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These stories were published Thursday, June 30, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 128
Jo Stuart
About us

to surf

Surfboards bask
in the sunset
a hard day at Witches Rock, a premier surf spot.

See our quick guide to this and other places for every skill.


A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling

Senate committee sends trade bill to floor
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate's Finance Committee approved the U.S.-Central American-Dominican Republic free trade agreement Wednesday in a development that had been expected.

The agreement now goes to the Senate floor for a vote, perhaps in just a week or two.

Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, supported the measure in the committee vote. He said he received assurances from the Bush administration regarding what he considered the lack of attention to labor law in the treaty. The Bush administration has earmarked some $40 million over the next four years to encourage efforts to enhance labor laws in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

The U.S. Senate is not the stumbling block that the treaty faces in the U.S. Congress. Senators are elected for six years and are not as subject to temporary public pressure as are their counterparts in the House of Representatives. Congressmen stand for re-election every two years. Congressmen also represent smaller districts, whereas senators represent entire U.S. states.

One senator,  Max Baucus, a Democrat of Montana, still opposes the treaty. His state produces sugar beets, and the treaty would increase the amount of Central American
sugar that could enter the United States.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman quickly congratulated the Senate Finance Committee for its vote.

"Step by step, we're making good progress and building momentum for its successful passage," he said.

Under terms of the fast-track policy by which such treaties are considered, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House may make no changes in the document. Each lawmaker must vote either yes or no.

The treaty faces a less certain future in the House. Rough counts suggest that the Bush administration still does not have the votes to carry the measure. However, history has shown that presidential pressure and promises frequently can win over swing votes.

The World Bank continued to praise the measure Wednesday in the wake of a favorable report. Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank lead economist for Central America and the report's co-author, said: "The vast majority of families in Central America will benefit from the lower food prices resulting from the removal of trade barriers.  While a small share of the population living in rural areas could be adversely affected by lower prices of sensitive foodstuffs, timetables of up to 20 years for tariff reduction and government programs should help them find new opportunities."

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 30, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 128

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Glencairn Gold Corp. photo
The gold bar weighs in at 6,426.5 grams or about 14.17 pounds.

Bellavista mine produces
its first bar of gold

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Glencairn Gold Corp. said Wednesday that it has actually produced a bar of gold at the start up Bellavista mine near Puntarenas.

Kevein Drover, chief operating officer of the Trononto-based company, said  "This initial gold pour is an important milestone for the Bellavista Mine."

Since mining began in April, about 200,000 tons of ore have been stacked on leach pads, the company said. Gold contained in ore on the pads and in leach solution currently stands at approximately 10,000 ounces, the company added. Production at Bellavista is
expected to reach its design rate of 60,000 ounces. annually before year end, the company said.

Bellavista is a controversial open pit mining operation using heap leach technology for gold recovery. Environmentalists oppose the mine because cyanide is used in the process. The company said that the leach pads are atop impermeable layers and there is little chance the cyanide will get into the subsoil.

The mine is located in Montes de Oro near the town of
Miramar, north of Puntarenas.

Nicaraguan assembly
moves to impeach Bolaños

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — The continuing battle between the Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolaños and the National Assembly dominated by deputies loyal to former presidents Arnoldo Alemán and Daniel Ortega, took another step this week toward a final confrontation.

The Junta Directiva of the National Assembly announced the start of proceedings to remove Bolaños from office based on his failure to accept a series of appointments and decisions by the Assembly during the last six months. The legislative impeachment proceedings are premised on the consistent refusal of the president to recognize a series of amendments to the Nicaraguan Constitution. The amendments drastically limit presidential power and essentially change Nicaragua into a parliamentary democracy.

Last week Jose Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, was unable to mediate a resolution of the problem after four days of intense meeetings with both sides of the dispute. The parties positions had become so hardened during the last two days of scheduled talks they could not even agree on the meeting location or the hour to meet. An obviously disappointed Insulza announced in a press conference upon the day of his departure that he was “gravely concerned” about the future of Nicaraguan democracy and later presented a report critical of the lack of dialogue between the two political factions.

Additional aggravating factors were the detention by U.S. Homeland Security of the former first lady, Maria Fernanda Flores Alemán, the spouse of Arnoldo Alemán upon her arrival at the Miami International Airport and the start of proceedings to revoke her U.S. residency. The revocation proceedings are partially based on her alleged links to the corrupt practices of her spouse and her potential future indictment for money laundering in Panamá.

Although she was not charged at the time of her detention, her travel documents were seized including the passport showing her resident status. After her hearing was continued at the behest of the government she was allowed to return to Nicaragua early Saturday morning. The immigration proceedings will continue with or without her presence.

The eldest son of Alemán also had his application for a student visa rejected without comment by the U.S. Embassy in Managua during the same time period. Loyalists to Alemán continue to press the argument that the Nicaraguan government and, in particular, Bolaños has concocted the charges against Alemán and his family to pressure concessions from the former president and now convicted money launderer.

While few analysts believe that the assembly will rapidly move forward on an impeachment vote, it is widely speculated that the minister of government, Julio Vega Pasquier, will be removed for his allegedly illegal orders to the National Police to deny entry to officials appointed by the assembly to government offices and the refusal of access to records to government audit teams appointed by the assembly.

Pair gunned down
in apparent hit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police said a man was killed and a woman was wounded when they were shot Tuesday night.  According to the police report, the pair were riding through Barrio Leon XIII on a motorcycle when a car pulled alongside them and opened fire. 

They both were shot numerous times.  Police said the man, Juan Manuel Guillén Reyes, 41, died at 11 p.m. and the woman, Kembly Barquero López, 28, was taken to Hospital México.

Police said that Guillén has been in trouble with the law since 1983 and has served multiple prison terms for robbery and assault, among other crimes. They said they thought the shooting was triggered by vengeance and was not the result of a typical robbery.

Watercolor exposition
will open this month

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Juan Carlos Camacho, the watercolorist known for his Costa Rica landscapes featuring churches, will have a show at the Sophia Wanamaker gallery at the Centro Cultural Costarricense – Norteamericano in Los Yoses.

The gallery, titled “Peregrinación” (Pilgrimage) will be open to the public July 20 to Aug. 18.

The exhibit will feature 15 of Camacho's works.  An architect by trade, his paintings are known for their soaring temples set against Costa Rican landscapes said a press release. 
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Aaron Jackson of Seattle, Wash., tests his skills at Tamarindo
A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling

An insider's quick guide to top surfing spots
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

So the boss gave you two weeks, and you're itchin' for some of those waves all your surf bros have been scoutin' out down in Costa, but you're too lazy or pressed for time to look around for where you're gonna go.  Luckily for you, this surf bum has nine months of experience searching around the country.

Yeah, yeah, for those grizzled ex-pats who have been here since the 70s, your not-so-subtle grumbling at the unbridled audacity of some punk kid who thinks he's got the country down pat is coming through loud and clear.

Relax, he knows he doesn't.  None of these spots are secret and this “guide” is in no way comprehensive.  It's merely a place to get the wheels turning.

So here it is:

Witch's Rock, and Olley's Point.  As one surfer famously quipped about Witch's.  Even when it sucks, it's good.  These two can be lumped together because they're both up in Parque Nacional Santa Rosa.  Most folks hire a boat out of Tamarindo that will take you to both spots, but it's possible to drive to Witch's if you don't care about the car you're in.  Witch's waves are mostly lefts and Ollie's mostly go right.  Pick your poison.

Tamarindo.  Anyone who's heard of Costa Rica has probably heard of Tamarindo.  There's a river mouth right in town that's always crowded, but there are suitable waves all over. Just look. The beach faces north, and since waves generally come from the north in the winter and from the south in the summer, it's pretty much exclusively a wintertime spot.  If the crowd gets to you, paddle across the river and head north to Playa Grande or negotiate the rocky walk to Playa Langosta. They're both decent breaks that can get good and are generally less crowded than Tamarindo.

Play Negra.  A short drive south of Tamarindo.  It's a good wave that goes right but you can sneak lefts in too sometimes.  The biggest problem with this spot is that it doesn't hold a crowd very well because there's only one take off spot.

Playa Nosara.  Good, catches lots of swell and goes both ways.  'nuff said.

Mal Pais.  This is the general name given to the stretch of beach from Mal Pais to Santa Teresa.  Its all one big beach break and even when it's crowded, you can always find a peak somewhere.  A good bet if you're short on time because you almost never get skunked.

Boca Barranca.  Just outside of Puntarenas.  If you can ignore the brown, slightly sewagy aspect of the water, and if there's a heavy south coming in, it's one of the longest lefts ever and worth the trip.  If it's connecting, it only takes about five waves before your arms and legs are rubber from the long rides and longer paddles back out.

Playa Jacó.  The closest suitable wave for the folks

A.M. Costa Rica graphic

who live in San José.  As a result it can get crowded on the weekends. The beach break here is decent.

Playa Hermosa.  Close to Jacó but much better and wayyyyy heavier.  If you come here when it's big, bring a back-up stick for when you snap the first one.

Manuel Antonio.  From the park, walk right if you're facing the water.  When you pass the big rock at the end of the beach there's a wave there sometimes, but it's nothing to write home about.

  People die here, so be careful.  The undertow can hold you down long enough to make you adopt a religion if you don't already have one.  It gets really good and really heavy. Sometimes it's so fast that you pretty much have to be standing up before you're done paddling to make the drop, but if you want tubes . . .

Pavones.  Unlike other looooong waves, this one is fast.  Pretty much perfect.  But, it needs a big south swell to work, and the swell window is narrower than a Costa Rican supermarket aisle.  Before the Internet, if you wanted to get it good, you pretty much had to come down here and wait.  But now all the locals say that they know a swell is coming in when the rental cars start rolling in.  When it's crowded, there will literally be over 100 people in the water.  Bummer.

Cabo Matapalo.  All rights.  Tough to get to and expensive to stay. 

Salsa Brava.  In Puerto Viejo de Talamaca on the Caribbean.  This thing breaks like a freight train going over a cliff.  And, the bottom is reef.  The locals here all have some pretty gnarly scars and are GOOD, so stay out of their way.  If you drop in on someone, its probably time to pack your bags and leave if you care at all about your personal well-being.  For anyone who's not REALLY GOOD, head south to Playa Cocles.  It's a mellow beach break that can be fun.

So, as stated before, this is in no way comprehensive and done completely from memory so if something strikes your fancy, buy a guide book or consult a bud who's been here.  Everyone's got a story.   

How to understand all those surfer dudes . . . Maybe
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Clearly, the chest thumping surfers at the next bar stools over are bragging to each other about the waves they rode that day, but their words are strange enough to sound foreign, and bystanders not fluent in the language developed over numerous waves are left scratching their heads in curiosity.  What the heck are those guys talking about?  Well here's a brief tutorial:

If a surfer is “goofy footed,” it means he or she stands right foot forward on the board. “Regular” footed surfers stand the opposite way. 

 A “peak” and a “break” are both spots that generate waves suitable for surfers to ride on.

A “lineup” is the spot in the water where all the surfers float and jockey for the best “take off,” the spot where the wave begins to break and the surfer starts paddling towards shore.

If a wave is a “right,” it means that if the surfer is facing shore the wave will send him or her right as the wave crests and breaks.  “Lefts,” go the other way.

When a wave is “connecting,” it means that it is possible to ride it for a long distance before the wave dies out.

A “stick” is a board.

Waves generally have different levels of power.  If a wave is forgiving to the rider, it will be described as “mellow.”  If it will toss you around, rip off your shorts, and hold you under if you fall, it's described as “heavy.”

To get to a spot where waves are breaking, surfers lie on their boards and swim them through the surf to the desired spot. This is known as “paddling out.”

When a wave comes, the surfer plants his or her knee on the back of the board and attempts to thrust it under the wave as it breaks overhead.  This is called “duck diving.”

As a wave nears shore and the water gets shallower, the wave starts to feel the ocean floor and the wave length gets shorter but the period length stays the same.  As a result, the waves start stacking up.

There is a lot of physics involved but basically when a wave gets too heavy for itself, it breaks.  Surfers face shore and paddle their boards to catch up to the speed of the wave.  When the wave picks up the board and starts it moving without the manual 

A.M. Costa Rica/Dave Dunlap
Surfing is an international activity

power, he or she hops to his or her feet and rides the board down the face of the wave.  This is called “dropping in.”

If you do it without falling, than you have “made the drop.”  Just be sure you don't drop in on someone who's already riding the wave.  This is the biggest no no you can commit while surfing. Guilty parties have felt every sort of retaliation from slashed tires to downright nasty shore-side butt whoopings.  So be careful, and if you do drop in on someone, get off the wave quickly and apologize profusely.   

Sometimes when there is a steep embankment on the ocean floor the wave breaks quickly and folds over on itself but there is a space formed between the face of the wave and the spot in front of it where the lip of the wave has begun falling. These are known as “barrels,” or “tubes” and are generally the aspect of surfing most bragged about over beers after the sun has set.

Storms in the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans send swells all over the globe.  Swells generate waves when they hit the beach.  On surf reports, swells are described by their direction on a compass.  So if a swell is coming from directly south, it is a 180 degree swell.  If it comes from directly east, it is a 90 degree swell.  The “swell window,” describes which swells coming from a given direction of the compass will cause waves to form on a particular beach.  So if a beach faces south but has an extremely narrow swell window, waves will only form if the swell is coming from between 175 and 185 degrees.  If a spot faces west and has a large swell window, any swell from say 180 degrees to 350 degrees will cause waves to form.

Now you can sorta talk like a surfer, so go rent a stick and paddle out.

The author and surf buddy Kevin Beechinor of Seattle.
A.M. Costa Rica/Mikell Lewis

Senate committee hears of U.S. passport laxity
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A congressional oversight agency has released a report blaming lax oversight by the U.S. State Department for allowing criminals, illegal immigrants and suspected terrorists to obtain U.S. passports.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, concludes that the State Department has not regularly checked passport applications against lists of wanted criminals and suspected terrorists.

At a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the GAO's director of international affairs and trade, Jess Ford, cited a number of challenges to the State Department's passport fraud detection effort, including information-sharing deficiencies, insufficient fraud prevention training, staffing, oversight and investigative resources.

"Specifically, the State Department does not currently receive information on U.S. citizens listed in the terrorist screening center data base, which is the federal government's consolidated terrorist watch list.  Nor does the State Department routinely obtain information from the FBI on the names wanted on both federal and state law enforcement authority warrants," Ford said.

"Therefore, many of these individuals are not listed in the State Department's consular look-out and support
system name-check data base for passports, and they could obtain passports and travel internationally with the knowledge of appropriate authorities."

Ford said identity theft is the main tactic used by individuals who fraudulently apply for U.S. passports, including the use of other people's legitimate birth records.

The committee chairwoman, Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, expressed alarm at the report.

"Protecting the integrity of the U.S. passport is essential to protecting our citizens from those who would do us harm, whether they are terrorists or other criminals," Ms. Collins said.

Frank Moss, the deputy assistant secretary of State for passport services at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, said the State Department is taking steps to expand the crosschecking of passport applications against more complete lists of suspected criminals and terrorists.

"Today we have nearly 50,000 names of fugitives or other persons of interest to law enforcement in the passport look-out system.  Half of those names were made as a result of our outreach efforts, the other half are a result of transfers from the U.S. Marshals Service on persons subject to federal fugitive warrants," Moss said. Moss also said his office is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Canada's House of Commons OKs gay unions
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

OTTAWA, Canada — The House of Commons has approved a bill legalizing same-sex unions, after most of the nation's provinces agreed to the unions.
Lawmakers voted 158-to-133 Tuesday to pass the bill, which had been drafted by the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Paul Martin. It is expected to win final approval from the Senate in the coming days.
Martin praised the vote, saying it was a step forward for human rights in the nation.

Religious groups have rejected the measure, saying it will damage traditional families.

Officials say the measure will only apply to civil unions, and religious groups will not be forced to perform such marriages.

Ox carts will roll this weekend in Asserí for the Tamale Festival
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Aserrí is a small town known for its tamales, Spanish plums and legends.  These distinguishing factors led the Insituto Costarricense de Turismo to showcase the Expoferia de Tamal Asserí there.

The festival, organized by the the local Cruz Roja and the Asociación Cívica Cultural Aqueserri, is scheduled for Friday through Sunday with an ox cart parade the final day.
The primary goal is to promote tamale production and support the small farmers who raise the materials, said Carlos Solano, vice president of the Asociación Cívica Cultural.
Officials also hope the festival will help to salvage the customs and traditions in the community as well as develop tourism. Officals say there will be a masquerade, an oxcart parade starting Sunday at 10 a.m., and a band of local musicians to entertain festival goers. 

Conductor from Georgia will lead National Band in concert tonight
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Venezuelan-born conductor Glen Garrido will direct the National Band of Costa Rica tonight at 6 p.m. in the Catedral Metropolitana. 

Much of the music will be played for the first time in Costa Rica, said National Band director Juan Loaiza.

Garrido was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and began
studying music with his father.  He played clarinet and conducted extensively in Venezuela until he was invited by the Asociación Mundial para Banda y Ensambles Sinfónicos to represent Latin America and direct at the University of New Hampshire.  He is now a professor of music at Fort Valley State University in Georgia.

He is on vacation here in Costa Rica to visit family, an announcement said. 

Jo Stuart
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