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These stories were published Friday, June 10, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 114
Jo Stuart
About us
Piercy has hopes that flawed residency law will be changed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new immigration law is flawed because changes made in the Asamblea Legislativa were supposed to refer to inversionistas and not rentistas.

That’s the opinion of Ryan Piercy. He is general manager of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, an organization that obtains residency rights for foreigners.

Piercy was responding to an A.M. Costa Rica story that pointed out contradictions in the law over how many U.S. dollars a rentista resident must change into colons each month. One section says $1,000 and the following section says $2,000.

The amount is critical because immigration officials have required 60 months worth of the amount to be posted in a bank account before issuing residency. The second section also requires $500 a month for each dependent.  A family of five would have to post $210,000 if lawmakers adopt the second section. The current amount is $60,000. The measure 

already has received approval on first reading in the legislature.

"According to our sources this is an error in that the second part was meant to apply to inversionistas, and this will need to be corrected in due course," said Piercy via e-mail Thursday. "Of course we hope this is true, and that they don't forget, so we will be verifying this . . . ."

Inversionista is another kind of residency usually awarded to individuals who make substantial investments in the country.

In any event, Piercy said he has learned that the bill will be sent to the Sala IV constitutional court for review over other aspects of the law. The review may take more than a month, he said.

"It must be remembered that the primary reason to change the law is not, indeed, to chase out foreigners but rather help to update an old law and better increase the security issues that the country is facing due to the vast numbers coming as tourists or potential residents," said Piercy.

Community spirit of California town inspiring
 "A community that knows it can determine its own destiny."  This was a comment made by Ann Christoph in her very short speech at a luncheon honoring her as the Woman’s Club Woman of the Year of Laguna Beach.  She, of course, was referring to her own community of Laguna Beach, Calif.

Ann is a landscape architect and environmentalist who has designed, restored and fought for parks in Laguna Beach. She has been mayor and an activist for the community.  She obviously has been instrumental in helping her community determine its own destiny. Her phrase has been bouncing around in my head for days.  What an empowering thought.  How nice to be able to substitute ‘country,’ ‘family,’ ‘organization,’ or even ‘person’ for the word community. 

The day after the luncheon — Saturday — I attended a hastily organized breakfast at a city park — hastily in the sense that word went out just a couple of days before.  The park is right behind the Hano house where I was staying, so we could simply walk across the street and down the hill to attend. 

The breakfast was held in response to a landslide the previous Wednesday in Bluebird Canyon.  The people had come to give support to those who had lost their homes and belongings in the landslide.  The financial support was minimal compared to the loss, but the moral and emotional support for the victims and each other was sizeable. There were people of all ages, all shades, all political and religious persuasions, from all over the small city.  "We are here for each other," they were saying.  It was a happy throng complete with a Boy Scout troop, the mayor, a wandering musician and FOOD.  It was truly a Thanksgiving breakfast.

I am not often agog, but Saturday morning, looking at the laden tables, I was agog.  There was one stretch of tables perhaps 40 feet long and another about 20 feet, and they were absolutely overflowing with every kind of 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

breakfast food one could imagine.

There were bowls of fruit, boxes of cereal, pancakes, donuts of every stripe, bagels, croissants, scrambled eggs, frittatas, quiches, bacon, ham and sausages, and strudels.  (To name a few.)  And it kept coming. 

About 400 people filled the park, and there was enough food for a thousand.  Many of the attendees were wearing commemorative T-shirts that obviously were hot off the press.  The park where we met just happened to be one that was refurbished and updated by Ann Christoph.  And again I thought, this is a community that knows it can determine its own destiny.

I also thought about fundraisers and socials I had been a part of in Costa Rica, and I was envious.  It did bring home to me that in order to determine your own or your community’s destiny, you just GOTTA be involved.   You have to show up. 

Bonnie Hano, and her husband Arnold are two people who have always been involved and shown up.  (I met them in Costa Rica when they were in the Peace Corps after retiring from their day jobs). 

Bonnie said that just a day or so after 9-11 the people of Laguna Beach gathered by the hundreds on the beach in front of the town for a candlelight memorial to the people who had died in that disaster.  It, also was a spontaneous response that needed little publicity. I am not one to get involved, and I often don’t show up.  But I am part of a community in Costa Rica, and it is never too late to change.

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 Our readers write

She sees coming of police state

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Hooray for writer Michael King.  I am heartened to see someone not only defending Jo, who I very much enjoy, but also to find that there is still intelligent life in the "red" states. 

He's right:  we are witnessing not only a rise in a police state in the U.S. of A., but, like the golden age of Rome, decline that will/could/might last thousands of years.  The American people have to wake up, admit to themselves their leaders are and have been lying to them, and take action before it's too late. 

Problem is, most people have a psychological defense mechanism which won't allow them to admit they've been had.   If I had the money, I'd relocate to Costa Rica.  But I can't show $1,000/month income from outside sources. 

Plus, Americans have inflated your land values way too much ...  but the only complaint I could have about CR is the theft.  Folks really shouldn't steal from their neighbors and CR is much to small to not have everyone there your neighbor. 

Judith Loring 
Stevensville, Montana

Internet reduces violence

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

This is in reply to Michael King's letter yesterday. I'm a Republican living in a Blue city in a Blue state and I haven't seen the problems Mr. King describes. Mr. King wrote "I marched with Dr. Martin Luther King. I can remember that and the controversy over the Vietnam war, Watergate, and other national issues that divided the people of the U.S. Never, however, have I witnessed the degree of hostility that is taking place today."

I was born in the 50's and grew up in the 60's and 70's. In an age without Internet, students in NYC were able to organize and mobilize to shut down all NYC high schools and junior high schools over 20 times to protest the Vietnam War. Protest were sometimes violent. People died. Now, information (and, unfortunately, a lot of misinformation) flows faster than a DSL connection. 

Everything is debated on the internet. People argue. No one dies. It's politics as usual in the 21st century.  Fortunately we live in a free country, a democracy, where everyone gets their say. 

Mr. King also says "Disagreements are so extreme that my family and other families I know are unable to communicate without getting into shouting matches."

I'm not sure what Mr. King is trying to prove here. That his friends and family disagree with him? All I know is that this proves that the American system is working. In a democracy it is always possible that 49% of the people will be unhappy. In most of the world, the percentage is much higher. Our wonderful system allows for free debate without violence. 

I'm not religious. In fact, I'm not even Christian, but God Bless America. 

Jeff Vogel 
Forest Hills, N.Y.

It’s the Republican agenda

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

First, I wanted to take this opportunity to commend Jo Stuart on her very insightful writing with which I most always agree.  For people to write in and attack her personally and to insult the welcoming, beautiful country of Costa Rica has all the markings of the hateful, radical, right wing, neo-con, Republican agenda that is destroying the U.S. and the entire world. 

It's telltale markings are hate, divisiveness, exclusion, arrogance, deceit, lies, thievery through high levels of aggression of various types.  This is the very agenda which allows no other points of view and bases it's MO supposedly upon ethical, morally-correct, Christian principles. 

This group feels that it's ways are blessed by God and that it has a duty to help fulfill Biblical prophecy!  This group has destroyed the separation between church and state and it is very easy to see in daily life throughout many aspects of American and international life, their forced agenda through aggression, including legislation, installation of radical judges and so forth. 

The Evangelical Christians are now seeing how they were "used" as pawns to further this agenda.  Duped is a good description.  This group has hammered the mass media into submission, even having it's own mass media outlets, namely the FOX News Network who do not give news but serves up right wing propaganda in a soap opera style, utilizing conjecture and supposition, insinuations, accusations and reporting outright lies. 

This is the mentality of those attacking Jo Stuart.  Jo Stuart writes about human life with great insight and shows great intuition and understanding and compassion, things that the right wing agenda is certainly rarely about.  The neo-con campaign is very non-compassionate, non-inclusive, non-understanding.  It is about assets. control, money, self-righteousness, all ego based.  It could care less about feelings, sentimentality, graciousness, conservation of natural resources, equal rights, equal opportunity and on and on I could go. 

I'd like to end by making it clear that that agenda does not speak for all of America and certainly not for me nor Jo Stuart nor for millions of true Americans who have not forgotten that America and life itself is about people loving people, looking out for each other, supporting each other, having true concern for the well-being of friends, neighbors, family, and about having equal rights and opportunity, not just talking about it. 

Also all Americans having access to quality medical care and to quality education, leading to quality job opportunities. 

Chuck Crider
Orlando,  Fla.

King forgot all the 60s violence

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Michael King decided to inform us that he was part of the civil rights movement and has never witnessed the degree of hostility that is taking place today.   I suppose he has forgotten the Kent State shootings, the Los Angeles, Detroit, Washington, D.C., riots of the 60s.  The federal troops being called in to protect black student integration in the South. 

The governor of state standing in front of the school in defiance of the federal court order. The police dogs and hoses being used on demonstrators in the South.  The Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.  The antiwar protests (remember Kerry thru the OTHER guys medals away) in Washington and the burning of the Bank of America building at Santa Barbara. 

Perhaps the reason you see everything in the extreme is where you have positioned yourself.  Let's check out the rhetoric "Christian taliban," "government of corporations," "Revelations-Last Days Prophecy, a fact" and the telltale word "we progressives". 

A progressive translates into "socialist lite."  Since you decided to relocate, let me be the first to tell you "don't let the door hit you in the ass". 

Mike Hankins 
Santa Ana, Calif.
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This food columnist just might get you in a jam!
So you think you have had just about every bread and jam combo in the world? Well, maybe there is something new under the sun. Have you had yucca flour cheese rolls with Surinam cherry jam? I didn’t think so. The rolls are distinctive and easy to make in minutes. The jam is my absolute favorite, and a friend who makes it, was willing to share her recipe for a small bribe.

First the rolls. Years ago in Mexico I had crescent rolls made from yucca flour, pan de yucca. They were OK, a little sweet and soft. They were baked dough made from a pound of yucca starch, a half pound of butter, a half cup of cane sugar and an egg yolk all combined well.

Rolled into crescent shapes, they were baked at about 400 F for 10-12 minutes until light brown on top. If you wait until the tops are a rich brown color, the bottoms are apt to burn. But I was told that they were better when made more typically with cheese, soft white queso fresco. 

In Caribbean restaurants here in Costa Rica, I had them again and liked them much better. Also called pan bon or pan d bono, the essential ingredient is the flour made from yucca, a starchy tuber, originally from West Africa, equal amounts of fresh white cheese crumbled, mozzarella or any soft bland cheese shredded. 

To make about 15 cheese rolls, mix a pound of yucca flour, a pound of cheese, half a cup of milk and six small or five large eggs and a tablespoon or two of sugar. The queso fresco is a little more salty than mozzarella. If you use the later, add a pinch of salt. 

Form small plum size spheres and space on a greased cookie sheet. Once again, bake in a 400 F oven until the tops are light brown, probably no more than 12 minutes, taking care not to burn the bottoms. They are best served warm.

The mirtacea or myrtle family includes all the guavas, feijoa, jambo, rum berries, water apples, rose apples and many other fruits, none of which resemble their kin, pitanga or Surinam cherry. The tree probably originated in Surinam, Guyana and British Guiana, then moved to Brazil, but now grows from California, to Sri Lanka to China and the entire Caribbean from Florida to Costa Rica. 

A bushy small tree that barely reaches fifteen feet, it possesses white flowers followed in only three weeks by gorgeous plump little Chinese lantern or mini pumpkin-shaped fruit that turns from yellow to bright red. A less common, and reputedly sweeter variant goes from burgundy to nearly black purple. Each marble-size fruit has eight ridges that go from stem atop to blossom below. 

After washing them, remove the stem and blossom and cut them vertically. Extract the seed and store for a few hours uncovered in the fridge to allow the volatile resins to escape. They are then ready to be eaten as is or in any recipe as a strawberry surrogate. 

My friend Winnie Orcutt is renowned for her talents as 

Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


one of Costa Rica’s best birders and as an excellent cook. Her pitanga jam and bread-and-butter pickles are particularly popular. I gave her a bag of mustard seed for her pickles, and she shared the following Surinam cherry jam recipe:

Pick the ripest fruit, crimson red, rinse well and put through a Foley food mill to separate out the seeds, stems and blossoms. Force the flesh through a strainer. 

Add granulated sugar, one and a half times the volume of the puree. Heat in a pot until the jam sheets. Sheeting is a term that implies that when a spoon is dipped into the bubbling mixture, the jam runs off the spoon, not as from a spout, but rather in a thin sheet, more like a waterfall. Pour into sterilized jars. Once opened, it should be refrigerated.

The flavor is unique. To me it tastes like strawberries and purple plums with a tart subtle resin addition. Although I dislike resin flavors in Greek wines and cough drops, A hint of it adds perfect complexity to pitanga jam. Other uses of the berry include syrup, wine, relish, pickles, vinegar, pie fillings and sherbet.

In rural Brazil, locals spread pitanga leaves on the floor so they release a citronella like substance when walked upon, thus reducing the fly population indoors. In Surinam a tea from the leaves is used as a cold remedy. Keep the seed away from kids. Ingested, they cause diarrhea. In Florida it is used as a hedge or ornamental bush. In Costa Rica’s Central Valley they produce fruit non-stop in April and May. Unfortunately, they have a short shelf life raw.

The name pitanga is from the language of Brazil’s Tupi Indians. Other names include cereza de Cayena in Spanish, with local variations — nanga pire in Argentina, cerza quadrada in Columbia, guinda in El Salvador and pendanga in Venezuela; cerise decayenne or cerise carree in French with local variations — cresa a cote or cerises cotes in Martinique and Guadeloupe and cerises depays or cerises caree in French Guiana, Surinaamsche kersh, or zoete kers in Dutch, and Surinam cherry or Florida cherry in English.

A word of caution, no matter what kind of bread or jelly you use, there is no scientific explanation why a dropped slice always hits the floor jelly side down.

June 21 will be a day filled with musical events all over Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

June 21 is the Day of Music festival and the whole country is invited to play instruments, sing or take part in activities that have been organized throughout the country.  Talent is not a prerequisite to participate. 

In France, the country from which the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes took the idea of the Día de la Musica, the festival is part of a much larger gathering celebrating the summer solstice.  Obviously, here in Costa Rica the difference between the shortest day and the longest is hardly noticeable, and such a festival probably wouldn't merit much support.

Until now, 120 countries have taken part.

In addition to the ministry, many organizations helped

with the event including: Alliance Francaise, the Municipalidad de San José and the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano.

Some of the planned venues include: Teatro Nacional, Plaza de la Cultura, Avenida Central, Plaza del Correo, Parque Morazán, Parque España, commercial and office centers, the Academia Bach, the Colegio de Periodistas and Semáforo at the University of Costa Rica.

Downtown performances begin at 10 a.m. and run through the day until evening. Pianist Jacques Sagot is scheduled to perform last at 8 p.m.  Admission is free but space is limited.  Tickets are available at the Teatro Nacional starting June 13.

In other communities the local library is in charge of events, and many are planned.

Pacheco leaves the hospital to return to work Monday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco will be taking time off until Monday on the advice of his physicians, according to Casa Presidencial. The chief executive left Hospital Calderón Guardia Thursday morning after a three-day stay prompted by high blood pressure.

Pacheco looked fit and smiled broadly as he left the hospital. He later expressed his thanks to the staff there, saying that everything was normal now with him. The 71-year-old president also thanked Costa Ricans who had prayed for his health.

Luis Paulino Hernández, director of the hospital, noted that Pacheco’s visits are being restricted to close family during the next few days of rest.

Once back at work Monday Pacheco will be facing the reality of an investigation opened during the last week by the nation’s prosecutor over some of the ethical 

lapses that have dogged his presidency for the last month. 

These include the acceptance of a free flight from business people who took him from the United States to the Dominican Republic to participate in the opening of a private club. He received and subsequently surrendered a membership in that club. Then it was revealed that Pacheco had a fly-free card from TACA Airlines. 

Then questions were raised about his efforts to have a Spanish businessman appointed as one of the nation’s honorary consuls in Spain. The businessman also happened to be the head of a foundation that published Pacheco’s latest book, and the man also was very interested in participating with Pacheco’s former tourism minister in the acquisition of a major concession at the Papagayo project being developed by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo on the Pacific coast.

Body found near Tamarindo could be that of missing Australian student
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents are awaiting the results of postmortem on the human remains found near Tamarindo Thursday.

The speculation is that the body is that of Australian student Brendan Dobbins who vanished March 4. He was last seen walking on the public beach that morning in Tamarindo.

Dobbins, a student at a Florida university, was in the 

Pacific beach town on spring break with other students.

The condition of the remains were such that investigators at the scene could not determine the sex. However, there is an intact jaw for a dental examination.

The body was some two miles from where Dobbins was staying. The medical exam, planned for the Morgue Judicial in Heredia, also will seek to determine the cause of death.

Raid at Bolaños airport results in arrest of businessman in fraud case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A prosecutor in Pavas directed a raid Wednesday of an office located in the air terminal at Tobías Bolaños airport, and a businessman was detained there.

A spokesperson for the Poder Judicial identified the man by the last name of Scander and said he was being investigated after an allegation of fraud had been filed by a U.S. citizen, identified by the last name of Hamilton.

The suspect has been placed at liberty but an order 

preventing him from leaving the country has been issued as well as instructions that he should sign in with the prosecutor’s office every 15 days.

The case involves a corporation that is involved with an airline, said the spokesperson without being specific. The U.S. citizen is believed to have made an investment in one or more corporations controlled by the man named Scander.

The Sección de Delitos Financieros of the Judicial Investigating Organization is involved in the case. The investigation has been going on for two months.

Artistic activities will mark day against child labor in Desamparados
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de Desamparados will celebrate the World Day Against Child labor today in the Villa Olímpica José María Figueres Ferrer in Dos Cercas starting at 8:30 a.m.

This year different artistic expressions in paint, sketches, theater and song will be shared by youthful performers, authors, artists and composers. Students will emphasize the risks of child labor and the way work erodes time for school and recreation.

Representatives of the Ministerio de Trabajo will attend, as will Carlos Padilla Corella, mayor of the municipality, said a release from the municipality.

Desamparados, which is south of San José, has been a leader in creating a network, now two years old, to provide protection for children who may be forced into work. Schools are involved in the network.

Internationally Sunday, June 12, is the day set to agitate against child labor. 

The International Labor Organization estimates that child labor has increased in the last decades due to the unplanned expansion of cities and the arrival of immigrations from the countryside. Some of these so-called marginal areas are in Desamparados, which is one reason the municipality is so involved.

The labor organization said in a report released this week that at least 10 million children are trapped worldwide in domestic labor and these children face abuse, health risks and violence.

The organization estimates that some 16 percent of youngsters between 5 and 17 are involved in illegal labor. 

In Costa Rica children work in agriculture, as street vendors and as domestic help in homes.

Jo Stuart
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