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These stories were published Wednesday, April 13, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 72
Jo Stuart
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Who cares about rules when you're having fun?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rules were made to be broken when you are having fun. That’s the message from the little slice of life photographed this weekend.

The scene was a fun fair in southern San José. The sign at the bumper car ride said that youngsters under 12 are prohibited from riding.
A bloody nose
It also warned that only two persons should be in any car at one time.

These are the little, electrically driven cars that are designed to smash into one another.

The rules were attributed to the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the 

government  insurance monopoly. However, the insurance men probably did not envison two little people who could fill just one seat.

And just try to keep an 8-year-old from sweeping around the rink and smashing into other cars driven by unsuspecting persons.
Ultimately it was the parent that enforced the rule for his or her child. And when one girl smashed her face into the steering wheel, the mother’s obligation was to console and apply first aid.

The episode at Parque de la Paz Sunday demonstrates that rules do not stand in the way of having fun.

Children under 12 are prohibited
. . . only two persons per car

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Three in the space for two

Santa Ana will honor its famous onions starting this weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The annual Santa Ana onion festival starts Friday, and the principal attraction of the 10-day event is an effort to get an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. April 24, a Sunday, residents will try to create the biggest bowl of onion soup ever.

But even if visitors are not fans of onion soup, there is a lot to do. The Feria de la Cebolla runs until April 24. The area, which is west of San José, is known for it production of onions, and the product will be on sale, as will other traditional foods.

The event is being organized by the Centro Agrícola Cantonal de Santa Ana ßwith support from the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

As part of the opening activities Friday, the Santa Ana women’s soccer fútbol team will take the field. Saturday includes a bike race, a 2 p.m. concert, more fútbol and fireworks at 9 p.m. An ox cart parade takes place Sunday at noon. Later there is more fútbol.

The following weekend has similar activities, as well as an antique auto parade at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 23, and another fireworks show at 9 p.m. the same day.

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Our readers respond

Stealing is part of culture

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I've been to Costa Rica three times and had no trouble (but have met people who were pickpocketed at the Coca Cola). I have been reading the stories for months now about how crime is increasing and wondering if I should start going somewhere else for vacations.

One thing keeps coming to mind though — everywhere one goes in Costa Rica there are bars on all the doors and windows. And security guards everywhere. Stealing from each other seems to be a part of the culture of Costa Rica. Maybe getting robbed can be thought of as a cultural experience? 

Only bring what you don't mind losing and plan on going home with nothing more than a paper bag full of coffee beans (preferably Cafe Milagro) and some Salsa Lizano. The airline baggage handlers in Houston will probably steal the good stuff anyway.

Phil Ewers 
Portland, Ore.

She didn’t like Page One letters 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read your letter every morning with my coffee. I have since the onset. But, if I have to start my day reading the first page with only people’s letters of complaints, of course I will stop reading it. What on earth good does it do to put these letters in your paper. The Ticos should know what's going on in their country. 

I suggest you take a little time to have them translated into Spanish and sent to the La Nación, El Día, etc. and other Costa Rican newspapers so that Ticos can read them and know the problem. Publishing all these complaining letters in your paper only adds to the problem of lesser tourism. 

I also suggest you just compile them into an article warning tourists of all the dangers something like the Tico Times does, sort of in a list form: the Vipor lady, car rental thieves, Nosara area etc. 

Bev Black

Bahamas said to be safer

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your reports on crime hit the spot for me. My wife and I have been and will be frequent vistors of Costa Rica. Since we have heard of the petty thief and similar activities, we were always careful. We are not flashy people, do not leave items in the car and pretty much blend in as average tourists. For our last visit we picked a small house in Quepos as the place to stay in a "Tico" community. Typical house with the bars on the windows, wood and barred doors at all entry points.

During our second night, someone entered our house while we were asleep and got away with all the cash, an old digital camara, old pair of tennis shoes and an old wrist watch. Thank God they left the credit cards and passports.

We did make a report to the "Jota" who were a stone’s through away and immediately moved to a different place to recoup from the shock.

In contrast, we have visited the Bahamas and owned a house in a small island since 1973. For the most part, that house along with 70 other houses in the island are not supervised by guards, no bars on the windows, no alarm systems and no police. They just stay there with the furniture and food in the fridge until the owners come back for another visit. 

Practically nothing has ever been stolen from the island and the one time that someone came into a house, they fixed something to eat, washed the dishes and left with some small items. Their parents grabed them by the ears and made them return the items and appologize to the owners.

Yes, crime is everywhere and one can be broken in, any time, any where. However, most tourist will not be repeat custumers after an experience like this. It is also a shame that one has to live looking through bars at such a beautiful scenery. It seems that at a time when competition for the tourist industry is intensifying from other countries, pressure from other countries on the coffee industry and rising cost of living, one would be more vigilant with the assets of the home country.

In so far as what to do to stop crime, well I think that most communities in Costa Rica are small enough that the communities, families and neighbours know who the "rotten apples" are. Do they want to look the other way or let them know where are the boundaries of unccetable behaviour.

We trust that Costa Rica will rise to the occasion, do what ever is necessary to correct the situation and continue to present an attractive alternative to tourism and investment.

Otoniel Tallet

He suggests a sting operation

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Highway robberies won’t stop until the thieves perceive a danger to themselves.

Three OIJ officers, two appearing as a middle aged gringo couple and the third as their nerdish teenage son, should drive an obviously rented 4x4 around the highwaymen’s favorite roads, stopping now and then to change a tire.

Four others playing the role of a group of guys going to or from a fishing trip remain out of sight of the first car, but in radio contact.

Sooner or later the decoy plot will work, and even if it doesn’t there would be a ready response to the victimization of actual tourists.

If any of the gang(s) members read A.M. Costa Rica (highly unlikely, of course), just the spectre of such a sting may give them pause.)

Martin Lively 
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Vote for high court judge clouded by tampering claim
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Legislators say that former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez is politicking to prevent an individual being named to the Sala III criminal supreme court.

The matter is more than routine politics because Rodríguez is facing allegations of corruption. Typically criminal convictions are reviewed by the Sala III, which has the power to void a conviction, reduce the sentence or make other adjustments.

Rodríguez is under house arrest. As a condition of his limited freedom he is not supposed to talk to anyone except those few people who are allowed to visit him at home: close family and lawyers. Gloria Valerín raised the issue last week. She is a member of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, the same party as is Rodriguez.

According to Deputy Valerín and others, Rodríguez is trying to block the election of Rosario Fernández, who is a current judge. Deputy Valerín also implicated Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, a second ex-president under house arrest.

The election of magistrates is made by the full Asamblea Nacional. Some 38 votes, two-thirds, is needed for election.

Lawmakers went through two rounds of voting Tuesday but failed to elect anyone. Ronald Salazar obtained 26 votes and led Judge Fernández, who had 11. A third candidate, Magda Pereira Villalobos emerged as a compromise candidate and got 34 votes in the last round. that still was not enough.

Deputies will consider the election again in a week.

National surf tourney will be this weekend in Playa Hermosa
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The seventh session in the 2004-2005 Circuito Nacional de Surf will be Saturday and Sunday in Playa Hermosa.

More than 100 surfers will compete in the tournament, the second to last in the series.

Prospective contestants can enter the tournament Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Jass Surf Shop in Jacó.  The cost is 5,000 colons for open, women, junior (18 

years and under), boogie, longboard and masters (40 years and over) categories, and 3,000 colons for boys (16 years and under), grommets (14 years and under), and mini-grommets (l2 years and under). 

Organizers moved this weekend’s competition from Nosara to Playa Hermosa when they lost a sponsor, they said.

The finals for the surf event will be May 28 and 29, also in Playa Hermosa.

Death of Guanacaste boy, 13, blamed on crocodile attack in river
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 13-year-old boy died after being attacked by a crocodile Monday afternoon in the Río Bebedero near Cañas in Guanacaste.

The boy, identified as Erick Alexander Guevara Pasos, was bathing in the river in the company of an uncle when the attack took place. 

A neighbor found the lad’s body Tuesday afternoon.

In case you missed it:
A.M. Costa Rica, April 5, 2005
Our readership more than doubles in one year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica set another readership record in March when the newspaper registered 2.16 million hits. That was a 22.9 percent increase over February and a 106 percent increase over March 2004, the first month the newspaper exceeded a million hits.

Other statistics had similar increases.

Some 397,368 individual pages were viewed by 99,351 readers. And 45,435 of those readers were registered as unique, which means they were only counted once regardless of how many times they visited the pages in a single day. 

The statistics are maintained by the Internet service provider in the United States where A.M. Costa Rica is hosted. The hosting company keeps track of visits independent of A.M. Costa Rica.

The statistical programs screen out hits and visits by mechanical means, other computers and automated Web crawlers.

The statistics show that the average viewer sees about four pages at every visit to the paper. 

Said Jay Brodell, editor:

"Our dramatic increase in readership over the last three and a half years is no surprise to our advertisers who are getting more and more business from the wave of retirees and would-be retirees who are looking at Costa Rica as a new home and need solid, daily information.

"It’s a new world, and our progressive advertisers recognize that."

A.M. Costa Rica statistics are available on a page that is updated every month HERE!

Future pope faces many Third-World challenges
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Following the funeral of Pope John Paul II, thoughts have turned to his successor and the major challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church. While the Church’s influence is waning in Europe, it is growing in Africa and Latin America. 

And about a third of the 117 cardinals who will choose the next pope are from the Third World. The conclave begins Monday.

Cardinals from Brazil, Argentina, and Honduras are frequently mentioned as possible successors to Pope John Paul II. A specialist in Latin America, Mary Hunt of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual headquartered in Maryland, explained that Protestant and evangelical groups have challenged Catholicism’s former hegemony in Latin America in the past 20 years. She also noted that "liberation theology," which focuses particularly on how the poor understand the Gospel, has gained strength in the region since the 1960s, largely because of difficult socioeconomic and political conditions.

Under the 26-year pontificate of John Paul II, Ms. Hunt said, the pressure on communities to conform to Vatican teaching discouraged many progressive Latin Americans from remaining in the Catholic tradition.

She suggested that Latin Americans were seeking a "new model of Church," one that is adequate to the economic and political realities they face. She said that Catholics in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile are particularly concerned with local control in contrast to top-down styles of management. 

Other major issues include the ordination of women and the ways that laypeople can share in decision-making. According to Ms. Hunt, Latin Americans are looking to the Church for leadership on  moral-economic issues, such as debt repayment, and on human rights and reproductive health. And because of the HIV-AIDS pandemic, the issue of using condoms is very real in the minds of many Catholics in Latin America.

Ms. Hunt said that questions of reproductive choice and divorce are important not only because of religious doctrine but because of the way they affect national laws and politics.

Sulayman Nyang said HIV-AIDS is a burning issue throughout the African continent and noted that the teachings of the Catholic Church often collide with the realities on the ground. He is a professor of African studies at Howard University in Washington. A native of the Gambia, he has written extensively on Islam and Christianity in Africa and is active in interfaith affairs. 

Nyang said that some conservative Muslim groups and Catholics find common cause in opposing birth control and the use of condoms. This is one of the areas where the selection of the next pope will be most critical to the future of the church, said Nyang. He said he believes the person who is chosen will need to serve as a moral bridge between North and South.

Professor Nyang noted that one of the cardinals from Nigeria, the Rev. Francis Arinze, is frequently mentioned as a potential successor to the pope. He said that some of the major issues for Africans, especially those in Nigeria, deal with power sharing by Christians and Muslims, relations between church and state, and religion in the schools. 

Professor Nyang said that if an African cardinal were to be chosen, it would replicate in the spiritual world what has already happened in the diplomatic world — namely the elevation of Kofi Annan as U.N. secretary  general, which helped integrate Africa into the mainstream of international politics.

Nyang also noted that George W. Bush was the first American president to attend a papal funeral, which indicates that Protestants and Catholics have healed their wounds significantly.

According to Nyang, the next pope must assure that all people of the Abrahamic tradition — Jews, Christians, and Muslims — can work together on humanitarian concerns.

Ms. Hunt said there are many reasons why choosing a new pope from the developing world would be desirable. But from her perspective, the most important issue is not that of geography but of ideology.  She believes the selection of John Paul II’s successor will determine whether the progressive forces in those countries will have greater influence and whether the new pope will function as a symbol of unity.

Ms. Hunt said the Catholic Church worldwide is now facing three major challenges — the use of geo-political power as a counter-balance to injustice, the construction of a more horizontal model for the church with greater participation of the laity, and issues of population and development.

Nyang said he thinks the main challenges for the next pope involve the relationship between church doctrine and modernity, the conflict between progressive and conservative forces, and questions of poverty, disease, and education, especially in the developing world.

He noted that one of the most important legacies of John Paul II was the growth of Muslim-Catholic dialogue and Jewish-Catholic dialogue.

Jo Stuart
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