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(506) 223-1327               Published Friday, June 29, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 128               E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

snake two photo
A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Lynn Norton
Look who came
for dinner

Costa Rica's diversity includes this guy (gal?) who has an eye for an easy chicken dinner. But overeating can be a snake's downfall. See story

This will be a week full of celebrations and events
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is a holiday weekend leading up to even more days off.

The first Feria Turística Indígena del Caribe will be inaugurated Saturday in Bribrí in southeast Costa Rica.

Sunday is Canada Day. Although there are no announced public activities, Canadians certainly will be celebrating the birth of Canada 140 years ago. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the day also marks the slaughter of units from that area on the first day of the World War I Battle of the Somme.

Homesick Canadians can watch activities on Parliament Hill by clicking this link.

A lot of Costa Ricans are taking off this week because the public schools are on a two-week vacation. The Asamblea Legislativa is off, too.

Wednesday is July 4, and for the first time in more than 40 years, there will be no U.S. citizen picnic. The committee that has run the celebration has called it off, but many people have not gotten the message.  Callers to A.M. Costa Rica continue to ask about the picnic.
For those looking for diversion, many private parties are planned July 4 in bars and restaurants frequented by expats. Bar Poás on Avenida 7 in San José is one. Rock n Roll Pollo in Santa Ana also has announced a special Independence Day event.

The Democrats will be celebrating July 4 by trying to get out the vote for political primaries in the United States. They will have tables set up at supermarkets and other locations from noon to 2 p.m. A list is here. Rock n Roll Pollo is one location where would-be voters can celebrate and sign up. Tex Mex down the street also will host Democrats seeking voters but from 4 to 7 p.m.

The American Legion will hold an Independence Day picnic in Alajuela July 7. A spokesman for American Legion Post 16 said that there will be the traditional hamburgers, hot dogs and fried chicken. Soda and beer will be served. The picnic will be from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in  Alajuela.

Wednesday, July 4, also is a day of celebration for Costa Rican Indians remembering Pablu Presbere, the legendary war chief who kept the Spanish at bay for years. He was executed in Cartago July 4, 1710. There will be another celebration that day on the Reserva Bribrí. See details here.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 29, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 128

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Pablu Presbere
A.M. Costa Rica /José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Pablo or Pablu Presbere at the Asamblea Legislativa

Indian groups in Talamanca
will honor colonial war chief

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Indians on the Reserva Bribri de Talamanca will celebrate the accomplishments of the colonial war chief Pablo Presbere July 4 with activities displaying the traditional cultures.

Organizers said that this will be the first time that a full day will be dedicated to the Indian leader.

Presbere, who was executed by the Spanish July 4, 1710, led a popular resistance to Spanish rule. He has been recognized as a major figure in Costa Rican history. Public school children will be learning about him today as part of the national curriculum.

In Talamanca, several women's group will be honored at the day-long festival. The Asociación Conservacionista de Mujeres Indígenas de Talamanca provides training to other women, and the Asociación de Mujeres Productoras de Watsy specializes in training for organic food production.

Also being honored is Finca Educativa, which provides cultural tourism in the area, and the young people's dramatic group Pablu Serke which seeks to strengthen cultural values through theater presentations.

The events are open to the public and craft works and typical foods will be available for purchase. There also will be presentations by Maleku and Boruca Indian groups.

Talamanca is one of the few areas of the Americas not conquered by invading Europeans. The Spanish arrived in 1540, but by 1699 they still were trying to figure out how to subdue the Indians of southeastern Costa Rica near what is today the border with Panamá.

The Spanish hit on the idea also used later against the Cherokee in the southeastern United States. They began to shift populations of Indians from the Sixaola area to the Pacific coast along the banks of what is called today the Río Térraba. The populations movement was to reduce the numbers of Bribri and Cabécare.

At this time the Indians named Presbere high chief, and he began organizing the Indians for war.

In 1709 Indians put to death two priests, 10 soldiers and a Spanish woman. The Spanish, based in Guatemala, retaliated the next year by sending 80 soldiers to pacify the area. Some 505 prisoners were captured and brought to Cartago, then the administrative center. Among the captured was Presbere, who faced trial and was executed by the garrote on July 4 of that year.

When Costa Rica won its independence in 1821, the Spanish still had not conquered the Talamanca area. Presbere was declared a "defender of the liberty of the Indian people" by the Asamblea Legislativa in 1997.

Fuerza Pública is on guard
over disputed Pacific tract

By Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública is standing guard today at a disputed piece of property, Parcela Cinco, in Herradura, Garabito.

The location was the scene of shootings Wednesday night when former residents who had been evicted the week before gathered near the entrance to the property. Fuerza Pública officers said they confiscated two shotguns from private guards at the scene.

At least 14 persons were injured, many by birdshot, said police. Some persons also are believed to have been hit by bullets.

Unofficial versions vary. Some former residents said they were just gathering near the property about 8 p.m. for a meeting when the guards began shooting. Other sources say that the former residents were invading the property again in defiance of a court order.

Police could not even be sure that the individuals injured were among those who were evicted the week before, said Rigoberto Rodríguez, subdirector of the Fuerza Pública.

Police had some trouble with guards previously. They found that many in the area did not have the proper permits to work and that two were even illegal.

The names of the guards involved in the shootings have not been released.

Police evicted some 54 families from the property June 21 and June 22.

A judge who had ordered the eviction also was at the scene and supervised. There is conflicting stories as to how the families came to be on the land. Some claim they purchased property in good faith from an unnamed third party.

The good faith argument is usually advanced by squatters because Costa Rican courts have a tendency to protect buyers who did so in good faith. Others claim the residents simply invaded the property because it was not occupied.

The property is owned by a corporation, Inversiones AJAR, whose principal was identified by police as a U.S. citizen.

Immigration sweep gets 44

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration officials have rounded up some 44 foreigners in sweeps in San José and San Pedro Wednesday night. No U.S. citizens, Canadians or Europeans were held.

The sweep was one of several efforts police officials are making to eliminate potential law breakers in the Central Valley.

In the current sweep they found two men carrying pistols.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 29, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 128

Rock n Roll Pollo
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The Costa Rican countryside is full of skinny freeloaders
By Donna Lynn Norton
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A chicken dinner is not just a frequent treat for Costa Ricans. Certain reptiles have been known to fancy poultry.

Thursday José Ángel Villegas captured a colorful boa constrictor after it had invaded his chicken yard. 

A hungry constrictor can squeeze through the holes in chicken wire to get to a bird. However, after eating one or more of the chickens, its body becomes too wide to escape back through the wire until after the meal is digested.

Villegas of Santa Clara near San Carlos ended up releasing the snake about a mile away in a mountain forest. His wife had wanted him to kill it, but he declined, saying  “The boa constrictor is an important part of the ecology — everything is dependent on everything else. You can’t just kill whatever you want whenever you want.” 

He says he catches and releases about two to three large snakes a year. This one was about eight feet long.

The glistening, fangless snake, which appears to be eating well, has copper, black, and cream markings.  It relaxes when stroked, and the skin feels like super-fine velvet.  Boas usually have camouflaging, broken patterns of brown and cream, tan, gray, and black with ovals and diamonds, resembling leaf litter.  It has a black, forked tongue used for sensing odors.

Constrictors are a part of Costa Rican life. One even turned up wrapped around the entry bars of A.M. Costa Rica's front door two years ago even though the office is three blocks from downtown San José.

In addition to chicken, they are good rat catchers. Their diet also consists of lizards, birds, opossums, bats, mongoose, frogs and squirrels with a preference for bats.  Adults will even eat monkey, capybara, agouti, caiman, and wild pigs.  But since the boa is cold-blooded, it only
needs to eat a large prey about once a week. 
snake photo
A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Lynn Norton
José Ángel Villegas shows off his reptilian visitor

In some cases, snakes can go for years between meals because they can live off their fat for a very long time.  Most snakes rest in the sun after eating to digest their catch and can’t move well during this time.

Country has changed but it is still not too bad for expats
The computer dog ate my column, and now I find I cannot save anything and find it again.  I have some strange documents listed in my word program list, and my Internet connection is down.  Not knowing what to do about it, I am about to have a nervous breakdown.  I sometimes think lovingly of my little red Italian portable typewriter, the make of which I can’t remember.  If the ribbon ran out, I didn’t feel like I was losing my brain, which is how I feel right now.  Ah for the good old days — the good parts that we remember. (Karen just brought my breakfast, which includes fresh strawberries and fresh orange juice — modern life is not all bad.)

Which was sort of the topic of my column. Lately it seems that I am getting more and more letters from people concerned about the quality of life in Costa Rica — whether it is safe to visit or settle here because of the crime, disease, infrastructure and cost of living. 

Once Costa Rica was one of the bargain paradises of the world — a diamond in the rough, if you will.  But as the world changes, so does Costa Rica, and not always for the better.  Just reading the articles in this newspaper will inform you of the increase in crime and traffic accidents as the result of a huge, I mean HUGE, increase in the number of cars and inexperienced drivers on the road.  (My friend Liz says that traffic collisions are not ‘accidents,’ they are the result of stupidity.)  I personally feel that legalizing drugs would cut down considerably on the crime it generates but probably not on the stupidity on the roads.

Some banks still have manual typewriters in case the electricity and their computers are down.  There are gated communities and high rises, There are supermarkets with imported cheeses and wines.  There are even Wal-marts under the guise of Hipermás.  And the Costa Ricans, famous for their friendliness and helpfulness, have become more sophisticated in the ways of the world, and some even use those traits to take advantage of innocent foreigners.  I think they learned them from the not so innocent foreigners who have come here to take advantage of the little world that Costa Rica was.  We still have potholes, however.

Rivers are contaminated with garbage and some metals from new businesses, but not from radioactive pollutants from nuclear weapons and a defense industry.  There are street people and beggars, even some with missing limbs, but there are no mutilés de guerre.  (The chilling phrase I saw in Paris metros after World War II when riders were asked to give up their seats to the unfortunate veterans of the war.)

I know from experience that the scariest crimes are the
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

random ones – those involving a class of people (like foreigners), not relationship crimes.

When I was at the International House in the United States, the young woman in the photo shop on the corner was murdered.  Fear dominated our little community until it was learned that it was a “friend” of hers who killed her.  In Costa Rica, it is the violent crimes against the rich that are scary because, as another expat said to me recently, “Here, All Gringos, by definition, are rich.”

I think I met one person who had contracted dengue. And there may be malaria still here and, rarely, snake bites for those who venture into rain forests in sneakers.  But I have
never heard of large-scale incidents of food poisoning or other threats that seem to menace other countries.  Some people will argue that they just don’t report them, but I am sure that the A.M. Costa Rica staff would ferret out any incidents. 

San Antonio de Belén (my current neighborhood) was hit by floods in a storm that spawned the rare tornado two weeks ago.  Already big machinery is at work widening the river and cleaning up the mess.  I am wondering if we should outsource them to New Orleans.  Speaking of tornadoes, devastating weather is the exception here, especially in the Central Valley.  It is hard to beat the climate of Costa Rica. 

The rising prices here are affecting everyone, expats, more than before, since the dollar is falling in value and the colon has been hanging in there at the same rate of exchange for months. 

So, perhaps it is a Paradise Lost, but given the changes in the rest of the world with global economy and the ease with which people seem to cross borders, it is still a good place to be, especially, if, like Candide, you are content to tend to your own little garden and let the rest of the world go by.

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 29, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 128

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Bush administration optimistic that four trade pacts will pass
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Bush administration official is optimistic that the U.S. Congress will approve free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, Peru and South Korea.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Congress will pass each of them,” said  John Veroneau, deputy U.S. trade representative this week.

The fate of the administration’s trade plans became uncertain when Democrats, who for years had pressed for including tougher labor and environmental protections in U.S. free-trade agreements, took over both chambers of Congress in January. That led to talks between administration trade officials and Democratic congressional leaders on a new bipartisan trade agenda.

May 10, the two sides announced a bipartisan trade bargain that would make core international labor standards part of  all trade agreements, including the four already concluded.
 U.S. trading partners also would have to enforce laws consistent with seven major multilateral environmental conventions.

The deal with Congress paved the way for congressional consideration of all four trade agreements once appropriate amendments were made to the agreed texts of the pacts with Colombia, Peru and South Korea and certain provisions added to the one with Panamá. The deal with Panamá was not closed at the time of the congressional bargain.

Veroneau's office announced Wednesday that her office had reached agreements on the amendments with Colombia and Peru a few days earlier.

Thursday the United States signed the final version of the trade agreement with Panamá. Officials hope to sign the agreement with South Korea Saturday, Veroneau said. Veroneau said he expects Congress to consider the first of the pending pacts, the trade agreement with Peru, in July.

Venezuela's Chávez goes weapons shopping in Russia
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez continues to accuse the United States of plotting to invade his country, as he engages in a whirlwind trip to Russia, Belarus and Iran. Many Venezuelans view the trip as an opportunity for Chávez to buy more foreign armaments, but not all are convinced the military buildup is money well spent.

Speaking in Moscow Thursday, Chávez denied that the purpose of his trip is to purchase Russian weaponry, but he said his country must defend itself nonetheless.

He said, "We don't want war, but we also think the American empire will want to attack Venezuela, besides its everyday aggression. If there is an attack, like the ones over the past 100 years throughout the whole world, in Cuba, in Latin America in the Caribbean, in South America — we are ready to die in order to defend the sacred sovereignty of Venezuela." The Bush administration dismisses these claims, saying it has no plans to invade Venezuela.

Venezuela has already purchased billions of dollars worth of Russian rifles, helicopters and military planes. Reports from Moscow quote Kremlin officials as saying Venezuela has also shown interest in Russian submarines.
Before becoming president, Chavez was a paratrooper who led an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1992. In analyzing his actions as president, one must not lose sight of his military background, says Venezuelan professor and foreign affairs specialist, Ana Julia Jatar.

"President Chavez is a military man," said Professor Jatar. "He views politics as a war. With this trip, he is sending a message of war, saying, 'I am making preparations in case the United States wants to invade my country.'"

In Iran, Chavez will meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has referred to the Venezuelan leader as his "brother." Ahmadinejad is also a fierce critic of the United States. Professor Jatar says the visit to Tehran — the second for Chávez — is unprecedented for a Latin American leader.

"It has no economic or social benefit for Venezuela," she said. "It has but one benefit, which is to further President Chavez's vision of a multi-polar world in which he is the head of one of the poles."

Massive oil revenues have given Venezuela's economy a boost in recent years, but even Chávez says more must be done to combat poverty.

Uribe blames rebels for the killings of 11 kidnapped provincial lawmakers
By the A.M. Costas Rica wire services

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has accused leftist rebels of killing 11 kidnapped lawmakers, denying rebel claims the hostages died in the crossfire of a military attack.

Uribe said in a televised address Thursday that no rescue attempt was made June 18 for the lawmakers, who were kidnapped five years ago.

Uribe said the rebel Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, wants to blame the incident on the
armed forces to, in his words, "hide this crime against humanity that it committed." The Colombian military also denied knowledge of the raid.

The U.S. State Department said the people responsible for the deaths of the lawmakers are those who took them hostage. Spokesman Tom Casey called on the rebels to free all their captives, including three Americans.

The 11 hostages reported killed were abducted in April 2002 from the Valle del Cauca departmental assembly. A 12th lawmaker abducted with them may have survived.

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U.S. national team trounced by stronger Argentine squad
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. national soccer team should have stopped after the first half of the game with Argentine Thursday night in Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Although the Argentine powerhouse clearly had control on the field with better ball handling, the halftime score was 1-1, thanks to a successful penalty kick by Eddie Johnson just seven minutes into the game.
But Argentina came back with three goals in the second half. The U.S. team was  shut out.

The U.S. team is an inexperienced one in international play, and many of the stars that gave the team a Gold Cup title stayed in the United States instead of joining in the roster in Venezuela for this, the Copa América.

The U.S. plays again Monday against  Paraguay. It must place first of second in its bracket to advance.

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