority parties.

Desamparados tailor faces allegations of sexually exploiting minors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials arrested a suspect who is believed to have sexually abused several children, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policia y Seguridad Pública. The arrest was Thursday in Desamparados.

Officials from the Unidad Contra la Explotación Sexual arrested the suspect, identified by his last name as Velázquez. Velázquez, 38, is of Honduran decent and lived and worked in Desamparados. He ran a tailor shop.

According to the report, officials believe that Velázquez invited several minors from a nearby school to his place of business. Officials said that they believe that Velázquez showed the children pornographic material and abused them sexually. They also said pornographic DVDs were involved.

Officials said that they confiscated a large amount of pornographic material from the house of Velázquez during the seizure. They said that they plan to use the material against Velázquez in court.

Prosecutor wants six more months in prison for ex-president Calderón
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The prosecutor investigating former president Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier doesn’t want him to go home any time soon.

The Fiscalía de Delitos Económicos filed a request Thursday for six more months of preventative detention for Calderón. The request was before a judge in the Juzgado Penal del II Circuito Judicial.

Calderón has been in La Reforma prison, but his term of pre-trial detention is supposed to expire Tuesday, 

according to a spokesman for the Poder Judicial.

The judge must make a decision by Tuesday.

Another ex-president, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverria, got out of La Reforma Wednesday after a judge agreed to let him spend his preventative detention under house arrest. The former president also had to mortgage personal property and post more than $500,000 in bail.

Both presidents face allegations of corruption in office involving contracts with state agencies.

Jo Stuart
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