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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, April 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 69            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

Gallo Pinto to have its day Sunday on Paseo Colón
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday is being called the Día Nacional del Gallo Pinto as a production company plans to block off Paseo Colón to extol the virtues of the Costa Rican national dish for six hours. The event is being sponsored in part by companies whose products help make gallo pinto, the ubiquitous rice-and-beans dish, the Tico morning meal.

The organizers also promise that the event will be free, a family event, and a tourism promotion.
The capital's main street will be divided into three sections. Food only takes up one part. Music and live groups will fill a second while cultural and artisans will fill a third.

The organizer, Producciones Torre Fuerte Internacional S.A., said that Edgar Álvarez, executive chef of the Hotel Ramada Plaza Herradura, will lead a team to create the gallo pinto. Other chefs will create their own variations of the dish, the announcement said.
More than just pushing products, the Fiesta Nacional del Gallo Pinto will be an event to display national traditions and values, promote national identity and the value of the Costa Rican roots, said the release.

Although this is the first year for the event, the organizer said that the project has been declared a cultural interest event by the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes. Sponsors include Tio Pelón, Salsa Lizano, Tortillas el Fogón and Panaderías Musmanni, said the announcement.

Rice and beans may be called moros y cristianos elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world.

Some cultures prefer red beans and rice, but the gallo pinto in Costa Rica  almost always includes black beans.

The dish includes garlic, onions and cilantro, but the variations are many. Residents of Guanacaste are known to make their gallo pinto spicy.

Censored Burger King capitalized on its banned ads
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They call it crises management in the public relations world.

And the Burger King, no longer a hunted species in Costa Rica, is making the most out of government censorship.

The tale began last week when some government officials began to become annoyed by the television ads that the Burger King franchise was running here. One showed three mothers trying to run down the character, the Burger King, as he strolled along a city street.  He leaped out of the way, and the women's car smashed up barrels of trash.

"We'll get you next time, King," one of the women shouted.

Then a second commercial entitled "Hit Moms," showed the same three women in a back alley negotiating with a hired killer.  According to the fast food restaurant's scenario, the mothers were mad because their children preferred Burger King Whoppers to their own home-cooked food.

Now maybe Burger King ad execs planned this all along, but everyone knows that one should not
mess with moms in Costa Rica. When the
burger king
Part of the new ad campaign sent as spam

legislature moved traditional mother's day from Aug. 15 to a convenient Monday, the public reaction was fast and fierce. The holiday is back again to the traditional date.

Mothers seem to occupy a status just slightly below Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, the nation's protector. Not to mention that hit men are more than just television characters in Costa Rica.

So some security minister officials invoked an advertising law to ban the commercials Friday. They cited emotional damage to children. Never mind that there are real bodies on television news shows almost every night.

So without missing a beat, the Burger King franchise has come out with advertising showing the censored commercial. And the company still is spamming local e-mail accounts.

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Floods provoked by garbage
affect 200 people in area

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Floods affected 200 people in the Central Valley over the weekend, reported the national emergency commission Monday. And a major cause for the flooding was garbage, said the president of the group.

Daniel Gallardo, the president of Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, is calling on citizens and the municipalities to help cleanup. Garbage clogged water drainage systems, which was a major problem in all of the flooded areas, said Gallardo.

Sewers overflowed damaging 30 houses, according to the commission. "Once again we are confronted with the garbage," Gallardo said, according to a commission spokesperson. The commission wants to remind people not to litter and to help clean up especially now that rainy season is starting, said an emergency spokesperson.

Most of the flooding took place in the southern area of Costa Rica, Desamparados, and Aserrí. The emergency commission set up an operations center in the Cruz Roja building in Desamparados to coordinate local volunteers and delivery of supplies, they said.

Floods were also reported in León Cortés, Curridabat and downtown Cartago. The largest incident was in San Juan de Dios, Desamparados, where about 10 neighborhoods suffered as a result of overflowing sewers, said a spokesperson from the commission.

This institution coordinated with local emergency committees to send foam mattresses, blankets, newspapers and rolls of plastic to cover the damage, said the spokeswoman.

Pirated CDs and DVDs lead
to arrest of two woman

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers seized 1,119 copied CDs and DVDs and arrested two suspects in Alajuela Sunday, said a security spokesman.

Two women were selling the “pirated” CDs in front of a supermarket in San Rafael, Alajuela, said a spokesman from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The disks were priced at 1,000 colons ($2) each.

Officers detained the two women who had the last names of Larios, 34, and Vega, 42, according to the ministry. The women stored hundreds of pirated discs in the trunk of their car, reported the spokesman.

Although the sale of pirated discs is very common in Costa Rica, it is a violation of Law 6683 on copyrights and also of Article 47 of the Costa Rican Constitution which states, "All authors, inventors, producers, or traders shall temporarily enjoy exclusive ownership of their work, invention, trademark, or trade name, in accordance with the law." 

Criminal penalties range from three months to one year in prison, depending on the offense, said the security spokesman.

11-year-old girl is victim of
bullet from armed robbers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An 11-year old girl was shot in the head during an attempted robbery in Cristo Rey Thursday, said a security spokesman.
Paramedics took the bleeding girl to the Hospital Nacional de Niños, where she died, according to reports. 

The event started when two men wanted to rob the young girl's uncle, who has the last name Fernández, said a spokesman from the Ministerio Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Fernández was outside and ran into his house for cover, according to reports. The men shot inside the window where the little girl was, said reports.

Police officers detained two brothers as suspects in the case who both have the last names of Vargas Rojas, said the spokesman from the security ministry.

Inspectors back in Tamarindo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Inspectors from the Ministerio de Salud are back in Tamarindo checking for possible pollution sources, according to the Asociación ProMejoras de Tamarindo. The inspectors are working from the association's offices.

The association is inviting residents to talk with the inspectors, bring maps and otherwise orient them to possible sources of sewage. "Any kind of photos, locations, and maps, as well as written observations, would be helpful," the association said in an e-mail.

The community, part of the Cantón de Santa Cruz, received a shock when tests of ocean water showed alarmingly high levels of fecal contamination. The health department has been working with townspeople to eliminate pollution sources and has closed down some businesses.

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Small decrease reported in Santa Ana home invasions, thefts
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Home invasions and burglaries are down slightly this year in Santa Ana, said the town's chief policeman

There were 52 reported cases in the first three months of 2008, as opposed to 66, last year, said Roy Chavarría, head of Fuerza Pública in Santa Ana. Of this year's cases four involved armed robbers forcing entry into the home, and five of the houses were owned by foreigners, said Chavarría. 

Only about 20 percent of the thieves ever get caught, said Chavarría. But alarm systems make a big difference, according to the policeman, who has only been in Santa Ana five months.

The majority of house burglaries occur when owners are outside of the house either working or out at night, said Chavarría. “The owner usually doesn't notify police until three of four hours after the robbery,” he added.
Chavarría who worked for Fuerza Pública in Puriscal for 20 years, said there is more crime in Santa Ana which has a larger population of 40,000. But “there's much more crime in Escazú,” he added. Escazú, the neighboring town has a population of nearly 60,000 and is rapidly developing.

Chavarría advised homeowners to install alarm systems, create neighborhood watch programs and awareness, in order to avoid house robberies. “Tell someone if you are going out of town so they can monitor your house,” he said. There are currently 36 neighborhoods in the area that have community watch programs, he added.

“The majority of house burglars are from 16 to 23 years old, very very young,” said Chavarría, and the majority of them are not from the Santa Ana area.

Aside from house burglaries officers in Santa Ana must deal with drug dealers, which Chavarría said was their biggest problem, and robberies in the street which are greater in number than house thefts. Crimes have become more violent and organized, he said.

escazu dvelopment
Renderings of Centro Corporativo El Cedral and Avenida Escazú
Two more major projects are taking shape in Escazú
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two more integrated projects are taking shape in Escazú. Both are by Portafolio Inmobiliario S.A.

Construction on the newest, Avenida Escazú, began last week east of Hospital CIMA on the Autopista Próspero Fernández. This is a gigantic project with 12 buildings containing 13,000 square meters (almost 140,000 square feet) of offices, 150 residences, hotels, another hospital and a commercial center. The work is scheduled to be finished in 2010 or 2011, developers said.

One unique aspect is the nation's first IMAX movie screen, which is designed to present stunning images of exceptional quality and clarity, according to the IMAX Corp.. The six theaters will hold 1,700 seats.

Also planned are a Hotel Residence Inn by Marriott and a  Hotel Boutique Cinco Estrellas. The project plans for 5,000 parking places.
The company said that 1,800 persons would work in the complex once it is finished. Construction is by Volio Trejos, Traesa y Circuito. The design is by Studio 506, Construcciones y Diseño Trejos Facio and Zurcher Arquitectos.

The company is no stranger to the area. It built the Hotel Courtyard Marriot and Plaza Itskatzú on the north side of the autopista.

No value was given for the final Avenida Escazú, but the second project, Centro Corporativo El Cedral, represents a  $35 million investment. That project is adjacent to Hípermas in Trejos Montealegre overlooking the autopista. This is a smaller project with three five-story office buildings. Some 651 parking spaces are envisoned, and completion is scheduled for this year.

The company said that it also expects that each of the three buildings will be occupied by a major company. The project will have vehicle access from Escazú and also from the autopista.

Rembrandt exhibition attracted nearly 40,000 visitors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nearly 40,000 visitors turned up for the Rembrandt exhibit, a record for Museos del Banco Central, said a museum spokeswoman Monday.

The exhibit which ran for two months in San José, closed Sunday, with visits totaling 39,661. The exhibit, entitled “Grabados de Rembrandt,” began Feb. 7 and displayed various works by the Dutch painter renowned for his chiaroscuro effects and bold impasto or contrast of light and dark and intricate layering.

“We are very happy about the massive attendance, especially from the local Costa Ricans, because they were able to see the marvels that are housed in this museum.
 They should feel proud,” said Dora María Sequeira, executive director of the Museos del Banco Central, according to a statement from the museum. 
27,596 people visited the exhibit in March breaking all records for monthly visits and 22,544 people visited in February, another record, said the museum's spokeswoman.

The museum thanked the Dutch Embassy and the company Ecodirecta, a Dutch business located in Costa Rica, that financed the project.

The Museos del Banco Central are under the Plaza de la Cultura in downtown San José. The museums are open daily from  9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Residents can get in for 1,000 colons ($2) and foreigners for $7.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 69

Court puts burden on Limón and chemical firm for cleanup
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The municipality is partially at fault for a deadly toxic fire from a chemical plant in Limón, said the Sala IV constitutional court Thursday. The court ruled Thursday that the Municipalidad de Limón and the company, Químicos Holanda Costa Rica S.A., have two months to figure out how they will pay the damages and clean contaminated water in the area.

A fire burned the company's facilities in Moín Dec. 13, 2006. The blaze was called the worst in years. Two people died as a result of the fire, 46 suffered health problems, and 360 were forced to live in shelters provided by the national emergency commission, according to a court spokeswoman. Sources of water like a nearby natural spring are still contaminated by the chemicals from the fire, said the court.

In December 2006, A.M. Costa Rica reported that at least 30 percent of the water for the Limón area was lost due to chemical pollution of the water source. An estimated 20,000 persons were being supplied by tanker trucks, according to the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.
The chemical plant should not have even been there in the first place, said the court. A decision implemented in 1980 by the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados declared that the particular zone should be a protected area because of the sensitivity of the water supply in the region. The community banned the operation of high risk activities. Nonetheless, Químicos Holanda was built and continued to produce dangerous chemicals in the protected area, the court noted. 

The constitucional court concluded that the damage caused by the fire infringed fundamental rights to health and to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. The mayor of Limón and the president of the municipal council of Limón must change the city's budget in two months to accommodate a cleanup and decontamination of the region's water supply, ruled the court. The municipality must work with the chemical company to clean up the mess in one year, they said.

A man with the last names Machore Levy, a citizen of Limón, brought the case to the court. Machore filed the case against Limón and others, alleging that when the city gave permission for the installation of the chemical plant, officials did not take into consideration the declaration of protection of waters in the region.

Bush gives U.S. Congress deadline on Colombia trade deal
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President George Bush is sending U.S. lawmakers a controversial free-trade agreement with Colombia. The move forces Congress to vote on the agreement within 90 legislative days.

Bush said he is sending the Colombia free-trade agreement to Congress because it is time to level the playing field for American workers and safeguard U.S. security interests in the hemisphere.

"This agreement will advance America's national security interests in a critical region," Bush said. "It will strengthen a courageous ally in our hemisphere. It will help America's economy and America's workers at a vital time. It deserves bipartisan support from the United States Congress."

Bush said the need is too urgent and the stakes to national security too high to allow the year to end without a vote on the deal. The president's action forces a vote on the free-trade agreement within 90 legislative days.

Most Colombian exports already enter the United States duty free. The deal makes permanent Colombia's preferential access to the U.S. market, while eliminating tariffs on 80 percent of American exports to Colombia; including aircraft and auto parts, beef, cotton, wheat, soybeans, and fruit.

Bush said approving the deal is the best way the United States can demonstrate its support for Colombia at a time
when Bogotá is standing against the anti-American rhetoric of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.

"People throughout the hemisphere are watching to see what the United States will do," he said. "If Congress fails to approve this agreement, it would not only abandon a brave ally, it would send a signal throughout the region that America can not be counted on to support its friends."

Many congressional Democrats oppose the free-trade agreement because of concerns about Colombia's human-rights record. Bush says Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has addressed the issues of U.S. lawmakers by demobilizing tens of thousands of paramilitary fighters and appointing an independent prosecutor to pursue cases involving attacks against trade unionists.

"President Uribe has done everything asked of him. While Colombia still works to improve, the progress is undeniable. And it is worthy of our support," the president said.

The president is sending this free-trade agreement to Congress one day after Sen. Hillary Clinton's top presidential campaign strategist, Mark Penn, stepped down after he met with Colombia's ambassador to discuss advancing the trade deal.

Clinton publicly opposes the agreement. A White House spokesman says he knows of no contact between the administration and lobbyist Penn, whose firm represents the Colombian government.

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New species of disease
found in Amazon jungle

By the University of California,
San Diego. news service

While investigating the tropical disease leptospirosis in the Peruvian Amazon, an infectious disease specialist from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine has uncovered new, emerging bacteria that may be responsible for up to 40 percent of cases of the disease.  Patients with severe forms of leptospirosis have jaundice, renal failure and lung hemorrhage, with high fatality rates.

The specialist, Joseph Vinetz, professor of medicine at the Division of Infectious Diseases, headed the study that led to discovery of the new species in the family of pathogens, Leptospira, which is spread from animals to humans.  The findings are being published in the April  issue of the Public Library of Science journal Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Leptospirosis is a severe, water-borne disease transmitted from animals to humans, with tens of millions of human cases worldwide each year.  Fatality rates can range as high as 20 to 25 percent in some regions, and it is particularly prevalent in tropical countries where poor people live under highly crowded conditions, or in rural areas where people are exposed to water contaminated by the urine of Leptospira-infected animals such as rats.

The new species reflects Amazonian biodiversity, according to Vinetz, and the pathogen has apparently evolved to become an important cause of leptospirosis in the Peruvian Amazon region of Iquitos. 

There, Vinetz leads an international team of physicians from the U.S. and Peru in a National Institute of Health-funded training program studying malaria, leptospirosis and other infectious diseases that impact disadvantaged populations in developing countries.

The researchers found that the new species, Leptospira licerasiae, cultured from a very small number of patients, as well as eight rats, is significantly different from other forms of the bacteria and has novel biological features.

“This strain has fundamentally different characteristics,” said Vinetz, adding that the next step is to sequence its genome.  “We think that hundreds of patients are infected with this pathogen, which is so unique that antibodies for the disease don’t react to the regular tests for leptospirosis.”

In testing 881 patients in a prospective clinical study of fever, the researchers found that 41 percent of them had antibodies that reacted only to this new strain of the bacteria, showing a much higher incidence of leptospirosis than previously suspected.

“This observation is relevant to other regions of the world where leptospirosis is likely to be common, because it’s necessary to identify the right strain of the Lepstospira in order to make the correct diagnosis,” Vinetz said.

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