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(506) 223-1327                   Published Friday, June 8, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 113                         E-mail us    
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Final two bodies found in tarpon boat mishap
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Final update Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)
Searchers have found all three bodies of men on a tarpon fishing boat who were dumped into the mouth of the Río Colorado Thursday afternoon.

The body of the small boat's captain and his U.S. citizen passenger turned up early Saturday. Searchers already had located the body of the captain's son.

One fisherman, a U.S. citizen identified as Kevin Holmes, 25, survived because he was able to swim to shore, according to rescuers.

A sport fishing boat, about 25 feet in length, overturned in rough water at the mouth of the river Thursday. The captain was Antonio Cajina, 49, an employee of the Casa Mar Lodge. The other fisherman was identified as Bryan Wolf, 35. The U.S. citizens were cousins from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area. Neither body found Saturday was dressed with a life jacket, said searchers. The two bodies were found some distance south of the river mouth, taken there by a strong current.

The dead youth, Norman Cajina, 17, was found by searchers about 9 p.m. Thursday, according to the  Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas. His body was not wearing a life jacket either, searchers said. It was unclear if the body was found on the shore or in the sea. Most searchers stopped looking on the sea after sundown. A resident said that the body was found north of the accident site. A fire extinguisher from the boat was found Friday south of the accident site in Samay Lagoon.

The location is in extreme northeast Costa Rica near the Barra del Colorado rain forest preserve.
Reports from the remote area said that the boat was at anchor near the south side of the mouth of the Río Colorado. That turbulent area is where the flow from the river meets the Caribbean tide. The river is world famous for tarpon fishing.

The men and boy were in a panga, a locally constructed open boat powered by an outboard motor. Three other boats had begun their return to the fishing lodge before the accident happened. One report said that one of the visitors had a fish on the line when the boat overturned.

The crew of a coast guard launch spotted the overturned boat and quickly noticed the survivor, Holmes, waving on the beach of the river. Other sports fishing guides joined the search that was called off on the sea at dusk. Searchers continued checking beaches.

The Casa Mar Web site says the fishing lodge maintains seven 25-foot boats powered by 115-horsepower outboards.

 
An operator of a similar fishing lodge said that his boat captains did not take out customers Thursday because they were concerned about the choppy water.

At least three deaths have taken place in the same area, according to locals. In one case a fisherman tried to swim to shore from an overturned craft and was attacked by a bull shark. Hundreds of mostly fly fishermen visit the area each year.

In addition to the tarpon, called silver kings, the tourists seek snook and several species of smaller sports fish.


Heritage officials seeking tales and anecdotes of Guanacaste this year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Guanacaste is one of the places that has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. It also is Costa Rica's version of the Old West where story telling, legends and fireside accounts are an art form.

The culture ministry is going to tap into that intangible heritage with its Certamen de Tradiciones Costarricenses this year. The contest will seek out the best legends, anecdotes and history. There also is an open category.

The accounts are supposed to be factual, or at least founded in the area's traditions. Those who participate are supposed to have lived in the province for at least 10 years and be adults, according to the rules.

This is the fourth attempt to pull together regional traditions. Dota, Ciudad Colón and Santa Ana and
Oreamuno and Cartago have had their contests in previous years.

The top prize in each of the three categories is 125,000 colons, some $288. Second place is 100,000 colons ($192) and third is 50,000 ($96).

The sponsor, the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural, keeps the submissions in order to compile a book. Deadline for submission is July 13.  Winners will be announced Aug. 11.

Previous contests have revealed the history of pioneers, family traditions, religious traditions, old place names and histories connected with relevant events like the 1948 revolution and the eruption of the Irazú volcano in 1963 to 1965, said the centro.
Additional information is available at the casas de cultura in each canton. The  Centro de Patrimonio is welcoming submissions even handwritten.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 8, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 113

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Our readers' opinion
Costa Rica has sold itself
dishonestly to Chinese


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
Count the many ways Costa Rica can be sold, and can you ever trust her?
 
Selling the country is nothing new. Builders, big business, sportsbooks, and now we join a list of unforgettable nations who have done the same. Like us, they dumped their diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of China with great expectations of wealth that never really lived up to the dreams. Since 2001, China has wooed over eight of Taiwan's diplomatic allies: Macedonia (2001), Nauru (2002, but resumed ties with Taiwan in 2005 when the big bucks did not come), Liberia (2003), Dominica (2004), Grenada (2005), Senegal (2005), Chad (2006) and now Costa Rica (2007).

As documented by Thursday's edition of A.M. Costa Rica, Taiwan has been a good and loyal friend to Costa Rica donating millions and millions of dollars and constructing about the only world-class infrastructure this country can be proud of.
 
As much as the act itself, it was the dishonesty and disrespect that stands out.
 
The first and only clue that the 63-year-old relationship was in jeopardy was when Costa Rica, without warning, voted against Taiwan in the United Nations. The only country not to give any kind of advance notice.
 
Then the deception started to unravel as Costa Rica, behind Taipei's back on June 1, 2007, agreed to cut Taiwan and recognize China.
 
Money is money, after all.
 
On the other side of the ocean, The China Times reported:
 
Foreign Minister (James Huang) also blasted Costa Rica for lying to Taipei about its plans to launch ties with China.

"Costa Rica Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno flew to Beijing on May 29 and on June 1 signed the communique on establishing ties, but he told us he was going to visit the U.S. and not China," Huang said.

In the past days, Stagno has reassured Taiwan several times that his country (Costa Rica) would not cut ties with Taipei.

"Only after our repeated requests, Bruno Stagno agreed to talk to us on the phone at 4 a.m. to admit having opened ties with China," Huang said, calling Costa Rica's deceiving Taiwan "despicable."  (June 7, 2007)
 
A joint communique of China and Costa Rica:
 
"'The Costa Rican government recognizes that there is only one China and the government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing the whole China. Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory."
 
While we talk about it, sing about and fret over it, how little we actually value democracy, freedom and human rights which is roughly $130 million that China has promised? Costa Rica exports to China have been super healthy, even while we recognized Taiwan. I would hope our morals and values would have been "priceless," but I guess not.
 
John Holtz
Santa Ana
 
Former souvenir store owner
says he gave Ticos discounts

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The practice of cheaper prices has been going on for some time for the Ticos. I once owned a store in Puntarenas. I was informed by my manager that the Ticos get a cheaper price. Now what the HELL??? How would the Ticos like to pay 20 percent more when they come to the U.S.A.? Or for that matter, any non-U.S. citizen has to pay 20 percent more at Disneyland, or any other tourist attraction?

The Ticos have discounts already, and I am sure that many people do not know that! When a cab or bus tour takes people to Sarchí for example, the driver gets a percentage of what is spent by the people he or she brings to the store. So guess who pays that percentage?? YOU!!

Imagine if all countries did the same?? Talk about discrimination?? The rules and laws in Costa Rica are unbelievable, and they change on a daily basis. I could almost understand if they were being discounted for milk and food, but for a vacation??? I had to give Ticos a discount at my store. It was a souvenir store. Figure that out.

Robert W. DePretis
U.S.A.


Tico hotel discounts lack
any economic realism


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Reading the headlines of A.M. Costa Rica’s story on a bill in the Asamblea that would give the Costa Ricans at least a 20 percent discount on foreigners’ hotel rates might leave the initial impression that someone was trying to help the Ticos afford a nice vacation.

But reading the fairy land reasoning offered by the sponsor of the bill, which is that the hotel operators get tax breaks and that is money not received by the government to spend on ‘humble’ Ticos, thus the locals deserve lower prices, it becomes patently clear that promoter of the bill is trying to make political hay for himself.

The argument he uses is so lacking in economic realism that one can’t help but wonder if the diputado has been reading Hugo Chavez’s manual, "How to Exploit the Ignorance, Envy and Inferiority Complexes of the People for Political Gain."
 
Everyone knows, including the sponsor of this absurd bill, that tourism has replaced coffee and bananas as the country’s No. 1 generator of hard currency, that hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in hotel and condo projects because of tourism, and that tourism has given jobs of all kinds to thousands of Costa Rican workers.

What all that means is that by giving tax break incentives to tourism, it resulted in many times more dollars and colons circulating in the country than would have otherwise, plus the added benefit for the Tico of not having to play so hard the inflation catch-up game with a pobrecito colon, which now has actually gone up in value against the dollar.

So when the bill sponsor came up with this hare-brained idea, he knew full well what he was doing. Let’s hope the other diputados are less self-centered, more patriotic and more realistic in executing their legislative responsibilities and vote this insanity down.

By the way, can you imagine what the reaction would be when the foreign tourist finds out that the Ticos get a huge discount at the same hotel they are staying at? “I’m outta here. This is rip-offville of the first order” comes to mind. Now Mr. Demagogue Diputado, you got more than your wish: hotels — those that haven’t closed down — are discounting their rates 75 percent because no foreigners are coming, so the humble Ticos you say you want to serve can have the whole place to themselves, and not be bothered by their envy and inferiority complexes you are playing on.

Walter Fila
Ciudad Colon   

From the editor

Dear readers,

What few letters we received from Costa Ricans strongly support the idea of passing a law to give them a 20 percent discount at hotels and other tourism facilities. The writers feel that tourists and expats have more money and that they, too, should be able to stay at luxury hotels that are now beyond their economic reach.
The Editor

revised out of bounds


You need to see Costa Rican properties for sale
on our real estate page HERE!



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 8, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 113

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China is elated, but Taiwan feels betrayed by Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

China has called Costa Rica's decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing a "historical trend" and urged remaining countries with diplomatic ties to Taiwan to follow suit. 

China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu welcomed Costa Rica's decision to recognize the "One China" policy that says Beijing is the only legitimate government of China.

She told reporters Costa Rica's dropping official relations with Taipei further backed-up Beijing's claim that Taiwan is a territory of China.

"More and more countries are establishing diplomatic relations with China.  This also clearly shows the "One China" principle is the accepted common consensus among the international community," Ms. Jiang said.

China now has diplomatic relations with 169 countries while Taipei has ties with 24, most of them small, poor nations in Africa and South and Central America.

David Wang, a spokesman for Taiwan's ministry of foreign affairs, says Taipei feels betrayed by Costa Rica's decision.

"The response by Costa Rica to Taiwan, they are vague and evasive answers.  We do not believe that was the correct way to treat a traditional and old friend like Taiwan," Wang said.

Taiwan has steadily been losing the diplomatic battle to China's strong economy as countries have sought closer trade relations with the Asian giant.

Costa Rican President Óscar Arias Sánchez announced the switch to China Wednesday after 63 years of relations with Taiwan.  Arias said the change was due more to economic rather than political objectives.
Stagno in China
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto photo
Yang Jiechi, the foreign minister of the People's Republic of China, greets Bruno Stagno, Costa Rica's foreign minister, during a visit to Beijing a week ago.

China and Taiwan have been accused of using dollar diplomacy, namely giving financial aid, in their tug of war to try to win diplomatic recognition.  Jiang denied aid money was a factor.

China and Taiwan have fought to win diplomatic recognition since they split in 1949 after the Communists won a civil war.

Beijing maintains self-ruling, democratic Taiwan is a breakaway province of China and opposes any moves that portray Taiwan as being independent from China.

Visiting dignitaries meeting with Chinese leaders are asked to recite their allegiance to the "One China" principle.


Frankly, Scarlet, at summer camp I just tried to lend a hand
I have begun my second month at the Residencial Jose Pujol Marti. For those of you who have asked, the phone number of the office is 239-0295.  Doña Luz will be happy to answer your questions — in Spanish.

Among other services, they do my laundry for me here.  I have wondered how they manage to know which clothes are mine, then the other night I was about to put on my nightgown and saw on the neck flap the name "Josephine" printed there.  And suddenly I was back in summer camp. 

The first and only time I ever went to a summer camp was when I was 8 years old and summer camps for underprivileged children from big cities were beginning to close.  Giving them a summer of sunshine and exercise was, it was thought, a preventive measure in combating tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis was waning as a serious disease, and the camp near my hometown had spaces to fill, so Dr. Granger, our town doctor, suggested to my mother that she send me.  It was free, and as a working mother she would have one less child underfoot, and I was such “a happy kid,” I would be “a good influence” on the other children.  That stuck in my mind, and I eagerly helped my mother sew my name tags into my clothes preparing to go off on my crusade as A Good Influence to cheer up the poor deprived city kids.

Instead, I managed to close down the camp.  The first night in my cabin another little girl — so skinny and frail looking — was crying because she was cold.  Feeling noble and happy to have my first chance to do a good deed, I gave my blanket to her and shivered through the night myself.  In less than a week I was complaining of a sore throat when I stood in line to be checked by the doctor.  At first he patted my head (I looked healthy and happy, and sent me on my way.  But after my persistent complaints, “My throat really hurts,” he told me to open my mouth.  The next thing I knew I was in the infirmary and my stomach was covered with red splotches.  I had scarlet fever.  Scarlet fever is strep throat with complications.  Since I had been around most of the kids (they called me the Flying Dutchman), many of them were exposed to this disease.                  
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

 
I was packed off to the quarantine section of a Jamestown Hospital, and day after day, watched as other children, not nearly as healthy as I had been, were brought in. I was there for a month and the burden of guilt was almost more than I could bear.  To my knowledge the camp never reopened.  My bout with scarlet fever left me with a heart murmur.

Curiously, the same night I saw my name in my nightgown and started remembering, I noted that I once again had a sore throat.  The next morning I awoke coughing and aching all over.  I had, I supposed, el grippe.  The next day my throat really hurt.  When I told Nurse Dixie, she didn’t laugh. Instead she gave me pills for my headache and cough and salt to gargle with, and later oregano tea.  The doctor explained to me that I had a virus, and such things happen when you live in a close community, dining together, etc.  As the days go by Dixie reassures me that I am going to live. I am not really convinced.    In all my years of living alone I have never had this sort of misery.

Oddly enough, tuberculosis is back in the news.  Actually, I am not surprised.  In the 1980s I talked a student looking for a subject for her paper, to write about the resurgence of TB as a health threat in the U.S.  A little premature, but here we are. Scarlet fever has not been a major health problem for some years. 

I have to admit, though, I did sneak a look at my stomach.  No rash.


Jo’s book, “Butterfly in the City: A Good Life in Costa Rica,” is available at the 7th Street Book Store, Lehmann’s and Liberia Internacional.  Or contact Jostuart@amcostarica.com.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 8, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 113


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El Salvador and 3 Caribbean nations to test ethanol program
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

With the help of the United States and Brazil, one Central American country and three Caribbean nations could become less dependent on oil imports by switching their economies to biofuels, according to U.S. and Brazilian officials.

“We seek to promote the democratization of energy in the Americas, increasing the number of energy suppliers, expanding the market and reducing supply disruption,” said Condoleezza Rice, U.S. secretary of State.

Ms. Rice was in Panama City for the 37th General Assembly of the Organization of American States. The organization issued a declaration that biofuels are “critical to diversifying the use of energy” in the Western Hemisphere.

The secretary noted that the United States and Brazil completed in March what she described as a groundbreaking agreement on biofuels.

She said El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and
St. Kitts will be the initial focus of the U.S.-Brazil Biofuels Partnership’s outreach program. She added, however, that the partnership is eager to expand cooperation to more countries, particularly in the Western Hemisphere.

“Our goal should be nothing less than to usher in a new era of inter-American security in energy,” Ms. Rice said.

Under the partnership, the world’s two largest ethanol producers are committed to helping less-developed countries in the Western Hemisphere promote production of biofuels from local crops. The partnership also intends to advance the research in and development of more efficient biofuel technologies and to work toward a greater convergence of biofuels standards around the world. 

All four countries depend heavily on imported oil.  In some, oil makes up nearly 90 percent of their energy consumption, and they produce electricity largely from petroleum.

However, these four countries also have relatively strong agricultural sectors that they could convert partially to energy crops, officials said.


Bush and Uribe confer by telephone on hostage iniciative
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President George W. Bush and his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, have repeated their call for the release of all hostages held by the leftist Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

Gordon Johndroe, the U.S. National Security Council spokesman who is traveling with Mr. Bush in Europe, said Bush spoke Thursday with Uribe, who is in the United States for an official visit. The two leaders discussed Colombia's initiative to release prisoners as an incentive for the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias to release its hostages, including three Americans.

While in Washington, Uribe is also expected to push for a free trade agreement, as Congress considers cutting anti-drug aid to the South American nation.
Democratic lawmakers have criticized Colombia's human rights record and expressed concern over the death-squad killings of labor organizers in that country. They say they may not approve the free trade agreement as a result.

Some also have expressed concern about a recent study showing that the cultivation of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, has increased in recent years.

U.S. lawmakers are considering cutting anti-drug aid to Colombia by 10 percent in 2008, and moving some of the funding from spraying coca crops to arresting drug traffickers.

Today Uribe is to appear in New York to honor former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who was in office when the United States began its joint effort with Colombia, called "Plan Colombia" to fight the international drug trade there.


Prosecutor in Chile recommends sending Fujimore back to Peru to face charges
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A prosecutor for the Chilean supreme court has recommended that former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori be extradited from Chile to Peru on corruption and human rights charges.

The non-binding recommendation was issued Thursday to Orlando Alvarez, the judge due to rule on the case. The prosecutor recommended that the judge accept nine out of 10 charges of corruption and both charges of human rights violations.
The human rights charges allege that Fujimori sanctioned the killing of 25 people by paramilitary squads during his presidency. The corruption charges involve bribery and illegal use of government funds.

Fujimori was president of Peru from 1990 to 2000, when his government collapsed and he fled to his ancestral homeland of Japan.

He spent five years in exile there before appearing unexpectedly in Chile in 2005, where he was arrested on an international warrant.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 8, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 113


Former Alcatel exec admits he bribed Costa Rican officials
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A former Alcatel CIT executive pleaded guilty to participating in the payment of more than $2.5 million in bribes to senior Costa Rican government officials in order to obtain a mobile telephone contract from Costa Rica’s state-owned telecommunications authority, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Department of Justice announced Thursday in Washington, D.C.

The former executive, Christian Sapsizian, a French citizen, entered the plea earlier Thursday in U.S. District Court in Miami, before the Judge Patricia Seitz. Sapsizian pleaded guilty to two counts, conspiracy and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, from a superseding indictment returned on March 20, 2007. The remaining counts will be dismissed at the time of sentencing, scheduled for Dec. 20, the Justice Department said in a release. As part of his plea, Sapsizian has agreed to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in their ongoing investigation.

This is the case in which Hernán Bravo, a former board member of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, agreed to an abbreviated procedure in a court appearance in San José Wednesday. That is similar to a plea bargain. Among the suspects in the Costa Rican investigation is former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, who maintains his innocence.

Until Nov. 30, Alcatel was a French telecommunications company whose American depositary receipts were traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Sapsizian was employed by Alcatel or one of its subsidiaries for more than 20 years.
At the time the corrupt payments were made, Sapsizian was the company’s deputy vice president responsible for Costa Rica.

Sapsizian admitted that from February 2000 through September 2004, he conspired with co-defendant Edgar Valverde Acosta, a Costa Rican citizen who was Alcatel’s senior country Officer in Costa Rica, and others to pay more than $2.5 million in bribes to senior Costa Rican
officials in order to obtain a mobile telephone contract on behalf of Alcatel. The payments, funneled through one of Alcatel’s Costa Rican consulting firms, were made to a director of Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the state-owned telecommunications authority in Costa Rica, which was responsible for awarding all telecommunications contracts. Sapsizian further admitted that the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad director was an advisor to a senior government official and the payments were shared with the senior government official.

According to Sapsizian, the payments were intended to cause the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad director and the senior government official to exercise their influence to initiate a bid process which favored Alcatel’s technology and to vote to award Alcatel a mobile telephone contract. Alcatel was in fact awarded a $149 million mobile telephone contract in August 2001.

Sapsizian faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and $330,000 in forfeiture.

There was no word if Sapsizian agreed to come to Costa Rica to testify in the Rodríguez trial.


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Suspect detained in murder
of generous U.S. retiree


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judicial police said Thursday they had detained a man in the murder of U.S. retiree Mark Judson Watkins last September. Detained was a 35-year-old man identified by the last name of Jiménez, they said.

Watkins died of multiple stab wound, and the motive of the crime was robbery, investigators said at the time.

Watkins, who came from Florida, was known for spending money on the disadvantaged he encountered. He lived in Rohrmoser where the crime took place.

Neighbors said at the time that two men and a women were seen leaving the home before the body was discovered. The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the second suspect in the case died in unrelated gun play Dec. 16 in San Juan de Dios de Desamparados.

There was no word Thursday if investigators had located the women, who was believed to be a crack addict.

Newsman and family
are victims of robbers


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robbers took the purse of a newsman's wife but failed in their attempt to steal the couple's car. The crime was one of two robberies reported in Escazú Wednesday.

The Fuerza Pública said that Carlos Villalobos, a reporter for the Spanish-language daily La Nación, drove up to his home in Escazú Centro Wednesday night. In his car were his wife and children. Suddenly four men in another car pulled up and took the wife's purse.

The men returned just two minutes later, apparently trying to get the car, too. But alert neighbors had called the Fuerza Pública who frightened off the robbers. The house is 450 meters west of Banco Nacional.

Wednesday afternoon armed men invaded the home of Mireya Padilla and Carlos Fallas in San Antonio de Escazú by forcing their way through the porton or bars.

The men encountered a disabled youngster and a domestic employee identified as María Cambronero in the 4:30 p.m. raid, said the Fuerza Pública. The two were herded into a bathroom while the bandits sacked the home.

Taken were three televisions, a DVD player, sound equipment, a computer and 10 million colons (about $19,250) in jewelry, said police.

Orchestra performs tonight
and again Sunday morning


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional presents its fourth concert of the season tonight and Sunday under the baton of Chosei Komatsu with José Aurelio Castillo as featured violinist. Anton Bruckner's "Symphony No. 4 (Romantica)" and Felix Mendelssohn "Concierto for Violin and Orchestra" will be featured.

Both performances will be in the Teatro Nacional. The performance tonight begins at 8 o'clock. The Sunday performance is at 10:30 a.m



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 8, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 113



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