A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Friday, May 28, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 105
Jo Stuart
About us
 Saray Ramírez Vindas/A.M. Costa Rica
The Viking and the Diablo are creations of maskmaker Manuel Mena Fernandez of Guarari de Heredia and are on display at the Internacional Feria de Artesania. Our story and more photos are BELOW!
Legion will help mark
Memorial Day Monday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monday is Memorial Day when the United States honors its war dead. It is a day with special significance because U.S. soldiers are dying from hostile action every day in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The U.S. Embassy will be closed Monday, as it is every U.S. and Costa Rican holiday. However, members of the American Legion will be having a special memorial service.

The newly named SFC Raymond Edison Jones Jr. American Legion Post #16 Costa Rica will host a ceremony, and the U.S. Marine color guard from the embassy is expected to attend, said Post Commander Howard L. Singer. Part of the ceremony will be to honor Sgt. Jones, 31, who died April 9. He was the U.S.-born son of a Costa Rican mother. The 1 p.m. ceremony will be at the Health Visions Veterans Clinic in Heredia. Those who wish to attend can call 265-6394 to obtain directions.

The day is also special because June 6 marks the 60th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion that led to the World War II defeat of Germany.

Just where does she get those column ideas?
The highlight of the past weekend was a birthday party. Friend Susan decided to celebrate entering the 60s with a party for lots of friends. Her friend, Lars, was expecting a birthday, so Susan prepared all of the delicious bocas, and Lars furnished the heady drinks. Guests furnished the good time. 

More than one person at the party asked me the question, "How do you get your ideas for columns?" Ulla said "I open A.M. Costa Rica on Fridays wondering, ‘What has Jo found to talk about today?’" My answer at the time was that it is not always easy, and sometimes I take a walk to town and an idea comes while I walk. Usually I trust something will happen that will trigger an idea.

It would be so much easier if my column were a political one: Something new in politics happens every day, so there is much grist for the mill. I could write about power corrupting, then pick a government — any government — and go from there. Although I would have to deal with something my international students insisted: It is not power that corrupts, but greed. 

If my column were about cooking, that would be easy, too. I could give you the hint not to throw out that hardened end of Parmesan cheese. Simply add it to the next pot of tomato sauce you make. Or if it were an "On the town" column, I could tell you about the new restaurant I have just heard about. La Brasserie Parisienne, on Avenida 4 near calle 36. Susan’s husband, David, raved about it, and I am eager to try it. 

If I were a travel writer (and was paid to travel), there would be a new place to write about every week, for sure. If this column were a health and nutrition column, I could mention that watercress has recently been listed among the healthy foods. You can buy 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

three bunches for 100 colons at the feria. If you don’t feel like making soup, just put them in a jar of water (after washing them well, of course), and pluck off a few leaves every time you pass the jar. They also could be very helpful if you are quitting smoking. They give the tongue a nice bite.

But a column that begins with "Living"? It is not that there is nothing to write about in living. But what is of interest to others? "Living in Costa Rica," of course, narrows it down, but it is still just about everyday life. So I will write about the thrill of waking up Monday morning to BLUE SKY AND SUNSHINE after a totally rainy weekend. And I learned from Ulla why the bottoms of my white socks get black. It is because of the dampness, she said. Mystery solved. I love living where I need neither air conditioning nor heat, but there are some trade-offs. With all this rain, it is not just my floors that are damp.

Or I will tell you about the two little birds who have taken over my dish of bird feed. In the morning, if all the food is gone, one of them patters into my living room and runs around pecking at the floor, making sure I see him, I am sure. 

After he leaves, I go and get the seed bag and fill their dish. Now I wonder, have I trained those little birds, or have they got me trained? Living in Costa Rica, I have time to ponder philosophical questions like that.

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Five reported dead
from Talamanca outbreak

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An outbreak of an as-yet undiagnosed disease has left at least five persons dead in the mountains of Talamanca. At least three of the dead are believed to be children.

Health and law enforcement officials mustered a force Wednesday to fly into the area and begin providing treatment.

Three physicians, four first aid technicians, two nurses, and an epidemiologist make up the team that will stay until Sunday in Piedra Meza and Guayabal de Telire.

A preliminary report says that the problem is a form of respiratory illness that can be serious in children.

A helicopter of the Sección Aérea del Ministerio de Seguridad Pública took the team into the mountains Wednesday. The medical personnel were from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The Talamanca, in the southern Province of Limón, has a large population of Indians who live in remote areas. Word of the outbreak did not become known until someone walked to a more populated area with word of the deaths.

Father Minor returns
to a prison cell

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Rev. Mínor de Jesús Calvo Aguilar was back in jail Thursday, this time facing allegations that he helped threaten a witness in his high-profile murder investigation.

Also detained and questioned were two lawyers.

The prosecutors claim they, too, were involved in the threats.

The arrest of the former radio priest came after a hearing at the Tibunales de Justicia in Heredia.

Calvo is suspected of being one of two persons who were the intellectual authors of the murder of Parmenio Medina Pérez, a radio political commentator. The other suspect is Omar Luis Chaves Mora. Chaves has been jailed since his arrest at Christmastime.

Calvo was in jail nearly three months but then was allowed out on bail.

The object of the threat is believed to be the girlfriend of a man prosecutors believe was part of the gang that actually pulled the trigger on Medina near his Heredia home July 7, 2001.

The two lawyers are Alvaro Jiménez and Perla Chaves. They were arrested because the witness recanted her previous testimony.

Reporter in Grenada
faces criminal libel

By Caribbean Net News

ST GEORGE‘S, Grenada: Leroy Noel, a regular contributor to Caribbean Net News, was detained for questioning by police in Grenada on Thursday morning. Noel had filed a report that he had been personally threatened by Grenada’s prime minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, on Tuesday. 

Noel is said to be the first of a series of journalists in Grenada who are being targeted in police investigations of possible criminal libel against Mitchell. Noel was later released from custody after being questioned.

The Media Workers Association of Grenada has expressed its concern at Noel’s detention by police.

Michael Bascombe, First Vice President of the media workers group, said, "Our association respects the law. However, Noel's detention appears to be another effort by the government to discourage and inhibit the media from disseminating a recent story published in Offshore Alert. We believe this is legitimate information that should be pursued by media since it involves public officials."

Meanwhile, Grenada’s parliament is due to meet Friday, and the leader of the opposition has indicated that questions will be asked about the recent attempts by the government to intimidate and muzzle the local media. Questions are also planned in relation to Mitchell’s trip to Switzerland in 2000 when, according to the Miami-based Offshore Alert newsletter, he received a briefcase containing US$500,000 from a German fraudster who at the time was a holder of a Grenadian diplomatic passport.

This claim was subsequently denied by the prime minister who said he only received approximately US$15,000 and he received no briefcase at all, but refused to say how he received the money.

A mass rally is planned for Saturday in Granville, Grenada’s second largest community, to protest alleged corruption within the government and its attempts to restrict the freedom of the press. 

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Artisan show is bigger and more international
Johan Cubillos Heijting, a Venezuelan now living in Curridabat, creates roses from metal as well as antique locks.

Group hopes country
will be a center for arts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Of the 170 exhibitors this year at the artists’ association show, some 25 are from other countries, thus giving the event a true international flavor.

A spokesperson for the Asociación de Artesanos Costarricense says this year’s show, the second, is bigger than the last.

Reporting and photography 
Saray Ramírez Vindas

Rosa Mora Villalobos, association president, said this is the last year that the event will be held in what is now called the Antigua Aduana on Calle 26 in Barrio California.

The Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deporte, which owns the sprawling structure, hopes to turn it into a sculpture museum, so the association is looking for another spot for next year’s show.

Ms. Mora said the date may also change. This year the event is designed to run coincidental with Expotur, the tourism merchandising trade show. She said she would prefer a date a bit later in the year to capture the interest of tourists.

The most important thing, she said, is that the exposition helps give Costa Rica a name as an 

Eugenio Fernandez and Mariela Salazar work in ceramics at Casa Eduardo in Excazú
Nicaraguan handcraft  from Managua are made in natural fibers
Guatemalan handcraft is made colonial style by Indians around Antigua.
Traditional Chorotega ceramics also are on display

Carved bar and chairs extracted from a 
single trunk of guanacaste wood are 
the work of Miguel Alfaro Vargas

international center for the arts and crafts and also allows artisans to deal directly with customers.

The event runs through Sunday, and admission is free.

Exhibitors this year include all the Central American countries.

Standout exhibits include the hand-carved bar and chairs by Miguel Alfaro Vargas that took him two years to complete. Another exhibitor constructed a miniature Teatro Nacional from tiny pieces of wood.

The wares offered for sale seem to be of higher quality than the typical art fair. Plus a visitor cannot get more traditional than the menu of the restaurants that serve up mountains of distinctive foods in the back gallery. 

Cuba and México agree to return ambassadors
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

GUADALAJARA, México — Cuba's foreign minister says both his nation and México have agreed to return their respective ambassadors to their posts.

Cuba's Felipe Perez Roque made the announcement Thursday here following a meeting with his Mexican counterpart, Luis Ernesto Derbez. 

Both men are in Guadalajara for a summit Friday of Caribbean, Latin American and European Union leaders that will cover trade, terrorism and other issues.

Earlier, Derbez was quoted as saying the meeting was positive and the first step toward normalizing relations. Mexican officials were not immediately available for comment on the decision to restore the ambassadors. 

Tension rose between the two countries earlier this month after México expelled the Cuban ambassador, accusing him of meddling in Mexican internal affairs. México also recalled its ambassador from Cuba.

Historically, Mexico has been Cuba's strongest ally in Latin America, but relations have become tense under Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has criticized Cuba's human rights record.

During a May Day speech, Cuban President Fidel Castro criticized México and other Latin American countries for supporting a U.N. resolution critical of Cuba. He will be absent from the summit. 

Leaders at the summit are also expected to condemn the abuse of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. Officials, however, say the Bush administration will not be mentioned.

Death toll in Haiti and Dominican Republic continues to grow
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Death tolls continue to rise in Haiti and the  Dominican Republic three days after torrential  rains caused devastating floods that wiped out  entire villages. 

In Haiti, the town of Mapou is almost submerged in water, and health officials say they fear as many as 1,000 people are dead.  About another 150 bodies have been counted in Fond Verettes. Across the border in the Dominican Republic, the village of Jimani was almost completely wiped out. Hundreds of corpses have already been buried in mass graves before being identified to avoid disease. 

U.N. and other aid group teams have been deployed to assess needs and distribute food and water. U.S. Marines, in Haiti as part of a multinational force to 

stabilize the country after its February uprising, are helping in relief efforts. Many roads are impassable, forcing them to use helicopters to transport necessities.

They're racing against time, as more rain is  expected. 

Interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has traveled to the region to view the devastation, while the Dominican Republic's president-elect, Leonel Fernandez, has been appealing for assistance during a visit to New  York. 

Pope John Paul II has offered prayers for the  families and the victims of the disaster. He sent  sympathy telegrams to authorities in both  Caribbean countries, assuring the homeless and  other survivors that he is with them spiritually.

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Visiting students pose for their group photo near an antique Ford auto, one of a handful on display at the Museo Nacional and its new exhibit of life and times from the 1880s to the 1930s.
A.M. Costa Rica photo
New exhibit seeks to capture daily life years ago
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the exhibition is called a display of photographs, there is much more at the Museo Nacional.

The exhibition, "Gentes y calles del ayer" or "People and Streets of Yesteryear" does have some wonderful photos, including one of San José when the only multi-story buildings were churches and the Teatro Nacional.

But museum officials have included artifacts from the years 1880 to 1930. The most visible are the four Ford automobiles parked in the museum inner courtyard. In all, 12 autos will be exhibited, thanks to the Asociación de Autos Antiguos. The bulk of them will be at the museum Sunday after 10 a.m. when the exhibit is opened to the public.

Inside the temporary exhibit area, museum workers have set up a living room as it might have been in upscale Barrio Amon at the turn of the century. Also displayed among the 150 photos are an early 20th century camera, money and musical instruments.

The exhibit was set up by museum historian Gabriela Villalobos, who has made sure that explanations of each photo are in Spanish and in English for the benefit of tourists and other non-Spanish speakers. 

Her exhibit has five themes: the individual, family and society; economic development, including streets and roads; the growth of the city; San José the sacred and the secular; and photographic images from other provinces.

The photos are either property of the museum or were donated for the exhibit.

Museo Nacional photo
Ox carts and roads even worse than today

Museo Nacional photo
Soda La Eureka in Heredia circa 1910.

The Museo Nacional is in the former Belle Vista Fortress on a hill overlooking the downtown east of the Plaza de la Democracia.

U.S. urging fair and credible Venezelan process
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Thursday urged the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez to support a "fair and credible" process for resolving the bitter dispute over petitions for Chavez' recall. 

The Bush administration is urging parties in Venezuela to reject violence on the eve of a new effort to settle the dispute over the anti-Chavez recall effort.

Starting today, Venezuelan voters will be able to reconfirm their signatures on petitions submitted earlier this year for a recall referendum on the tenure of the controversial president.

Recall supporters say they had collected nearly 3.5 million signatures for the special vote. But the government said it had been able to verify less than two million, about a half million short of the minimum required by law.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher read a statement by Secretary of State Colin Powell calling the signature confirmation exercise a "defining moment" for Venezuelan democracy, and saying it will help Venezuelans end the crippling political dispute, and build a better future.

"The secretary in his statement urges the  Venezuelan government to honor the wishes of its people by supporting a fair and credible  process that produces prompt results in an  atmosphere 

free from fear and intimidation," he  said. "He also 
calls on the Venezuelans to reject  violence as incompatible with the exercise of democracy."

The Powell statement said the United States  supports a peaceful, democratic, constitutional  and electoral solution to Venezuela's political impasse. 

He said the presence of observer missions by the Organization of American States and the Carter Center of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter for the re-count will promote greater transparency and credibility. 

Carter himself is due in Venezuela Saturday to join the monitoring effort.

President Chavez has frequently clashed with the United States over his populist policies and close ties with, among others, Cuban President Fidel Castro. 

He has accused the Bush administration of supporting the recall effort as well as a military revolt that briefly ousted him from power in 2002.

In a commentary earlier this week in The Washington Post, the Venezuelan leader said he hoped his opponents will be shown to have gathered enough signatures for a recall vote, because he welcomes the opportunity to again "win the people's mandate."

A former army officer who once led a coup attempt of his own in Caracas, Chavez was first elected in 1998, and won a six-year second term in 2000. 

Jo Stuart
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