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(506) 223-1327         Published Tuesday, March 18, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 55            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Polluting Papagayo hotel is allowed to open again
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Hotel Allegro Papagayo has re-opened just in time for Semana Santa, despite being guilty of contaminating the sea and causing Manzanillo Beach to lose its blue flag environmental certification.

The Ministerio de Salud  shut down the four-star hotel, located on the Golfo de Papagayo, in the first week of February, forcing management to send its 600 guests elsewhere.

An investigation showed that the hotel's sewage treatment facilities were shockingly inadequate to deal with the demand. It disposed of its untreated waste waters in dubious manners, including running a pipe into a nearby river.

María Luisa Ávila Agüero, the minister of Salud, said that she would take a firm hand against any hotel that was caught contaminating Costa Rica's environment and that any would face closure.
She added that she was placed under strong pressure not to go ahead with the original closure from the Spanish owners of the hotel, which is part of the Occidental Hotels and Resorts chain.

Two days after this statement, the hotel was re-opened, running at a limited capacity.

Until a new sewage treatment plant is installed, the hotel will have 120 out of its 300 rooms available for use by tourists.

“The hotel has made some repairs to their sewage system,” said Ivan Chavarría, an environmental worker for the Liberia office of the health ministry. “It is not big enough to deal with the entire capacity of the hotel, so they will have to wait until the new plant is installed to re-open the other rooms.”

Alonzo Ruiz, a hotel Allegro Papagayo staff member, said that the company expects the treatment plant to be ready within three months, and managers expect to re-open with full capacity at that time.

Avenida 2 once again became an outdoor church Monday night as hundreds of the faithful marched along with floats and stopped to commemorate the key events on the journey of Jesus Christ to Calvary and his death.

They all were there: the clerics, the Romans, the members of various church organizations.

They will be marching frequently this week, and your guide to these events is HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 55

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Cable ship off Parrita expected
to make vital data line hookup

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A cable ship will be off Parrita at the end of this week to lay the connection to Costa Rica's third international transmission line, according to the national telecommunications giant.

This is the final operation to hook up the country to the Global Crossings network in the Pacific. The third cable will augment the Arcos and Maya cables in the Caribbean.

The local connection for the cable is at Esterillos de Parrita, and facilities have been constructed there to link the international cable to the national network. The local facility has been called Estación Unqui by the government telecommunication provider, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

The company said that the line from shore will go 170 kms. (about 105 miles) out to sea to connect with the cable that already runs from California to Panamá. The company said the connection would increase the country's international capacity by 35 percent.

Killer of U.S. expat gets
20 years in prison for crime

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A murderer who stabbed an American citizen to death in his Pavas apartment has been sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Tribunal de Juicio de San José.

The Costa Rican killer, a man with the surnames Jiménez Avendaño, was found guilty of the aggravated robbery and homicide of Mark Judson Watkins, a 58-year-old retiree who came to Costa Rica from Florida and was known for helping disadvantaged people.

Watkins was found dead in his apartment in Rohmoser, Pavas, on the morning of Sept. 21, 2006, by his driver. He was lying on his sofa bed partially clothed, and had suffered three stab wounds to the body, investigators said at the time.

Neighbors of Watkins reported seeing two men and a woman leaving the house shortly after the crime, but so far only one man has been arrested. The other man is said to have died in gun play Dec. 16, 2006, in San Juan de Dios de Desamparados. Jiménez Avendaño, 35, was detained in Villa Esperanza de Pavas in June 2007.  Investigations established robbery as the motive of the crime,

Our readers' opinions
Carbonized sugar a danger
to stomachs of humans

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This is a letter of response to an article in the March 11 issue [about coffee beans roasted with sugar having more antioxidants.]
May I respond to Ms. Lopez´s article of March 11th? Ms. Lopez is a biologist in the University de Navara. The poorer Costa Ricans have a high rate of stomach cancer. The principal causitive factor is their consumption of coffee with sugar added and burned in the roasting process. This sugar is carbonized and thus becomes carcinogenic.
John W. Erb

China has two faces,
Manuel Antonio reader says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How ironic that on the same day that A. M. Costa Rica reported that China would be the "guest of honor" at this year's Festival Internacional de Las Artes, the Chinese army, which has occupied and brutally suppressed Tibet for almost 50 years, was murdering protesters in the streets of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

Don Óscar has hitched Costa Rica's oxcart to one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world because the Chinese Communist government has billions of yen to toss around, profits realized from the sale of toxic toothpaste, poisoned pet food and lead-laced toys, often produced by forced labor.

And of course any and all protest that may emerge from within Costa Rica against the ongoing brutality in Tibet will be dutifully muzzled by the Arias administration so as not to offend their new sugar daddy from the East.

Truly a pathetic and shameful situation all around.

Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 55

Tamarindo gets its lifeguards in time for Semana Santa
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The drowning of an American tourist off the beach of Tamarindo has led to the reinstatement of the lifeguard program that could have saved his life.

Matt McParland, a 42-year-old chiropractor from Illinois, died when he was caught in a rip current in the Pacific Ocean while on holiday in January.

Multitudes of swimmers and surfers that visit Tamarindo each month have been left without vigilance since September, when the lifeguard program was canceled due to lack of funding.

After the fatal incident, friends of McParland took their concerns to the Asociación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo and the Asociación Nacional de Salvavidas in an attempt to re-animate the program.

Anne McKillican and her sister-in-law Cheryl, who met McParland in the United States but who have lived in Tamarindo with their families for several years, have since managed to get the financial support of 16 local businesses, including hotels, surf schools and a bank.

A regular monthly donation by each of these, ranging in amount from $200 to $1,300, will provide the money needed to keep the lifeguard program running year round, the organizers hope. The monthly cost of the program is around $5,000.

“When the program was canceled because we couldn't get enough funding, we said that people will react when someone drowns,” said Federico Amador, director of the
Asociación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo. “That's what happened, sadly, and now people understand the need to have lifeguards on duty.”

The Hotel Diría, where McParland was staying with a  group of colleagues, put the finishing touches to their repairs of the lifeguard tower immediately outside its doors this weekend.

From Monday, the full quota of three lifeguards stationed in three towers will be operating again. Two lifeguards stationed in one tower have been patrolling the beach since March 6, waiting for repairs on the other towers to be completed.

“In Semana Santa, a lot of tourists and residents come here, and we need to be prepared,” continued Amador.

Anne McKillican stressed, however, that there is still more to be done in the future.

“We need more equipment,” she said. “We have fins, but we need binoculars and more flotation devices. In the future, we'd also like a fourth tower that would be the central station, and we want to get the blue flag certification back within the year.”

Concerns about the old lifeguard program included that the lifeguards did not behave in a professional manner. Mrs. McKillican said that the new lifeguards have a much better reputation and thus she and her associates expect the community to support the scheme.

More information on the plan can be found by calling the Associación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo on 653-1679.

Holy Week evenings are full of religious processions
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the streets of San José may be hushed and deserted during the days of Holy Week, at night the streets are aglow with candles, singing, and sacred figures, as Catholic processions prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Monday night, young and old marched behind a figure of Jesus and the Virgin Mary and performed the stations of the cross. The procession began at the Iglesia La Merced and ended at the Catedral Metropolitana. In their walk, followers

procession watchers
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Spectators at the procession Monday night were Isabel Hidalgo Fallas with her grandchildren Marco, 8, and Stephanie, 5.
stopped to pray and sing at locations representing the march by Christ to Calvary.

Semana Santa or Holy week will be full of processions and Masses as followers remember the key element in Christianity. Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Ureña will lead many of the ceremonies which are coordinated, in part, by the Municipalidad de San José.

Tuesday at 6 p.m the Banda Nacional de San José will perform in a Gala de Semana Santa  at the Catedral Metropolitana.

Wednesday, the Procesión con El Señor Atado a la Columna or "Jesus tied to the column" will start at the cathedral at 6 p.m.

Thursday participants dressed as Roman soldiers will beat drums in the Procesión del Silencio which marks the day before the death of Christ. The procession will exit the cathedral at 5:30 p.m. and go north to Avenida Central.

The Good Friday procession of Jesus of Nazareth will leave Iglesia El Carmen at 10 a.m. A representation of Jesus will carry the cross of Calvary on his back as the procession heads west on Avenida 3, continues to Calle 2 and to the Banco de Costa Rica. The march will end with the appearance of the Virgin Dolorosa at Iglesia La Dolorosa.

An image of the Virgin Mary will be dressed in black mourning clothes in the Procesión la Imagen de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad Saturday at 4 p.m. The procession will begin at Iglesia La Soledad starting out north on Calle 9 through avenidas 2 and 4, and returning once again to the church.
The Easter Sunday celebration parade will begin at 10 a.m. The Alegre Procesión leaves from the Iglesia La Merced at 10 a.m. and continues to the cathedral. The event is followed by Easter Mass at the cathedral.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 55

The denucio department is still working 24 hours a day
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Certain crimes go up in Costa Rica during the holy week, according to a judicial spokeswoman: House burglaries, because many Central valley residents are vacationing at the beach, and domestic violence, most likely due to the high liquor consumption during Easter celebrations.

Semana Santa is one of the busiest for the department of denuncios, said a spokeswoman for the Judicial Investigation Organization. Denucio means "complaint" in Spanish.

Giselle Bonilla Hérnandez, who has worked in the denuncios office for 14 years, said since the rest of the offices in the organization are closed, most victims flock to
the 24-hour department. Although domestic violence and robbery cases are much higher during this time of the year, said Ms. Bonilla, there is no great increase in crimes against tourists in the San José area.

The office of denuncios, where victims go first to report crimes, is located in the Judicial Investigation Organization building, the middle one in the judicial complex between avenidas 6 and 8. The office will keep its normal 24-hour, 7-day schedule during Holy Week, said Ms. Bonilla.

There are four employees in the denuncios department who speak English, according to Ms. Bonilla. There are certain shifts, however, when an English speaker is working, she added. No other languages aside from Spanish and English are spoken in the department, said Ms. Bonilla.

Nine persons died over the weekend as the long holiday got off to its start
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Holy Week began Sunday and nine persons had already died violently by Monday morning, said the Cruz Roja.

Five people died in car accidents and three from gunfire or stabbing, according to Cruz Roja reports. Cruz Roja paramedics attended 25 patients in critical condition from Sunday to Monday morning, said the spokesman. Four additional violent deaths were reported Saturday, said the spokesman. That brought the death toll from Saturday to Monday up to 13.
Cruz Roja reported that the agency was prepared to assist vacationers during the busy Semana Santa. Saturday Cruz Roja initiated additional units for the week and Wednesday will welcome 106 Cruz Roja posts on the beaches, mountains, and highways, said a Cruz Roja spokesman.

Some 800 Cruz Roja employees will be covering the country including doctors, paramedics, ambulance drivers, phone operators, psychologists, mountain and water rescue teams, and a special canine unit. Additional boats and ambulances will be stationed at the beaches where many are already vacationing.

Human rights group says Ecuador's Correa is inconsistent in defining 'terrorist'
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Despite three court rulings ordering the release of Guadalupe Llori, opposition governor of the Ecuadorian province of Orellana, the government of President Rafael Correa continues to deny her freedom, accusing her of “terrorism.” Meanwhile, President Correa’s officials admit to having met with representatives of a terrorist organization.

“Ecuador has become a topsy-turvy land where a state governor is incarcerated on trumped-up charges of terrorism and held without evidence, while the government’s top national security official meets with the deadliest terrorist organization in the hemisphere, purportedly to establish formal relations,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.

The Ecuadorian army arrested Guadalupe Llori, prefect of Orellana Dec. 7. She was detained following protests that paralyzed some of Ecuador’s oil production sites in Dayuma, a small village located in Ecuador’s Amazonian region. The protests erupted after the government failed to make payments to contractors building infrastructure in the province. Ms. Llori was accused of organizing the protests, and President Correa stated that he considered the protests “terrorism.”

To date, the prosecution has failed to present any credible evidence to support its accusations. More disturbingly, prosecutors presented embezzlement charges against Ms. Llori after she was imprisoned, apparently to keep her in 
prison and thus bring about her immediate impeachment from office. “This case appears to be politically motivated. There is no evidence against Prefect Llori and removing her from office would be very convenient for the Correa government,” said Halvorssen.

Feb. 20 the Human Rights Foundation sent a letter to Correa denouncing the denial of habeas corpus and  violations to due process in Ms. Llori’s case. The letter was widely reported in the Ecuadorian media. Correa’s office has acknowledged receipt of the letter but has yet to issue a response.

President Correa’s administration has also ignored three release orders granted to Ms. Llori by the supreme court of Nueva Loja. After Ecuador’s Constituent Assembly offered to set up a commission to investigate the events in Dayuma, Correa threatened to resign if a commission were created.

March 1 Colombia’s army killed Luis Edgar Devia Silva, otherwise known as Raúl Reyes, in a raid in the Sucumbíos jungle bordering the Orellana province. Reyes is believed to have been a senior leader of Colombia’s Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, classified as a terrorist organization by 27 member states of the European Union, the United States and Canada.

Reyes’ laptop computers apparently contained detailed information about meetings held between Ecuador’s minister of security, Gustavo Larrea, and Reyes. Larrea has publicly admitted that the purported intention was to establish, on President Correa’s orders, official relations between the government of Ecuador and the rebels.

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U.S. image overseas appears to be at an all-time low
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The image of the United States has suffered as a result of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. Opinion surveys show international approval of the United States at all-time lows.

America's continued involvement in Iraq remains a major irritant in global perceptions of the United States.

Since 2003, demonstrations against the United States have

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become commonplace, and not just in countries historically opposed to U.S. policies. Major protests against the U.S.-led war in Iraq have been mounted in dozens of countries allied with Washington, including Canada, Britain, Germany, and Japan.

America's image has perhaps suffered the most in the Arab world, according to Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.

"The situation is going from bad to worse when it comes to the image of the U.S.  The feelings, the friendly feelings that prevailed for so many years in the Arab world vis-à-vis America and vice-versa — but the recent developments in fact have derailed those relations and those feelings," Moussa said.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths, the documented abuse of Iraqi prisoners, and the emergence of a Shi'ite-dominated government alongside Shi'ite-led Iran have made Arab allies uneasy about U.S. policies in the region. By all accounts, America's image as a champion of the rule of law and human rights has suffered as a result.

But the damage extends well beyond the Middle East. Mamadi Kaba is a human rights activist in Guinea.

"The reputation of the United States of America has been affected by the war in Iraq, because of Abu Ghraib," Kaba said, speaking of the infamous prison.

Even in countries that sent troops to Iraq, the war is unpopular. A London resident had this to say:

"Each time America marches in somewhere, it highlights the fact that it tends to act as global policemen," he said.

The Washington-based Pew Research Center monitors global perceptions of the United States through surveys conducted in dozens of countries. Pew President Andrew Kohut summed up the Iraq war's impact.

"It has been one of the, if not the principle reasons behind the worldwide rise in anti-Americanism since 2001," Kohut said.

President George Bush is often the target of anti-American demonstrations. But the United States as a whole has not been spared from global public opinion. Mark Glancy is an expert on Anglo-American relations at Queen Mary, University of London.

"I think it is entirely culturally acceptable now in Britain to be anti-American. And that is a legacy of the war," Glancy said.

Some, like Cairo taxi driver Saad Awad says all is not lost, that the United States can rehabilitate its image.

He says, to do so, the United States must end the occupation of Iraq and let Iraqis depend on themselves. He says everything taking place in Iraq is because of the U.S. occupation.

President Bush has stated he will bring American forces home as quickly as the situation in Iraq allows. Andrew Kohut says, if Iraq is stabilized, lasting democracy takes root, and most U.S. combat forces withdraw, he expects global anger over the U.S. involvement in Iraq to subside.

"Certainly if Iraq becomes a success story, that might change a number of minds. But the larger issue of the way we play the game, and our power, will remain," Kohut said.

Presidential candidates of both major U.S. political parties have said that repairing America's image abroad will be a top priority upon taking office.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 55

Nation's top bicycle racer to represent country in Olympics
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The champion of the Ruta de la Conquistadores will be heading east this summer, as he was recently chosen as Costa Rica's representative for the cross country cycling race of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Federico “Lico” Ramirez came in with the quickest time in Costa Rica's coast-to-coast bike race, which was held in November, for the fourth time.

 Other conquests have included winning the Copa Nacional XCO and the Campeonato Nacional XCO last year, as well as taking fourth place in the European Trans Alp race, and second in the Trans Rockies race.  
The Costa Rican Cycling Federation made the decision based on these achievements, and added that Ramirez will be joined by Henry Raabe as the road racing representative. Raabe has twice won La Vuelta a Costa Rica, the country's most important international road race.

“I’m very happy about this opportunity,” said the 31-year-old Ramirez. “This is what every cyclist dreams about. I hope to do the best for my country and will now work thinking about that single goal.”

As preparation for their Olympic campaign, the two will head to Europe for two months. The trip will be sponsored by the Costa Rican Cycling Federation and their team, the BCR-Pizza Hut Cycling Team.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 55

bailando brazil

Brazilian group 'Bailando Brazil' will be performing to the music of traditional instruments during the Fiesa Brasileña held by the Costa Rica Women's Club

Brazilian flavors to entertain diners at Women's Club fundraiser
Brazilian musicians will be the guests at the Women's Club of Costa Rica's next fundraising night, filling the El Rodeo Country Inn in San Antonio de Belén with exotic sounds and dancing.

The Fiesta Brasileña offers a full night from welcome drinks and dinner to dancing and a silent auction.

Dance group Bailando Brasil will be in charge of the entertainment, dressed in elaborate costumes and dancing to the rythms of bossa nova and samba played on traditional Brazilian instruments.
The group has been around for a year and has performed in national events such as the Teletón 2007 and the Brazilian Carnival.

Proceeds from the $30 (15,000 colons) tickets, the raffle and auction go to scholarships for economically disadvantaged high school students and to the development of libraries in public and primary schools in Costa Rica.

The event takes place on April 5, at 6 p.m. For tickets and information, call 285-1276, from the Asociación de Residentes de Costa Rica on 233-1276 or mail

Art Galleries ....

Rembrandt exhibition opens to high acclaim in downtown San José

Rembrandt etching
Hailed as the most important exhibition of the year, a collection of the Dutch master Rembrandt's etchings opened amid much praise Thursday.

The 48 etchings usually reside in Amsterdam's Rembrandt House Museum, where the artist lived for about 20 years from 1620-40. They were collaboratively chosen from a wider collection by Dora Maria Sequiera, the director of Museos del Banco Central and Ed de Heer, the director of the Rembrandt House Museum.

Although now better known for his marvelous paintings that capture intense emotion, facial expression, and deeply contrasted light and shadow, the etchings that are now on show in San José are considered by art buffs to be just as important.

“Rembrandt was the most influential and original etchers possibly of all time,” said de Heer. “He is a shining beacon because he changed etching from a reproductive medium to a fully fledged artistic medium.

“He used all sorts of different techniques to get all the possibilities out of the medium — he printed on copper plate, parchment, even sheepskin to make luxurious editions of prints. He didn't want any two to be the same.”

There is no sheepskin involved in this exhibition, as some of the finer materials are too fragile to export for exhibition in humid tropical countries like Costa Rica. The collection does, however,  but include something from each of Rembrandt's main themes.

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Imagen V show has a few gems but a pack of clinkers, too

videoartshowNew media art is always a bit hit and miss with the potential to come across as a foundationless piece of pretension if it is not done well.

The Bienal Iberoamericana Inquieta Imagen V, a competition for video artists from across Latin America, is a good example of this, containing a few pieces that engage well with the subject and make the most of their medium, but many that leave the viewer cold.

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Mistaken identity? No such thing, says new exhibition

historiaoficialCosta Rica is a land of volatile volcanoes, orchids, coffee fincas, Catholicism and Ticos.

Or you could say it's a country of wide seashores, football stadiums, fast food restaurants and beach towns overtaken by Gringos.

Some are clichéd symbols of a tourist nation, while others are part of the country's changing culture, but all are involved in Museo de Arte Costarricense's new exhibition that challenges viewers to reconsider their own perceptions of the nation.

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Mini-mall comes to the rescue of the not-rich-but-hungry

food court

For those in the know, there is a clean, affordable, relatively quiet gastronomic surprise off the pedestrian mall in downtown San Jose.  Between Arenas clothing store and the Patio Restaurant, behind a perfume counter and a Pops Ice Cream sits a food court without a McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway or Church's Chicken in sight. 

Tropical Food is a counter selling relatively healthy food.  While their batidos aren't as delicious as the ones found at FrutiLand in Mall San Pedro, the water-or-milk-
blended-with-fruit drink is a refreshing treat to carry during your walk along Avenida Central.  A batido with the fruit of your choice mixed with water costs 650 colons, with milk, 750 colons.  That's from $1.30 to $1.50.

Adding honey or granola takes you up to a still-reasonable 900 colons ($1.80).  The store also peddles fruit salads, ranging from 700 to 1.600 colons ($1.40 to $3.20).

Marisqueria produces delicious looking and smelling seafood dishes.  A customer-friendly hanging chalkboard lists their menu and respective prices.  A small corvina ceviche will set you back 1,950 colons ($3.90).  Get a small rice with shrimp for 2.150 colons ($4.30), 2,800 ($5.60) for a larger serving.  Or try one of the fish filets prepared several different ways, the cheapest being with oil and garlic for 2,600 ($5.20) colons, the priciest fish filet dish is 3,600 colons ($7.20) for relleno with ham and cheese.

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Festive season proves troublesome even for established restaurant

vealBeing a chef in a busy kitchen must be a pretty stressful job, but around Christmas stress is something any successful restaurant should factor in as inevitable.

On a second visit to well-reputed French restaurant Le Chandelier, it soon became obvious that the staff were poorly equipped for the onslaught of Christmas party diners on a Tuesday night, leaving the usually decent food to deteriorate into a procession of almost inedible starters and bland entrees.

Set in an old San Pedro house with brick ceilings and wooden beams that was converted into a restaurant around 15 years ago by Swiss owner Claude Dubuis, Le Chandelier purports to offer French cuisine that has been developed over generations of experience.

Click here to read the full review

A great meal is not all in the presentation

musslesandfondue120407With a vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees lining the pathway and posh lighting, one would not expect Saga restaurant to be settled behind a dull parking lot in Escazú.

Although this restaurant may look out of place, it doesn't deviate much from the norm in Escazú, an area many would classify as suburban sprawl.

The majority of the cuisine at Saga seems to fit with the setting: classy presentation, yet lacking any profound flavors. Although the restaurant boasts itself as an “international food restaurant” on its Web site, much of the inspired cuisine is lacking the depth which would be found in authentic dishes.

Click here to read the full review

Dramatic Arts ...
Prize-winning contemporary dancers to explore environmental issues

Dance takes on the environment this week, as prize-winning contemporary group Metamorfosis premieres its show “70% Agua.”

The Costa Rican dance group, which was honoured with 2007's national culture prize for best dance group, will bring together elements of theater, circus, video, photography and music to amplify the theme.

Water, its vital importance to human beings, and the problems that the world faces in finding enough water for all of its inhabitants is the idea that inspired the composition.

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Sunny days in San José complemented by free concerts

The hot dry days are being put to good cultural use by the Museos del Banco Central with a series of outdoor concerts in the middle of the downtown area.

Hundreds of shoppers stopped to lean over the balcony in Plaza de la Cultura for the first concert, when the Costa Rican singer MAF and her band played a sunny set of pop tunes outside the doors of the museum.

Although the series is named 'Conciertos en las gradas', fewer people sat to on the steps outside the Museo de Oro than stood around the edges, looking down at the stage.

The final concert of the series will be on March 29, with trio Villegas playing some classic Spanish rock from 2 p.m.
Festivals ...
Flamingo Beach to be filled with magic this Easter

Easter celebrations will take to the beach on Easter Saturday as Playa Flamingo is filled with bonfires, BBQs and art.

An event called “Magic Playa” will be held by Asociación CEPIA, as a follow up to events it has held on the Guanacaste beach for the last two years running.

More than 400 people are expected at the event, where the summer delights of slightly charred BBQ food and outdoor drinking will be complemented by music, dancing, and a fire show.

Decoration is also not forgotten, with art group JAGUART putting on a display of local artists.

The charity that is putting on the show works with  children in the Guanacaste area, giving them the chance to participate in cultural and educational activities that they would otherwise not have access to.

It has held a circus and a fashion show in past years in order to raise funds.

It is hoping to raise $10,000 from selling the $20 entrance fees ($25 on the door) and fundraising during the evening, which would represent almost a tenth of the charity's annual turnover.

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International acts to make rare festival appearance in Costa Rica

Excitement is rising over the announcement of headline acts for Festival Imperial, Costa Rica's most highly anticipated music festival of the year.

Costa Rica is often missed off the list when world-famous bands are compiling their top international touring spots, but the second edition of the beer-backed festival is set to attract a few top names.

Two years ago, the first Festival Imperial brought Sting and Jamiroquai to Costa Rica, while also promoting national bands such as Gandhi and Malpais, and April 2008's edition of the event promises similar quality.

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Duran Duran in concert

British group Duran Duran will headline Festival
Books ...

Land use in Costa Rica documented by Fulbright scholar

Forty years of living in the jungle, moving between secluded forestry stations and research labs, has led Louisiana resident and NASA veteran
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce to write a book about the changing uses of land in Costa Rica.

After winning a presitgious Fulbright scholarship in 1998, he came back to Costa Rica to revisit forest sites that he worked on over three decades earlier as a graduate student. 

Some of the earliest satellite technology available was used in 1966 to take arial photographs of Costa Rica's countryside, and the
book compares these black and white shots with up-to-date images.

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New book dwells on the social aspects of food

Food is not just a selfish pleasure or a way to stifle hunger, but is central to the evolution of art, according to a new book published by Museos del Banco Central.

Artworks by Costa Rican painters are the main content of the hardback book, “Imagenes para Comer,” which follows the representation of food in art since still life painting became popular in the Renaissance.

Full-color pictures of both traditional and modern works are far more common than recipes, as the author Marjorie Ross only provides seven recipes within the book.

All are traditional Costa Rican dishes showing influences from different sections of the community, such as corn fritters, white beans and chorizo and fruit salad.

The book focuses on the meanings that food has within society, and how these are portrayed by art.

Click here to read more

Playing from the small blind can be tricky
Playing correctly from the small blind can be frustrating and confusing.  On the one hand, you already have half the bet in the pot which should entice you to play more hands.  On the other, you’ll have to play out of position on every street which suggests that you should actually play fewer hands.

So what are you supposed to do from the small blind?

The answer depends on several variables including the size of your stack, the strength of your hand, and the type of opponent you’re facing.  In this column, we’ll focus on two of the most common situations you’ll face from the small blind.

Many players make the mistake of acting too aggressively in this situation.  They end up bleeding away their chips against a more experienced player in the big blind -- a player who will use his position to steal pots after the flop. 

In this situation, unless your opponent is a passive, conservative player, don’t raise too often.  Even a hand like Ac-6d won’t fare well when played from out of position.  That’s because experienced players will defend their big blinds with a wide variety of hands.  They understand the power of position and will usually try to exploit that advantage.

Skilled players will play a hand like Ac-6d with caution from the small blind.  Despite what you hear on television, it’s normally best to just call from the small blind.  Remember, though, you can’t do anything the same all of the time in poker.  You’ve got to be prepared to change gears.

If antes are in play in addition to the blinds, you can act a bit more aggressively from the small blind -- but not much.  Raising from the small blind with a marginal hand only invites the big blind to call, or even reraise.  Antes act to increase his pot odds and create a greater incentive for him to play.

The best advice when playing from the small blind is to mix up your play.  The general rules are to fold garbage hands, limp with marginal hands, and raise with hands that are strong enough to play big pots with.

Don’t allow your opponents, however, to pick up patterns in your play.  Occasionally call with pocket aces and raise with hands like 5s-8s. 

If another player has opened the pot with a raise, ignore the fact that you already have money in the pot.  Against a raise, play only those hands that you would stay in with if you were seated outside the blinds. 

This situation calls for tighter play than in any other position at the table.  If you do find a hand strong enough to play from the small blind, your best choice is usually to reraise before the flop in an attempt to neutralize your opponent’s positional advantage.

The position of the raiser is another determining factor in deciding how to play your hand.  For example, against a player who raised from early position, you can safely call with hands like 7-7 or Ah-Qh.  However, if the raise came from late position, there’s an increased chance that he’s attempting to steal the blinds.  If that’s the case, lean towards making a substantial reraise with most hands you’d be willing to play.

Special note to beginning players:  In this particular situation, if you don’t have a hand that’s strong enough to reraise with, you should fold before the flop.  A call from the small blind can prove troublesome.  If you do choose to play, your limited poker and people reading skills will be severely tested in post-flop play.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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