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A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 24, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 59
Jo Stuart
About us
Late news: Good Friday in San José HERE!

These are
young parakeets 
that were confiscated 
environmental agents
and police last 
Semana Santa.


Photo by Gino Biamonte for the Asociación Preservacionista 
de Flora y Fauna Silvestre

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Viindas
He’s home
Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, the ex-president involved in a corruption probe, returned home from prison Wednesday night to be greeted by about 50 supporters chanting his name.

A few minutes after he arrived, Calderón appeared at a second-floor window of the home and waved to those in the street. With him was his wife Gloria Bejarano and his daughter Gabriela and a grandchild.

Our story is HERE!

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Calderón returns home
to chants of supporters

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier returned home Wednesday night to be greeted by about 50 supporters chanting his name.

The scene was in Pinares de Lomas de Ayarco in Curridabat, a section of sprawling upscale homes east of San José.

The former president arrived about 7:45 p.m. under police escort from the La Reforma prison where he had signed out. A judge in an appeals court revoked the three additional months of preventative detention handed Calderón last week.

Instead, the former president must stay in his home until at least June 22. He will be under guard.

Calderón won house arrest eight days after another judge allowed ex-president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverria to go home.

Both presidents face corruption charges and have been in prison since October.

Calderón must stay within his home and see only close family, physicians and his lawyers. He also cannot have contact with anyone involved in his criminal case and may not engage in telephone communications except with those persons who can visit him.

Calderón’s lawyer, Gonzalo Castellón, said he was pleased with the rules.

Calderón also had to post 200 million colons bail. That’s about $429,000. The money came from a loan taken on his house and another from a bank.

Calderón arrived in a black sedan, and the driver pulled the vehicle into a four-car garage at the house. Reporters flocked inside but were pushed out by police who also closed the garage door. The group of political party and neighbors shouted his name and applauded from the street.

A few minutes later, Calderón appeared at a second-floor window of the home and waved to those below. With him was his wife, Gloria Bejarano, and his daughter Gabriela and a grandchild.

Calderón is a principal figure in $39.5 million loan through which the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social purchased medical equipment from suppliers in Finland. Corporation Fischel, the drug and medical supply company, brokered the deal. An investigation developed when word of a $9 million commission leaked out and much of the equipment was determined to be unneeded.

Rodríguez faces investigation over a telecommunications contract with Alcatel, the French firm that has done cellular telephone business with the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Vacationers urged to keep
wild creatures in wilds

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Leave the bird, snake, frog, crab, crock or spider where you found it this Semana Santa.

That was the word from an environmental organization that pointed out that police and agents at holiday roadblocks will also be looking for people transporting wildlife and plants illegally.

The Asociación Preservacionista de Flora y Fauna Silvestre urges animal lovers to get a dog or cat and leave the wild creatures in the wilds.

Although the illegal capture of wild creatures has diminished in recent years, the association says, more than a half million of such creatures are being kept now in private homes. The group’s spokesman and president is Luis Diego Marín Schumacher.

Volunteer natural resource committees and agents of the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía will be participating in efforts to keep vacationers from bringing home wild things.

If a person with such a creature is stopped at one of the many roadblock checkpoints, the creature will be confiscated and legal action begun, said Marín.  Taking wildlife is a violation of the Ley de Vida Silvestre, he added.

Hotel guest in Heredia
dies of bullet wound

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A North American hotel guest got into a dispute with an employee at his Heredia lodgings, and the employee ended the dispute by shooting the guest in the stomach, investigators said Wednesday.

The dispute took place about 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Hotel Du Manolo in the center of Heredia.

A Judicial Investigating Organization spokesperson identified the victim by the last name of Hatton and said the man was 46 years old.

The man died at Hospital México where he was taken after initial treatment at the Hospital de Heredia, said the spokesperson.

The weapon involved was identified as a .38 caliber handgun.

Hatton was believed to have been a guest at the hotel for about two weeks.

The spokesperson said one individual was in custody for investigation.

No daily newspaper Friday

A.M. Costa Rica will not be published tomorrow, Good Friday. The day is one of the three weekday holidays that the newspaper is not published each year.

However, staffers will continue to monitor sources of news and alert readers via the daily digest mailing list in the event of a major news development.

Readers are encouraged to sign up for that free, daily service by going HERE!

Readers should not hesitate to contact the newspaper at any time in the event of a breaking news story.

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Sweet 16
Elite 8

By Sunday
4 teams left

A block behind the INS building in Barrio Amón

Quick visit to immigration to renew old acquaintances
This year in March is residency renewal time for me.  I have been ready to get started since the middle of February but putting it off because I didn’t want to go out to immigration to be told it was too early.  But a week ago I found myself on the west side of town with all of my documents in my purse. I decided to make a run for it. 

But not by bus.  I have learned from experience not to take the airport bus to immigration  — the walk is too far in the heat of the day and the bus stop that existed on Sixth Avenue near the Church of the Merced seems to have disappeared. So I hailed a cab. 

I was quickly directed to Puerta 8 by the man guarding the gate to immigration and found only two people ahead of me in the small office.  One of them said hello as if she knew me.  I responded, embarrassed, because I was not sure who she was.  She reminded me that she had taken me through immigration when I first applied.  I tried to fix her face in my mind so it wouldn’t happen again.

When it was my turn, the same lady who gave me my carnet four years ago was at the desk.  I remarked on this and asked her how long she had been there.  She informed me that she has been with immigration for 29 years.

This time I had to fill out a new form.  This was for INTERPOL to check out my possible criminal past.  That would take one month, she told me.  And with Semana Santa coming up, it would be five weeks. I was cutting it pretty close.  Given the month’s grace you are allowed, my carnet would expire a week later.  It is not wise to cut the time for tramites that close in Costa Rica.

The end of the week was far more fun.  With the help of Liz and Dick, who gave me a lift, I attended a get-together of the Costa Rica Living group.  There must have been nearly 50 people there from all over the Central Valley.  This is surprising because the gathering was held down a winding dirt road in a home hidden in the mountains of Ciudad Colón.  People laden with bocas for the festivities kept arriving most of the afternoon.  I would have been at my wits’ end, but hosts Sharon and Dick stayed the day in unflappable good humor. 

I found their home charming — flowing walless from

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

kitchen, to dining to living area to patio.  And the patio was more a balcony of an aerie, high among the trees.  I was most impressed with the books.  They were everywhere neatly aligned in the many bookcases

 "You keep them so neat and orderly," I remarked to Sharon, as I was taking out one book after another to look at the title and author.

"Yes" She said.  "My maid won’t take care of them because she’s afraid of the scorpions, so I do it myself."  I put the book in my hand back on the shelf and stopped my perusing.  Once again I realized I could not live in the campo. 

I have this unreasonable fear of creatures that live in the tropics, especially scorpions.  I have never seen one, and the only snake I have seen was in the city on the street near my apartment. 

Perhaps it is the vivid account of an Iranian student at the International House.  He was a soldier in the Iraq-Iran war and his greatest fear during the war was sleeping in the underground makeshift barracks dug into the desert, afraid the deadly scorpions on the earthen ceiling overhead would drop on him while he slept.

During the afternoon I forgot about scorpions and thoroughly enjoyed myself, probably because the people were so interesting.  Some I had met at other gatherings, but many were new to me.  

Once again I thought about all of the different clubs and organizations one can be a part of in Costa Rica.  Some, like this one, are particularly nice because both Ticos and Gringos belong.

Briefly I hoped my residency renewal would go through without a hitch.  I didn’t want any snag to interrupt my happy life here. 

Not much to beef about at Donde Carlos in Los Yoses
A block down and a short block to the right of Spoon in Los Yoses, Donde Carlos sits, a modern architectural sentinel over a residential corner. The Church of Fatima, a hundred meters south, marks the other end of the same block. 

Two stories of picture windows, clad in horizontal beige draperies, look out over tall papyrus at the well-groomed schnauzer and collie fenced in across the street. When the wind is right, smoke from the parrilla, the traditional Argentine oven, sends scents to them of caramelized steaks and chops. I can’t see them drool, but I can imagine. 

From our non-smoking seats on the first floor by the window, I inhale the same essence of marinated and abundantly seasoned charred meat that escapes from the brick and stucco parrilla adjacent to the entrance. With the corner of a white linen napkin, I dab away the drop of moisture from the edge of my mouth.

The dining rooms are smartly done in black, gray and white against aged brick. The chef and crew wear starched white uniforms and toques. The waiters are attired in black pants, dark blue-gray or lighter blue shirts and below-the-knee butcher aprons that tie around the waist. Brushed chrome wine racks and ceiling spots reflect precise composition. The first floor dining room is for non-smokers. Upstairs, there are two more dining rooms and a terrace. Old photos and smart prints cover the walls.

Like their cousins from the pampas of Argentina, Tico cattle are grass fed. Compared to corn fed U.S. beef, ours is chewier and tastier and the cuts are a little thinner and a lot less expensive in comparable scale restaurants. In California, grass fed beef is currently trendy, more expensive and favored for more flavor and less fat. Paradoxically, more fat usually equates with juicier and more flavorful, although experts contend that grass fed beef has an additional appealing fresh earthy flavor of its own.

The names of cuts also differ on opposite sides of borders. Most simply, fillet mignon is the same tender buttock steak. A fillet of the eye is called bife de lomo and can cost more than mignon. Lomo is sirloin, very flavorful and a little chewy. Bife de chorozo is the always popular sirloin or porterhouse cut off the rib. 

Lomito is tenderloin, a little more tender and a little less tasty. Bife de Costilla is a t-bone. Churrasco is a cheaper cut of meat, usually marinated, such as brisket, chuck, shank, or a lesser sirloin. It is frequently the most flavorful (to my palate) and toughest of all the cuts. 

Baby beef is not veal, but rather a different sirloin from an 800-pound younger rather than a 1,200-pound older steer. It is devoid of marble (very little fat) and tends to be bland, soft and dry. It is very popular, but to me the texture is like a mixture of pulverized beef and cooked cereal in need of more liquid. Can it be mushy and dry at the same time (oxymoron)?

The parrillas will often offer beef parts or products, anchuras, as appetizers or as part of a mixed grill for two people. Components often include intestines, kidneys, sausage, sweetbreads and udder. 

The menu at Donde Carlos is dominated, as expected, by steaks and beef parts. Token fish, chicken and pork dishes, appetizers, soups and salads and desserts complete the offerings. 

Starters include several carpaccios, shrimp cocktail, grilled provolone, breaded mozzarella, sweetbreads, 

Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


udder, intestine, black pudding and kidneys. The soups are cream of asparagus or tomato, onion gratinee and beef broth with sherry. 

We came attired in our carnivorous habits and were not disappointed. First trip: charred sweetbreads, a huge hunk of baby beef for Joan and a very flavorful churrasco met expectations. The entrees came with a crispy skinned baked potato dressed with herb butter and a salad of chopped lettuce, tomatoes and sweet white onions. 

To adorn the meat and salad, we had table choices of good quality light olive oil, red wine vinegar, superb chimichuri, green aoli, mildly picante salsa and a crock of hot chili remoulade. The only disappointment was a soggy Cesar devoid of romaine in a bland watery dressing. The Caprese salad was great. 

We had the mixed grill for two on our second occasion. Once again we were served platters with salad and browned skin crispy baked potato. Between us, the waiter placed a heated serving tray of two sirloins and ample of each of the anchuras except for udder, which was unavailable that day. In addition, I had a blood sausage called black pudding. 

In keeping with parrilla tradition, the anchuras were barbecued over hot charcoal to a light char on all surfaces and abundantly seasoned. No mistaking these sweetbreads, kidneys or small intestine pieces for French or Italian sautés.

The steak choices range from fillet mignon to churasco. Portions are generous with an average cost of ¢5,800. The mixed grill for two was ¢8,500. Appetizers averaged ¢2,200, soups ¢1,200, salads ¢2,000 and desserts ¢2,000. 

For a steak dinner, appetizer and dessert, it will cost about ¢10,000 per person without wine. The wine display is impressive, dominated by Argentinean reds (three Trapiche reds for ¢7000 per bottle), but including choices from Chile, France, Spain, Italy, Australia and California. The colon is about 468 to the dollar today.

My favorite French dessert is a Normandy apple pancake, a thin crisp crust, finely sliced and caramelized apples and a splash of Calvados. Mario Serrano, the talented Tico chef at Donde Carlos, makes a nearly comparable excellent apple pancake with the substitution of Cointreau and Spanish sherry for Calvados. 

With a dozen or more Argentine steak houses from which to choose, there are many similarities in style, scope and price. To date, my choice for a favorite, albeit a little more expensive than many, but a cut above the others, is Donde Carlos, ´´´, $$$$

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Three North American leaders create new partnership
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President George Bush held meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mexican President Vicente Fox in Texas Wednesday and announced the beginning of a new North American partnership.

In a joint statement released after their formal meeting on the campus of Baylor University in Waco, the three leaders announced the creation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. This new initiative is aimed at strengthening continental security and promoting economic growth, competitiveness and improvements in the quality of life for the citizens of all three nations.

President Bush says the trilateral meeting in Waco was only the beginning of the process of creating this new partnership.

"We've got a lot to do, so we charged our cabinet ministers with the task of figuring how best to keep this relationship, these relationships, vibrant and strong," said Bush.  "I appreciate the commitment of the prime minister and the president toward a spirit of partnership to outlast whatever politics may occur."

Canadian Prime Minister Martin says the new initiative will enhance and strengthen the ties that already exist through the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"We represent three sovereign nations that have formed one of the most successful partnerships in the world," said Martin.  "That being said, we also recognize that we cannot be complacent.  The world is not standing still.  New economic powerhouses such as 

China and India are rising, and we face new opportunities, but we also face new challenges."

For his part, Mexican President Vicente Fox stresses that improvements in security should go hand in hand with economic development. "We face new threats that carry a risk for our societies, but we also want to work for the good performance of our economies," said Fox.

The three leaders called for the development of two working groups, one on security and the other on prosperity, made up of officials from all three nations, to develop concrete proposals and a schedule for future actions within 90 days.

Victor Hinojosa, a Baylor University political science professor, says the plan launched by the three North American leaders in Waco is a bold and ambitious attempt to shape the destiny of the entire continent.

"I think this was a remarkable outline of a really broad agenda," he said.  "To hear President Bush and Fox and Prime Minister Martin tell their cabinet ministers that they had 90 days to make concrete this agenda, President Fox said to put it in black and white, I am glad I am not one of those ministers, because they outlined a really broad agenda."

In addition, President Bush says he would like to see the model of cooperation in North America extended to other nations in the western hemisphere through the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. 

That proposal, however, has been hampered by Brazil and other South American nations seeking to enhance their own regional accords.

Good Friday
San José

The faithful in San José symbolically buried the crucified Christ Friday at the climax of Semana Santa. The gathering under partly cloudy skies attracted a mixed crowd. The procession wound through downtown San José in an act of devotion that has been going on for centuries.

Women from the Iglesia de Soledad shoulder a statue of the Virgin Mary to join with the Catedral Metropolitana procession eight blocks away.

Coffin of the crucified Christ is carried from the Catedral Metropolitana to the street to be the centerpiece of a simulated funeral procession to the tomb.

Scene outside the Catedral Metropolitana Frday included worshipper, priests (among them Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Ureña wearing a miter), honor guards, band members, banner carriers, beggars, tourists and the curious.
A.M. Costa Rica/Jay Brodell

Jo Stuart
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