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These stories were published Friday, April 29, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 84
Jo Stuart
About us
Trade treaty with U.S. will dominate May Day march Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday is the Día del Trabajador, and opponents of the proposed free trade treaty with the United States will take to the streets in what organizers hope will be a peaceful demonstration.

May Day is traditionally a day of marches here, and anyone with a political gripe usually shows up with signs and costumes. But this year is different because the free trade treaty is in the hands of President Abel Pacheco, and he could send the measure to the Asamblea Legislativa for ratification.

Pacheco has declined to do so for 14 months because he fears the civil disobedience 

opponents threaten. They will provide a sample May 1.

Organizers said the march along Avenida Secunda to the assembly complex also will protest the cost of living, prostitution and child labor. Many workers at uncompetitive state agencies fear the impact of the free trade treaty on their jobs. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the telecommunications monopoly, and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the insurance monopoly, are among these. Organizers said they hope for 5,000 persons.

Meanwhile another group, Pro Costa Rica, has formed and said it supports the free trade treaty and will place television commercials in favor of the pact.

The scoop and tips on the local bus service
Although from time to time I complain about how far I have to walk to my bus stop, in most cases, at least in the city, a bus stop is just a few blocks away.

The public transportation system in Costa Rica is something to be envied.  You can get to the farthest reaches of the country by bus. (I wish I could include train travel in that statement.)  And in case you haven’t noticed, there are many new buses in the city, not the second-hand school buses that used to be so common, but new Mercedes and other makes.  The pollution is far less now.

When I first came to Costa Rica, I was downtown after a soccer game.  There was celebrating going on in the streets, and I was fruitlessly looking for a bus to take me home.  All I could find were buses marked Desamparados. To me that meant abandoned.  I was amazed that bus drivers would simply abandon their buses so they could celebrate winning a soccer game.  Now, of course, I know that Desamparados is a municipality south of San José.  You can usually count on buses to run, no matter what.

Mostly I travel around town.  One of the best ways to get from what I consider downtown San José (using Teatro Nacional as a marker), to the area of Sabana Park is by one of the Cementerio buses.  They stop at three places along the Avenida Secunda, the main one being alongside the Caja, the tall building housing the Social Security offices, on Avenida Secunda and Calle Cinco. 

One bus marked Fischel goes on the north side of town along avenidas Primera and Tercera west, passing near the Auto Mercado and the main post office.  The other one goes south on the Paseo de los Estudiantes, turns to go past the Clinica Biblica, and then goes west. 

You can ride either one without getting lost in the boondocks.  Beware of the Periferico. Only take a bus labeled that if you have a supply of food and water and wish to tour all the little poorer barrios around the city.  There is a Periferico bus stop at Universidad de Costa Rica.  I haven’t searched for other stops. 

If you wish to go east, most of the buses begin and end either in front of the old Cine Capri (now an evangelical church) on Avenida Central near Calle Once or in front of Mas X Menos.  These buses will take you to San Pedro, Curridabat and parts east.

Buses for Heredia and Alajuela (including the airport) have stops on Avenida Secunda near the Church and Parque Merced on Avenida Secunda

I decided to visit the tourist bureau 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

underneath the Plaza de la Cultura to see if they had any useful maps of bus routes.  The only one they had (and it was under glass) is the same one I once had which was published in La Nación in 1999 when they changed the bus routes.  The two women in charge there were singularly uninterested in helping me — something rare in Costa Rica — but there were a lot of free brochures, including some with information about buses to the most popular beaches and tourist sites in the country.

The Museo de Oro is also there, so it was a good chance for me finally to visit.  As a resident, it was free for me.  Tourists pay 2,800 colons ($6) and residents under 65 1,000.  It is well worth it.  If you go there first, you will understand where the people who sell their trinkets and jewelry got the ideas for their designs.  The ones in the museum are stunning.  There are animals, humans, and objects. Some of the tiny figures are dressed in the regalia of the then-caciques or chiefs or maybe priests. 

In their costume they reminded me of the tiny man I met in San Salvador, Brazil.  He was a holy man in some unfamiliar (to me) religion.  He was a mild unprepossessing little man.  He took us down into the cellar of his home to show us the altar where he held his services. Then he gave me a picture of himself in the costume he donned for his services.  Dressed in regalia of mask and feathers, with his body decorated, he seemed to have grown two feet, imposing enough to inspire awe.  He could have been the model for one of these tiny figurines. 

Just as wonderful were the ceramic stamps, both flat and cylindrical, with designs to decorate material or bodies.  Much nicer than tattooing.  There are other displays depicting life pre 16th century.

Back again into the present, I walked to my bus stop near the Caja, wondering what other helpful information I could pass along.  I would like to advise that if you don’t know where the bus goes, just ask the driver, "Ud. pasa por_____" and fill in where you want to go. 

That has worked for me until the day I asked the driver, "Ud. pasa por Muñoz y Nanne?"  The driver nodded yes, so I got on.  And sure enough, we passed the supermarket Muñoz Y Nanne — sailed right past it on to Plaza del Sol.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 29, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 84

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Ministerio de Cultura photo
This is the structure in the center of Puntarenas that will be remodeled in part with money advanced by the government.

Architectural award goes
to Puntarenas building

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A wood-frame structure in Puntarenas is the winner of this years architectural restoration award by the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

The owners will get 30 million colons, about $64,000, to help with the project.

The building is Casa Fait, which is on the north side of Parque Victoria in the center of Puntarenas. The structure is on about 1,000 square meters of land. Three families live on the second floor of the structure now, and the work to remodel the building will create space for shops on the first floor and perhaps an art shop or a restaurant, said the proposal that was advanced by architects.

The designers of the remodeling effort that won the award are architects Gerardo Chavarría Peña and Carlos Mesén Rees plus Francisco Enríquez Solano.

The contest is designed to help with the restoration of historically significant properties in Costa Rica. More than 20 projects were advanced to participate in this year’s contest.

Proposals came from all over the country. The winner was announced Thursday.

The contest, called Salvemos Nuestro Patrimonio Arquitectónico in Spanish, has been providing money for restoration efforts since 1997.

Municipality gets deadline
to pick up old garbage

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The environmental ministry has give the municipality of Montes de Oca 24 hours to get the garbage picked up.

The municipality, best known for being the location for the University of Costa Rica, has had mechanical problems with the bulk of its garbage fleet. Streets are overflowing with garbage, most of it in plastic bags.

The Tribunal Ambiental of the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía said late Thursday that it was opening an investigation of the situation.

It ordered the regidores or council members of the municipality and the mayor to come up with an effective solution within 24 hours  in order to avoid irreparable damage to the health of the residents.

River cleanup planned 
Saturday at Barranca

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 250 persons, most of them students, will be at the mouth of the Río Barranca near Puntarenas Saturday for a major cleanup.

The Ministerio de Educación Pública is sponsoring the event along with Florida Bebidas and the Asociación Terra Nostra. In addition to students, Scouts will be involved.

Not only will the trash be picked up between the river and Chacarita de Puntarenas but anything that can be recycled will be, organizers said.

The effort is in commemoration of Earth Day, which was April 22.

Many of the participants are from the region, but students from the Central Valley are scheduled to be there, too, because much of the waste comes from the densely populated metropolitan area.

The organizations plan similar events this year at playas Tárcoles, Agujas and Sámara and at the mouth of the Río Pacuare, said organizers.

U.N. agency to compete
in money-transfer field

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations postal agency wants to compete in the money transfer business.

Although the agency stresses that the plan will be good for migrant workers to send money back home, the project seems to provide another option for anyone who has to send money from one country to another.

The U.N. said reliable electronic transfers would eliminate the paper and manual work now involved with traditional postal money orders.

Universal Postal Union Director-General Edouard Dayan told a forum in The Hague, Netherlands this week of his agency’s new link with Eurogiro, whose membership girdles the globe.

The two organizations have developed a gateway connecting their networks for the transmission of the Tele Money Order. Selected postal administrations will soon start testing the new service, with a view to rolling it out by the end of May. 

The service is open to all, but migrants are expected to be major beneficiaries. 

Some 30 postal administrations, both in industrialized and developing countries, take advantage of the postal union’s International Financial System software using electronic data interchange to send money order data, while nearly 50 postal agencies and banks use Eurogiro for cash and account transfers. 

The new Tele Money Order will enable postal officials and potentially banks using either system to perform electronic fund transfers with each other, widely extending the reach of this service across the world. 

"With a well-established worldwide network of more than 660,000 offices, Posts can offer a service that is both accessible and affordable to everyone," Dayan said, noting that fund transfers are the second most important financing source for developing countries after direct investment. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 29, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 84

Their new life in Costa Rica

A California couple takes on Tico culture, the language and alien bureaucracies.

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A discovery of Greek cuisine around corner in Escazú
"You’re too late," my local friends told me when asked about a Greek taverna with authentic, rustic food. "We had one, not even run by a Greek, a Croation, but it closed." Another new place in Pavas is still working out its problems. It would be unfair to critique it for at least another three or four months.

 "None in Atenas (Athens) or Grecia (Greece)?" I asked. 

"None," I was told.

 So off I went on my virtual Oddesey to Mediterranean restaurants galore. An occasional Greek salad or cucumbers in yogurt (tsatziki) were all that I could find. I tried Ambrosia with all its dishes named for Greek gods and goddesses. Only the names were Greek. 

But, oh happy day, I found exactly what I was looking for, an affordable place with hearty basic Greek blue collar food. Refined cooking with elegant touches is common in upscale Athens restaurants, but the courses seem to lose their soul when they get too extravagant, in my humble opinion. 

Although the dishes may be fabulous, they seem less pure Hellenic and more international. Food gorgies in the name of Dionysus often become pan Mediterranean with Middle Eastern overtones. In Greece, the elements of good taverna food are straight forward: tender lamb, fresh seafood, beef, chicken, cheese, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, great olives, juicy tomatoes, sweet onions and peppers, rice, potatoes, pasta, pita bread, lemons, oregano, garlic, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, rosemary, dill, salt and pepper and filo desserts with strong Greek coffee.

Some 400 meters up the hill past the Costa Rican Country Club on the other side of the street sits Bouzouki Greek Café, named after the stringed mandolin-like instrument depicted over the entrance. The colors outside and in are the blue and white of the Greek flag. 

Tablecloths are blue and white checked. The walls are white-washed stucco and deep blue flat surfaces. The ceiling is black fabric. An active little bar and room for diners who smoke are inside the door. The bar is well stocked and you can get uzo or turpentine-like retsina. If you want a pleasant wine from Greece with no pine needle aftertaste, try the Alexander white. 

To the rear, a smoke-free dining room is dressed to look like a courtyard on an Aegean island. Wall coverings look like an outside door and windows with wrought iron flower (ivy) boxes. The music is Greek, much of it played on a bouzouki. It makes for a very informal, quaint and cozy space.

The handsome couple who own Bouzouki are a robust young man with a bountiful black beard from Zambia via Canada, Tak, and his very gracious Tica wife Katia. Her family has a bakery. His Greek parents had a popular  restaurant in Vancouver and Bouzouki uses his mom’s recipes. They are basic traditional taverna style, well executed. 

She flew in from Vancouver before the opening to check that they were all properly executed. The menu is short, four soups, nine appetizers, seven main courses and four desserts. Portions are large. Prices are quite reasonable.

Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat



On our first visit, we ordered three appetizers and only one main course, in an attempt to taste more of their renditions of our old favorites. The egg lemon soup was a regional variant, from, I believe, Epirus. It tasted of lemon, but instead of a silky smooth chicken broth, yellow from many egg yolks, it was gray, thick as rice porridge and loaded with barrel-shaped rice laden meatballs, different from the norm, but very tasty and filling (¢1,700). Its specific name from the Greek is meat-rice barrel egg lemon soup (yuvarelakia soupa avgolemono).

Boca-size chicken souvlaki was large enough for a main course. The tender white meat chicken pieces were tossed in a yogurt and herb sauce and wrapped with an oregano and pepper seasoned salad in a large warm pita (¢1,700). The spanakopita, filo-encased spinach pie, seasoned simply with oregano and black pepper, was also very large and shared a plate with Greek salad (¢1,700). The main course-size mousaka (¢3,300) consisted of a large platter with a generous square of meat pie, rice, roast potatoes and a larger helping of salad. 

The pie itself had a bottom layer of sliced potatoes, a second layer of roasted eggplant, a third thick layer of ground beef that tasted as if it were seasoned expertly with cinnamon, oregano and clove along with salt and pepper, and a topping of golden brown baked bechamel sauce. The salad was lettuce, tomato, onion, radish, red pepper, and Kalamata olives in a lemon vinagrette.

Ouzo cake (¢1,350) and almond cookies topped with icing sugar (¢200 each) completed a scrumptious meal that could easily have fed the two of us plus another hungry adult. [At this writing, the colon is 469 to the U.S. dollar]

On our next visit, we shared white bean soup in a tomato base with oregano and black pepper (¢1,300), Greek-style little meatballs, keftedes, with a tsatziki dipping sauce small pitas and a bevy of luscious olives (¢1,250). Next came a Greek ham and feta cheese sandwich on a pita loaf with the same yogurt sauce, lettuce, tomato and oven roasted potatoes on the side (¢1,000). Greek coffee and homemade baklava (¢1,450) made for a happy ending.

Hearty authentic taverna food in a comfy informal place run by nice people: ´´ - ´´´, $-$$ ( only the steak is more than ¢3,750)

Concern expressed for tense situations in Nicaragua and in Belize
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Organization of American States said it is concerned by the situations in Nicaragua and Belize.

Acting OAS Secretary-General Luigi Einaudi condemned violence in Nicaragua and urged all political and social forces in the country to resolve their "socio-economic and political differences" peacefully and quickly.

Nicaragua's capital city of Managua has experienced a week of street protests that left several dozen people injured and more than 100 arrested. The protests have been described as the country's worst turmoil in more than five years.

The U.S. State Department issued a public announcement last week alerting Americans to continuing civil unrest and potentially violent demonstrations in Nicaragua.

A recent price increase in public transportation fares resulted in numerous protests by students in Nicaragua, with bus and taxi drivers demonstrating in support of the increased fares. The demonstrations in Nicaragua, 

said the department, have on occasion turned violent and required large-scale police intervention to restore order. Demonstrators even attacked President Enrique Bolaños when he tried to talk with them.

Einaudi said the hemispheric organization is expressing its "full and decisive support" for the government of Belize led by Prime Minister Said Musa and for the country's democratic institutions.

A resolution condemned the use of violence and any actions that threaten democracy, governance, and the rule of law in Belize.

Teachers in Belize walked off the job Tuesday in support of telephone workers who are in a dispute with the government. Protesters have sabotaged telephone lines and disrupted electrical service in large areas of the country. 

Lisa Shoman, Belize's ambassador to the OAS, told the inter-American body that the interruption of electrical and telecommunication services in her country has resulted in millions of dollars in economic losses to both the public and private sectors.

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!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 29, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 84

Ms. Rice urges world action against political tyranny
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday it is the historic duty of the world's democracies to eliminate political tyranny. She addressed officials from more than 100 countries at the Community of Democracies meeting in Santiago.

Ms. Rice has made the promotion of democracy and free-market economics the theme of her current four-nation trip to South America, her first since taking office. 

And in her address to the Community of Democracies, she said the world's democrats should strive for nothing less than the end of dictatorial rule: "Every nation in this room has experienced moments of tyranny in its history, some long ago, some very recently. Today our citizens share the common bond of having overcome tyranny through our commitment to freedom and democracy. Now, it is our historic duty to tell the world that tyranny is a crime of man, not a fact of nature. Our goal must always be the elimination of tyranny in our world," she said.

The Community of Democracies is an informal grouping founded in 2000 to improve and advance democratic governance.

Ms. Rice said the selection of Chile for the group's third ministerial meeting was a fitting choice, given what she said was that country's triumphant return to democracy after a 1973 military coup.

The United States is widely believed to have instigated the 1973 coup which led to the death of democratically elected Salvador Allende.

In her address, the Secretary of State endorsed a Hungarian proposal to host a Democracy Transition 

Center to help countries in the process of becoming democratic.

She also urged support for the creation of what she termed a legitimate human rights body within the United Nations.

The Bush administration has been critical of the existing U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, which earlier this week awarded seats to countries widely accused of human rights violations including Zimbabwe, China and Sudan.

Ms. Rice began her Santiago visit with a meeting with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos that covered, among other things, Chilean-led peacekeeping efforts in Haiti, recent political unrest in Ecuador and Bolivia, and the deadlocked contest between Mexican and Chilean candidates to be the next secretary-general of the Organization of American States.

The United States has backed the candidacy of Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez, though in a joint press appearance with Mr. Lagos, Ms. Rice also praised the Chilean contender, Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza, and said she hopes for a solution that preserves O.A.S. unity.

For his part, President Lagos said he agreed that both men are excellent leaders and said there should be no north-south or ideological confrontation within the OAS. 

He said it is important to look for what he termed other consensus mechanisms to end the impasse but did not elaborate.

OAS ministers convene at the organization's headquarters in Washington Monday for another attempt to resolve the issue.

Television deal to provide real football instead of fútbol
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. National Football League is gaining exposure in Mexico.  The league's NFL Network agreed to a multiyear television deal Thursday with Sky Mexico.  The country's largest pay-TV service will show NFL Network programming beginning Sunday. Sky Mexico serves over one million subscribers.

The NFL will play its first regular-season game outside 

the United States Oct. 2 when the Arizona Cardinals play the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City.  Arizona has one of the lowest attendance levels in the league. 

The NFL is seeking new fans in Mexico as it tries to build global interest in American-style professional football.

The game will be played at Azteca Stadium, where an NFL record 112,376 fans attended a 1994 game.

Jo Stuart
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