A.M. Costa Rica

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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, March 20, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 56          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Color it blue

The Teatro Nacional got a new look Sunday night as a series of new lights were switched on for the first time.

Many officials attended the event, which was supported by the government of France. French artist Allan Guillon planned the work. He has experience in lighting archaeological and heritage sites in Europe.

The project is one of many to make San José more beautiful.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Police arrest suspects in highway holdups
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police from several agencies detained four persons Sunday as suspects in the wave of robberies that have involved motorists and tourists near Juan Santamaría airport.

Police made the arrests in a joint operation Sunday afternoon, but few details were available except that three of those held were Colombian citizens. The men were arrrested during a highway stop.

The highways around the airport have become a hunting ground for gangs of motorized bandits who usually operate in the late evening. Last week, A.M. Costa Rica quoted a U.S. State Department document that said 11 groups of U.S. citizens have become victims since December.

Now the embassy confirms that two more rolling robberies have taken place on highways near the airport. Typically the bandits will run cars off the road or otherwise stop them. Unofficial reports say the bandits sometimes shoot out the tires of victims.

Three Costa Ricans became victims in an incident March 8, and two U.S. citizens were held up March 11, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson confirmed over the weekend. There was no additional information, but the spokesperson defended the way the embassy staff responded to the crimes.

A.M. Costa Rica reported the crimes only became known because the State Department updated its lengthy consular information sheet for Costa Rica. The news story said there was no independent warning issued by the embassy or placed on its Web site, which has a page for alerting U.S. citizens about criminal activity.

“The Embassy of the United States takes all reports of crimes committed against U.S.  citizens in Costa Rica seriously, and provides
assistance to the victims, including intervention with local authorities,” said the statement from the embassy spokesperson, adding:

“When it became clear that the recent armed robberies in the vicinity of the airport were not random crimes, but rather targeted attacks focused on a specific area at specific times, the embassy  immediately brought this to the attention of the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security, involving other embassies whose citizens had been similarly victimized and Costa Rican tourism officials.

“This obviously had an impact as these kinds of robberies stopped for several weeks, in all likelihood due to the embassy’s contact and the subsequent action taken by the Costa Rican authorities, such as increased patrolling in the area. Unfortunately, we learned of two recent attacks – one on March 11 involving two Americans, and one on March 8th involving three Costa Ricans.

“The embassy regularly reviews its Consular Information Sheet (CIS) to determine if it needs revision or updating.

"We informed Washington after the initial incidents and subsequently recommended an updating of the CIS to reflect the recent spate of armed robberies near the airport.

“It is not feasible, nor advisable to change the CIS every time the embassy receives a report from a U.S. citizen that they are a victim of a crime.  Revisions to the CIS must be approved in Washington.

“Significant developments are incorporated as they were in this instance. The embassy works closely with Costa Rican authorities on tourist security and there is considerable information on the crime, safety and security situation in Costa Rica on the Embassy Web site for those U.S. visitors who chose to research these issues before they travel.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 56

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Bus route changes
going into effect

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the first day of the transport ministry's plan to redirect buses in order to cut down on downtown congestion.

The plan reroutes most eastbound buses to Avenida 10. Most westbound buses have to use Avenida 1 to leave town. Westbound buses are prohibited on Paseo Colón, and the bus stops that used to be on the north side are being removed.

Some inter-city buses, the Escazú-Santa Ana buses, the Sabana buses and the Periferica Sur routes will continue to enter the city on Paseo Colón. Bus drivers who take the wrong route can be fined once the program gets started.

The project is part of the overall plan of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte to eliminate congestion downtown. The bus route changes will require persons who normally take buses on Paseo Colón to walk a block or two.

Fiscal general says
probe didn't back Ayre

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's top prosecutor said that an investigation has not backed up claims by Calvin Ayre, the online gambling entrepreneur, that police officers and agents who raided his house ate food, stole items and swam in his pool.

The prosecutor, Francisco Dall'Annese, fiscal general de la República, made his comments in a statement released by the Poder Judicial press office. He said he was doing so because of comments made in newspapers by Ayre. A.M. Costa Rica reported that Ayre said the police and agents ate his food and swam in his pool. Dall'Annese said Al Día quoted Ayre saying the police took things. The raid was the evening of March 10 at the Ayre home in  Pozos de Santa Ana, Parque Valle del Sol.

The fiscal general said he named  Katia Fernández, another fiscal, to investigate the allegations and any illegal acts that took place on the night of the raid.

The investigation reported that Adrián Molina Elizondo, the judge in charge of the raid, saw nothing that would justify opening a criminal case against any of the officers.

So far, said the fiscal general, there have been no complains filed by Ayre in the many offices that would receive them and there has been no evidence uncovered that would back up his story. Ayre has said he would not press the matter and left for Los Angeles last week. He runs, an online gambling operation that took in more than $7 billion in 2005.

Raiders though that Ayre was involved in gambling in his house because he had been promoting a $500,000 poker tournament. In fact, the house was filled with guests celebrating the end of taping the six-part tournament series that will air on Fox Sports.

Ayre maintains that the tournament was not gambling anyway because players did not have to put up money to enter, although there were money prizes. Ayre said that the filming of the tournament itself was done at the studios of Canal 7, although police and investigators seem reluctant to pursue that claim.

Our reader's opinion

He's not for trade treaty,
and it is financial suicide

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You folks have done a great service to your readers both locally and internationally. Because of the timeliness and the accuracy of your reporting the facts many expats considering a move to Costa Rica, will ultimately not do so. No one is going to want to pay a 54 percent tax on his own vehicle, as the transportation and insuring costs will be substantial to begin with.

The ignorance of the auto dealers and stupidity of the government officials is astounding, as autos in Costa Rica will not last that long due to poor roads is a given.

As well the NAFTA and (similar treaty CAFTA) have not provided and assurances that it will increase the economic picture in Costa Rica. As a matter of record even present and now retired U.S. congressional people (Hollings (D) N.C.) Have issued statements that these treaties were often drafted by lobbyist and fast tracked to the extent that the lawmakers never really read nor understood the basis for these agreements  (GATT 11,000 pages).

In almost every Country the NAFTA agreement has not served the country well nor provided anything other than more cheap labor for multi-national companies who could care less about the economics of the country they are being permitted to operate in (Mexico is a prime example of the unrest and poor performance of NAFTA). The governing body of C.R is only introducing a newer problem to an existing one by following a now recognized globally flawed policy of the American administration. I would hope that the Costa Rican officials read the CAFTA  treaty carefully, and not be to eager to be fast-tracked into a trade agreement that will hurt their beautiful country.

They should remember that this Bush administration has a bad record with accrual accounting. They in fact can”t count.  The United States under the helm of George Bush is 9,000,000,000,000 dollars in debt. Yes that is 12 zeros.

For sure many of the new intended financial and tax arrangements will bring foreign investment dollars to a screeching halt Why would any government willingly commit financial suicide?
Milt Farrow
Former thinking expat

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Farrow refers to the article Friday that said taxes on vehicle imports would not be affected by the free trade treaty, even if it is adopted. The 54 percent tax to which he refers is the tax Costa Rica charges now to allow a vehicle to be imported, although the percentage may vary depending on the car.
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 56


A useful expression when Hell is a real place
Vete al carajo

This is another way of sending someone to perdition similar to vete al infierno, which we discussed in an earlier column. But according to Alf A. Giebler Simonet, author of the fascinating little tome “A lo Tico,” the way through which the word carajo attained at least one of its many colorful present meanings is quite interesting.

According to the the Real Acadamia Española, which is the ultimate Spanish linguistic authority, el carajo may at one time have referred to the little basket affixed near the top of a sailing ship’s mast where a lookout was sometimes posted. In English this feature of sailing ships is often called the crow’s nest. Clearly, the carajo would have been one of the most precarious and dangerous places aboard the vessel, especially during a high wind.

According to Giebler Simonet, because of the extreme dangers, recalcitrant sailors would often be consigned to several terrifying days and nights of lookout duty in the carajo as punishment. In fact, it probably became known as “the place of punishment” on many a Spanish galleon during the 15th and 16th centuries.

So, if we accept Giebler Simonet’s intriguing explanation, carajo was a real place that possessed at least some of the horrific aspects of what many people conceive Hell to be. Thus, sending a young seaman to el carajo was almost literally the same as sending him to Hell.

Vete al carajo is a very common saying in most of Latin America. It is one of the commonest ways of dispensing with people we do not care for.

Interestingly enough, however, carajo can also be used in a fairly inoffensive way, almost as a term of endearment. For example one might say of an old friend, el es un carajo muy bueno, which is sort of like saying “he’s a good ol’ boy” in English. Or ¿Cuantos años tiene ese carajo? “That old coot, how long has he been around?”

Another time for using carajo might be when you  

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

come home from work to find a pipe has burst and flooded the basement. ¡Ay! ¿Que carajo pasa aqui? you may gasp upon descending the basement stairs, which, according to American author Miss Dorothy Parker at least, could be translated as: “What fresh hell is this?”

So in different situations or under different circumstances carajo changes the implications of its meaning.

A derivative of carajo is carajada. We use carajada to refer to that which is incomprehensible. For example, if you saw a creature from outer space you might exclaim ¡¿Que es esa Carajada?!  This is as much as to say, “what the hell is that?!” But since we don’t frequently encounter creatures from other planets, one might be more likely to use such an expression of confusion upon entering one’s 14-year- old son’s bedroom or witnessing the Jerry Springer television show for the very first time.

Another way that I personally used carajada recently was in reference to the various bureaucratic incompetencies that have plagued my relationship with La Caja Costarricence del Seguro Social, Costa Rica’s national health insurance and pension system, over a period that encompasses no less than the past two full years. Indeed, I have never encountered a more incomprehensible bureaucratic black hole than our CCSS. It is not an institution that I would ever employ the words “user friendly” to describe. No, indeed! The CCSS is definitely one big carajada.

Three small California wineries try to make a hit here
Special to A.M. Costa  Rica

Three California wineries, Macchia, Pasos and Watts, will be conducting a wine tasting in the Cartago area April 8, hosted by Delifoods of Costa Rica.

The three wineries will introduce boutique wines to higher-end hotels, restaurants, small boutique stores and markets in Costa Rica with their award-winning wines, said Frank Haversack, one of the organizers behind the wine-tasting event.

The three boutique wineries, located in Lockeford, Calif., will be pouring several varieties, Haversack said.

Watts winery will be pouring 2001 Reserve Old Vine zinfandel, 2002 cabernet sauvignon and 2002 Dos Amores, a double-gold winner at the 2005 California State Fair.

Macchia will pour 2004s zinfandel Mischievous, zinfandel Adventurous, Petite sirah, Bodacious and Port, Dangerous.

Pasos Winery will be pouring 2003 Old Vine zinfandel and Petit verdot as well as Viognier and Sangiovese dry rose.

“These three boutique wineries have the passion to make great wines,” Haversack said. “With that passion to make great wines, we know we can get into high-end markets in Costa Rica.”

From Costa Rica, the three wineries are hoping to branch out to other Latin American nations under the new Central American Free Trade Agreement, which includes the Dominican Republic.

Confirmed guests to the wine tasting include executives from Auto Mercado, a small specialty grocery chain in Costa Rica, the CEO of Holterman y Cia, an alcohol distributor in Costa Rica and, Antonio Sierra, a Chilean wine expert and wine importer, a news release said.

Besides the wine tasting, each of the wineries will hold seminars on various aspects of winemaking techniques, according to Haversack.

Antonio Pasos will discuss oak and barrels, Craig Watts will talk about his family’s three generations of farming and grape growing, and Tim Holdener will discuss different regions and grapes.
Costa Rica was selected because of its passion for
beverages, which includes world-class coffee, Haversack said.

“It’s just a really good fit,” he said. Also, “Costa Rica is known for growing some of the very best coffee in the

world, and Lodi is known for growing some of the very best grapes in the world. These two agricultural products make two of the world’s most exquisite beverages. Both coffee and wine need to be viewed as the treasures that they are.” The Lodi area of California is especially known for its Zinfandel.

Another reason for selecting Costa Rica is because, “No one
else has done this before,” Haversack said.

Although there are other United States-produced wines sold in Costa Rica, this is the first time small boutique wineries from the United States have tried to sell in the Costa Rican market. Sales of those United States wines make up about 5 percent of the Costa Rican market, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Haversack said Macchia, Pasos and Watts wineries want to change that. Costa Rica’s imported wine sales are dramatically increasing by 14 percent a year. According to a recent Agricultural Department report, the per-country distribution of grape wine imports in Costa Rica is: Chile, 37 percent, Italy, 23 percent, Spain, 15 percent, Others, 8 percent, Germany, 6 percent, France, 6 percent and the United States, 5 percent.

Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrowers Association, said, “Lodi’s boutique wineries rarely have the resources to explore export markets, so this is an exciting opportunity. Now Lodi wines will be known internationally, as well as nationally. Hopefully many others will follow.”

This also demonstrates one of the fundamentals of wine sales (perhaps all sales) – that this is a relationship business," he said. "It is so critical for wineries to get to know distributors personally, who know retailers personally, and are in touch with their customer’s personal likes and dislikes. It’s not just about having quality wine, it’s about having quality relationships with those who can champion your wine.”

Haversack may be reached at (209) 662-2055.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 20, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 56

Experts gather to assess the coming crunch on water
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Fourth World Water Forum is under way in Mexico City with the stated intention of creating a plan for better managing the vital resource for all the world's people. But many experts fear there may not be enough for the world's growing population unless major steps are taken now.

The slogan of this conference is "Local Actions for a Global Challenge."  The idea is to examine projects and programs worldwide that have succeeded and see how these might be applied globally.

About 11,000 water experts and government officials from 130 nations are in attendance, and many of them say the challenge of providing the world's people with sufficient water is a growing problem that could soon become a global crisis.

In his speech at the inaugural session, Mexican President Vicente Fox called for straight talk from delegates to develop a plan that will address the problem in an effective manner. He said the future of humankind depends on a profound change in attitude about water and how best to ensure that it is available for all who need it in the years ahead. President Fox said water is a public possession that all governments must guarantee.

The Mexican leader also quoted from the Popol Vuh, an ancient Mayan book, saying that what we do to water, we do to ourselves and the ones we love.

But experts say the water available to poor people around the world has decreased since the first World Water Forum was held in Morocco in 1997. Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito, who also spoke at the opening of the forum, said continuous efforts by many people worldwide had produced, what he called, little progress.

Conference organizers say nearly 22 percent of the world's people lack clean drinking water and close to a third lack sanitation services.  A U.N. report
released last week put the number of people lacking potable water at more than one billion worldwide.

Contaminated water causes a number of severe health problems, ranging from common gastrointestinal disorders to deadly diseases like cholera and typhoid. Standing water is also a breeding ground for the mosquitoes that transmit malaria and other diseases.

Only 1 percent of the world's water is fresh and safe to drink, meaning that most of the water people use daily around the world must be purified for human consumption.

Governments have traditionally managed water resources, but private companies have entered the field in some parts of the world and governments have also sought private investment for major projects.

In addition, the worldwide market for bottled water has grown dramatically in recent years. Host country Mexico is the second-largest consumer of bottled water in the world, after the United States, but close to half of Mexico's population lives in poverty. Political activists say the companies that bottle the water are growing rich at the expense of poor peasants and slum dwellers who cannot afford to buy water.

As the Water Forum got underway, thousands of people from Mexican political groups as well as international non-governmental organizations took to the streets to protest what some described as the forum's goal of privatizing water resources and systems. Mexican officials denied that, saying that the reason for this meeting is to bring together delegates from around the world to ensure that water will be available to the world's poor as well as those who are better off.

The Fourth World Water Forum continues through this weekend with ministerial meetings and a Water Fair, where various agencies and non-governmental organizations can share ideas and technologies related to water.

Ecuador files protest against Colombia for incursion by military aircraft
By the A.M. Costa rica wire services

QUITO, Ecuador — The government has filed a formal protest with Colombia over the violation of its airspace by Colombian military aircraft.

Ecuador's foreign ministry says the protest, which was submitted Friday, concerned an incident a week earlier in the Puerto Nuevo sector, which is located more than 200 kms. (124 miles) north of this Ecuadorean capital city.
Ecuador's defense ministry says data from radars proves its airspace has been violated.

Colombian officials deny violating Ecuador's airspace, saying its forces were responding to an attack on a Colombian military installation by rebels operating near the border.

Quito says this is the fourth such incident in the past five months. It says it will address the issue during a meeting of a bilateral border commission in April.

New pact with Colombia increases restrictions on importing artifacts
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — The United States and Colombia have signed a memorandum of understanding to protect objects designated as archaeological material from the pre-Columbian cultures and certain material from the colonial period of Colombia, according to the U.S. Department of State.

The agreement, signed Wednesday here by Karen Hughes, undersecretary of State for public diplomacy,  and Elvira Cuervo de Jaramillo, Colombian minister of
Culture places import restrictions on objects generally associated with the ancient Colombian cultures from approximately 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1530.  The restrictions also cover ecclesiastical objects from the Colonial Period ranging in date from about 1530 to 1830, the State Department said.

"This memorandum of understanding is a witness to the great respect the United States has for Colombia's rich cultural heritage and our keen interest in preserving that past for generations to come," Ms. Hughes said.

Jo Stuart
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