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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, April 21, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 79         E-mail us    
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May 8 will be a day of personalities and jams
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The May 8 inauguration of Óscar Arias Sánchez is shaping up to be a major meeting of world leaders. And there will be major traffic jams.

Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has sent word that he will attend. The U.S. delegation will be headed by Laura Bush, wife of the president.

Former Polish president Lech Walesa, like Arias a Nobel Peace Prize winner, also has confirmed. The president of Taiwan, Chen Sui-Bian, is coming with a delegation.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is on the list, as is Martin Torrijos of Panamá and other Central American leaders.

These guests and others were listed Thursday by Bruno Stagno, the future minister of Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, in a summary to reporters.

The Spanish crown prince of Asturias and his wife also are expected. But Fidel Castro is not.

The event will cover two days. May 7, a Sunday, is when the foreign delegations will present themselves formally at Casa Amarilla, the foreign ministry. Diplomats will work overtime to make sure people like Laura Bush and Venezuela President Chávez don't meet on the stairs.

Then Abel Pacheco, in one of the last acts of his presidency, will host the heads of state and missions at a dinner that night at the Teatro Nacional. Arias will hold a special reception later.

The inaugural day begins for the public at 7 a.m. when police close off the highways near the Estadio Nacional in Sabana Oeste from the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería on the south to the Banco Interfin on the north. The Rohrmoser boulevard also will be closed as will an area in the vicinity of the Arias house from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Large sections of the downtown will be closed, too, in anticipation of afternoon inaugural events.

Arias will walk from his house to the stadium with plans to arrive there at 11 a.m. He lives less than a kilometer away.

The presence of world leaders, many of them
controversial, means tight security, and at least 1,300 policemen will be involved in the security screen at the stadium and other locations where inaugural activities are.

Admission to the stadium is being limited to those with invitations. Guests will be bused in.

At 2:30 p.m., Arias is to be the host of a luncheon for heads of state and missions at the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo in the Centro Nacional de Cultura.

Then at 4:30 p.m. Arias is scheduled to get to work by holding his first cabinet meeting with his new ministers at the nearby Casa Amarilla.

Arias is expected to issue a flurry of decrees attacking problems, like roads, that were not managed satisfactorily by the Pacheco administration.

Others in the various missions will be hosted at additional events around town, including a luncheon at Pueblo Antiguo in the Parque de Diversiones in La Uruca.

Other events are planned all over the country for those who can't make the trip to San José. These may include dance events and other celebrations of the peaceful change of power.

The Comisión Nacional de Traspaso de Poderes is in charge of the inauguration. The commission said it had a budget of 100 million colons, or about $200,000.

When Abel Pacheco accepted the sash of office May 8, 2002, the ceremony was in the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar downtown, and guests walked to a luncheon at the Teatro Nacional.

The only information about the makeup of the U.S. delegation has come from the commission. They seem well-briefed there with information including where delegation members may be housed.

The White House has not yet announced the designation of Mrs. Bush as delegation leader, and U.S. Embassy employees said they were in the dark as late as Wednesday.

Chávez of Venezuela has become standard bearer for the left in Latin America and at odds with the United States. He claims the United States tried to unseat him in a coup, a charge the administration denies.

Your inaugural invitation will not come in the mail
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats and anyone else who wants to attend the inauguration of Óscar Arias Sánchez May 8 have to do so through organizations.

That was the word Thursday from the Comision Nacional de Traspaso de Poderes.

For some, this will not be a problem. Members of the Partido Liberación Nacional, for example, will be able to obtain their invitations through the party structure. A bloc of seats is being reserved for them,

Requests for invitations from individuals will

not be accepted, a representative of the comisssion said, adding that expats who really want to attend the event could prevail on existing organizations to seek allocations of invitations.

Even though the event is being held in the Estadio Nacional in Parque la Sabana, the 15,000 available seats are quickly being used up.

For those who do not want to brave the sun and the possibility of a downpour, local television will dedicate hours to the transfer of power, beginning with a walk by Arias from his Rohrmoser home to the stadium.

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Limón, Moín slowdowns
halted by agreement

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The public workers on the Moín and Limón docks have agreed to return to work.

The news came in a joint press release from the Ministerio de la Presidencia shortly before midnight Thursday. The deal had been reached about two hours earlier.

Government officials, headed by Lineth Saborío, first vice president and minister of the Presidencia, and dock worker union reps had been meeting much of the day. The talks were designed to head off the work slowdowns that have cost fruit producers millions in lost shipments.

The government sent more than 100 police officers to the docks Wednesday night to protect workers for private firms that were loading produce onto ships.

The public employees work for the Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica. They are members of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Japdeva.

The agreement appears to address most of the concerns of the workers.

The Ministerio de Trabajo agrees to push a new collective bargaining agreement for the union by calling the Comision Negociadora de Convenciones Colective el el Sector Público into session Monday. The ministry also agreed to try to have the agreement signed Tuesday.

This was a big complaint of the union that the new contract had not been ratified.

The union workers also wanted a lot more money, but the government only agreed to begin a salary study.

The government also said it would study the legality of certain rules that had irked union members.

Fresh produce like melons, bananas and pineapples do not fare well when crane operators and others on the dock stage slowdowns. The most recent has been going on for more than a week, so much so that the dock administration called for police help Wednesday.

Queen's Birthday event
is Saturday in Escazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the top social events of the year takes place Saturday in Escazú as the local British community celebrates the Queen's Birthday.

The charity event raises thousands for schools in need. Last year the event raised $13,000, and organizers hope to beat that amount this year. And that is done with the sale of food, some professionally prepared by restaurants that donate their time, staff and equipment.

Visitors who are of age have been known to drink alcohol, too, which is available in exchange for a donation.

But there also are many events for children. In fact this year, the theme is taken from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

The location is the British Ambassador's residence in Los Laureles, Escazú, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  In Costa Rican terms, the address is: On the old road from Escazú to Santa Ana, 20 meters. West from San Gildar Hotel, and 75 meters north.

There is a minimal entry fee, which also goes to charity.

Bird flu expert from U.S.
to exchange views here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agricultural officials are bringing in a U.S. expert to provide information and training on bird flu today.

The event is at the Instituto Interamericano de Cooperación para la Agricultura in Coronado. The expert is Cristóbal Zepeda of the Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Zepeda, born in México, is a veterinarian.

The session, which has been described as a chat, is for professional bird producers and others in the industry. The session starts at 2 p.m.

Although health officials have concerns that the bird flu virus might result in a human epidemic, the biggest concern now is that the virus might be brought into the country by migratory birds and cause huge losses in the poultry industry.

Mayor of Nicoya loses job

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bernardo Vargas Quirós has been removed as mayor of Municipalidad de Nicoya after a lengthy process involving the Contraloria de la República and the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

The Contraloria, the fiscal watchdog, claimed that the mayor entered into some contracts that were on the margin of the law and that he failed to get review of the Contraloria for some deals.

Vargas Quirós. a member of the Partido Liberación Nacional, was declared mayor Dec. 20, 2002, after an election, the tribunal said.  A deputy mayor, Jennifer Lyn Flores Stoviak, was named to serve in his place, said a tribunal  decision released Thursday.

Chirripó park to be closed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Parque Nacional Chirripó is being closed as of May 15 for maintenance work, according to the Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía.

The park has overnight capacity for just 30 persons at the Centro Ambientalista El Páramo which is near the nation's highest point, Cerro  Chirripó.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 79


Here's something to talk to yourself about
The city got back to normal this week.  The streets are jammed with cars again, and the smell of gasoline fumes is in the air. There are people everywhere, half of them talking on their cell phones.  And the stores and offices are open.  The noise level is back up a few decibels.  After about 10 minutes of waiting for the bus to take me to Plaza Mayor, I realized that I could catch any Pavas bus in the opposite direction which would take me to a Central Avenue market. 

What I really wanted to buy, was fruit, lots of fruit, and the downtown market is the best place for that.  So I crossed the street and waited in the bus stop there.  “That was good thinking, Jo,” I said aloud to myself.

Along with talking back to the TV and to my plants, I have a tendency to talk to myself.  Sometimes there is someone else nearby who will ask me what it was I just said. I answer, “Oh, I’m just muttering.” 

Now I find I am not alone, I am like 26 percent of Ticos, who, according to a recent survey reported in La Nación, say they frequently talk to themselves. Those of us who talk to ourselves do so mostly at home (64.1 percent), but we also talk to ourselves at work, while walking. We let out our mutterings in the bus (I find this most embarrassing when I realize I have just said something out loud). 

More than 12 percent talk to themselves in the bathroom  — probably at their reflections.  Not as many do so while driving (9.2 percent). I am sure they talk — in a very loud voice — to other drivers more.  A few talk to themselves in the kitchen, of course!  I always talk to the food I am cooking.  And even fewer Ticos talk to their plants. 

I don’t think talking to your plants qualifies as talking to yourself. Right now I am talking to three orchid plants that Alexis left with me (I think she was
desperate because I am notorious for my bad luck with plants), and I am not just talking to them — I am pleading with them to stay alive and well until    she returns.  And everybody talks to their pets. It    
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

 depends upon what entities you believe have consciousness.

Some 26 percent isn’t all that many, but I am surprised that even that many Ticos say they do, because the survey must have covered all ages and all living arrangements.  I’ll bet if the query were limited to people who live alone and are, perhaps over 50, the number who talk to themselves would be much greater. 

Ticos are not alone too often. Children seldom leave home to take a one-bedroom apartment on their own.  They stay with the family until they marry or go off to school.  They seldom go off to doctor’s appointments or the bank alone.  This realization comforts me when I see the crowd in the waiting rooms at any of the Caja hospitals.

What did surprise me was that as many as 40 percent of those who talk to themselves believe others think they are probably crazy.  That is a bit discomfiting. 

At the market, which is just a few steps from the bus stop, I bought four mangos, some strawberries and a melon for $1.20 and got back on the bus.  The bus, I noted, now takes a different route back to Sabana Norte — it is much faster because it no longer goes along Paseo Colon.  My last hurdle was walking the long three blocks to my apartment carrying my heavy bag of fruit. 

Unlocking the door to the apartment, “I did it!” escaped from my lips.

I wonder how many of those people with cell phones are really just talking to themselves?

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 79

Democratic transformation is positive sign, she says
Secretary Rice says Latin America has come a long way
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Latin America's embrace of democracy represents a profound shift in political culture that bodes well for the region's future, despite the serious challenges ahead, according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Speaking at a media roundtable Wednesday in Chicago, the secretary noted that since the 1980s, the Western Hemisphere has transformed itself from a region prone to military coups into a community of democratic nations, excepting only Cuba.

"I think we have to start by recognizing that this is a region that has come a long way from the period of the '80s, when it was wracked with civil wars and juntas and when nobody thought about democracy," she told reporters.

Asked to comment on tensions between the United States and Venezuela in the wake of an anti-U.S. stance by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Rice argued that the inflammatory actions and remarks of Venezuela's controversial leader should not stoke fears that Latin America is being overtaken by populist demagogues. 

Rather, she said, the hemisphere's achievement in adopting democratic systems of governance offers a much more balanced picture of the region than periodic provocations by Chávez.

“There are 34 democracies in Latin America — a fact that speaks for itself,” Rice said.  Those democracies are worth defending, she said, especially since some of them are still fragile and must resist the encroachments of would-be autocrats from both the left and the right of the political spectrum.

Contrary to what some may believe, the United States does not oppose the emergence of left-of-center governments in the hemisphere, said Rice, adding that the United States has strong alliances with many such governments.

"We have very good relations with Chile," she said.  "We have excellent relations with Brazil.  We have good relations with Argentina.  Governments of the left, as long as they govern democratically and are committed to prosperity for their people through free trade and increasingly open economies, [are] not a problem."

However, difficulties arise when leaders — of whatever political persuasion — resort to autocratic measures and abandon government transparency and accountability in favor of corruption and intimidation, Rice said.  "Governments that come to power and don't govern democratically, and that put pressure on civil society or on the church or on free-trade unions, some of which is happening in Venezuela, or [that] meddle in the affairs of

State Department file photo by Michael Gross
Secretary Rice met with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in February.

neighbors: that's a problem," she said.  "And it's not just a problem for the United States.  It's a problem for the region."

Under President Bush, the United States has doubled official development assistance to Latin America, Rice said.  Also, the United States has "an increasing number of free-trade agreements that are going to improve prosperity for people in the region — the Central American Free Trade Agreement, free-trade agreements with several countries in the Andean region — and I think you will see more of that."

She also cited the administration's Millennium Challenge Account program, which rewards countries that govern democratically and justly, and provides governments with incentives for investing in the health care and education of citizens.  Under the Millennium program, "we have made common cause with well-governed countries that are trying to deliver for their people," said Rice.

In the Western Hemisphere, the United States now has Millennium compacts with Honduras and Nicaragua and El Salvador, she said, adding that the approach stipulates that foreign assistance should go to countries that are "really determined" to meet the needs of their people and to fight corruption.

Overall, "we have a very active and, I think, ultimately very successful policy in Latin America, but yes, there are some pressures from populism of the Latin American variety, feeding on the fact that it's been hard for some of these young democracies to deliver for their people," said Rice.  "But the way to go at that is to help the young democracies deliver for their people."

Castro and Cuba celebrate defeat of invadors at Bay of Pigs in 1961
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

Cuba has celebrated the 45th anniversary of the defeat of a CIA-backed invasion force at the Bay of Pigs.

Cuban President Fidel Castro attended an event in Havana Wednesday to salute veterans of the fighting.  He was quoted as saying Cuba faced up to the strongest superpower on Earth and is still on its feet.

On April 17, 1961, some 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles landed on Cuba's southern coast in hopes of
 sparking an uprising to force President Castro from power.  Castro was warned of the pending invasion and had ample time to prepare his forces.

Then U.S.-President John F. Kennedy declined to provide promised air support to the exiles, who were defeated in three days.

Cuba's celebrations were held two days after former members of the invading force, known as Brigade 2506, gathered at the Bay of Pigs Memorial in Miami's Little Havana area to recite the names of the 150 Cuban exiles killed during the ill-fated landing.

Suspected child stealers executed by mob in remote Guatemalan town
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Police in Guatemala say an angry mob seized a man and woman accused of stealing children and burned the couple to death on the streets of a Mayan town.

Authorities say the two Guatemalan citizens were snatched from a jail earlier Thursday in Sumpango, about 35 kms ( 22 miles) from Guatemala City, where they were being held on suspicion of kidnapping children.
Officials say the crowd of about 800 people beat the two people until they were unconscious, and then burned them to death with gasoline. 

Police did not intervene, and it is not immediately clear if any arrests have been made.

Crowds frequently take justice into their own hands in remote parts of Guatemala.  Officials estimate that more than 300 people, including several foreigners, have been killed by lynch mobs in the last decade.

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