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(506) 223-1327      Published Wednesday, April 19, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 77          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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New face and lights will debut tonight for downtown theater
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The refurbished facade of the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar will be celebrated tonight with a couple of bands, a dance presentation, drama, speeches and the debut of the theater's new lighting.

 Considering that the event is free and in front of the downtown theater, the evening promises good value.

Workmen have been fixing up the facade for four years, in part with a grant from the government of Germany which gave about $60,000 of the $400,000 project. Private companies also donated.

Among those speaking tonight will be  Giancarlo Protti, executive director of the theater.

The event has political overtones, too, because the project was both started and finished during the administration of Abel Pacheco, who leaves the presidency May 8. He won't be there, but Guido Sáenz González, minister of Cultura, Juventud y Deportes, is among the speakers.

The Banda Sinfónica Juvenil and the Big Band are both on the program.

The show starts at 6:30 p.m. with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque in the vestibule of the theater followed by the 7 p.m. inauguration.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Workman high above the street applies finishing touches on the facade.

The theater is on Avenida 2 north of Parque Central and not far from the Catedral Metropolitana. Officials promise that the next job is refurbishing the theater's interior.

Environmentalist supports croc that faced fiesta indignities
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A local environmentalist thinks that a Semana Santa festival assaults the dignity of crocodiles.

In a letter, María Elena Fournier of Asociación Conservacionista Yiski took issue with La Fiesta del Lagarto which she had seen covered as a news story by local television channels. The community of Ortega de Santa Cruz, Guanacaste, produces the festival.

Some residents capture an adult croc, tie it up and bring it to the festival and then release it the next day. This year the guest measured 3 meters, some 10 feet.
Ms. Fournier addressed her letter to an official of the environmental ministry and said she was unhappy because ministry representatives were present at the festival and witnessed what she said was the irresponsible, violent and disrespectful act toward the animal.

She also objected because the festival was celebrated with alcohol.

She called upon the ministry to prohibit such activities in the future, even though the Ortega festival is many years old. She said she was thankful that the ancient custom of sacrificing and eating human beings was history despite the traditional roots.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 77

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A.M. Costa/Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Public agencies got multiple days worth of customers Tuesday as this photo at an agency of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad shows.

Post-holiday crunch hits
at public offices

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

People with problems and bills to pay flooded government offices Tuesday, the first day since Wednesday that they had been open.

The lines included some who had gone to the beach for all of Semana Santa and were now hurrying to pay a bill, fix their cellular telephone or make other needed applications.

Meanwhile, police were happy they had chalked up 59 arrests at holiday checkpoints over Semana Santa. At the Zurquí tunnel alone on the main highway to the Caribbean, Fuerza Pública officers made 23 arrests of persons found to lack immigration approval to be here. Some 27 persons now face a complaint of carrying a firearm and 19 face various drug charges.

Indian culture event
on day of the book

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museos del Banco Central will have a special day dedicated to Indian cultures Saturday. Storytellers, artists and crafts workers will be there then.

The day also is the Día del Libro as well as the Día del Indígena, so museum workers are suggested that visitors learn about Indian history via books.

The day starts at 10 a.m. when a book fair will be held at the museum with representatives from the Indian community of Quitirrisí also present to show their crafts, the museums said.

At 11 a.m. youngsters will be able to enjoy the storytellers from the Pancita community.

The museum complex houses the famous Museo del Oro Precolombino as well as Museo de Numismática with early examples of Costa Rican coinage.

Tournament fishermen
have three-day event

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 27 sports fishermen will be at Playa Carillo for a three-day competition seeking marlin and sailfish.

The event is the Presidential Challenge of Central America Conservation Series, and participants will be earning points toward a championship to be awarded at the end of a future tournament.

This event benefits The Billfish Foundation conservation work in Costa Rica.  Ellen Peel, foundation president, and Russell Nelson, foundation consultant, will be on hand to talk to the anglers, captains and observers about the continuing work the foundation is doing to assist the local sport fishing community in their effort to protect billfish in local waters, said an announcement.
Fishing begins Friday at 8 a.m. The event concludes with an awards dinner Sunday in the Hotel Guanamar.

EU Web site launched
to stimulate debate

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A new Web site providing factual and accessible information on the European Union has been launched by the British minister for Europe, Douglas Alexander. The site follows an initial findings from a Eurobarometer poll reveal as many as 60 percent of the public would like to have more information about the EU.

“I hope that this new website will not only help meet the public's desire for more information about the EU but will encourage and stimulate public debate on Europe,” said Alexander.

“The EU has brought many benefits to the United Kingdom, but there are many myths too. This Web site is one resource in helping to cut through those myths, so that people can see the facts for themselves and make up their own minds on the benefits the European Union brings to the UK.”

The new website can be found at www.europe.gov.uk and will be both a resource on UK EU policy and the debate on the future direction of the EU. A future of Europe section will set out a range of opinions on the EU and invite people to contribute to the debate.

The British Foreign Office is also launching a new EU Guide. This is being sent to public libraries and other information points around the UK. It will also be available online at www.europe.gov.uk. 

Poets will have their week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sharpen up your poetry skills. the V Festival Internacional de Poesía will be in San José May 27 to June 4 with top Spanish language poets being invited as well as hundreds from Costa Rica. Activities also will be held in Alajuela, Heredia, Pérez Zeledón and Limón, said an announcement. The event is organized annually by the Asociación Casa de Poesia.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 77


of sculpture

It's balloon crafting time in Cahuita with the finished product shown in the insert lower left.

A.M. Costa Rica/Annette Carter

Long-time performer brings his act to Cahuita kids
By Annette Carter
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

You can call him Ras Papa, Tico Manley, Papa Dollar or the Monkey Man, or, you can call him Jerry Lee, the name most people in Cahuita on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast know him by.  In his 30-plus years as an on-the-road entertainer he has been called all of these names and more, each one representing the distinct personality of the character he was portraying at the time.

Part-time Cahuita resident Lee has been entertaining audiences for more than three decades and on his frequent trips to Costa Rica he brings his unique style of making people laugh while also making them think.  Saturday, for the second year in a row, he and an assistant created and launched a helium balloon sculpture to the delight of a group of local children.  Other times, Lee puts on his red clown nose, makes balloon animals or performs magic tricks for the kids.  It’s all part of his philosophy of putting a little education into everything he does.

“I went to school to be a teacher, but really I’ve been a teacher all my life,” he said.

And what a life it’s been.  After college and a stint owning a natural food store Lee fell into the entertainment business when a friend gave him a monkey.

“That made me think about doing shows for kids,” he said.  So he created a role as Alfie the Ape with his then-wife as Flamin’ Jane, the ringmaster, and took a menagerie of animals — rabbits, parrots, monkeys, raccoons, wildebeests, skunks and an invisible dog— to day care centers and church schools to teach kids about animals.  In eight years he performed 2,500 shows and picked up some additional skills, including magic tricks and the ability to make a zoo-full of animals from balloons.

“The first time I heard applause, I knew I had a career,” Lee said, adding that he became a “road dog” traveling America with his show trailer and never living in a standard home from 1972 to 2002.

With his Old West Medicine Show Lee traveled to small towns across the United States as Papa Dollar complete with the Bed of Nails, Lady of Steel and Substitute Trunk tricks followed by his role as Ras Papa in a traveling gypsy act.  It was this role that in 1989 earned him an invitation by then President Óscar Arias and the Costa Rican government to perform in the Teatro para La Paz de San José.

Lee’s ensemble toured throughout Costa Rica and  he has made this coastal village his home-away-from-home ever since. 

“I do things here in Cahuita because at festival times there’s not much for kids and families and it’s something I can do on my own without an ensemble

A.M. Costa Rica/Annette Carter
Jerry Lee delivers a poem

of people,” he said.  “I’ve been making balloon animals for kids in Cahuita who now have kids of their own.”

Another character is Tico Manley, a radical left wing hippie from the ‘60s who satirizes the culture and politics of the day and a role Lee said is the closest to characterizing his real self. 

In his years of performing he mastered the art of the whip, a skill which, along with his abilities as an entertainer earned him roles in two movies Young Guns with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez and Brenda Starr with Brooke Shields, he said.

Lee said he believes that “with the gift comes obligation.” So he and two partners established Blue Moon in 1990, an artists colony near Alachua, Florida, to serve as a place for other artists to stay between jobs and to give them a place to rest from the road along with likeminded people.  Blue Moon boasts a 40-foot stage with lighting, a sound studio, cabins and campsites.

Now, his life revolves around his work at Blue Moon, his trips to Cahuita and writing poetry.  He wrote his first poem at the age of 23 but never saw it as a career.  “I always admired the people who could paint the pictures, sculpt the sculptures and such,” he said.

In fact, his son Jason teaches sculpture at Kent State University.  Daughter Jahmin works in a “Wall Street-type job.”  He laughs when he says, “She probably doesn’t tell people she was born in the back of a circus truck.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 77

Two agencies try to reduce social impact of bird flu
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Two hemispheric agencies have signed an agreement to develop preparedness plans to lessen the socioeconomic effects of a possible influenza pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In a statement Monday, the Inter-American Development Bank said it had signed an agreement with the Pan American Health Organization for a $200,000 operation to strengthen an early warning system against the potential outbreak of pandemic flu in the Americas.

The development bank said the economic and social costs of widespread influenza, in both animal and human forms, could be enormous for the region.  An epidemic of the animal disease that has now occurred in birds in about 50 nations could cause losses in poultry production, international trade, tourism and other activities.  A pandemic could lead to an increase in poverty among millions of rural families and small farmers, the development bank said.

The program will assess the risk of a pandemic and the level of preparedness of each country in the region, and will identify financial needs and methods
available to help them develop and use a plan against a possible avian influenza outbreak. 

The program also seeks to strengthen surveillance in animal and human health and sanitary regulations to reduce the chances of human infection.

According to the development bank Web site, influenza experts consider the risk of avian flu in Latin America and the Caribbean to be relatively low, as birds flying south from the United States are not believed to intermingle with birds heading to America from Siberia, where an outbreak occurred (among birds, not humans).  But the current perception of low risk could change, given the presence of the H5N1 strain of the virus in Canadian waterfowl, the development bank said.

According to international health authorities, some 25 European and Eurasian nations have detected the H5N1 virus since early 2006, with four in Africa, five in the Near East, four in South Asia and the remainder in East Asia where the epidemic began more than two years ago.  Highly pathogenic H5N1 is an avian virus that has caused the death or destruction of hundreds of millions of birds in Asia and cost that region's poultry industry billions of dollars. 

Chinese oil company gets $239-million job to build gas pipeline in Brazil
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil's state-run energy company, Petrobras, has awarded a major contract to a Chinese firm to build a gas pipeline between southeast and northeast Brazil.

Petrobras signed the $239-million deal with China's state-run oil company, Sinopec, Monday.

Under the contract, Sinopec will build a 300-kilometer (186-mile) stretch of pipeline in southeastern Brazil.  
It will connect the gas fields in Rio de Janeiro state to the city of Vitoria (in Espirito Santo state), farther north.  The pipeline will have a daily capacity of 20 million cubic meters of gas.

Brazil plans to extend the pipeline from Vitoria to the town of Catu, in northeastern state of Bahia, covering a total distance of 1,300 kilometers (806 miles). 

The entire project, known as Gasene, is aimed at improving gas distribution in northeastern Brazil.

Mexican front runner may have lost some support among voters
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new public opinion poll indicates that support for Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel López Obrador is slipping, with elections set for July.

The poll, published Monday by the Mexican newspaper El Universal, says López Obrador's support among likely voters dropped 4 percentage points to 38 percent from a month ago.  The former Mexico City mayor represents the Democratic Revolution Party.

The survey said Felipe Calderón, of President Vicente
Fox's National Action Party had 34 percent of voter support, up from 32 percent.  Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party saw his support among voters climb 1 percentage point to 25 percent.

Voters go to the polls July 2 to choose members of Congress and a successor to President Fox, who by law cannot seek a second term.

The change in the percentage of support may be well within the magin of error in a national poll. This means public support may not have changed at all during the month. Many voters have not even considered what they will do so far from election day.

Jo Stuart
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