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These stories were published Friday, April 19, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 77
Jo Stuart
About us
Police are ready to restrain rice protestors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police units were out in force last night to protect truckloads of U.S. rice being unloaded from a cargo ship at the Port of Caldera.

Rice growers have promised to block the unloading or worse. Some growers with their large trucks were in the area late Thursday night but there was no confrontation. Some growers and rice workers showed up earlier in the day, but the bulk of their numbers still were blocking Avenida Principal in San José.

There 18-wheelers loaded with farm tractors had been parked two abreast since Monday, throwing downtown traffic patterns into 
disarray. Some demonstrators said the trucks 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
The artist in her workshop

When Ana Broennimann thinks of fruit or vegetation, she thinks BIG. Her giant canvases also are experiments in texture. See more HERE

might be leaving late Thursday, but they did not say to where. 

At Caldera, the major Pacific harbor, the ship containing 26,000 tons of U.S. rice was being unloaded most of the day. Unloading to tractor-trailers continued into the night.

Related demonstration 
Click HERE

Rice producers believe that the U.S. imports will depress local prices. The ship had been kept from unloading for more than a month. The National Assembly has passed a measure to create a government monopoly to control importation and the price of rice.

The police were dressed for action. Each wore a gas mask, and some canisters of tear gas were in evidence. They were stationed at the head of an access road to the Caldera docks just on the highway to nearby Puntarenas and San José.

Some rice growers and workers were gathered nearby but not close enough or in numbers enough to represent a threat. Some police officials said they expected more demonstrators to arrive in the early morning hours of today.

Some of the rice demonstrators in San José were reluctant to leave because they were enjoying the entertainment and diversions of the capital city while their trucks were blocking the main street. Most slept either in the cabs of the trucks or in makeshift beds nearby.

Most observers said they were surprised that the farmers did not leave as soon as the legislature passed on first reading a plan to create La Corporación Arrocera Nacional, a national rice monopoly that would be in charge of setting prices and approving or disapproving any importation of foreign rice. The cooperation’s board is composed of producers.

The measure has to pass muster with the Supreme court before being returned to the assembly for a final vote perhaps in a month.
Rice producers are known for their tactic of blocking main highways as a means of protest.

Jo Stuart considers side effects and Costa Rica 'natural' cures
Lately it seems that I am taking more and more pills, each one for a different problem and one for the side effects of one of the other pills. This bothers me. When I was working, I had an assistant who was taking eight different pills, five of them to treat the side effects of the others. She became very ill and never recovered from the operation she had to have in spite of the first pill she was taking to cure her problem. 

Anyone who watches television is aware of the number of ads for different drugs — and of all of the incredible side effects you are expected to endure in order to get relief from one ailment. The drug makers seem to think that if they list the side effects of their drugs (even if one of them is "sudden death"), they are off the hook. What is also disturbing is the high cost of all of these medications.

Meanwhile I have been thinking about writing about the ubiquitous Ficus. This remarkable tree seems to grow in all climates, altitudes and sizes. Sandy, who grows bonsai, says that Ficus even make nice bonsai. I love trees. 

Anyway, so the other day when I was downtown and walking through Parque Morazan, I stopped in front of a huge tree, first because I always notice the roots of trees, and this one had magnificent ones. 

Many of the roots were above ground, making wonderful spaces which reminded me of when I was little and one of my favorite pastimes was making a plan of a house at the foot of a tree, using the roots as walls As I looked up, I saw that it also had magnificent branches. One had even grown a ridge to support another branch. I believe trees have consciousness. A little plaque stated that the tree was a "Higueron Ficus Jimenez ll." Really, I thought, a Ficus? 

As I was contemplating this, a voice said something like "Pick up a leaf." A gentleman sitting on a park bench had been watching me. I walked over to him and asked if that was indeed a Ficus. He said no, it was a Higueron and the leaves gave off a milk that was good for treating ulcers. 

He then went on, quite passionately, to tell me 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

that the earth grew all of the necessary cures for what ails us. That most of it was free or nearly so, but that man made drugs and charged exorbitant prices for the drugs. In the campo, he said, when a dog or cat has stomach trouble, it will find a particular plant and chew the leaves, and the juice cures them. "Just watch the animals and learn," he said. 

And the ancients, I thought, remembering something I had read about the Indians of the Andes who chewed the coca leaf. It not only helped them survive in the rarified air. It curbed their appetite and gave them energy. Addiction was not a problem. Modern man came along, isolated the part that gave a high and developed a drug for which we have, indeed, paid an exorbitant price. I remembered reading that the coca leaf contained vitamin B complex, among other nutrients, that seemed to prevent the deleterious side effects. How many other natural medicines have we turned into drugs with harmful side effects, I wondered? 

It is funny how things like that happen. I tend to believe that there are no accidents or coincidences. This ‘chance’ encounter with the man on the bench was telling me something. For the moment, the mighty Ficus will have to wait, as I am now caught up in reading about alternative treatments for ailments. It seems to me that allopathic research into the efficacy of herbal and other "natural"remedies is limited mainly to warning us about possible side effects, perhaps as someone has said, because these treatments cannot be patented.

Costa Rica is an ideal place to do this research because the Central Market has stalls that sell medicinal herbs and there are many practitioners of homeopathic medicine here. It certainly can’t hurt to check out what Mother Earth has in her medicine chest. 

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A.M. Costa Rica photos
The artists is dwarfed by the giant watermelon work she has hung in her home.
Texture is key for Pavas artist

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ana Broennimann likes big paintings. Some of hers are four-feet square. And she loves bright colors and the natural world. 

Her works in acrylic are dominated by the vegetation found in Costa Rica and fresh fruit. Her studies are oversized and full of impact.

But her real love is experimenting with textures. She applies marble dust, sand and ground quartz with the base of her paintings and the texture is what brings the works alive into three dimensions.

Her works will be on display at the Galeria Manuel de la Cruz González at the Museo Dr. Rafael Angel Calderón Guardia starting May 2. The Exhibition will run until May 31.

The museum is a block east and a long block north 

Texture closeup
of Santa Teresita Church in northeast San José.

Born in Mexico in 1960, Mrs. Broennimann became an architect to help out her father who is in the construction business. 

Since she was a child, she realized that she had an aptitude for art, but she also won many awards for her work as an architect after leaving the University la Salle in Mexico.

From 1979 to 1982, she painted in pastels and oils with a Mexican professor. She spent time at the San Francisco Art School in 1992.  For more than 10 years she studied in other schools, including some in Costa Rica as she focussed her creativity.

She came to Costa Rica with her Swiss husband. He works in a social agency that is concerned with homeless children. Mrs. Broennimann makes no secret of her priorities. Art is No. 3 after wife and mother.

Her home, less than a block from the U.S. Embassy in Pavas, could have been designed for an artist. North light beams through the many skylights to illuminate her studio where she also gives classes.

The house is dominated by her giant paintings. But she beams with pride as she shows a slightly smaller work done by the couple’s son Andrés, 6. He, too, likes bright colors and big canvases.

Ana Broennimann explains her technique

Students demonstrate
against municipal plan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An unruly crowd of students demonstrated in front of the National Assembly at lunchtime Thursday signaling an acceleration of the fight against the "Combo Municipal."

The students marched to the location and uprooted plants, whacked cars and did some damage in the process. They filled the spaces in the front of the National Assembly building not already occupied by 18-wheelers parked there for three days by protesting rice farmers.

The students, all dressed in the uniforms of their various schools, threw paper wads and eggs. They climbed all over the parked rigs. One estimate put their number at 1,500.

The protest was against a proposed law that would send more money to municipalities which then would spend some of the money on education. Teachers have been demonstrating off and on at the assembly building for a week.

Education Minister Guillermo Vargas Salazar promised Wednesday that the government was not going to privatize education. Thursday he wondered aloud at how the demonstrating students managed to get out of school.

The educators suggest that by earmarking 10 percent of the national budget for municipalities, education would be shortchanged. Plus, they fear that municipalities would be more likely to meddle in local educational matters, such as personnel.

The teachers reflect a general Costa Rican suspicion of the municipal governments, which are seen as highly corrupt.

The teachers are not alone. Union members who work with Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the water company, also are upset by the plan. So are workers at hospitals.

The phrase "Combo Municipal" is a reference to the proposal by President Miguel Angel Rodríguez to privatize some government monopolies, including the telephone company. The proposal two years ago led to long weeks of street demonstrations.

Under the proposal plan some water lines would become municipal property. That’s why the union for water company workers announced two days of work stoppages, strikes and demonstrations, the first Tuesday and the second Thursday. These public employees probably will be joined in the streets by teachers, members of the Asociación Nacional de Educadores. The two days of general strikes have the support of a number of other national labor organizations, including the big Sindicato de Trabajadores Costarricense.

For their part, the rice farmers said they probably will get their rigs out of Avenida Principal by this morning. They got what they came for when the National Assembly passed on first reading a plan to create La Corporación Arrocera Nacional, a national rice monopoly that would be in charge of setting prices and approving or disapproving any importation of foreign rice.

The rice proposal probably will not come up for a second and final reading in the National Assembly for another month.

Intruder shot dead
in Alajuela chase

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An intruder fled arrest in Alajuela about 3 p.m. Wednesday, police and a victim gave chase, and the man was found dying with two bullet wounds.

Investigators said that a man in Residencial Montenegro in Alajuela Centro surprised a man in the patio of his home about 3 p.m. The resident fired some shots at the man, who then fled. 

Three members of the Fuerza Publica joined the chase into a nearby coffee plantation. They, too, carried guns and fired at the man. The man, identified as José Autemio Chavez Aquilar, 25, died at a hospital.

Investigators confiscated the gun of the resident as well as those of the police to see if ballistic tests can determine what took place.

Pacheco to skip
meeting with Bush

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President-elect Abel Pacheco will not make a trip next week to meet with U.S. President George Bush in Washington. 

Instead, his staff announced that he was suffering from an inflamed knee as a result of being jostled during election activities April 7.

Pacheco planned to meet with Bush Tuesday to discuss, among other matters, a proposed Central American free trade agreement and Costa Rica barriers to U.S. imports.

Red tide,
on upswing
by the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Pacific coast is being hit by a growing epidemic of dengue, and late word Thursday said that a toxic red tide is moving up the coast from Quepos towards Puntarenas.

The red tide is not dangerous to humans, but the toxin gets into shell fish and other sea creatures making them dangerous to eat.

Dengue is a mosquito-born virus that generally follows the advent of the rainy season. The disease produces a flu-like condition the first time a person is infected. The second time may be fatal.

Most tourist locations along the Pacific coast are well aware of the mosquito danger and offer bug-tight accommodations. Visitors should wear bug repellant in the evenings and in infested areas during the daytime.

Low income areas all along the coast harbor dengue-bearing mosquitoes.

The red tide, produced by an overabudance of a particular form of algae, results in a hidden toxin that can be passed on to humans through the sea food they eat. Responsible eateries make sure their produce are free of such concerns.

Tax deadline gone,
but time still left

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The deadline for filing U.S. income tax returns for the 2001 tax year was Monday. But residents living abroad have an automatic two-month extension to file their taxes, according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Not only that, U.S. citizens living abroad get the extra two months to pay any taxes that are owed. The only thing that foreign residents need to remember is that they must attach a statement to the face of their tax return specifying why they qualify for a two-month extension, said the IRS.

At the same time, U.S. citizens can exclude from their gross income the first $78,000 that they earned abroad in 2001, according to the IRS. The amount gets slightly higher each year.

That doesn’t mean the IRS lets you off the hook when it comes to filing a return. Any single person who earned over $7,450 from sources worldwide has to file a tax return. If a couple are filing jointly, the amount is $13,400. But if one of the spouses filing jointly is over 65 years of age, the threshold number is $14,300

Many more categories are listed on the IRS Web site: http://www.irs.gov/formspubs/display

Posted at the site is a copy of publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.

Generally the IRS allows your $78,000 gross income deduction on earned income gained from work. Interest income, even if earned offshore, is subject to U.S. taxes.

Tax havens now
reduced to seven

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is applauding the success of a project to eliminate tax evasion by encouraging tax havens to open their systems to greater scrutiny.

The work was done by of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international group formed by the 30 most developed countries.

Thursday the organization said that only seven jurisdictions had not yet committed to greater transparency and information exchanges on tax matters. Two years ago there were 35 financial centers identified as uncooperative tax havens when the "harmful tax practices" project was launched in 2000.

"I am glad to see that our efforts last spring to refocus the OECD project on information exchange and transparency has led to these results," U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said in a news release issued the same day. "I applaud these countries for coming forward to make a commitment to improve their tax information exchange and transparency policies."

Transparency means that the nations share their tax information on individuals with other countries.

The seven jurisdictions listed as uncooperative were: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Liberia, Monaco, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Vanuatu.

Brazil planning
to get VAT tax

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil is getting ready to approve partial reform of its tax system. The Financial Times reports a legislative proposal in the lower house of the Brazilian Congress is meant to convert two separate taxes into a value-added tax. 

A value-added tax is a general consumption tax assessed on the value added to goods and services.  The newspaper says reform of the taxes would be welcomed by business groups because those taxes increase the cost of goods made by Brazilian manufacturers. 

The Financial Times quotes Brazilian Finance Minister Pedro Malan as saying he is optimistic about progress on the tax reform. The value added tax proposal is advancing despite a recent split in the political coalition that supports President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's government. 
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Bush warns Chavez
to learn from coup

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush is urging Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to learn from the political turmoil that led to his brief ouster last week in a failed coup.

Speaking Thursday in Washington, President Bush said it is important for President Chavez to address the factors behind Venezuela's political instability. Bush made the remarks after meeting with visiting Colombian President Andres Pastrana.

The comments came as the head of the Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, prepared to meet with regional foreign ministers in Washington to discuss his recent fact-finding mission to Venezuela.

The OAS is seeking ways to support Venezuela in its efforts to strengthen democracy to avoid a repeat of the political turbulence that triggered the botched coup.

Gaviria has warned Venezuela could fall into chaos unless it opens a national dialogue on the issues dividing the nation. Chavez met with local politicians Thursday for talks on his country's problems.

President Bush says it is important for Chavez to embrace the institutions fundamental to democracy, including freedom of the press.

President Pastrana, for his part, said he hopes President Chavez makes changes in Venezuela to respect civil laws, guarantee the rights of the opposition and respect human rights. Bush and Pastrana met to discuss using U.S. aid to help fund Colombia's war against leftist rebels.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela Chavez has opened a meeting of the nation's council of state by praising the role of the armed forces in restoring him to office. Chavez said Thursday, soldiers who opposed him had been tricked by events.

The meeting was meant to set the stage for a national dialogue to unite the country. Church officials, some business leaders and some opposition politicians say they are willing to participate in the dialogue.

President Chavez was removed from office by rebellious military officers last Friday. He was restored to power on Sunday, and the interim leader, Pedro Carmona, is under house arrest.

Chavez has admitted his errors and appealed for the country to calmly retreat from violence. Dozens of Venezuelans were killed in massive street protests in Caracas, when soldiers first ousted Chavez.

Argentine police
fire gas at crowd

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentine police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of protesters who rallied in several provinces to demand overdue wages.

Thursday's unrest came as President Eduardo Duhalde's government discussed ways to repay bank depositors whose money has been frozen as part of the country's unpopular banking restrictions.

They were enacted in December as Argentina's economic crisis worsened under the government of then-President Fernando de la Rua. Looting and deadly rioting over the measures followed. Argentina is in the midst of a four-year recession and wants about $20 billion in foreign aid to help the economy recover.

Canadians killed
by pilot’s error

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. F-16 fighter jet has mistakenly bombed a group of Canadian soldiers during a training exercise with American forces near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Canadian military officials say four of their soldiers were killed and eight others were wounded, some seriously.

A U.S. defense official says the pilot dropped the 225-kilo bomb Thursday because he mistook a live-fire exercise on the ground for hostile fire.

President Bush telephoned Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien to offer condolences to the families of the Canadian soldiers. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has expressed deep regret over the incident and promised to work closely with Canadian defense officials on the investigation.

Officials say the site of the accident is a former al-Qaida training camp used daily by coalition forces for live-fire exercises.

Canadian forces are fighting alongside U.S. and European troops seeking to hunt down remnants of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

Robbers hit AM/PM 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five men with heavy weapons held up the AM/PM supermarket in Curridabat about 12:20 a.m. Thursday.

Some carried AK-47 assault rifles. Investigators said the men whacked a guard on the head with a rifle, took 500,000 colons ($1.425) and fled in the automobile of the supermarket manager.

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