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(506) 223-1327              Published Tuesday, April 17, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 75          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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WOOOSH! And winds are supposed to increase
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Strong winds have been trying to lift the láminas from homes of the Central Valley and elsewhere in the country.

The winds from the north were strongest at the Daniel Oduber airport near Liberia where the top gust was clocked at 60.2 kph (38.7 mph).  The winds helped take travelers minds off the the 35.2-degree C. (95.4 F.) heat.

San José was not far off the peak winds. The top gust measured at the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional in Barrio Aranjuez was  47.3 kph  (29.3 mph). In Pavas the wind was measured at 58.7 kph (36.5 mph). That was only slightly more than conditions at Juan Santamaría airport.

For Costa Ricans in the third day of a three-day holiday, the winds provided mostly clear skies. The gusts reduced humidity and the potential for precipitation.
The weather institute said that the winds were supposed to pick up for the next two days and continue to keep rains at bay.

There were no reports of serious injuries, although many Costa Rican homes are not constructed of solid materials and the structures let the wind blow through. Láminas are the plastic or metal sheets that provide much of the roofing here. They are fastened to rafters with nails or screws that should have rubber washers on their shanks.

The wind can get under the láminas and cause damage that will not be noticed until the next heavy downpour. A bad sign is shattered plastic in the front yard. Over the next two days trees also are in jeopardy.

The Caribbean coast and Limón were spared much of the wind. The highest gust there Monday was 21.7 kph (13.5 mph) at Limón Centro. The high was 31.3 C. (88.3 F.)

Turrialba's CATIE planning its international fair for April 28 and 29
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Turrialba's famous agricultural institute plans its XXI Feria International for April 28 and 29. The world-renowned research and teaching institution, the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, will have students and employees from different countries preparing traditional delicacies.

In addition, the center plans a cultural night with fireworks April 28 when the fair opens at noon. The next day, a Sunday,  there are concerts, food tasting and displays of exotic fruits, said an
Exotics include the borojo  (Borojoa patinoi), a tree fruit that is native to the Amazon, Colombian
and Panama's Darien jungles.

The event is styled as one that unites the world. The proceeds are shared by a number of organizations that benefit persons in the Turrialba area. Last year some 14 groups shared in the distribution of funds. Thousands of persons are expected to attend.

The center, which is known by its initials in Spanish, CATIE, is 3 kilometers, less than  two miles, from the center of Turrialba on the road to Siquirres.

The center is dedicated to the research and postgraduate education in agriculture, conservation and sustainable uses of natural resources.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 17, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 75

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Have wings your way
at new Santa Ana cafe

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Las Vegas transplant is bringing the chicken wings tradition to Santa Ana.

He is Benjamin "Magic" Fraga, formerly associated with Magic's Motown Cafe at New York New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Fraga has been in Costa Rica for two years, long enough to marry and have a 4-month-old baby. He also has the 5-week-old Magic's Motown Cafe in the former Toro Negro on the east side of Santa Ana about a kilometer east of the Cruz Roja.

The 49-year-old San Francisco native reports that wings are good business, especially since he has 106 ways to serve them, ranging from plain to peanut butter and honey. Fraga also makes the traditional deep-fried Buffalo wings, but with breading and flavoring that diverge from the typical

Fraga reports he is going through nearly 200 kilos of wings a week, in part because his servings are so hefty. He also has chicharrones with 106 flavors as well as hamburgers. The favorite flavors are medium buffalo, honey barbecue and cream cheese with garlic. The peanut butter and honey wings are the children's favorite, he said.

"It's hard for me and the chicken people to keep up," he said, noting that he soon will meet his suppliers to increase his order again. Costa Ricans generally like their  chicharrones drenched in lemon juice, but Fraga gives customers a selection of sauces. Frequently Ticos leave hooked on a sauce, he said.
The kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., but the business, which has a liquor license sometimes is open until 2 a.m. on weekends. Fraga serves up free bocas from 4 to 7 p.m. Chicken wings, of course.

The food here must be healthy because the 6-foot, 9-inch Fraga reports he lost 140 pounds since moving to Costa Rica. He now is a svelte 240.

University and Defensoría
fight corporal punishment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Universidad Nacional in Heredia and the  Defensoría de los Habitantes have launched a campaign against physical punishment of children.

The effort is through the university's  Instituto Interdisciplinario de la Ninez y la Adolescencia and involves commercial messages on eight radio stations of Grupo Radiofónico TBC. The commercials target adults who may be caring for children.

The project has support from  Save the Children-Sweden.

The  Defensoría de los Habitantes is promoting a change in the law to outlaw such practices a physical punishment.

Edward Benson Ives
died over Semana Santa

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Edward Benson Ives, 82, a long-time resident of Costa Rica, died April 5 during the Semana Santa holiday.

He was a retired postal worker and had served 35 years in the Virginia area. Prior to that he served with the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division in Japan after World War II and the  66th Counterintelligence Corps Group in the Army of Occupation in Germany.

He came to Costa Rica 23 years ago and lived in an apartment on Calle 5 near Parque Morazán. He was a member  the local American Legion post and was a charter member and a past commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11207 in San José.

He was known as a good conversationalist and frequently visited expat businesses in the central city. Death was due to  pancreatic cancer. There was cremation.

English-language comedy
planned for weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

"Strawberries in January," the latest production of Escazú Little Theatre Group, will be staged this weekend at the Teatro Eugene O’Neill in the  Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Los Yoses.

The production is in English translation of the original French comedy by  Evelyne de la Chanèliere. Direction is by  David Allan King of Montreal, Canada.

The play will be Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5:30 p.m.

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Tex Mex is for sale
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 17, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 75

Crossing the bridge can be a walk on the wild side if the wind is blowing and there is a little rain.
boca arenal bridge
A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Lynn Norton

In Cutris they usually just stay on the straight and narrow
By Donna Lynn Norton
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Travelers who like challenging bridges have come to the right place. A suspension bridge in  Pueblo Viejo de Venecia de San Carlos rolls like the ocean waves when a car crosses.

But there is another more challenging suspension bridge, this one in Boca Arenal. It is narrow and used only by pedestrians.  It is in the district of Cutris (pronounced Kootris) de San Carlos.  The bridge crosses the mighty Río San Carlos and is set in a scene that might just as well be inside the Amazon jungle. This bridge is not for the nervous.

A visitor needs to take the entrance into Boca Arenal off the main highway from Florencia de San Carlos.  After parking opposite the bull ring, the visitor can walk just a few feet off the residential road. The few steps are like walking through a time warp. One encounters a bridge that might be out of a Tarzan or Indiana Jones movie. 

The bridge sways left to right when someone walks over it instead of the ocean wave of the Venecia bridge.  Perhaps it just depends on how a bridge is engineered or the weight for the reason it moves the way it does.
The Río San Carlos will give up enormous three- to five-foot fish called locally the  sábaloreal.  According to one resident, about a year ago, 30 people were fishing off the side of the bridge in Boca Arenal.  The bridge collapsed due to the excess weight, and two persons died — a 30-year-old man, and an 11-year-old boy. 

Now the bridge is back, and the people who use it are mainly the local children going back and forth to school, and the local farm and dairy hands going back and forth to work.  After crossing the bridge from the town one encounters a farm. 

The people who work the farm live there and must cross the narrow bridge to get food or other necessities.   If the
sandbag trail to river
A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Lynn Norton
Trail of sandbags helps residents keed their feet dry when they have to use a boat instead of the bridge.

bridge is closed for some reason, the people lay a path of sand-filled sacks leading from the side of the bridge to the water’s edge where they get a boat.  The path continues on the other side where there is a landing. The idea is to keep the feet dry.

The word Cutris comes from the name of an Indian chief, according to another local. In addition to the district, there is a lake Cutris.

World labor confederation raps Costa Rica on worker rights
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The International Trade Union Confederation claims Costa Rica maintains serious trade union rights violations, The umbrella organization made the allegations as Costa Rica's trade union policies were being reviewed by the World Trade Organization.

The confederation is unhappy that the Sala IV constitutional court has revoked certain rights granted some public employees through collective bargaining. It also says that child workers remain a serious problem and estimates some 100,000 are working in Costa Rica.

The union confederation also objects to the solidarity organizations that many employees here have instead of a traditional union.

And the organization says that workers in free trade zones, banana and pineapple sectors are subject to poor labor standards.

"It appears that Costa Rica has taken a decision to seek competitiveness on world markets by suppressing the fundamental rights of workers to organize,” said Guy Ryder, confederation general secretary.

The confederation cites some 16 clauses in collective bargaining agreements that have been set aside by the constitutional court since 2000.
The confederation is represented in Costa Rica by the Central del Movimiento de Trabajadores Costarricenses and the Confederación de Trabajadores Rerum Novarum.

The organization also is critical of the slow movement of the judicial process to address grievances by union workers.

The confederation report is highly critical of solidarity associations. It says that in the private sector the number of solidarity associations is four times as large as the number of trade unions. These associations collect money from employers for the use of the members. Some also own recreation areas for their members. But the confederation objects to employer participation.

The Costa Rican constitutional court in 2006 declared clauses in seven public employee collective bargaining agreements to be void, said the confederation. The court said that some of the agreements provided excessive compensation or benefits. The court cases were instigated by the Movimiento Libertario that sought reductions in the income of public companies being paid to workers.

In one case, the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, some long-time employees quit and accepted a payoff rather than wait for the court to say the payoff was unconstitutional.

The confederation said that some 44 percent of the child labor takes place in the agricultural sector, mainly for coffee picking.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 17, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 75

Our readers' opinions on the treaty and on the judicial system
Free trade treaty tradeoff
could be traditional lifestyle

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The free trade agreement is about new product availability and existing products at competitive prices, right? Well yes, and no. It’s also about the soul of a country, its traditional ways so attractive to foreigners.

There seems to be two major points of view in Costa Rica. The first is leave the country as it is. Relatively little tax participation with the government, infrastructure left undone or out of order, long lines and slow service, potholes galore. Oh yeah, did I forget something, like established traditional values.

The second point of view is to become more like the United States which includes more products and competitive pricing for existing products. Could this also mean the relentless marketing machine that promotes rampant consumerism will soon follow promoting the never ending keep-up-with-the-Jones mentality requiring mothers to work so the family can have more, creating nontraditional women? What more can a family have than a loving mother to anchor it by making the house a home? Mother’s day in Costa Rica is a testimony to traditional values.

Do Ticos know what they have? The founding father of the United States created the country to escape abusive taxation. Income tax in the U.S. was originally designed to be temporary. Ticos for the most part pay no income taxes. They also believe that the more taxes paid present the opportunity for more taxes to be stolen, squandered or abused.

Remember the story about the $300 toilet seats bought by the U.S. military? The absence of big government and community power at a local government and citizen level is priceless. I, as a U.S. citizen, am a slave to high taxes. The average U.S. citizen works the first four month of the year to fund the government and its military industrial complex. Can you say “Haliburton?”

Is the free trade agreement about goods and products or is it about culture, or is about both. Will adoption of the agreement bring Costa Rica new products, new taxes and functional infrastructure at the price of erasing the traditional values that Costa Rica still has in place? Will it create a U.S. style culture that feeds on the repetitive need to buy something and the feeling that accompanies it, which is a short lasting one quickly in need of another purchase to sustain itself? The need to feel through repetitive acquisitions replaces traditional relationships (genuine interaction between people) with innate objects.

Do we want machines to be the introduction vehicle like computer dating in the U.S.? Can you really consider an e-mail an introduction? Doesn’t a relationship require eye contact, face-to-face interaction? Do Ticos know how hard it is to go to the local Starbucks in the morning and try to have some genuine interaction? Everybody is too busy to talk. Try starting up a conversation with a community member — they look at you as if you are crazy.

Maybe Costa Rican culture gets its feeling (soul) from family and the mundane events of daily living, such as taking the time to pause and have a conversation or greet a neighbor by asking about the health of the family — the traditional events that seem to attract people to this quaint and traditional agricultural-based country.

So is free trade about money and then lifestyle, as applies to the majority of us. Or is it about lifestyle then money, as it is in traditional Costa Rican communities. Which is more important to you, Costa Rica?

Is it about changing a county whose citizens seem to be content with themselves and the “process” of accomplishment, content in fulfilling the steps towards completion? Or will it change to a “performance” driven society where results and a large quantities of them is the order of the day, an order that requires more blind ambition than focused ambition at the expense of genuine human interaction — national soul.

Phil Baker
Costa Rica / U.S.A.
He wants some solutions
to problems from crimes

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I think most people in Costa Rica, nationals as well as foreigners, share Ms. Pam Ellsworth's concern about crime in "paradise."

Ms. Ellsworth's concern about the practice of "preventative detention" and how in the U.S.A. there is the right to a "fair and speedy trial" is the result of the form of law. Most of the world is under the Napoleonic or civil law system while the U.S.A. and only a handful of the other countries practice "common law."
In criminal cases the fundamental physical difference is that in the U.S., law enforcement is required to "investigate" the crime before making an arrest and the court proceeding is highly "adversarial." A jury of peers decides guilt or innocence. Applying  Napolianic law,  a suspect can be, and often is, detained in absence of compelling evidence until the trial at which time the court-appointed judge or judges become both the investigators as well as determine guilt or innocence.
To avoid extraordinary preventative detention time, suspects are more than likely freed from incarceration until their trial.
Again, the problem goes back to Costa Rican inefficiency because from detention to trial time takes one year or longer. Ergo, criminals are free to commit more crime until facing the judge or judges and the likelihood of evidence and witnesses being lost during that time is pretty high, ending in one more dismissals.
With the addition of the all new border police, there are now 18 separate police forces in Costa Rica along with 200 public institutions, each with specific and limited jurisdiction. There are roughly 11,000 members of the Fuerza Pública, the national police. According to La Nación, they earn from $300 to $484 per month. Some members of the force are 70 years old.

There just is not a lot of incentive to be competent or honest. (For example, I passed the residence of the U.S. ambassador the other day and two officers were hunched over their motorcycles smoking. When I returned, one was still smoking while the other decided to take a nap.)
Until we centralize law enforcement, demand accountability, up the pay, up the quality of the force and make sure their shoes hit the streets 24/7, we will continue to live in fear. Costa Rica is criminal heaven: disorganized, inefficient, corrupt and unprotected.
Maybe we should put up rewards from private funds? The cop brings in a criminal that is convicted and the cop gets $200. If any criminal intimidates a witness, we'll pay $500 for their arrest and conviction? If the victim is a tourist, priceless. This is not my idea, and I am not at all sure that I agree, but until someone comes up with a better plan, count me in.
Let's hear some solutions!
John Holtz

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