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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, April 5, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 68          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Say good-bye
to those
gold cards

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Soon to be a collector's item
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those Ciudadano de Oro cards that entitle retirement-age residents special treatment and special prices are soon to be a collector's item. The Asamblea Legislativa voted for the second and final time Tuesday to eliminate the gold card and simply allow golden agers to use their cédula de identidad, passport or residency carnet.

According to Kyra de la Rosa, the legislator who proposed the idea, those 65 and over will not have to wait on lines at the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social simply to get their gold card. With the card residents and citizens get special treatment at hospitals, clinics, banks, buses and at private locations whose owners participate in a gold card discount program. Many drug stores do.

Most banks maintain a window for seniors, who can avoid the long lines.

Those with the card also are able to obtain cut-rate bus ticket coupons from the Caja. This program will continue but without the gold card, once the legislation is signed by President Abel Pacheco.

Quit smoking for four weeks, and the prize may be $2,500

A.M. Costa Rica photo
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who want to quit smoking have an economic incentive in what amounts to a raffle being staged by health agencies.

Anyone 18 and older can signup and agree to stop smoking for four weeks, appoint someone to watch them and be eligible for a drawing that could bring $2,500 if their name is drawn at the end of May.

Cruz Roja, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and the Instituto Sobre Alcoholism y Farmacodependencia are sponsors. The winner will have to give a urine test to prove he or she has not smoked, sponsors said.

And the winner will go on to an international raffle where the prize is $10,000.

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Fights, bombs disrupt
high school classes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Municipal policemen shook down students of a prominent high school Tuesday and found an assortment of knives and even a Samurai-type saber.

Meanwhile in Pavas west of San José students manufactured and set off four to six bombs that rocked the morning quiet of the high school there.

Monday an extended fight broke out between students at the Liceo Costa Rica in Plaza Víquez and Liceo del Sur, located in Barrio Cuba. Several students were injured and hospitalized.

It was Tuesday when the Policía Municipal intercepted Liceo Costa Rica students carrying weapons. They were suspended. The Liceo del Sur is about 12 blocks west of the Liceo Costa Rica.

The bombs went off at the Liceo Rincón Grande in Pavas where more students were suspended while an investigation continues. One explosion was in a garbage container and another destroyed a toilet.

The students fabricated the bombs by using small, plastic soda bottles, aluminum foil and some form of acid, officials said.

The multiple incidents have caused concern in the educational system, and school officials are seeking additional help from the various police agencies.

March traffic toll
shows 24 persons died

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 24 persons died in traffic mishaps during March, and the month still was the lowest so far this year. A total of 53 persons died in January and February.

With the Semana Santa holiday less than a week away, traffic officials came out with a summary of the deaths as a warning. During Semana Santa many Central Valley residents transport themselves to the beaches or other vacation spots.

The Policía de Tránsito attributed seven deaths in March to what they called imprudence. Seven persons died because of excessive speed and two because of alcohol, the report said.

Eight pedestrians died when they were hit or otherwise run over by vehicles during March. Six persons died when their vehicles went off the road. Collisions killed 10, the police report said. During the month of March, police responded to 5,680 accidents where 691 persons suffered injuries, the report said.

The report listed the causes of the deaths, but nowhere was there any indication that the nation's roadways may have played a role. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte and President Abel Pacheco have been criticized for allowing the roadways to deteriorate and for the absence of painted lines to guide motorists.

Food survey shows
big price differences

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Ministerio de Economía price survey of traditional Semana Santa foods has turned up big differences.

Cost Ricans like to buy sardines, palmito, tuna, dried codfish, peaches and miel de chiverre, a vegetable jelly.

The survey showed price differences of as much as 40 percent between stores selling the same tuna and a 61 percent difference in price between similar but not identical cans of palmito.

The ministry also said its surveyors found 44 lapses in required food labels. The ministry urged shoppers to pay attention to labels and shop for the best prices.

Nicaraguan sweep catches
Costa Rican fugitive

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A hospital employee from Liberia who has been on the run for four years was delivered over to Costa Rican officials Tuesday to serve a prison term.

The man, Omar Gerardo Chaves Cortés, has been hiding out in Nicaragua, but he was picked up and identified as an illegal alien there over the weekend. He was convicted of raping a disabled young woman at the Hospital de Liberia. He faces a 10-year prison term.

$7.5 million earmarked
for environment here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The World Environment Fund will donate $7.5 million in matching funds over the next five years, according to the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

The formalities will be part of a conference Thursday at the Hotel y Villas la Condesa where Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Echandi, the environmental minister, will be among the participants.

Also there will be representatives of other ministries and organizations that support a fund for sustainable biodiversity. Also involved is the World Bank.

Art contest for Alajuela

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Painters in Alajuela are invited to participate in a contest marking the 150th anniversary of the Campaña Nacional, the war against the filibusterers.  The topic should be Alajuela architecture, and singups are being taken from those 16 years and older through Friday at the Centro Alajuelense de la Cultura, on the west side of Parque Central in that town.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 5, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 68


A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Melany Morales, pauses after stemming a weed fire Tuesday.
Welcome to
the smoky season

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Combine dry weeds, a high wind and a spark. The result is a fire fighter's nightmare.

The dry season here also is the windy season, and the northerly gusts dry out the ground, the vegetation and everything else.

So April is a big month for weed fires, a kind of annoyance that can spread and become a real danger to nearby structures.

Firemen in the Central Valley are getting a taste of weed and lot fires, some of which are set on purpose, perhaps to clear the weeds and perhaps just to create a crisis.

One blaze worked its way across a weeded lot on Rohrmoser Boulevard Tuesday until firemen quenched the flames.

Holy Week will be a time of public display of faith
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Easter season is a time of processions at Catholic churches, and at the Catedral Metropolitana alone there will be eight such events between Palm Sunday six days from now and Easter Sunday a week later. Some of the events involve nearby parishes.

The processions are a public demonstration of faith for Catholics and a major tourist attraction during a Semana Santa when some other options are unavailable.

The processions are only part of the commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but they are the most public.

The first, a procession of joy, takes place on Avenida 4 in the vicinity of the cathedral at 9 a.m. Sunday. Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Ureña will preside. Palm Sunday marks the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem during which palm fronds were spread in his path, according to Christian tradition. 

A blessing of the palms will take place before the procession.

Monday at 7 p.m. Barrantes will lead a procession east from the church of Nuestra Señora de la Merced at the west end of Avenida 2 to the cathedral. The procession will commemorate the way of the cross.

Thursday, April 13, participants will carry a statue of Jesus Christ in a silent procession in the vicinity of the cathedral and Parque Central. This will be at 5 p.m. Various other activities follow in the cathedral, including a celebration of the Last Supper at 6 p.m. through 10 p.m.
Friday, April 14, Good Friday, is the traditional day of the death of Christ on the cross and the most solemn of the Christian calendar. A procession will leave the church of Carmen near the cathedral and join with worshipers there at 10:30 a.m. and continue along Avenida 2 and around the cathedral. Participants will carry an image of the Sorrowful Mother, la Madre Dolorosa, depicting the mother of Christ.

The archbishop, together with representatives of other parishes in the capital, will preside at 3 p.m. the same day for a ceremony marking the passion and death of Jesus Christ.

At 5 p.m. all will embark on the longest and most colorful procession of the Easter season, the burial procession of Christ. An image of the crucified Christ will be carried through the streets.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, April 15, the image of La Virgen de la Soledad will leave that church on Calle 9 as part of a procession to the cathedral.

Easter Sunday, April 16, will see two processions at the cathedral. The first, at 9 a.m., will be in the vicinity of the cathedral and will mark the resurrection of Christ. A 5 p.m. procession in the vicinity of nearby Parque Central will celebrate the Holy Eucharist.

Other churches throughout the country will mount their own processions at least on Good Friday.

Of particular note is the one in La Fortuna near Volcán Arenal where parishioners dress in biblical clothes as well as the uniforms of Roman soldiers.

Both Thursday, April 13, and Friday, April 14, are legal holidays in Costa Rica.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 5, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 68

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

The restoration of the facade of the  Teatro Popular Melico Salazar is almost finished.

The six-month job, supported in part by the German Embassy, was necessary because the air pollution in the downtown took a huge toll on the concerte work and made ornaments and balconies dangerous, officials said.

The inauguration of the restoration will be April 19 at 7 p.m. at the theater, which is on Avenida 2.

Argentina launches crackdown on sweat shops there
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Agentina — Authorities in this, Argentina's capital, have launched a crackdown on employers who exploit Bolivian workers.

An estimated 15,000 Bolivians work in Argentina's garment industry — most of them in sweatshops where conditions are extremely poor. Many Bolivians
who are working in Argentina illegally are exploited by the operators of clandestine factories that flout health and safety rules. Officials say they will close any workshops where conditions are substandard and dangerous.

The crackdown comes after six Bolivian workers died in a fire at a Buenos Aires textile factory last week. Four of the victims were children.

Mexican police capture man wanted in murder of deputy sheriff in U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican authorities have arrested one of the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives, accused of killing a deputy sheriff last month in the U.S. state of New Mexico.

Police in Mexico say Michael Astorga was taken into custody early Monday while driving in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez. They say he had three guns with him at the time of arrest.
He is being held by Mexican authorities pending extradition to the United States. The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza has thanked Mexican officials for their cooperation in the arrest.

Astorga is wanted by the FBI in connection with the shooting death of Deputy Sheriff James McGrane during a traffic stop in New Mexico on March 22.
Astorga is also wanted by New Mexico police for his alleged involvement in a separate murder there.

Jo Stuart
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