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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, July 5, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 132       E-mail us    
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Only a small part of the crowd that showed up to celebrate the birthday of the United States
Traditional July 4 party attracts 3,500
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The July 4 party Tuesday was a big success with some 3,500 U.S. citizens and dependents passing through the front gate of the Cervecería Costa Rica picnic grounds.

The weather cooperated with a morning cloud cover that kept the crowd from overheating.

Those taking the count for the sponsoring American Colony Committee said the number did not include the hundreds who were working to keep the picnic event running. The number of picnic-goers is at least 500 more than in 2005.

Some accolades are in order:

Best overall attraction: As always the free beer and free hot dog tents.

Best new attraction: A display of classic cars including a Model A Ford truck.

Best speech: Ambassador Mark Langdale, who spoke briefly. A Texan knows not to stand too long between a man and his beer.

Best idea: doubling the size of the area for kids' games and volleyball.

Best tear-inducing moment: Raising the colors and the singing of the "Star Spangled Banner."

Best public relations: International Baptist Church members who showed up in identical

The colors are raised to the playing of the 'Star Spangled Banner.'

blue tee shirts as a way of promoting the Guachipelin, Escazú, church.

Did we mention the free beer?


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Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 5, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 132


Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575
 


Click HERE for great hotel discounts


Low-income loan plan
announced by BCR


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Banco de Costa Rica has announced a credit plan for families with limited income.

The bank has earmarked 5 billion colons, some $972,000, for the program.

The bank is targeting borrowers who make less than 231,500 colons a month. That's about $450. These individuals  will be able to borrow from 500,000 to 6 million colons ($973 to $11,700) in order to purchase a lot and construct their own home.

The loans will be repaid over 15 years at a fixed interest rate of 8.64 to 10.27, said the bank.

The program was announced by Carlos Fernández, general manager of the bank at a press conference attended by President Óscar Arias Sánchez and  Fernando Zumbado, minister of Vivienda y Lucha Contra la Pobreza.

The program dovetails with the goals of the Arias administration in the effort to move citizens from substandard housing.

Sewer institute official
makes plea on big loan


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of the water and sewer institute paid a personal visit to members of the Asamblea Legislative Tuesday to try to get quick approval of a $130 million loan that has been offered by the government of Japan.

The loan is part of the money needed to rebuild and extend sewer lines in the Central Valley. Many of the lines are decaying, and the network does not have a treatment plant. Sewage is dumped in waterways and eventually into the Gulf of Nicoya.

Mayi Antillón, leader of the Partido Liberación Nacional said she would do whatever is necessary to see that this measure is brought to a favorable vote before the July 31 deadline imposed by Japan.

She was among those visited by Ricardo Sancho, executive president of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados.

However, some lawmakers grumbled privately about approving such a loan without proper study. They were thinking of a loan made in late 2001 involving hospital equipment from Finland that resulted in a long-running corruption probe.

The loan request has to be approved in the Comisión de Asuntos Hacendarios and then twice in the legislature to comply with the law. The measure also has to be published in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

As an alternative, lawmakers have considered asking the Japanese development officials to extend the period for approval.

Shark fins tied on dead fish
won't do, top lawyer says


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The shark fin controversy just will not go away.

The Procuraduría General, the nation's lawyer, has once again ordered officials in charge of fishing to make sure that shark fins are attached to the sharks when they come ashore.

This is the fourth time that the Procuraduría General has made such a request, according to the environmental organization Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, which made the order public.

Shark fishermen have been tying the detached fin to the corpse of a shark in order to comply with the law. This is not sufficient according to the Procuraduría General because it is impossible to tell if the fin came from the shark to which it is artificially attached.

The Instituto de Pesca y Acuicultura is in charge of inspecting the fish. But the environmental organization said it ignored previous requests from the Procuraduría General.

Fishermen have been sidestepping the spirit of the law for years. The fins are consumed in Asia as a delicacy.

More unwelcome water
for the northern zone


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The northern zone is bracing for more unwelcome water, and emergency officials declared yet another alert for the area Tuesday.  Also included are the Caribbean slope and the south Pacific.

The problem is a tropical low pressure area that passed over the country and created disturbances, said the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional repeated the warnings in the forecast for Wednesday.

Slowly, the winds that have kept the rain at bay are losing force and rain of varying intensity is expected in the Central Valley and the north Pacific, it said. The south and central Pacific will see heavy downpours of short duration, it added.

Brief Internet shutdown planned

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The high speed Internet operated by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad will be out of service briefly between 10 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday, the firm announced.

The company estimated the outage at about 20 minutes and said the shutdown was needed to make adjustments to the system known as Acelera. The outage covers all types of customers. The company did not say specifically what needed to be done.
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 5, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 132








Number of legal U.S. residents here put at 8,400
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration officials say that there are 8,400 U.S. citizens among the 289,237 legal residents of the country.

The bulk of the legal foreign residents are Nicaraguans. They number some 200,000, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

There are more Colombian legal residents (10,405) than U.S. citizens, according to the statistics.

The numbers do not reflect those persons in the country on tourist visas. An undetermined number of persons are what is known as perpetual tourists in that they travel outside the country every 90 days for 72 hours to renew their tourist visa.

Many of these perpetual U.S. tourists are employed illegally in the country as real estate salespeople,
sportbooks operators and English teachers. Tourists are not supposed to work. Some of the perpetual tourists cannot get residency because they have criminal records back home.

A news story four years ago based on the 2000 census estimated that there might be 10,000 U.S. citizens living in the country.  The situation is muddied because some persons have dual citizenship. Others live in families where nationalities are mixed.

The immigration department said that officials were reorganizing the department now to accommodate these legal residents. Most have to renew their residency each year.

For that reason the immigration department was canceling a program that allowed foreign residents to drop in at immigration without appointments on Thursdays and Fridays.  The suspension of the drop-in days will extend at least through July, immigration said.



Barry and Nancy Stevens

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Annette Carter
The Saturday gathering at the Stevens home

Couple found another life's work in the Talamanca
By Annette Carter
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Like many Americans who come to Costa Rica looking for peace and tranquility by the sea, Barry and Nancy Stevens found a different world in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca where they settled.   The beauty of this seaside village in the southeast provided plenty of inspiration for Nancy’s work as a wildlife artist, and the quiet of the rainforest offered a great setting for Barry, a consultant and author of business and life planning books.

But those endeavors soon took a backseat to what was to become their “real” life’s work.

Today, their home is anything but quiet doubling as a soup kitchen, health clinic, bank and safe place for BriBri families from the nearby Talamanca mountains.  The Bridge is the name of the organization the Stevens founded to meet a need that they said they just couldn’t overlook.
 
Three days a week, BriBri families walk from their homes in the mountains or villages — for some a two-and-a-half-hour walk — to the Stevens for a lunch of soup and fruit.  On Saturdays some stay later to watch a movie on DVD.  This day it was "Babe," a movie many have seen multiple times but it’s not about the movie.

“When people first came they didn’t communicate with each other from family to family or tribe to tribe,” Nancy said.  She said she found that they put emotional barriers between tribes.  “But now they are coming out and interacting with each other.”

At first, the Stevens said, they thought it was just a matter of feeding hungry people and helping kids get an education but soon they found themselves experiencing a world they never knew existed and learning about the 5,000-year-old culture of the BriBri Indians.

For example, they learned that many of the BriBri children were not being educated.  “Alejandro came here two years ago speaking no Spanish (only BriBri) and wanted to go to school,” Mrs. Stevens said.  So they invited him and his parents to their home and — after a conversation — the Stevens bought school supplies, uniforms and got him enrolled.  

“The next year we helped 24 kids go to school, and this year 31,” she said.  Today, Alejandro who was born with tuberculosis and now has only one lung is a fixture at the Stevens home coming to do homework and play on the computer.   

Through Alejandro and Daniel, a man who was doing yard work at the house they rented but who became their “bridge” to the BriBri community and is now their assistant, they learned about some pretty serious problems. 

Disjointed families plagued by alcoholism and domestic violence.  Fathers who would not allow their children to go to school or their wives to take the bus to town for fear that the problems of the family would be discovered.  They met BriBri who were not equipped for this world. They did not know how to open doors, use buses, and they spoke no Spanish. 

They said they learned of families living in wooden houses with dirt floors and of families who subsisted only on rice and beans, never having tasted a vegetable.  They saw families living in the
jungle totally isolated even from other BriBri because years-old customs did not allow them to mix.

Stevens said the experience taught them that they couldn’t deal only with one problem at a time.  “We want to help people grow into self-sufficiency,” he said.  At first, for example, they gave away bags of groceries but then learned that it’s not good to give food away for free but to exchange it for work.  Now they provide seven families with food and in turn the families work around their home or in the community.  And, Stevens says, they developed a three-pronged approach.

“First we insist on immediate compliance with the law including getting the kids in school and making sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations and other health issues,” he said.  Second is providing food.  “People need to eat at the same time they are dealing with health and school issues.”  And third, he said, is economics and creating self-sufficiency.

The Stevens do this by offering micro-loans of $400 or less.  Their clients can request a loan to start or expand a business.  Loans have funded projects such as furniture-making, the purchase of a horse for a tourist business and the construction of a rental cabin.   Stevens said there are no guidelines for enforcement of loan repayment because the community does this by talking to each other.  “They know who pays and who doesn’t because we tell them,” he said.  “People get together and they know someone not paying a loan back means they aren’t going to get one later.”

Their biggest challenges, the Stevens said, have been cultural.  “Matching what I believed I knew from my years working with business planning and consulting with what is actually here,” Barry said. 

Mrs. Stevens said, for her, it has been, “Trying to treat them the same as I would North Americans and it’s not that way.”  She said she made certain assumptions and mistakes because she did not understand their culture.   

Another challenge has been fund raising.  The Stevens have developed a relationship with The Serendipity Foundation, a not-for-profit organization in Carlsbad, California, and their Lifetracks project which assists indigenous people in remote villages in Bali, Ghana, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Tanzania, Mexico and Costa Rica.  Individual donors can contribute through Serendipity earmarked for The Bridge and receive a tax deduction. 

In addition, Unity Church in the San José area is assisting them in identifying U.S.-based companies working in Costa Rica, and a few local businesses sell Nancy’s greeting cards or donate goods or occasionally a little cash.  And the Stevens are using every penny from the sale of Nancy’s artwork (available on www.Thumbprintsart.com as Nancy Wright) and Barry’s books and consulting to fund The Bridge.  But it’s still hand-to-mouth most months, they say.  “Mostly right now we need cash because the “stuff” materializes when we need it,” Nancy said.

In the future the Stevens would like to finalize the purchase of their house which is the core of the organization and purchase adjoining property to create a BriBri village with a school to teach the BriBri language, cabinas for volunteers, and a place to showcase the crafts of the tribes.  They said the goal is to employ the people and help them to perpetuate their culture even in a modern world.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 5, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 132




México awaits the results of an official vote recount
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's Instituto Federal de Elecciones is ready to begin a detailed verification of its preliminary vote count from Sunday's presidential election. Leftist candidate Andrés Manual López Obrador claims there was vote manipulation and has promised to fight "vote for vote" to prove that he won. But, conservative candidate Felipe Calderón is gaining momentum in his effort to present himself as the winner.

Tuesday newspaper headlines across México reported the final preliminary vote count from Sunday's election that put Felipe Calderón of the ruling Partido Acción Nacional more than 1 percent ahead of López Obrador of the Partido Revolución Democrática.

Calderón appeared relaxed and confident as he spoke to reporters in televised interviews and discussed his plans to reach out to other parties to build a government of unity.

Boosting his position further, two of the four other candidates who ran for president conceded defeat. Most important was the concession of Roberto Madrazo, candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, the party that had dominated Mexico for 71 years until the election of Vicente Fox in 2000.

Madrazo said he accepted the results from what he called a fair and transparent electoral process and stressed that his party would not haggle over the votes, but would accept the will of the Mexican people.

Madrazo finished in a distant third place according to the preliminary vote count and failed to win in any area of the country. Political analysts say this could be a fatal blow to the once almighty Partido Revolucionario Institucional, although the party has done well in some local elections, capturing governor's
seat in a few recent state contests.

Also conceding defeat was the candidate of the Partido Nueva Alianza, Roberto Campa, who said the vote count clearly showed that Calderón had won the election.

But López Obrador continues to challenge the results, citing irregularities and anomalies in the process.

He noted that the official number of voters registered and the number of voters who were recorded as voting, when compared to the total vote count, shows three million missing votes.

But election institute spokeswoman Lourdes López says that is easily explained.

She says voting certificates that contained errors or were not complete or in any other way appeared questionable were set aside for closer examination. She says no votes were lost and that those close to three million votes that were set aside will be examined when the institute does its complete recount and verification, starting at 8 a.m. today.

Officials cannot say how long this process will take, indicating it could be completed as early as Wednesday evening or continue on into the weekend. But even that will likely not be the end of the electoral dispute.

Partido Revolución Democrática leaders told reporters Tuesday they will challenge the vote count if it does not show López Obrador as the winner. That could involve many weeks of legal wrangling. Adding to the anxiety felt by many Mexicans, party leaders say they have not ruled out massive marches and street protests to put pressure on officials.


Canadian officials announce discovery of another mad cow case
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Canada has confirmed a new case of mad cow disease in central Manitoba Province, the country's sixth since 2003.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Tuesday no parts of the cow's carcass entered human or animal feed systems. The agency also said the cow was born before 1997 when Canada introduced regulations on animal feed aimed at fighting the disease.  Agency officials said an investigation has been launched to determine where the infected cow was born and identify other animals that may have eaten from the same feed.
Last month, Ottawa announced plans to expand a 1997 ban on feeding cattle parts to cows in hopes of completely eliminating mad cow disease in Canada.

Known as mad cow disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy causes brain wasting, eventually causing cattle to lose the ability to walk or stand.

Humans can get variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of the disease, by eating the meat of cattle with mad cow disease.

At least 160 people have died of the disease, mainly in Britain, since the first case was confirmed there in 1996.


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