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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, March 29, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 63          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/Annette Carter

A deluge of doggies

Short and black, stocky and brown, thin and blonde, the dogs look as diverse as the people on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, but more than half have one thing in common — they live on the street.

Volunteers are trying to find a solution to the canine overpopulation.

See the story HERE!

An analysis of the news
Talk about a downward credit spirial!
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If Costa Rica were just another working stiff, he would be spending twice his income each month just on living expenses.

There never is enough money left at the end of the month, but in this case, the money would be all gone on the 15th.

So it's time to break out the credit cards and run up some more debt.

His shoes would be worn out, the pants would have that well-used shiny look. And there would be an annoying cavity in a molar with no prospects of seeing the dentist.

There just would not be any money.

But then his brother comes by and says: "How about taking a $50,000 debt off my hands. Put it on one of your credit cards?"

Our agreeable blue collar worker nods and tries to slip an addition $50,000 through on one of his 18 credit cards.  So his brother can buy a car without showing any existing debt.

Meanwhile, everything except the basics remain unpaid: insurance, investments, pensions and even the paperboy who doesn't even come around any more. Don't even think about the kids' college educations.

If anything, this personalized scenario understates the pickle in which Costa Rica finds itself. The laws and financial commitments require payments twice what the country generates in income, according to the Ministerio de Hacienda.

Any major construction project has to be paid by foreign governments. Any donations from foreign governments that require matching money from Costa Rica are frozen because the country cannot come up with the cash. Roads remain unbuilt.

Meanwhile, money continues to drain away to parts unknown, and dislike of foreign businesses result in hard times for gold mining and oil drilling industries.  And the roof probably still leaks at Casa Presidencial.

This is the shaky situation Óscar Arias Sánchez inherits May 8. He and many in government hoped that the new tax plan would have been gearing up by that time.

New government officials have shown some tendency to economize. The number of legislative aides at the Asamblea Legislative will be slightly less, a token savings.

But all the bets are riding on a revised tax plan and magic coming from a still unratified free trade treaty with the United States. The 385-page plan that is in the legislature now has no chance of passing by May 1 when new deputies are sworn in. There is enough opposition among the current deputies to prevent a two-thirds positive vote, something the Sala IV constitutional court says is needed.

The Central Bank, the agency that has the right to print money, is pulling back its plan to lay off $2.8 billion in debt on the central government, adding fuel to the inflationary fire, as world interest rates are inching up.

As aides to Arias cast about for a solution to the financial mess, they must also bear in mind the negative consequences on industry, business and investment of a quick-fix tax plan, as well as the philosophy of government that got the country in this fix in the first place.

And as an A.M. Costa Rica news story showed Monday, the average citizen is in about the same financial shape as the country, thanks to excessive use of credit cards.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 29, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 63

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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Television and newspaper photographers have little trouble relaxing as they cover the infrequent comings and goings of politicians at the Arias Rohrmoser home.

Arias camp rejects blame
for limiting reporters

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

Aides for the Arias transition team said Tuesday that they had nothing to do with limitations placed on reporters questions the day before.

Instead, they blamed the outgoing Abel Pacheco administration. The spokespersons for the president-elect said that Óscar Arias Sánchez himself was surprised at the lack of questions from reporters when he met with them Monday.

The situation arose while Arias was meeting with Pacheco at Casa Presidencial. A Pacheco press spokesperson told reporters they would be limited to only one question per type of medium. Television reporters got one question. Radio reporters got another. Newspaper reporters got a question, and so on.

Reporters were irked because their questions were being limited and they were being asked to work with competitors. An A.M. Costa Rica news story Tuesday chronicled their displeasure.

Later Tuesday workers for Arias took the initiative to meet with reporters who had gathered at his Rohrmoser home where he has been receiving courtesty calls. They were Lidieth Brenes, director of press for Arias, and Otto Fronseca, a press aide.  They blamed the press restrictions on the Pacheco camp.

"It wasn't our house. They made the rules," said one of the Arias press aides.

The limitations had been attributed to Arias because reporters expect a distant and imperial president who speaks through decrees and designates.

Union chiefs from Caribbean
make their case to Arias

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Union leaders from the Caribbean coast brought their discontent with the free trade treaty to president-elect Óscar Arias Sánchez Tuesday and said they were prepared to fight the measure.

Union leaders representing health, petroleum, dock and other workers also asked Arias to try to get the national railroad back in service between San José and Limón.

In addition to opposition to the treaty with the United States, the union leaders pushed for more economic development in the Provincia de Limón.

At the session were Eloisa Anderson of the Sindicato de Asistentes al Servicio de la Salud, Ronald Eesna of the Sindicato de Trabajadores Petroleros Químicos y Afines, Wiston Norman Scott of the Federación de Trabajadores de Limón and Carla Gentle Tesorera of the Sindicato Nacional de Empleados.

Also at the meeting was Francisco Morales Hernández, who was introduced as the new minister of Trabajo, a position he has held in the past. Morales also is known as the man who fought for 35 years to give workers more control over their pension money.

The free trade treaty is in the Asamblea Legislativa where legislators must approve it for it to go into effect here. El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala soon will be covered by the treaty, and the Dominican Republic is adjusting its laws to correspond to the treaty rules.

Costa Rica is the only signator that has not ratified the measure. If that does not take place before May 1, treaty supporters probably do not have enough votes to approve it in the new congress, which serves for four years.

Police frustrate robbery
in Desamparados cemetery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A special unit of the Fuerza Pública collared two men shortly after bandits robbed a minor near the municipal cemetery in Desamparados Monday.

Officers said they surrounded and arrested a man with the last names of García Ramírez and a second man with the last names of  Vega Alemán. One of the men carried a .38-caliber pistol, police said.

The special unit, the Grupo de Apoyo Operacional, was in the area making an arrest on a warrant when they heard cries for help and saw the two men running, they said.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 29, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 63


Volunteers in Cahuita try to stem wave of doggies
By Annette Carter
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Short and black, stocky and brown, thin and blonde, the dogs of Cahuita look as diverse as the people in this village on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, but more than half have one thing in common — they live on the street.

Dr. Francisco Arroyo, a San José veterinarian and volunteer with SPAY Costa Rica, a project of the Asociación Nacional Protectora de Animales (ANPA), is working with dozens of other vets, vet assistants and other volunteers to change that by holding low cost spay/neuter clinics in rural areas.  Two weeks ago, he and his team spayed/neutered a dozen cats and dogs in Cahuita on the lawn of Mister Big J’s Horse Stables and Tours, and at least a dozen more in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.  Arroyo has worked with this project for three years.

“The problem, especially with street dogs, is worse in the Caribbean,”  Arroyo said.  “70 percent of the dogs on the Caribbean coast are street dogs compared to 30 percent on the Pacific side of the country.”

Arroyo said the goal of the SPAY Costa Rica program is to reduce the stray animal population by providing surgical castration services at a reduced rate to poor people in rural areas.  Cost is 6,000 colons — less than half of what he charges in his clinic Veterinaria Zoo-Mundo in Barrio Carmen de Guadalupe in San José. This covers the cost of supplies such as sutures and anesthesia.  All vets and assistants involved in the program donate their time.

Cahuita coordinator Flor Maria Solis Ramirez said the Cahuita program gets a boost from a local woman who pays for those who desire the service but who do not have the financial resources.

According to the Asociación Humanitaria Para la Proteccion Animal de Costa Rica, until the past few years the fate of animals in Costa Rica was grim.  Dogs and cats were not seen as companion animals as in North America and Europe but as working animals to guard the home and keep away mice and other pests.

“Some people actually believed that if a canine was left chained, he would be a better watchdog,” according to the association Web site.  “Dogs were only fed leftovers, and if there was no food left over, they went hungry. Often cats were not fed at all — under the notion that deprivation would make them better mousers.”

A.M. Costa Rica/Annette Carter
Dr. Francisco Arroyo does not have much luxury as he and his veterinary assistant operate on a Cahuita dog.

Ms. Ramírez said she sometimes struggles to meet the minimum number required for the vet’s visits to Cahuita.

“I put signs out and people call, but I still have to make phone calls myself,” she said.

Cahuita resident Doreen Ferguson took advantage of the clinic to spay two of her eight animals.  She says she thinks the participation in spay/neuter clinics in Cahuita isn’t higher because “people don’t want to pay the money or maybe they just don’t care.”

“I love animals and I can’t take too many — just the amount I can feed and take care of,” she said.  “I have four dogs and don’t want any more, and I have four cats too.  That’s the amount I can handle right now.”

Arroyo said he sees more cats than dogs in his clinic because people like cats better as pets and are more willing to have them castrated.

“Street dogs are more of a problem to the community because in the beginning the dogs have good owners who take care of them but then the owner leaves Costa Rica and their dog . . .  ends up on the street,” he said.

People interested in the low cost spay/neuter program can call the the association at 255-3757 in Costa Rica.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 29, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 63

Country superstar Buck Owens did it his way
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

It's been said that the mark of a great artist is the apparent ease with which they perform their craft. In country music, few ever made it look easier than Buck Owens and his band, The Buckaroos.

"Act Naturally," recorded in 1963, started Buck Owens' streak of 15 consecutive No. 1 country singles, and 21 No. 1s in total. Buck Owens, 76, died  Saturday hours after taking the stage at his Crystal Theater in Bakersfield, California, and playing some of the songs that rocked Nashville on its boot heels back in the 1960s. His given name waas Alvis E. Owens

Listening to "Act Naturally" more than 40 years after its release, it's hard to imagine that song could annoy anyone, but, the man with the red, white and blue guitar was considered a maverick in country music in 1963.

Buck Owens is so closely associated with Bakersfield that it may come as a surprise to learn he first set foot in the town in 1951, when he was already 21 years old.

Determined to make it in music, he soon formed a band and started writing songs. To earn a few extra dollars, Buck regularly started driving 145 kms.  to Hollywood to play guitar at recording sessions for artists including Wanda Jackson, Gene Vincent and Faron Young. Although, he signed his first record in 1957, two more years passed before Buck Owens recorded his first Top 10 hit "Under Your Spell Again," starting a streak of hit singles that lasted more than a decade.

Buck Owens' early recordings featured the traditional sound of country music, with steel guitars and fiddles clearly out in front. But live shows from the same era found him routinely playing requests for songs by rockers Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran, along with classic country tunes by Hank Williams and Bob Wills.

By 1963, Buck's band featured Don Rich on electric guitar and harmony vocals, along with a drummer, bassist and pedal steel guitar. One of his first bassists was the now-legendary singer-songwriter Merle Haggard, who named the group The Buckaroos.

Soon, Buck turned his back on Nashville, and started making country records his way, using his own road band instead of Nashville players. The result was records that sounded more like a Buck Owens concert, and nothing like the string-laden smooth country-pop hit songs coming out of Nashville — and the Bakersfield sound was born.

While some in Nashville fumed over Buck Owen's new sound, lots of people loved what we now know as the "Bakersfield Sound." Brian Hofeldt, founder of the hit country band The Derailers, considers Buck Owens Bakersfield sound a major influence on his own music. In a recent interview, Hofeldt explained why Buck Owens' sound is so important in the history of American country music.

"At its time, it was looked at as maverick, and out of left field, you know," he said. "Buck was in Bakersfield. He wasn't in Tennessee. And he was doing his own thing, and it was a really stripped-down, revved-up sound. And it just turned everybody on their ear. They loved it! And he was

Courtesy of Buck Owens' Crystal Palace
Owens swaps jokes with Jackie Gleason when he appeared on Gleason's television show.

arguably the most successful country artist of the 1960s. His music, I think, still retains the freshness because it's pure, and soulful."

After a string of No. 1  hits, and sold-out concerts, including one recorded at New York's Carnegie Hall, Buck Owens soon found himself on national television, co-hosting the long-running comedy program, "Hee Haw." Buck's career flourished, and he continued to record hit songs and perform sold-out concerts.

But then Buck Owens suffered a tragic blow, one that threatened to end his career. On July 17, 1974, his longtime musical partner, Don Rich, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Buck Owens admitted, "After Don's death, I don't think I ever quite recovered."

A year later, Buck Owens returned to the recording studio, but the magic was gone.

In 1980, Buck Owens decided he didn't want to continue the grind of constant performing and recording, and declared himself semi-retired.

In the ensuing years, country music has lost much of its edge, and returned to the softer sound that was in vogue before Buck Owens hit with the "Bakersfield Sound." His musical impact has been forgotten by many who simply remember him as a television star. Nevertheless, several generations of musicians, from Gram Parsons in the late 1960s, to Dwight Yoakam in the 1980s were influenced by his music.

For the past 15 years, musicians in Austin, Texas, have been celebrating Buck Owens' birthday with a party at the famed Continental Club. A few years ago, Buck Owens himself made a surprise appearance. At the end of the night, he took the stage, and performed a set of his own hits, including a version of "Love's Gonna Live Here."

Brazil's economy trembles as scandal causes finance minister to leave
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil's financial markets declined Tuesday over concerns that the nation's new finance minister, Guido Mantega, will raise government spending and push for lower interest rates in a bid to speed economic growth.

But in a news conference Tuesday, Mantega tried to calm the nervous markets, saying Brazil should have interest rates that make it possible to stimulate production and consumption. Mantega also stressed continuity regarding economic policies.
Mantega — president of Brazil's national development bank — replaces Antonio Palocci, who resigned Monday after being caught up in a political scandal. Palocci was accused of frequenting a house in Brasilia where lobbyists held parties with prostitutes and money arrived by the suitcase, possibly for political payoffs. He denies ever setting foot in the house.

Palocci was respected by analysts and investors because he helped cut inflation and control government spending. Mantega also praised Palocci, saying Brazil is better off than it was three years ago and is now on a path of sustained growth.

Jo Stuart
About us

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