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These stories were published Friday, May 20, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 99
Jo Stuart
About us
Nation braces for heavy rains spun off Hurricane Adrián
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weather bureau is warning about high seas and waves along the Pacific coast, thanks to Hurricane Adrián, which is about to pass over northern Central America. Rain is expected to pick up today.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional also warned bathers to watch out for rip tides in the Pacific caused by the higher seas.

At 9 p.m. the center of the Hurricane was reported to be about 30 miles (55 kms.) off the coast of El Salvador. The storm was expected to move through Honduras today at a speed of about nine miles an hour (15 kph).

Maximum sustained winds are about 80 mph (about 130 kph), said the U.S. Hurricane Center.

Some heavy flooding already has taken place in parts of Guanacaste in northwest Costa Rica. The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y  Atención de Emergencias said an increase in the heavy rains was expected in the early morning hours of today, and it issued a special warning for tourists and others in Guanacaste.

The emergency commission already has personnel and supplies en route to Guanacaste, and emergency shelters are being prepared. The commission said that it expected heavy rains in the Central Valley and the Central pacific coast, and it was activating emergency committees in those area.

Airlines that service northern Central America have changes their routes, so travelers to that area were encouraged to check the status of their flights.

The return home with baggage from Costa Rica
Preparing for a trip to the States is always fraught with some stress and apprehension for me.  I have not been back for over two years, and I know that I am going to experience some reverse culture shock because in many ways I have "gone native."  For me that simply means that over the years I have adopted many of the values and attitudes of Costa Ricans. 

To do that was easy for me because I was already inclined in that direction.  Right now I am thinking about the difference between the doing American and the being Jo Stuart.  When I first visited Costa Rica, driving through the country, I would see people sitting on their front porches, seemingly doing nothing, just sitting.  I found that remarkable.  I no longer do.

Costa Rica in many ways is still a traditional society.  People are often valued for who they are, for their intellect, for their character, not necessarily for what concrete things they have produced or accomplished. That perhaps explains how here the people could elect a psychiatrist to be president.  In the United States, people are inclined to think that the qualities that make a good businessman — even a failed businessman — make a good President.   Senators are less apt to become president, a poet or playwright just about never.

On Monday I went to the University of Costa Rica to find a couple of copies of a book by Professor Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera to give as presents.  It is a little book entitled "Iraq: pasado y presente de un pais atormentado."   (Iraq: past and present of a tormented country).  I wonder if a book like that has been made available to students in the U.S. 

Returning from San Pedro was quite an experience.  The parade of anti-free trade protesters was shutting down most of the main streets  — the streets buses normally take.  The bus I boarded went on a wild ride weaving through the barrios of south San Pedro and through the streets of south San Jose.  We encountered buses at every corner trying to get to their destinations by alternate routes.  Passengers accepted this without complaint.  It was controlled chaos.  But I actually got closer to my destination than I would have normally and the bus driver let me off in the middle of the block.

Then when I got home, I called information for RACSA’s number because I am getting hundreds of German spam.  The operator gave me the number of ICE, the governmental agency that operates RACSA, but added, 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

"There is no one there because of the strike."  Ah, freedom of expression is alive and well in Costa Rica. All of this happened the day before I was to leave. 

On Tuesday, departure date, the porton slammed on the third finger of my left hand.  Later the pila door slammed shut on the index finger of my right hand.

I noted mentally that, like a Tico, I didn’t think I caught my two sore fingers — the doors did it, just as glasses are usually not dropped, they just fall out of one’s hand.  Speaking as an American from the States, I might have said I did it.  Then I would think "What is the problem with me!" and then I’d go about fixing the problem.  Instead I just bandaged my two damaged fingers and decided I would have to watch those doors in the future.

One way or another, I got to the airport in plenty of time.  It was my first flight with TACA, and I was really enjoying the pleasantness of the personnel — although I have usually found that airline personnel in Costa Rica are uniformly nice. 

Once aboard, I settled in to finish a fat book I had brought.  The plane seemed filled with a group of firemen who continued their vacationing during the trip.  I guessed they were visiting firemen because of the T-shirt one had that said so.  I asked my seat companion if he was part of the group.  He said he was not.  Because we were both reading I didn’t pursue the conversation. 

My book was about a "high flyer," a tough talking, highly successful tax lawyer in London who was discovering that being one of the elite in the working world and having it all was not bringing her happiness.  The book my seat companion was reading was entitled "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." 

For a while I pondered the meaning of effective.  Was there a difference between the American definition and the Costa Rican definition?  Then I went back to my book, hoping to finish it before we got to Los Angeles where I probably would find out.

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Foreigners on bus facing
allegations of pot transport

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian man and a U.S. citizen fell afoul of one of the checkpoints police have erected to scan bus travelers for drugs from the Limón area.

The pair fell into police hands while they were riding in a Limón-San José bus that was stopped at a checkpoint on Route 31 in San Isidro de Heredia.

They were identified as David Allan Lillermo, Canadian, and Rhyan Travis Lee from the United States. The Fuerza Pública said the men were traveling with a quarter kilo of processed marijuana, enough to make 400 joints. The amount is a bit more than half a pound.

Police said the estimated value of the marijuana was about 240,000 colons (some $500).

The Caribbean coast is a major source of both foreign and domestic marijuana, and the product is used openly there. However, police have been conducting intense searches of buses bound for the Central Valley to prevent importation to there. Frequently dogs are used.

Tourists to the Caribbean, Limón and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca report that they have been stopped and asked for identification papers several times during the trip.

‘Play it Again, Sam’ debuts
tonight at Escazú theater

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Little Theatre Group opens its last production of the season tonight. It is "Play It Again, Sam," by Woody Allen.

The play, to be given in English, will run Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons for three weekends. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. The Sunday performances are at 2:30 p.m.

Ticket reservations are available at the Box Office: 355-1623, but the May 29 performance is sold out. The theater is in Bello Horizonte, Escazú.

The play is another of those neurotic extensions of Allen’s personality. It is a nostalgic look at films in Hollywood's heyday, said a summary from the theater group.

Allan (Ricardo Jiménez), a mild-mannered film critic, is  dumped by his wife, Nancy (Larissa Banting).  His ego is crushed but with the encouragement of two married friends, Dick (Joseph Loveday) and Linda (Jenny Sheffield), he starts to date again. 

Also helping as his hero persona (the tough guy in films played by Humphrey Bogart), an apparition of Bogart (Tim Hawkins) shows up to give him advice, said the summary, adding that the results are less than satisfactory till he learns to relax.

Cameo appearance are by Vicky Longland, Carol Marianne, Nadia Halum, Raquel Lobo,  Deborah Baum, and Tamara Baum.

Cultural Diversity Day
features Tico cooking

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Saturday is being celebrated as U.N. Cultural Diversity Day in San José.

The Museos del Banco Central will hold a demonstration and sale of typical foods to demonstrate the richness of the Costa Rican culture. The sale will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the vestibule of the museums, which is below the Plaza de la Cultura in downtown San José.

In addition the Central Bank is putting on a short conference about Costa Rican cooking and the culinary history of the nation.

Marjorie Ross, a culinary historian, will direct the conference from 11 a.m. to noon in which the formation of the local culture will be discussed. An advanced summary said that Tico food is a harmonious mixture of the mestiza, African and Spanish cooking traditions. Regional differences are many, particularly the differences between Guanacaste and the Central Valley.

Argentine restructuring
called positive step

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The partial restructuring of Argentina's $100 billion sovereign debt earlier this month makes the prospects for a return to economic stability look more promising. 

So says Toby Nangle, a director of fixed income at Baring Asset Management, the global institutional investment management firm. 

Nangle is the author of the new study "Washington and Wall Street: The Interplay of External Financial Influences on the Course of Debt and Currency Crises in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, 1998 - 2002," sponsored by Baring. 

"The government's success in persuading creditors holding 76 percent of the country's defaulted bonds to accept its $100 billion restructuring offer has been viewed positively by the markets," said Nangle. 

"That such a high proportion of U.S. dollar bonds tendered were swapped into peso-denominated securities bodes well for the country's financial stability, and improves its debt dynamics, he said.

Costa Rica, too, finds itself with high external debt and an unbalanced budget. Many officials here look to the Argentine disaster for instruction. 

Argentina found itself in a vicious cycle of diminishing market confidence, higher interest costs, and a deteriorating fiscal profile, Nangle notes. The country implemented policies that were without economic merit in an effort to win back the confidence of the markets, the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. Treasury, he said, adding that reducing the proportion of debt denominated in U.S. dollars reduces the likelihood of such a situation recurring, he said.

The 75 page study is available in the market commentary section on

Milk cow show to begin
Thursday in Zarcero

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Expoferia Agroecoturística Zarcero 2005 begins Thursday night and runs through Monday, May 30, in the exposition field of that community.

Among the exhibits will be the competition of milk cows put on by the Centro de Rehabilitatición Alfaro Ruiz, a non-government organization that offers services to the handicapped. Some of the funds generated by the agricultural fair will go to the center.

The favored cows of the area are Holsteins and Jerseys. The competition will include judging and the selection of animals with the best conformations of their breed as well as a contest on which animals produce the most milk.

Visitors can purchase food, cheese, organic vegetables and other productions of the area. The Alfaro Ruiz center is well known for its organic agriculture.

Visitors also might want to take advantage of the nearby Parque Nacional Juan Castro Blanco, said the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, which is promoting the event.

Most of the animal judging is Friday and Saturday. An auction of cows will be Saturday night.

Sunday is a horse parade and a recreational bicycle event. Monday Tico bull fights are planned as well as a closing dance.

Zarcero is in the Provincia de Alajuela west of San José and north of Grecia, Sarchí and Naranjo on the road to Ciudad Quesada.

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Here are ways to handle our abundances of Nature
Early rains seem to have caused my small flock of chickens to lay more eggs than usual. We can’t keep up in the kitchen. Having missed the opportunity to color up a bunch for Easter, I looked to Passover for a Sephardic style tea egg treat and variations on that theme for David and Dorothee’s Sedar. 

Our banana trees are also over producing and the freezer still is loaded with Joan’s banana bread from the last harvest. Finally, who can pass up the glorious and cheap large bags of strawberries for sale on the sides of country roads? Even after the strawberries and cream and fruit smoothies, there are a bunch or a bag in danger of perishing. "Waste not, want not" is imprinted on my post-Depression brain. 

At times it is laughable and I must assure you that I laugh along with you when I spend much more time and money preventing waste than the strawberries and bananas are worth. We all have our idiosyncrasies. Here are some recipes for eggs, bananas and strawberries that might compliment your Mothers’ Day buffet:

First, let me share a strange fact or two with you about eggs. Try the water test before you boil them. The freshest ones sink to the bottom of a bowl of water because there is little or no air under the shell subsequent to internal evaporation. The older ones float and are easier to peel when hard boiled. Choose the floaters. 

Second, for reasons that I don’t understand, slow simmering of eggs for many hours produces a creamier rather than a drier consistency to the yolk. Probably, a little liquid enters with time. Third and last, because the shells are a little porous, you can flavor and color the eggs by additions to the water. A nice ploy is to boil the eggs first, crack the shells gently with the back of a spoon without removing them and then return them to the flavored colored water. When peeled you have a spider web raku design on a tasty egg with a creamy yolk.

A Sephardic Passover tradition is to simmer eggs for about six hours in water laden with the outer skin of yellow and red onions, coffee grounds and olive oil. I substitute sesame oil for a little more smokiness and add spices for more flavor.

Place a dozen eggs (floaters), two cups of onion skins,  a third of a cup of coffee grounds, a third of a cup of sesame oil, a tablespoon of kosher salt or sea salt, juice from half a lime or lemon, half a dozen peppercorns, a few cloves and anise stars. 

Bring to a boil and barely simmer covered for at least six hours, adding enough water to keep the eggs submerged. The eggs store well in liquid covered and refrigerated for a week in their shells. Peel to serve. 

The color will be pale golden orange, cream colored "whites" and creamy dark yolks. Serve them whole or halved, dusted with paprika. For a variation and short cut, boil eggs, peel them and marinate them in the refrigerator submerged in flavored liquid that is preferably acidic for up to a week. Citrus juices provide the proper pH. Juice from the pickle jar or garlic flavored tomato juice, bloody Mary mix, a mixture of sweet saki and soy, grapefruit-pineapple juice, lemonade spiked with hot sauce or anything else you can imagine. 

Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


Meringue shells appear intermittently at upper end markets. Filled with lime curd and topped with balsamic flavored strawberries, dessert is taken to a new level with little work. When the round shells are not on the shelves, resort to goblets with broken meringue cookies on the bottom, curd in the center and strawberries on top. 

Traditional English lemon curd is not very hard to make. We need only substitute our local limes and zest. A short cut is to make instant vanilla pudding with part of the milk replaced by whipping cream and add lime juice and a little zest to taste. 

Two options for the strawberries: first slice then toss them either, in melted apricot jelly or in syrup made of two parts sugar to one part balsamic vinegar, heated and left to cool a bit. Decorate the top of the faux curd with the dressed berries after they have cooled to room temperature.

For nearly instant banana cream or cream cheese pie, begin with a pre-made graham cracker crust, paint it with a thin layer of egg white, bake for only five minutes in a 350 F (70 C) oven and cool to room temperature. 

Line the bottom with an inch of overlapping banana slices that have been tossed for only two minutes in a skillet with a bubbling tablespoon each of dark rum, butter and brown sugar. When cool, top with instant vanilla pudding from the refrigerator and serve. 

To make the pudding almost like cheesecake, for a box or packet of mix, use only half the recommended volume of milk and add, instead, the same volume of equal parts softened cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk. Mix well and refrigerate. To make fancy, sprinkle the top with bits of brittle or crumbled ginger snaps.

If you are a purist, here is a recipe for Tico curd: Beat three eggs, strained juice of three limes and three-quarters of a cup of granulated sugar over a stainless steel bowl atop a pot of simmering water. 

Stir nonstop until it looks like hollandaise sauce (usually about 10 minutes), stir in four tablespoons of diced butter pieces until they melt. Pour into meringue shells or goblets, top with a little lime zest and refrigerate. 

Since we missed Mothers’ Day because of a RACSA glich, happy Father's Day. 

Although Indians gain political power, poverty remains
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Latin America's native population has increased its political power in the last decade, but this increase has not yet translated into lowering the group's high rate of poverty, says a new World Bank study.

The World Bank said this week that the study shows that the region's indigenous people, who represent 10 percent of Latin America's population, continue to suffer from lower levels of education and a greater incidence of disease and discrimination than other groups in Latin America.

The World Bank's study, called "Indigenous Peoples, Poverty and Human Development in Latin America: 1994-2004," addresses the evolution of social conditions during the last decade in the five Latin American countries with the largest native populations: Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru.

The indigenous people of Latin America are generally defined as that sector of the population descended from the original inhabitants of the region.

On the positive side for Latin America's native groups, the study said that their political influence has grown "remarkably" in the last 15 years, with "democratization, globalization, and international pressure" cited as reasons for this trend. In the last 20 years, voters in Bolivia, Guatemala and other countries have significantly increased the portion of their national legislatures elected from indigenous people. In addition, political parties representing indigenous peoples have won municipal and mayoral elections across Latin America.

But despite this new power, the study found that indigenous people remain the most disadvantaged group in Latin America. Even though the incidence of poverty in Latin America is high, the native population's poverty is particularly severe and deep.

In Bolivia and Guatemala, for example, more than half of the total population is poor, but almost three-quarters of the indigenous population is poor. Poverty rates among indigenous people in Ecuador are about 87 percent, reaching 96 percent in the rural highlands. In Mexico, the incidence of extreme poverty in 2002 was 4.5 times higher in municipalities predominantly populated by indigenous people than in other municipalities. The native population represents 43 percent of all the poor households in Peru.

Gillette Hall, World Bank economist and co-author of the study, said that "although indigenous people in the region have increased their political power and representation during the last decade, this has not translated into the positive results — in terms of poverty reduction — we had hoped to find when we embarked on this research."

Harry Patrinos, the study's other author, said poverty rates among the indigenous population are "higher and fall more slowly, which is particularly bad news for a continent that has set its sights" on meeting the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty by 2015.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The several Indian groups that live in Costa Rica were not included in the study, although the findings would seem to be extendable to them.

Can you believe that Disneyland is 50 years old?
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Disneyland. The creation of the theme park near Los Angeles was a turning point for the Disney Studio, which has since expanded its interests to nearly every branch of the entertainment industry. 

The man was Walt Disney, and long before business strategists had dreamed up the concept of "synergy," he told potential investors that his California theme park would promote his movies and television shows, and vice versa.

Singer Christina Aguilera helped celebrate the start of the 50-year celebration at California Disneyland, which opened in July of 1955. Events commemorating the anniversary are planned through the summer.

The world's first theme park, Disneyland is based on characters and settings inspired by Disney films. The park was divided into domains that included Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland and Fantasyland. 

Paul Bond of the industry publication the The Hollywood Reporter says it was promoted intensively by Walt Disney on television in a show seen by viewers around the country.

"When Disneyland did have its grand opening, it was broadcast on the 'Disneyland' TV show, and it was really unprecedented," said Bond.

Ninety million people tuned in, virtually everyone with a television set in America, to watch celebrities enjoying the new theme park. 

Over the years, other Disney parks opened, first in Florida, then Japan and later France. Today there are 10 Disney theme Parks on three continents, with another under construction in Hong Kong. The company operates 35 hotels and two cruise ships, the ABC and ESPN television networks, and hundreds of stores that sell merchandise based on its characters. With music and publishing subsidiaries, Disney also produces live-action and animated films and television shows. 

It all began in 1923, with the founding of what would become the Walt Disney Co. In 1928, it created its first star, the animated figure Mickey Mouse. From its first cartoon feature with sound, called "Steamboat Willie," to the popular "Mickey Mouse Club" show on television, Disney characters have entertained generations of youngsters.

Not all has been smooth sailing for the media giant. The past two years, Disney has faced dissension on its board of directors, raising concern among shareholders. A battle between longtime Disney chairman Michael Eisner and two dissident former board members, Walt's nephew Roy Disney and his ally Stanley Gold, resulted in Michael Eisner stepping down as company chairman 

Disney made a bundle with Disneyland

and promising not to seek a new term as chief executive.

Bond says the company also had problems with its ABC broadcast network, whose stock was underperforming. But he says Disney management under Eisner has turned that around. The analyst says Disney's Internet unit is also doing well.

"The ABC television network is on the mend," he said. "Disney Online has been flourishing. The theme parks have also been flourishing, and the film studio."

Despite the occasional flop among its movie releases, Disney has produced a string of animated hits, from "The Little Mermaid" to "Tarzan" and "The Lion King."

In addition to its new films, Disney has a library of classics, which are being digitally re-mastered and, says Bond, continue to sell.

"Of course, every few years they come out with a new library title from their classic library — 'Snow White' and 'Sleeping Beauty' and 'Pinocchio' and all this stuff is just being gobbled up by consumers who want to have these movies on DVD, with everything DVD offers," Bond said.

One of the challenges facing incoming Disney CEO Robert Iger, who will take over later this year, will be repairing relations with the computer animation company Pixar, whose joint projects with Disney have included the highly profitable film "The Incredibles." 

Disney had revenues of more than $30 billion last year, making it the world's second largest media company, after Time Warner. Analyst Bond says the company is an entertainment icon, and that despite its recent troubles, it is likely to remain an industry giant.

Fugitive Cuban airline bombing suspect charged in U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Immigration authorities Thursday charged an aging Cuban exile linked to the bombing of a Cuban airliner with illegally entering the United States. The move could lead to a deportation order, but any resolution of the case is likely to take months.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities have charged the man, Luis Posada Carriles, with illegally entering the United States. They say he will face an immigration judge June 13. 

Posada was arrested this week in Miami after he surfaced to give a series of media interviews ending intense speculation about his whereabouts. The governments of Venezuela and Cuba say the 77-year-old Cuban exile is the mastermind behind the 1976 bombing of a Cuban Airways passenger jet that killed 73 people. Recently released FBI documents in the United States also link him to the attack. Cuban authorities also accuse him of orchestrating a hotel bombing campaign in Havana in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist. 

Posada's attorney, Eduardo Soto, says his client will fight deportation, and that Posada obtained permanent U.S. residency more than 40 years ago, making him eligible to apply for political asylum status in the United States.

"It is our position that beyond his voluntary wishes, he was not able to return to the United States and for those reasons did not lose the cloak of permanent residency," said Soto. "Those are arguments we will be making." 

Posada, a naturalized Venezuelan citizen, was jailed in Venezuela on charges of involvement in the airliner bombing, but he escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985. 

He was released from a Panamanian prison last year where he had been jailed on charges of attempting to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Venezuela has formally requested Posada's extradition. Cuban officials say they want to see him tried in Venezuela or before an international tribunal. U.S. Homeland Security officials say they generally do not deport individuals to Cuba, or to any country acting on Cuba's behalf.

Damien Fernández, the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University in Miami, says Posada's case is being watched closely throughout Latin America. 

"Because it is both Venezuela and Cuba, countries with whom the United States is having a mini Cold War, that are claiming Posada-Carriles extradition and that he be tried for alleged terrorist acts," said Fernández. "So, this really presents a political quagmire for the United States, and it is not clear how U.S. policy will pursue this issue, but it is clear it will have ramifications in U.S. Latin American policy." 

Posada's attorney says he will immediately seek bond for his client, and will re-file an application for political asylum. He says he expects it could take as long as six months for the case to work its way through the immigration courts.

Ex-dictator Pinochet reported to be in the hospital with a new stroke
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile - Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet has been rushed to a hospital, apparently suffering from a stroke. 

Staff members of the 89-year old retired general say he was taken to a military hospital in Santiago.  Few other details have been given.  But some military officials are saying his condition is not serious.

Pinochet has been hospitalized for several strokes in the past.

The former dictator, who headed a military government from 1973 to 1990, faces several criminal proceedings over human rights violations committed during his rule. 

But Chile's courts have ruled that he is too ill to stand trial. 

Jo Stuart
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