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(506) 223-1327               Published Friday, June 22, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 123               E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Even being sexy is up for debate in a land Kafka would appreciate
By the A.M. Costa Rica humor staff

A few of my former students arrived, a bottle of really good whiskey in hand.

So naturally the talk turned to the local culture. They were somewhat astounded when I said that in some quarters I was considered extraordinarily sexy.

"No offense, Professor, but you're old and fat," said the television anchor, brushing back his artificially colored blond hair and smiling with his store-bought teeth.

"Santa Claus, maybe, but not sexy," said the 25-year-old triathlon champ.

"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard you say," said the new lawyer who holds a weightlifting title.

"But the professor always is correct," I pointed out, adding that things in Costa Rica are not exactly what they were used to up north. I offered to show them.

As we entered the bar of the hotel whose name sounds a lot like "Del Rey," if you pronounce it quickly, they were further astounded to see all the old, fat, gray men surrounded by beautiful women from both hemispheres.

"You see," I explained, "No one really likes being a professional gal. All these beautiful women are seeking a really rich guy to take them away from all this. Better a really rich guy with a bad heart. Anna Nicole Smith is like their goddess," said I, referring to the ex-Playmate of the Year who married a really,
sexy old man

really rich octogenarian who conveniently died quickly.

The lesson was brought forcefully home by the several young ladies who seemed captivated by my fallen chest and asthma-induced wheeze. My guests flexed their muscles, and the TV guy put on his on-camera face and voice.

"Yes, I know Steven Spielberg," he said to one lass in a deep, deep voice. It had no effect. She was more interested if I had life insurance.

All was going well, but then the mood was broken. A much older man shuffled into the bar wheeling one of those little oxygen tanks that was connected to a mask strapped to his face.

Sometimes even the very sexy cannot compete with Mr. Universe and his double wheeze.
— Jay Brodell

Telecommunications bill voted out of committee to face floor action
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a decision that has vast implications for the future of Costa Rica, a legislative commission has voted out and sent to the floor of the Asamblea Legislativa a general law of telecommunications.

This is a measure that allows the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad to continue as a public entity and concern itself with the generation of electricity and telecommunications. But the bill also creates the possibility for private firms to become more involved in these activities.

The measure also would require private firms to pay for 2 to 4 percent of their gross income for the use of the radio spectrum.

The measure is the result of 78 meetings of the 
special committee set up for this purpose. Members considered some 335 motions. The final vote was 5 to 4, mostly along party lines. A prolonged floor fight is expected.

The measure is a key element of the bills that must be passed to comply with the free trade treaty with the United States. One goal was to give the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad more flexibility so it could compete with private firms.

One member of the committee, Libertario Carlos Gutiérrez, voted against the measure and said that he thought the bill would mean Costa Ricans would pay more for telecommunication services.

The free trade treaty calls for allowing private firms to enter the wireless market in Costa Rica. This bill adjusts the law so this can happen.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 123

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music festival
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Ricardo Chávez Cortez of the group Insaxus entertains a small crowd in front of the main Correos de Costa Rica building downtown Thursday as part of a musical festival that had performances all over town.

Multiple failures slow
international Internet service

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Telecommunications officials are blaming problems with both undersea cables that connect Costa Rica to the world for slow Internet service.

Both the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad and Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the major Internet providers, released identical descriptions of the problem Thursday.

The basic theme was "It's not our fault.'

The two cables are the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System, known as ARCOS, and the MAYA. Both inscribe a ring in the Caribbean so that if a break takes place in one point data still can flow the other way to a landing point in Florida.

The ARCOS cable has suffered a problem in the sea near Bluefields, Nicaragua, according to the owner, Columbus Networks. The exact nature of the problem was not known but breaks in the past have been caused by Nicaraguan fishermen catching the cable with a boat anchor.

The ARCOS also suffered a failure at Punto Fijo, Venezuela, where it comes ashore in that South American country.  The company said that the problem was in the sea near Venezuela, but the Costa Rica agencies said the problem was at the landing point.

The ARCOS failure has had a serious effect on Internet users in South America.

The MAYA cable sustained a problem at the landing point in  María Chiquita, Panamá, said both the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad and Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. In addition, the cable company had a problem Wednesday at Puerto Cortés, Honduras, both public agencies said.

Internet service in Costa Rica is not cut off, but the service from international points is slow. The agencies said that repairs might take as much as two days.

One problem is that Venezuelan officials will not permit a repair ship to enter territorial waters, said Columbus Networks.

U.S. backs off passport rule
for Western Hemisphere trips

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Bush administration is postponing regulations for U.S. citizens traveling in the Western Hemisphere by land or sea.

The regulations call for travelers to show a valid U.S. passport in order to re-enter the country from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. The mandate, known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, was set to take effect Jan. 1.

But the administration announced Wednesday that it was delaying the new regulations for at least six months. Instead, travelers can show government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license, and a birth certificate.

The delay is prompted by an increasing backlog of U.S. passport applications since January 2007, when similar regulations went into effect for air travelers. The delays prompted angry applicants to complain to their congressional representatives.

The administration suspended the passport rules for U.S. air travelers earlier this month. The suspension will last until September.

Minimum-wage employees
will get a raise July 1

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Employers will have to pay workers who are at the minimum wage about 5.1 percent more starting July 1.

The Consejo Nacional de Salarios approved that increase in the minimum wages for all workers except domestic employees, who will receive about 7 percent. Worker representatives, of course, wanted more, nearly twice what was approved.

Minimum wages in Costa Rica are job specific, In addition, depending on the type of job, the wage might be a daily one or a monthly salary. Each job category has its own minimum wage, so the colon amount of the raises will be different. The Ministry de Trabajo maintains a list online of job categories and the minimum salaries, although the Web page was not functioning early Friday. The page shows the iincrement for every six months.

Although the colon has not devalued against the dollar during the last six months, gasoline and other necessities have increased.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 123

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Police begin to stretch yellow tape to keep former residents from going back to the site of their homes.
desalojo in Herradura
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo

Police evict 54 families from disputed land in Herradura
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police evicted some 54 families Thursday from what is known as Parcela 5 in Herradura.

The police action included the Fuerza Pública from San José and Puntarenas, and the Unidad de Intervención Policial and the Unidad Especial de Apoyo, both tactical-type squads.

Also participating was the Cuerpo de Bomberos, the firemen, the Cruz Roja and the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, which has special responsibility for children.

The property is owned by a corporation, Inversiones AJAR, whose principal was identified by police as a U.S. citizen named Saids.
There was no violence, in part because of the ovewhelming police presence. A judge who had ordered the eviction also was at the scene.

Frequently such evictions can be violent. A lot of money is at stake. Herradura is in the canton of Garabito where land values have skyrocketed.

Frequently organized bands of squatters invade property, and unless the owner acts immediately, the invaders may with the right to stay on the land. Frequently the invasions are not simply poor people looking for land and homes but a concerted effort to obtain land without paying for it. 

Municipal authorities in some beach towns have been accused of organizing invasions.

Being late for the doctor means having to visit again
No doubt more readers than just one caught the grammatical mistake in my last column. Mr. Fox advised me that people do not ask, “Amanecé bien?”  What they actually ask is “Amaneció bien? Or “Como amaneció?”  

Another reader, Apostle Luis, gave me his sure cure for the flu: a couple of drops of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide in an ear.  Let it bubble for about one minute and let it drip out; do the same with the other ear.  It helps to dry up the sinuses.  I felt better immediately after doing this, but I still have the grippe.  Thank you both for your advice. 

Donlon wrote to say that although he gets letters asking him how he likes living in Costa Rica, no one has ever asked him how he likes being a foreigner.  That is curious, although in all fairness, perhaps that question is implied.  There still are English-speaking people, though, who travel to other countries and become very annoyed because “Nobody speaks English!”
Battling the flu has slowed my pursuit of investigating other assisted-living facilities.  Appointments with doctors have taken precedence. 

Leaving San Antonio at 7:15 for an 8 a.m. appointment at the Pavas Clinic was not a good idea.  The airport highway was at a standstill and stayed that way for 20 minutes.  By the time Victor drove his truck into the clinic driveway and I ran into the doctor’s office (he was alone) I was 21 minutes late.  I asked him if he could still take me.  No, he said, I had to make another appointment for the following day.  The only appointment available was at 7:40 a.m.

The next day I took the 6:30 bus from San Antonio, and arrived by taxi seven minutes early for my appointment. The doctor was running behind and was exactly 21 minutes late in seeing me.  I meekly accepted the situation.

Instead of dwelling on that interesting coincidence, I decided to spend the 40 minutes I had to wait for my prescriptions to be filled, walking around the clinic.  Outside the word “Coopesalud” on a cement structure caught my eye.  It was a tribute to 20 men and women doctors who had founded the clinic in Pavas to demonstrate that they could make a positive change in the
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

existing Costa Rican health service (the Caja) by using creative thinking and establishing clear goals and strategies.  (Or words to that effect.) 

In fact, 20 minutes is not a long time to wait to see a doctor anywhere.  And usually at this clinic the wait has been only a few minutes.  The staff is always attentive and helpful and remembers me.  I commented on this to a doctor one time, and he said that the clinic is actually private but supported by the Caja and therefore they “have to be better than the other clinics.”  I am all for more clinics that want to be models of creative thinking and strategic planning.

Some of that seems to be going on at the Residence.  It is possible that my complaining is partly responsible.  (I say this with some embarrassment). There is now hot water during most of the day instead of just the morning.  And they have a new cook/chef: a young man who actually wears a modest white chef’s hat.  He seems partial to rice dishes  (which I am not) but so far they have been quite good.  And I am being offered mango in the morning along with the other fruit.

And now Luz, the delightful, always happy secretary wants to brush up on her rusty English and I am only too happy to help her.   In the process I will certainly brush up on my Spanish, although not necessarily in the Tico manner since Luz is from Colombia.  I’ll just have to continue to rely upon Daniel Soto for that.

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

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 123

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Two bills would seek to change drastically U.S. Cuba policy
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers Thursday introduced legislation that would boost agricultural trade with Cuba and lift the U.S. travel ban to the Communist-ruled island nation. 

The United States forbids its citizens from traveling to Cuba or to do business with that country, although Congress in 2000 did authorize limited food and medicine exports there that are purchased with cash.

The Bush administration defends the embargo, put in place in 1962, saying it is necessary to press the communist-led government toward democratic change. The United States and Cuba do not have diplomatic relations.

But critics, including Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, a Republican, say the U.S. embargo has outlived its purpose:
"The only ones who are hurt by our efforts to try to isolate Cuba in trade are our producers here in America," he said.  "Those who have benefited are Brazil or China or Vietnam or other places who are glad to step in and pick up these markets."

Crapo is one of several House and Senate lawmakers from both political parties who have introduced two companion bills aimed at easing the embargo by lifting the travel ban and boosting agricultural trade with Cuba.

One bill overturns a 2005 Treasury Department rule that imposed restrictions on agricultural sales to Cuba.  Sponsors of the measure say the restrictions, including a
requirement that shipments be paid for in full before leaving U.S. ports, have effectively reduced agricultural exports to Cuba.

Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee:

"We not only intend to allow cash-based food sales to Cuba, we mean to promote them," he explained.  "Our bill will make these sales cheaper and easier to pursue, especially for smaller exporters . . . ."

The other bill introduced Thursday lifts all restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba.  Current law only allows limited travel by Cuban-Americans, religious groups, and academics.  All such travel has been severely curtailed by the Treasury Department since 2001.

Previous efforts to lift the ban on trade and travel to Cuba have not succeeded amid White House veto threats.

But Baucus said he believes there is growing congressional support for easing the embargo on Cuba, and he argues that President George Bush, with his low ratings in public opinion polls and about a year and a half left in his term, is wielding less influence with Congress.

"His power in Congress is diminishing by the day, and it is my hope, therefore, that we can get this passed, and we are going to keep working at it until we get it done," he said.

House and Senate committees are expected to take up the legislation in the coming months.

McCain says anti-Americanism is growing in Latin America and is a threat
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. presidential candidate says Washington should take greater measures to prevent anti-Americanism from spreading in Central and South America.

He is U.S. Sen. John McCain, who seeks the nomination of the Republican Party. He said Wednesday as the United
States focuses elsewhere in the world, anti-Americanism is growing in Latin America. He said this has allowed dangerous militants to take root there and become an increasing threat to U.S. national security.

He said the U.S. should improve relations with its regional neighbors by increasing trade and ending economic isolation.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 22, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 123

U.S., Méxcio win games to compete in the Gold Cup final
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States defeated Canada Thursday, 2-1, thanks to a goal annulled by a referee.

Meanwhile, México defeated Guadeloupe. 1-0.

The Mexican team will meet the U.S. team Sunday in the finals of the 2007 Gold Cup.

The U.S. team scored two first-half goals Thursday, one by Frankie Hejduk at 39 minutes and another on a penalty kick by Landon Donovan at minute 45.

Canada fought back in the second half with a goal by Iain Hume in the 76th minute. But it was in the final seconds
that controversy erupted. Canada's Atiba Hutchinson   appeared to have scored the tying goal, but the score was annulled because players were ruled offsides by Mexican referee Armando Archundia. That means they were too close to the goal before the ball was kicked.

Canada coach Stephen Hart disputed the referee's call. He was supported by television commentators in Costa Rica who overlaid the game footage with white lines to demonstrate that players were not offsides.

Pavel Pardo was the Mexican player who put in the goal for his team in the 69th minute at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. This was Guadeloupe's first participation in the Gold Cup and the team went further than anyone thought, to the semifinals.

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