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(506) 2223-1327       Published Friday, April 3, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 66     E-mail us
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Today is the unofficial start of the Easter holiday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the day many have been awaiting. It is the unofficial start of the Semana Santa 10-day holiday.

Technically the holiday starts at the end of work today for executive branch and election tribunal public employees. But many have had a head start.

This weekend also marks the end of the double festivals being held in the southern zone.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez will visit the Festival Nacional de las Artes Región Brunca 2009 Saturday around 4 p.m. The festival has been in a number of locations in the southern zone, but Arias still showss up in San Isidro de El General, according to the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

Both the San Isidro event and a sister festival in Palmar Sur will continue into the evening Saturday.

The Palma Sur event celebrates the stone spheres found in the area and a sculpture in the Parque Central in San Isidro reminds revelers there of the nearby IV Festival de las Esferas

There also is a festival in Jacó this weekend through Sunday sponsored by the Cámara de Comercio and the Comisión de Cultura de la Municipalidad.

Most stores, offices and public locations, like the Museo Nacional, only will be closed Thursday and Friday, a week from today.

The controversial dry law goes into effect as Wednesday changes to Thursday and continues through Friday. Alcohol may not be sold either as packaged goods or at bars and restaurants. The Fuerza Pública is in charge of sealing off alcohol sections in stores and putting seals on locations that serve mostly alcohol.

sculpture of a sphere
Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes photo
Sculpture in San Isidro reminds visitors that there is another festival nearby.
festival of the arts
Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes photo
No festival is complete without face-painting

The ban is enforced irregularly in tourist locations. The municipalities are in charge of enforcement, too.

The alcohol ban creates a secondary industry in many barrios and neighborhoods seen only during Semana Santa and when similar laws are enforced during the general elections. Some homeowners open up de facto bars where they sell shots of guaro and homemade chirrite to neighbors who may not have the cash to stock up before the ban goes into effect.

No one bothers to invoke complaints about separation of church and state. The security ministry, in its official announcement of the dry laws, said clearly that the purpose was so that the predominantly Catholic population can commemorate Holy Week in an environment of peace and security.

Holy Week kicks off Sunday in San José with a procession representing the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. The event, which begins at 9 a.m. at the newly restored Nuestra Señora de la Merced church on Avenida 2, finishes up at the Catedral Metropolitana.

The event features a simulated gate of Jerusalem on Avenida 4 and a Christ portrayer on a donkey.

Eric Lacayo Rojas, director of the Fuerza Pública, said earlier this week that 10,500 of his officers would be on duty through the week.

And there also will be firemen, Cruz Roja workers and Policía de Tránsito on duty.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas will be patrolling the coasts.

A.M. Costa Rica will publish every day but Friday, April 10.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 66

Costa Rica Expertise
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Ph/Fax: 2221-9462, 8841-0007
mortar found
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública
One of the mortar rounds uncovered

Little civil war souvenir
shows itself in Upala

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If the mortar rounds have to be buried for security, it would be a good idea to seal them in plastic or some other waterproof materials and put them in the earth deeply. Otherwise, years later, someone might uncover the stash and cause a scare.

That's what happened in México de Upala, Thursday when someone stumbled upon exposed ordinance. The Fuerza Pública called in their Unidad de Zapadores, which is trained in explosives.

The two projectiles, likely leftovers from the Nicaragua civil war, were taken elsewhere and destroyed. The find was near the local cemetery, and police expressed concern because many people and animals walk in that area. Corroded projectiles just might explode if stepped upon.

After many years of work the Costa Rican border with Nicaragua has been declared free of land mines, which also were planted during the civil war.

Banco Popular searched
in money laundering probe


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law officers made 11 searches Thursday of offices of Banco Popular in an investigation of money laundering.

Searches took place in San José, Cuidad Neily, Barrio Turnón and San Pedro by the Fiscalía Adjunta Contra el Crimen Organizado of the Ministerio Público in coordination with the Judicial Investigating Organization, said the Poder Judicial.

The searches resulted in the confiscation or records, particularly those in the managers' offices and in the office of the entity charged with reporting suspicious activity.

The Poder Judicial confirmed that the searches were related to accounts that the Banco Universal de Panamá had opened in 2006 and 2007 in Banco Popular. Money from the Panamá bank came across the border with travelers and was deposited in the Cuidad Neily branch. From there it was disbursed elsewhere.

The Costa Rica investigation is a small part of a massive probe being conducted in Panamá.

Sustainable plan announced
to manage shark fishing


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican fishery officials have come up with a five-year plan that is designed to manage and conserve the sharks in territorial waters.

The announcement came Thursday from the Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería and the Instituto de Pesca y Acuicultura. The goal is a sustainable use of this marine resource, officials said.

The officials said that Costa Ricans eat shark and that some 4.5 million kilos of the fish were exported last year.

There was no mention of shark finning in the official announcement. This is the most controversial aspect of shark fishing. Asian markets are big purchasers of shark fins, and some fishermen cut off the fins and put sharks back into the ocean to die.

Conservationists say that the shark is an important member of the ocean food chain. Costa Rica officials have been criticized for letting shark finning producers use illegal private docks and to operate without oversight.

Officials said the plan was two years in the making.

Rail cars might arrive
in country by Sunday


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The eight coaches for the Heredia-San José train route have not yet arrived, but officials hope that they will be in the country by Sunday. They are coming by boat.

But there is other work to be done.  Miguel Carabaguíaz, president of the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles, said that the narrow gauge coaches have wheels that still are not the correct width for the Costa Rica rails. So when the rail cars get here, officials still have to fly in technicians from Spain to adjust the wheels, he said.

The rail agency chief also said there was no certain date set yet for the start of rail service. At one time officials said they would be running the route by Christmas.

Also undecided, he said, is exactly how the rail cars will get to San José from the Puerto de Limón. Rail company employees will be working over the Semana Santa to bring the cars to the Central Valley.

Drug boat captured Sunday
arrived in Puntarenas port


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They may have been unexpected problems with the last load of cocaine, but another drug boat, this one carrying 1,300 kilos, has been docked in Caldera. The boat and its three crew members were caught by the U.S. Coast Guard some 80 miles off Herradura Sunday in international waters.

Under agreements between Costa Rica and the United States, Ticos caught at sea with suspected drugs are turned over to authorities here for criminal proceedings.

It is traditional for U.S. officials to leave just a small amount of cocaine in the hands of investigators here to use as evidence. The bulk is carried under guard to the ship's home port.

This was done Thursday, too, and not because Costa Rican officials let robbers make off with 320 kilos of cocaine from the courthouse in Golfito last week.

The crewmen were identified by the last names of Herrera Espinoza, Barrantes Barrantes, Fallas Martínez and Salas Villagra. all are from Puntarenas and were on the boat "Zafiro," officials said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 66



Wall Street legend Kaufman eyes investment market here
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The latest entrant to the Costa Rican real estate market is Wall Street's Henry Kaufman, famous since 1957 when he took over the largest bond specialist unit of the New York Stock Exchange.

He follows such famous names as Mel Gibson, Steve Case of
Henry Kaufman
Henry Kaufman
America Online, Madonna, Danny Devito, one of the famous princes of Saudi Arabia, the Chinese premier who is investing $300 million, Amazon, Proctor & Gamble and Intel, which invested $900 million in its manufacturing operations.

Kaufman is known among the insiders in the financial community as a genius at contrarian investing. During the 1970s downturn in New York City he was the buyer of last resort for Con Edison bonds, which resulted in huge gains. Kaufman was buying Con Edison Bonds at 30
percent of face value when the city was told no help was coming from the federal government to keep the lights on in New York.
 
Of course the bonds never defaulted, and the returns were in mega millions to Kaufman.

Associates say that Kaufman believes that Costa Rica will become a huge market for retirees who want a lifestyle in this country where the weather in the major market of the Central Valley is always springtime, similar to Southern California.

He also is said to believe the cost of living and medical care,
which is up to world standards in the private hospitals, is a fraction of the costs in the U. S. and Europe and that the 55-and-older senior retirement communities, assisted living and even nursing care will propel the growth of Costa Rica to double digit gross national product during the next 20 years.

Kaufman wants in while the crisis has opened opportunities that have never existed in the last 10 years of one of the hottest real estate markets in the world, associates say.

Kaufman was the largest shareholder of Apple Bank of New York along with many other holdings. He was the financial controller of all of the $320 million Maurice Kanbar received for selling Skyy Vodka and created $190 million in additional profits from this account. One of the investments was buying 32 percent of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, at distress prices starting in 2005. Tulsa is one of the few cities that has weathered the U.S. real estate crisis and actually has increased in value. He also was the funding source of capital for Heine Herzog (Mutual Shares which merged with Franklin Templeton), the largest over-the-counter marketmaker in the U. S..

Kaufman bought buildings in Soho at $30 square foot in the distress times of the 70s and became a legend in value investing when the market climbed to $200 a square foot,

He also purchased the East West Natural Food Macrobiotic restaurant where luminaries like Gloria Swanson, Jane Fonda, John Lennon and Yoko Ono often came to dine.

Costa Rica is his latest interest, major news is expected.   Angela Jimenez, a well-known appraiser with Orbit Costa Rica, said she is now in discussions with Alberto Rampoldi of the Avalon development about one of Kaufman's latest ideas.


A foray into serious cooking despite misbehaving ovens
For weeks the typical greeting has been  “It’s cold today!”  And the reply, “Yes, and the wind makes it worse.” Then suddenly it changed, and for about four days the greetings began “I can’t remember when it has been this hot before!”

Tuesday was another hot day, especially in the afternoon, then the skies got dark and it began to rain, and rain and then pour then downpour. All of this after I had written to my son that summer had finally arrived and it would be very warm and dry, unlike the weather in October when he was last here. 

He arrived Monday night and Tuesday, we were at the dentist’s office when the downpour came.  Someone said the rainy season had started.  Humph, I thought, after four days of summer. 

We considered the day a success because we managed to hail a taxi before we were drenched through. 

Unfortunately, when we arrived home, the electricity was off, which meant the elevator wasn’t working. Trudging up to the fifth floor in the dark was not my idea of a happy part of a good day.

But I am not the only one who starts out with a good day that ends less than great.  My friend Steve, who is fairly new to Costa Rica and fairly new to becoming a creative cook decided to make his debut with a pissaladière (an onion, olive and anchovy tart). 

His kitchen has a small apartment stove, but boasts a garbage disposal.  The electric stoves in Costa Rica seem to have idiosyncratic ovens.

When the temperature goes below the set degree, both the top and bottom units go on, which means that whatever you have in the oven gets broiled as well as baked.  

A passaladière calls for dough made with egg and olive oil and flour.  The first thing to go on the tart are three pounds of finely sliced onions that have been cooked for an hour (very slowly) with the herbs and five cloves of minced garlic.

The layer of onions is covered with black olives and laced with jarred (not canned) anchovies. 

Then it is baked in a 350-degree oven.
 
Steve e-mailed me to ask if I knew an easier way to make the dough.  I — and evidently, others he called -— said, “Buy frozen puff pastry.”  He did buy the dough but he bought filo dough.

Some time later I got the following message.  You could call it either a list of mistakes or a list of lessons he learned in his venture.  Beginning and experienced cooks
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Food with stuart column
An effort at passaladière

can appreciate the  pitfalls of making passaladière.  He called it
From the Department of Duh.
– do take the pits out of olives.
- forget using the leftover brie, it just makes weird 
   lumps.
- filo leaves don’t stick together unless you stick-em
   together (somehow).
- one or 2 anchovies go WAY far & don’t add salt
   either.
- when you burn the onion, the dish has a smoke taste.
- heat the oven first before you put in something to
    bake.
- if you leave the anchovy tin out 1,000+ no-see-em
    microscopic ants will attack.

Oh. and if you accidentally put pits into the sink disposal, the twins downstairs are startled and start crying.
Steve did not offer to bring a sample of his passaladière over for me to taste.  Nor did I ask.  I doubted that it would improve my day.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 66


Although farmers are supposed to avoid a 15-meter (49.2-foot) protective zone around waterways and ditches, pineapples here are planted much closer.

lack of protective zone
Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo photo

Inspectors cite irregularities at Del Monte pineapple finca
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Environmental inspectors — some 20 strong — descended on the Finca Babilonia in Siquirres Wednesday. The operation is owned by Del Monte, but it did not take inspectors long to find something amiss.

The main reason for the visit was to determine if the giant pineapple operation is discharging agricultural chemicals into local streams.  The streams feed the Río Destierro, which is a tributary of the Río Parismina.

In fact, the 600 hectares of the pineapple operations, some 1,235 acres, straddles the river and three ditches, said the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, the environmental inspection agency.

The tribunal reported that the pineapple packing operation did not have a treatment plant for water that was used to clean the fruit. Experts from the Universidad Nacional and the Ministerio de Salud took samples of the runoff, which is discharged into ditches and ends up in the river, according to the tribunal.

Inspectors also said that the operators of the facility had planted too close to the ditches that cross the land. The law requires a protective zone of 15 meters, nearly 50 feet. In some cases pineapples were planted almost to where the grade of the ditch starts.

Inspectors also said they were unable to find a water source that was marked on maps. They suspected that someone had buried the water source to continue agricultural activities nearby.

Inspectors also took water samples in a line in El Cairo. in a school in La Francia and in a water tank in Milano.
water samples
Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo photo
Technician takes a water sample from runoff where fruit are washed for shipment.

They were looking for signs of agricultural chemicals.
Residents have made many complaints.
 
Inspectors also found land where maps said a forest grew. The land has been converted to pineapple production. Inspectors said that they would check to see if a permit had been issued for a change in land use.

The tribunal reported that the results of the water samples will be available in three weeks.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 66



A.M. Costa Rica

users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Statistics
A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.



Economic downturn gives
boost to coop entrepreneurs


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

As corporations in America cut hundreds of thousands of jobs, there are reports that some of the newly unemployed are starting their own businesses. New ventures, however, often face challenges. And in Washington, D.C., there is a company where entrepreneurs can share space and resources as well as connect with others who are facing common challenges.

Adrian Constantyn is a graphic designer and illustrator. He was recently laid off from a publishing company where he had worked for years as an assistant art director. "I found that it didn't make sense to me to go seek out another job since there were not many opportunities," he said. 

So, he started his own design and consulting business from home. But soon, Constantyn realized that home was not the best place to run his business and to bring clients. "I needed somewhere to go to an office," he explained. "Where I can work in an environment that is similar to the office that I used to work with someone else and also gave me discipline."

He joined Affinity Lab in January. It is a shared office space above the bars and restaurants that inhabit an urban neighborhood in Washington, D.C.  In all, about 30 companies run out of Affinity. Some are start ups.  Others are a few years old.

Charles Plank is the CEO. He founded the lab 10 years ago with a partner after struggling to launch their own business. "It's a journey realizing all the things that you don't know. We rolled up all the lessons that we had learned in the start-up process," Plank said. "And basically created a tiered membership model."  

Plank calls Affinity Lab a home for designers, Web developers, filmmakers, non-profit workers, and anyone who has an entrepreneurial spirit. Here, small businesses not only share an office, a conference room or a printer but also resources, clients, knowledge, skills and opportunities. 

Affinity Lab often hosts exhibits by local artists or photographers. The lab's co-founder Berit Oskey says the entrepreneurial process should be fun along the way.
"We have a monthly happy hour. We have several other events that happen throughout each month that encourage the members to get together to meet each other to find out what their respective businesses do," Oskey said.

The cofounders take credit for helping to launch more than 80 enterprises and creating hundreds of jobs in the process.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 66


Latin American news digest
TV and radio journalists die
in Guatemala and Honduras


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Journalists died this week in Honduras and Guatemala.

One murder occurred in Guatemala City, the Guatemalan capital, Wednesday. The victim, Rolando Santis, a reporter with Telecentro 13 television, was shot and killed and his cameraman, Antonio de León, was seriously wounded in an assault carried out by two men on a motorcycle. On being hit, Santis lost control of his vehicle and crashed into several street vendor stalls. At night, as the news was being broadcast on his television channel, there were a number of anonymous telephone calls in which death threats were made to the announcers, warning them not to continue reporting the incident.

In another development Tuesday in a similar incident on a public street in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Rafael Munguía, a correspondent of Radio Cadena Voces radio network, was murdered. A band of hired killers armed with 8-mm handguns shot him eight times, according to the police report. Among the theories under consideration is that it was a premeditated attack that could have been carried out in revenge for Munguía's report exposing organized crime's activities in the area.

An announcer working for the same radio, Carlos Salgado, was murdered Oct. 18, 2007 as he was leaving the network’s headquarters in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

For several years now the Inter American Press Association has been holding conferences and seminars on personal safety, the press and youth gangs in a number of Central American countries pointing out the dangers that the press faces in carrying out its work in environments of violence and impunity while calling for guarantees for the protection of journalists.

The chairman of the organization's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio, Texas, Express-News, declared, “It is urgent that in both Honduras and Guatemala make these acts of violence against journalists a focus of attention and a solution found . . . ."

The Inter American Press Association said the incidents brought to 349 the number of journalists it has recorded murdered in the Americas since 1987, three of them in Honduras and 22 in Guatemala.


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