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These stories were published Monday, May 2, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 85
Jo Stuart
About us
Uncle Sam as a pirate closing businesses
Protected from the direct rays
May Day march lacked spark of previous years
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The workers march, Sunday, May Day, seemed to lack the zest of previous years.

Only about 4,000 to 5,000 persons participated, and what normally is a three- to four-hour march passed a point on Avenida 2 in less than 90 minutes.

But the skimpy turnout might not be a political indication. The temperature was a hot 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit), and the march was being held on a Sunday where workers had to devote their own time. When May 1 is a weekday, many get time off from work to participate.

In addition, there were not as many diverse groups promoting their cause. Nearly all carried signs, wore shirts or waved flags and banners showing opposition to the proposed free trade treaty with the United States.

About half the marchers were educators who protested that the free trade treaty would somehow hurt public education. 

Oscar Arias Sánchez, the former president who is a candidate in 2006, was repeatedly singled out by signs and voices on loudspeakers for his position in favor of the treaty. He and his family also hold an interest in a private electrical generating facility which upsets public employees who work for the monopoly Institution Costarricense de Electricidad.

The changing of the political season was clear as only one speaker on a truck-born amplifier criticized President Abel Pacheco. The president endeared himself to public employees last week when he said he would seek the advice of a committee to analyze the free trade treaty. This was generally seen as a negative response and a delaying tactic.

Pacheco’s administration negotiated the treaty, 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Four presidents, Calderón, Arias, Rodríguez and Figueres are accused of selling and robbing the nation.

and he, more than anyone except the actual negotiating team, should know what is in the document.

Revisión Tecnica, the obligatory vehicle inspection program that some people believe creates a private monopoly, took a back seat this year. Only one vehicle in the march bore a sign even mentioning the program. In past years, hundreds protested along this theme.

Although the marchers seemed to be unified under the anti-free trade theme, each group had their own concerns. Educators, for example, are upset by a government plan to recalculate the way pensions are figured. The result would be less money for retired teachers, they fear.

The Reforma Agraria Radical of Palmares demanded "land or death" on their signs. They want free land.

Others said via signs and banners that the free trade treaty would increase the price of "generic" medicines in Costa Rica. That word here means medicines pirated from First World pharmaceutical companies on which the makers here do not honor the originators’ patents. The free trade treaty would require Costa Rica to respect intellectual property rights.

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Son held in brutal murder of U.S. citizen mother
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A son beat and kicked to death his U.S. citizen mother in the early hours of Sunday at an suburban hotel, according to the Fuerza Pública.

The dead woman was Dorlene Annete Gora, 62, according to a spokesman for the Poder Judicial. The suspect is Garrett Gora, 34, according to the Fuerza Pública. He had been jailed for six months preventative detention, said the judicial spokesman.

Police said the murder took place in El Cacao, which is 

between Grecia and Poás. The location was the Hotel las Orquideas. they said.

Police said that hotel security heard sounds and confronted the murderer kicking and beating the woman. The woman suffered many fractures and severe injuries to the face. She died from the beating. police said.

The murderer fled, but after a police search the son was taken into custody by the Fuerza Pública. Both mother and son had just entered the country, police said. Police said they confiscated crack cocaine from the man, who also is a U.S. citizen.

Pacheco ducks issue
of free trade treaty

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco Sunday urged the Asamblea Legislativa to ratify a free trade treaty with the 
Gerardo González
. . . re-elected
Caribbean nations, encouraged members to consider a similar treaty with the European Union but gave just passing mention to the proposed free trade treaty with the United States. 

Pacheco was delivering his state of the nation report, that is required of the Costa Rican Constitution. May 1 is the traditional day for this.

Pacheco was hours late in giving his speech because the 

legislature was several hours late in conducting it own reorganization.

Pacheco called this year a critical one for Costa Rica, and he exhorted the lawmakers to approve the new tax plan 
that has been in the legislature since 2002. He said passage would increase the country’s competitiveness which would allow the government to decrease the tempo of the increase in the public debt and permit continued investments in social programs such as education, health, security and housing. 

Pacheco said passing the tax reform package would reduce inflationary pressures and the interest rate, allowing Costa Ricans to obtain credit and produce and acquire foods and services in condition and for similar cost as in countries where Costa Rica has to compete.

The assembly should not be a hostage to the minority who abuse their rights to impede the fiscal plan from arriving at a final vote, Pacheco said, in reference to the Movimiento Libertario, which is opposed to the tax plan. The proposal is estimated to increase the tax burden an additional $500 million a year.

In his only reference to the Central American free trade pact in his 8,600-word talk, Pacheco said that he would send the measure to the legislature when he was sure the pact would benefit the country.

In the reorganization of the assembly, Gerardo González Esquivel, of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana was re-elected president. Juan José Vargas of the Partido Patria Primero and a presidential candidate was elected first vice president.

Gran Hotel will get
patrimonial plaque

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The management of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica will get a plaque this Friday designating it as historical and architectural heritage site.

The Centro de Investigación Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural announced the presentation Friday.

The hotel is across a small plaza from the Teatro Nacional in the Center of San José.

The hotel was built in 1930 after the Asamblea Legislativa passed a law providing financial benefits to the contractor, said the center, which is part of the Ministerio de Cultural, Juventud y Deportes. At the time, San José did not have a first-class hotel.

In addition to certain financial benefits, the hotel was asked to construct two luxury apartments suitable for diplomats. Among those who have stayed there are John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, both U.S. presidents.

The hotel was designated an official heritage site Jan. 24.

In the last several months, the hotel management has embarked on an ambitious face-lifting effort that has increased the size of the dining area, minimized the size of a casino and tried to establish the hotel as a family location.

The ceremony Friday will be at 10 a.m. in the Salón Le Jardín on the fifth floor of the structure.

Draining wetland costs
Swiss man a $229 fine

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Swiss citizen who was draining a swamp on his property has been fined $107,000 colons, some $229.

That was the result of a hearing Thursday at the Tribunal de Juicio de San Carlos.

The Swiss man, identified by the last name of Krucker, was draining a swamp on his property in San José de Upala four years earlier when police arrived, according to a report from the Poder Judicial.

Officials charged that by constructing drainage canals in the swamp, the man damaged the ecosystem and caused the death of animals, including turtles, lizards and vultures.

Draining wetlands is illegal without proper permitting in Costa Rica.

Our readers’ opinion

Floridian is unhappy
with our headline

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You know besides you guys going crazy last month, and making C.R. sound the worst country in Latin America, nothing else had pissed me off till now! "real football" 

You know the football that you are talking about should be called handball. How many times do you use your feet while playing football? NOT MANY, kickoffs, and field goal attempts, and if you dare say, to run. Well guess what? Basketball and baseball players have to run, plus fútbol, aka balón pie (do you need me to explain where the word comes from?) goes back many more years in history than football. Plus it is the only sport that use your feet 99 percent of the time, 1 percent goes to the goalie. 

Now do not believe that I don’t like handball. I do very much. But fútbol is by far the best sport in the world and deserves more respect. 

Mario Rodriguez 
Orlando, Fla.
EDITOR’S NOTE; The reader refers to a headline in the Friday paper mentioning that a television deal will beam North American football to México.


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Happy birthday,
Children’s Museum

The Museo del Niño held its 10th birthday celebration Saturday, and the traditional piñata was a representation of the building, which was the metropolitan area prison.

The museum is fantasy land for children because it looks like a castle and stands along atop a rise north of Avenida 9 in North San José.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

This is a slang expression for missing the point
Miar Fuera del Tarro

Caution, gentle reader, this dicho contains a four-letter word that some, of a more delicate sensibility, might find offensive. If you are such a person I pray you peruse no further these paragraphs! But if you are of a linguistically slightly more adventurous nature, do please read on.

Miar fuera de tarro means literally "to piss outside the can." This expression appears to me fairly self evident, though it is employed in several different ways. It is basically used to point out to someone that they are missing the point, or simply that they are flat wrong. 

To use this dicho in a sentence we might say: El está miando fuera del tarro meaning "he is pissing outside the can." Or, in a more familiar way you could say que va, estás miando fuera del tarro. or mió fuera del tarro, to use the third person preterite (simple past tense).

As must be obvious to anyone who has read this column more than once, I love to talk about my family. They are indeed a very colorful lot, but they also provide so many apt illustrations of the dichos I write about. After all, they are all Ticos and Ticas. If I write about one of my relatives I usually tell them about it, though la verdad no peca pero incomoda, as last week’s dicho admonishes. 

And sure enough, there is a member of my family who provides a good illustration of how one might apply today’s dicho. This person is one of those guys who always thinks he is right no matter what. So, a few years ago when my dear friend — who regularly edits this column for me, by the way — came up with the word arandano, which is Spanish for "cranberry," this particular know-it-all relative immediately announced that no such word existed in Spanish. Of course my friend went immediately to the dictionary to offer what is commonly accepted an incontrovertible proof of a given word’s existence. 

Still, my brother-in-law insisted that arandano is not a Spanish word and that what a "cranberry" really is in Spanish is a ciruela, which actually means "plum." Now, he was really what you might call miando fuera del tarro big time.

This silly argument went on for days until finally I did a web search and discovered that not only are arandanos cranberries in Spanish, but also that Costa Rica is one of the few places in Latin America where they actually grow. Well, Mr. Know-it-all at last had to admit he was wrong, especially after his own encyclopedia bore witness to the veracity of the worldwide web and the Harper Collins Concise Dictionary of Spanish. I’m still not altogether certain

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

that he believes arandano is actually a fruit of any kind. He probably thinks this was all just a big conspiracy created solely for the purpose of forcing him to finally admit he was wrong about something.

Political leaders often mean fuera del tarro. With them, however, it is more difficult to point out because they are continuously passing the blame for their mistakes onto others. The colón — or the "buck," as Harry Truman used to say — rarely stops with them. They may know they’ve been caught miando fuera del tarro, but admitting so means owning up to their humanity and taking responsibility for their actions. To many, however, this appears just a wee bit suicidal, given the present climate of near universal political corruption.

Now miar is a perfectly good Spanish word, but it’s not all that common in Costa Rica. Here, the word orinar, is more frequently used, unless, of course, you’re out drinking beer with your friends. That’s when you may have to go to miar. Then you can say me voy a miar. But in very polite company, if you need to explain yourself at all in such circumstances you might say me voy a buscar los servicios, meaning "I’m going in search of the restroom." Or, perhaps, me voy al baño, "I’m going to the bathroom" 

I remember when I first lived in Ecuador, however, if I enquired of the waiter in a restaurant as to the location of the baño, he thought I wanted to take a shower. Going to the bathroom, or baño, is altogether an English locution that does not always translate literally very well into Spanish, though here in Costa Rica it is sometimes used and is generally understood to mean los servicios sanitarios.

Now, I do hope none have been offended by my little explication of this very useful dicho. After all, it is a pretty good idea never to miar fuera del tarro, either figuratively or literally.

Lightning bolt cuts off power to the bulk of the metropolitan area
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lightning bolt hit high tension wires in La Uruca Sunday about 2 p.m., and most of the metropolitan area lost electric power.

The situation was confusing because the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz had said it would cut off 

power Sunday in order to make connections to the new underground service.

However, the electric company never did cut off the power. But the lightning did.

The outage was as far east as Cartago and as far west as Escazú. Power was out for more than an hour.

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Study shows some benefits to genetically modified rice
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new study has found that farmers in China who grew genetically modified rice had higher crop yields, used fewer pesticides and, therefore, had fewer health complaints than farmers who grew regular varieties. The results of the study are the latest development in a continuing debate over the wisdom of growing genetically modified foods. 

Experts say China developed genetically modified varieties of rice in the mid-1990s. The hybrid rice contains genes from a number of different varieties that are resistant to disease and pests. 

Before selling the modified rice commercially, the Chinese government wanted to find out how well it performed. The modified rice has not been licensed for sale.

Carl Pray is an agriculture professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Professor Pray said he and his colleagues began studying genetically modified crops in 1999 at the start of the controversy over the potential health and environmental risks of the technology. 

"I had already been working in China with these colleagues of mine for five or six years already, at that time, on other issues with regard to science policy. And we said, 'Well, it is time we stop doing all this arguing, and we actually get some serious numbers from farmers about what that impact is,'" he said.

In a study published in the journal Science, researchers compared the modified rice, also called transgenic rice, to regular rice varieties in two areas of China in 2002 and again in 2003. 

In one group, farmers devoted all or part of their fields to genetically modified rice strains. They made their own decisions about whether or not to use pesticides. The other group only planted non-transgenic rice. 

The scientists found rice yields were up to 9 percent higher among farmers using one genetically modified grain, compared to a conventional variety. The survey data also show that farmers using genetically modified rice applied less than one pesticide treatment per season, compared to farmers growing conventional rice, who applied pesticide almost four times per year. 

Professor Pray said farmers who grew genetically modified crops reported no health complaints, such as headaches, nausea and skin irritation, compared to rice growers exposed to greater amounts of pesticides. 

"And, so, I think that what we feel is that, based on the survey that we have done, and based on the evidence that is available to us, that these varieties can have important economic benefits in areas where these pests are a major problem," he said.

Christof Then of Greenpeace Germany says pesticides should be eliminated from the environment using a number of natural strategies, including crop rotation, in which farmers vary their crops from one season to the next to avoid particular pests. 

But he said genetically engineered foods are not the way to go. Then says he does not know whether genetically modified crops are safe to eat. 

"There were some experiments being done with mice, and the mice showed clearly some immune reactions to this kind of toxins that are produced in the rice. So, we think it should not be grown and it should not be consumed," he said.

Published surveys show that only four countries, including the United States, account for 99 percent of the world's transgenic crop production. 

Even if governments deem genetically modified foods, like rice, to be healthy and environmentally safe, there is a strong public bias that will have to be overcome before modified foods become a global mealtime staple.

Chile's Insulza ready to capture OAS top post today
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chilean Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza is set to be confirmed Monday when the Organization of American States' elects a new secretary-general.

The Chilean official is the only remaining candidate in the race to head the hemispheric organization after Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez withdrew his candidacy.

Derbez dropped out of the race Friday following informal discussions last week in Chile involving visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Western Hemisphere foreign ministers.

During a first round of voting in April, Derbez and Insulza were deadlocked at 17 votes each.

The secretary general’s post has been vacant since October, when former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez resigned and returned to his country to face corruption charges.

Costa Rica had backed the Mexican candidate. Friday Roberto Tovar Faja, the foreign minister, said that Costa Rica would vote for Insulza. A statement released by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto praised both men as extraordinary candidates and said the campaign demonstrates the democratic values of the hemisphere.

Castro and Chavez urge to join socialist trade pact
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro have strongly criticized the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas as a plan by Washington to dominate Latin America.

During a rally in Havana Friday at the end of a three-day visit to Cuba, Chavez called on regional governments to instead join the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas — a year-old competing plan. 

So far, Cuba is the only country to join the Venezuelan leader's socialist alternative to the U.S.-backed plan, which was to begin in January, but has yet to be finalized. The U.S. free trade proposal for Central Ameria is part of the larger agreement.

The Cuban and Venezuelan leaders announced new bilateral trade agreements on Friday, including Cuba's plan to buy $412 million worth of goods from Venezuela, which provides inexpensive oil and other subsidies to Communist Cuba.

President of Honduras unhurt after plane falls into Caribbean Sea
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

TELA, Honduras — President Ricardo Maduro has escaped injury after the plane he was in crashed into the sea off the country's northern coast.

The small plane crashed in the Caribbean Sea Sunday near this resort town. Reports say the propeller-driven plane's engine died as it tried to make a forced landing.
Presidential spokesman Jorge Barrios said Maduro, his daughter Lorena and the pilot were unharmed.

Jo Stuart
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