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These stories were published Monday, July 11, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 135
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Communities suffer through a dry weekend
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Much of Curridabat and southern San José awoke without domestic water early Saturday.

An employee of the Instituto de Acueductos y Alcantarillados said a main water line had broken in the Churuca section of Tres Rios de Curridabat.

The water did not come back into domestic water lines until about 2 p.m. Sunday. And even then the water was murky.
The water main break was near a major tank that held water piped from the Orosi area. The employee described the pipe as an old one but did not discount the possibility that heavy rains had increased the water pressure.

The employee, Vladimir Chavarría said that the outage affects Rio Azul, Tres Rios, Curridabat, La Guaria, San Juan de Desamparados, San Miguel de Desamparados, El Porvenir, Desamparados Centro and other portions of the heavily populated Desamparados canton. An estimated 400,000 persons were involved.



Commentary
Reader tells why she contracted fake marriage

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since the writer freely confesses to violating Costa Rica's immigration law via a fake marriage and working while a tourist, we decided to withhold her name.

During the last few weeks, the word has come out that Costa Rica is serious about cracking down on fake marriages and other methods used by not-wealthy foreigners to immigrate here. Understandably, Costa Rica is concerned about elevating crime levels, increased unemployment and overburdened social services that may be effects of illegal immigration. But have the people making this decision actually considered the price Costa Rica will pay by completely closing its doors to a large number of would-be immigrants who have a low likelihood of burdening Costa Rica?

I came to Costa Rica to study Spanish for a month. I was greeted with open arms. Before my trip had ended, I came to the totally unexpected conclusion that I would like to return and live here. I doubt I would have ever even thought of it had I not been encouraged to do so by just about everyone I had met.

I’m a U.S. citizen. I’m not wealthy and I’m not old enough to receive a pension. However, given my computer and English skills, making money while contributing to Costa Rica’s economy would be no problem. Since I’ve been here, I’ve earned money in the U.S., consulting to my former job, teaching online courses and selling my house. I’ve also built a house, started a Spanish school, written travel brochures, developed tourist Web sites and taught affordable/free English classes to low- to middle-income Costa Ricans. A large portion of the money I’ve gained has been reinvested in Costa Rica. My Costa Rican jobs have been directly responsible for bringing additional tourists to this country and/or helping increase the number of much needed English-speaking Costa Ricans. I’ve also helped make the dreams come true for a few Costa Ricans who I’ve brought with me to visit the U.S.

In other words, I have not taken a job away from anyone or been a burden in any way to Costa Rica and, instead, have made my share of contributions.

So here’s the problem. What immigration class did I fit into? The answer: none! When I decided that I was ready to make things legal and become a resident instead of a leave-every-three-months tourist, I sought the advice of everyone I could on how I could do this. The answer I was given everywhere I
turned was that since I didn’t fit into the rentista or pensionado resident classes, I would have to get married.

Several lawyers offered to marry me to some man I didn’t know who I could pay for the privilege. I really had no interest in any of this. I wanted to become a resident but not by lying. But I looked and looked and asked and asked and no one was telling me that I had any chance of becoming a resident without fitting into one of the small number of immigrant categories. I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Finally, with great reluctance, I decided to marry a Costa Rican friend of mine. He was willing to do this, not for money, but because he valued having a good-hearted Costa Rica-loving American in his life. My peg now fit into one of the holes, and I was easily granted residency (in a so-I’ve-been-told, impossible, one months time). Costa Ricans seem to be happy to have me and I’m happy to be here.

But now we come back to my point. I think most people would agree that I’m one of the people that Costa Rica doesn’t want to exclude from immigrating here. I’m a contributor, not a burden. But if Costa Rica cracks down on fake marriages and permanent tourists, it closes the door not only on those who would be burdens but also on those who it seems to want. How can it expect foreigners to invest in Costa Rica if they have no guarantee that they can always return. How does it expect companies that require English-speaking employees to set up shop here if there aren’t enough English speakers to fill the positions and it would take major hurdles to legally fill each position with a foreigner?

I could, of course, extend this discussion further to include the many foreigners who pick Costa Rica’s coffee, build and clean its houses, guard its neighborhoods, etc. but I’ll stick to what I know best — the matter of a fair number of Americans who came to Costa Rica and unexpectedly, fell in love, with the country and the people, and despite the disbelief of many who can’t believe that anyone would want to leave the “Great United States,” would love to be permitted to stay here and do their best to avoid being a burden on Costa Rica.

I’m not advocating overlooking illegal marriages, etc. But I think Costa Rica might want to consider adding a new doorway for those they do want.


 
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A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 11, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 135

 
Costa Rica Expertise
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Click HERE for great hotel discounts

 
African plains coming
to Guanacaste soon


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A local land owner has announced plans to open a simulated African landscape near Liberia.  Africa Mia is the first stage of a project called Hacienda Sotela dreamed up by Roxie Sotela and her son Mario, according to their Web page.

The Sotelas chose the area near the community of El Salto to open their reserve because of the resemblance Guanacaste has with the African savannah, the Web site explained.  El Salto is just south of Liberia on the Interamerican highway.  The Sotelas plan to house ostriches, giraffes, deer, antelope, zebras and many others on their simulated African savannah, the site also said.

The attraction is not supposed to open until the end of the year but the master plan calls for a 100-hectare (247-acre) lot housing only herbivores – including endangered species — to minimize the stress on the environment and animals.   

The El Salto River borders the site to the east and the Cañada Creek closes it off on the west.  At the south end there is a waterfall behind the spot where the Hacienda mansion should be.  The plan also shows a hotel, a restaurant, two lakes, a veterinary clinic, a butterfly farm, an aviary, an aquarium, a tennis court and two rope bridges. 

Using wild animals in a public spectacle like a circus is illegal here though keeping them in captivity is still allowed.

Bean diet related
to better health


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Harvard University researchers have found a way to keep the heart pumping: eat more beans.

An article in the July issue of the Journal of Nutrition reports that a team of Harvard University researchers surveyed over 4,000 Costa Ricans to find nutritional methods to evade heart attacks.

The team, headed by Dr. Hannia Campos, surveyed 2,119 survivors of a first acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) and then matched each survivor with a healthy individual of the same age, gender and area of residence.  All the test subjects lived in Costa Rica.  Once these matches were made, researchers evaluated each subject's diet.  They found that people who consumed at least one serving (one-third of a cup) of beans a day were 38 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack than those who ate beans once a month or not at all. 

The object of the study was to find a relation between heart disease and legumes.  Legumes are foods like beans and peas that grow in pods and have swollen roots with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.  Since beans are the most common legumes eaten in Costa Rica, the researchers focused on bean consumption. 

In addition, researchers also found that 69 percent of those surveyed consume at least one serving of beans a day.  In rural areas, that number is even higher, 81 percent. 

Indian development
said to be lagging

 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Latin America’s Indian peoples are lagging behind the rest of the population in both income levels and human development, said officials with the United Nations Children's Fund.  Indicators such as education, health, access to water and sanitation, are suggesting that Latin America's indigenous people are disadvantaged, they said.  

“Discrimination against indigenous people in Latin America is a structural problem and the key to tackle it is to overcome the enormous inequalities in this region,” Nilks Katsberg told a group of Latin American Indian children at a meeting in Madrid.  Katsberg is the fund's regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“We have a debt that is not only from the past, but also from the present,” he told the opening session of the two-day meeting last week. An estimated 40 to 50 million Indians live in Latin America, and they represent 10 percent of the population.

The president of the Fund's national committee in Spain, Francisco González-Bueno, urged the participating youngsters to take action. “Our obligation is to make the rights embraced by governments a reality,” he said. “It’s essential that you know your rights in order to be able to demand them, since only rights that are claimed are fulfilled.”
 
The goal of the meeting was to create a final declaration to be presented at the Ibero-American Ministerial Conference on Children and Adolescents. That conference is scheduled for September in León, Spain.

Possible gang membership
results in deportation


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Migration officials said they have deported a suspected El Salvadorian gang member. 

The man, identified by the last name Gómez, entered the country legally through Peñas Blancas in August, officials said.  According to a report, Gómez sought a 30-day tourism pass and then requested a student visa.  Officials denied both requests, and so Gómez stayed illegally, they said. 

The report added that El Salvadorian officials seemed very interested in Gómez and awaited him at the airport in El Salvador where he was scheduled to land.  He traveled under guard.

Central American gangs operate in every country on the isthmus but apparently have yet to invade Costa Rica. 

The current problem facing Costa Rica border officials is the influx of Haitians who are probably fleeing their violence-torn homeland. 

The Sixaola border – located at the southern end of Limón Province– has experienced a large quantity of Haitians crossing the border illegally in the last 18 months, said a report.   During that time, 136 Haitians have tried to obtain refugee status.  Of those requests, 90 percent have been denied.

That doesn't mean they leave.  Officials report that there is a large problem with Haitians getting married as soon as they enter Costa Rica to avoid deportation.  Others just stay.  Immigration officials said they recently arrested 38 people on the outskirts of San José. Officials said they detained 17 Nicaraguans, four Colombians and 17 Haitians.  Six of the Haitians claimed to be refugees, officials said.     

Landslide effects
to be evaluated


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials will continue to evaluate today the section of Rio Azul de La Unión where a landslide killed two persons and forced about a hundred from their homes over the weekend.

The slide came as a result of torrential rains. A husband and wife were buried alive. Others barely escaped with their lives.

The residential area sits under a long hill that was made unstable by the rains. Officials will continue to study the area today to see who can return to their homes.

A number of residents still were in emergency shelters Sunday night.
Professional Directory
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.


Real estate agents and services


MARGARET SOHN
formerly with  Carico and now with Great Estates
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real estate experience

Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000

Member of
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margaret@greatcre.com
samargo@racsa.co.cr
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Legal services


KEARNEY-LAWSON & Asoc.
Lic.Gregory Kearney Lawson.
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Offices in San José and
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Authorized Representative
Stewart Title Attorney Referral System

229-8/9/0
A.M. Costa Rica
Consultantes Río Colorado S.A.
James J. Brodell........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas...associate editor

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When the boss treats the workers like mules
La mulita de San Vicente lleva carga y no la siente.

“Saint Vincent’s mule is carrying a load and doesn’t even know it.” When I was a kid in elementary school we use to play this game where someone would put a scrap of paper on someone’s head without their knowledge and then we’d start chanting "La mulita de San Vicente lleva carga y no la siente." So, every kid within earshot would check their heads to see if he was the one with the paper lodged in his hair. (Notice that I only use the pronouns “he” and “his” because in my elementary school back in those days the boys and girls were kept segregated from each other.)

That was an innocent child’s game, but today’s dicho has other uses and implications. For example, one often hears Ticos using this expressing when complaining about all the taxes they have to pay. The implication is that they are like the mulitas de San Vincente who must bear the burden of everyone else by paying these so-called “heavy” taxes. To them I would reply that they don’t even have a clue about what taxes are until they’ve lived in one of the planet’s “first world” countries.
 
I do believe, however, that we in the middle class, both in Costa Rica and elsewhere in the world, sometimes carry more of a tax burden than is fair when the rich and the super rich — who have reaped the most benefits from living in a liberal capitalist democracy — often end up paying little if any taxes at all! This is not to say that there is anything intrinsically wrong with being well off, but something’s not quite right when those who benefit the most from our commonwealth often contribute the least to its maintenance.

Another source of resentment among Ticos these days has to do with refugees who live in Costa Rica but do not contribute to the educational or health care systems, though they frequently use them. Just a few days ago La Nación, Costa Rica’s print newspaper of record, published figures indicating that nearly 53 percent of the people who come to public hospital emergency rooms do not really require professional medical attention, and about 40 percent of these are people who do not pay into the Social Security system.

Of course I do agree that anyone who needs to see a physician should be able to do so, but if no one paid into our Social Security system in Costa Rica the public hospitals would soon be forced to close their doors.

This situation, however, is not only the fault of refugees and undocumented immigrants. People who are living in Costa Rica without documentation often secure low-paying employment from patrones, or bosses, who pay them under the table, thereby avoiding the contribution they must make for each
The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto


employee into the health care system as required by Costa Rican law. The real scofflaw in such cases is clearly the greedy and unscrupulous patron, and not the worker.

My niece’s husband, whom I’ll refer to as Juan, though this is not his real name, is one of the most intelligent and talented people I’ve ever known. He’s a skilled artisan, carpenter, electrician, plumber and
mechanic. He’s one of those extraordinary guys who can figure out how virtually anything works and how to fix it. He’s a treasure to our family and an asset to any employer he might work for. Juan is a native Costa Rican, but when he was younger — out of pure naiveté I suppose — somehow managed to get himself mixed up with a totally unscrupulous contractor who treated him in much the same way as undocumented aliens get treated in Costa Rica today.

This patron insisted on paying Juan “off the books,” which meant that he didn’t have to abide by union rules and minimum wage requirements and he never contributed a single colon in Juan’s name to the Social Security system.

Once, while working for this contractor on a construction project near Parrita, Juan was stung by an insect which infected him with a terrible flesh-eating bacteria. His patron refused to pay for private medical attention and, since no health care insurance account had ever been established for him with Social Security, Juan underwent weeks of agonizing pain and suffering and even sought the medical attention of a friend who was a veterinarian! When I finally learned of Juan’s plight he was in pretty bad shape, but we took him to the private Clinica Biblica in downtown San José where a friend and I covered the cost of his medical treatment.

It was a painful lesson, but after that experience he realized how important it was to insist that his next employer play by the rules set up a health insurance account for him and make his required Social
Security contributions. In the end Juan realized how an employer’s greed could place his own life in jeopardy.



We'll take the 1953 version of 'War of the Worlds'
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The best advice for those anxious to see “War of the Worlds:” Go get a copy of the 1953 movie because the current remake is a mess.

“War of the Worlds” came out originally as a book written by H.G. Wells in 1898. The 1953 movie with Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, directed by Byron Haskin, is worth seeing. But best known is the 1938 radio version on the Mercury Theatre of the Air, directed and starring Orson Welles. Media mythology says Orson Welles created a panic in the land.

Tom Cruise is Ray Ferrier, a dysfunctional dad of a dysfunctional family. The family situation is an addition to the story line via a script written by Josh Friedman and presumably approved by director Steven Spielberg. This is supposed to make the story modern. The bulk of the scenes are straight out of the 1953 movie. Those that are not detract from the storyline.

An example: In the 1898 book, 1938 radio show and the 1953 movie, terrifying aliens and their tripodal war machines plunged to earth in spacecrafts. For some reason, in Spielberg's version the war machines already are here, hidden for thousands, perhaps millions of years, beneath the soil. The aliens, however, come on a beam of light to drive the devices. Left unclear is why the aliens, who covet the planet, didn't just take over from the apes instead of burying war machines and waiting for humans to evolve.

The character played by Cruise is taking care of his 10-year-old daughter and surly teenage son while his remarried, pregnant former wife makes a trip from New York to Boston to see her mother. So the story becomes kind of a road movie when the Cruise character decided to take his two children to see their mom after it becomes obvious earth is under attack.

What with massacre of humanity, alien attacks and frightened mobs, the trip is eventful. But all is happy in the end. Ray Ferrier and his daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning) make it to Boston where they find the former wife, grandparents and mom's present husband living happily in a swank brownstone

Paramount photo
Hiding out in the cellar: Harlan Ogilvy (Tim Robbins), Ray Ferrier (Cruise) and Rachel (Miss Fanning) hide from aliens
v
 overlooked by the homicidal and destructive aliens.

Also there is the surly son, Robbie (Justin Chatwin), who exhibited manly qualities on the trip by rescuing people. But he was last seen being evaporated along with elements of the 10th Mountain Division in an alien counterattack. So much for consistency.

The central thesis of the H.G. Wells book was that tiny bacteria eventually killed the alien intruders when armed might could not. That was pretty good for a Victorian explanation, and it held until the 1953 movie. But contamination was a real concern of space scientists long before the moon landing in 1969.

The writers of “Independence Day,” which is essentially a “War of the Worlds” 1996 remake updated the storyline by eliminating the aliens with a computer virus.

No such luck with Spielberg and the current movie: Dysfunctional dad, screaming and/or surly kids, clunky alien machines. Too bad it's rated PG-13 because that designation cuts down on the target audience.
— Jay Brodell


Da Silva's party in Brazil rocked by bribery scandal
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The head of Brazil's ruling Workers' Party has resigned, amid a corruption scandal that has shaken the party's standing and the government. Three other high-level officials resigned earlier over allegations the ruling party bribed lawmakers.

The president of Brazil's ruling Workers' Party, Jose Genoino, resigned Saturday following magazine reports that he was linked to a growing corruption scandal.

The Workers Party has been accused of bribing federal lawmakers for their support on key congressional votes. One lawmaker came forward last month and said the ruling party was paying some officials more than $12,000 a month using private funds.

Genoino was implicated after an assistant to his brother, a Workers' Party official at the state level, was found to be carrying $184,000 in cash at an airport, and was arrested. Genoino denied any wrongdoing by him or his party. Genoino says the party does not engage in any irregularities, nor does it buy or pay lawmakers.
The Workers' Party has long prided itself on honesty in a country where political corruption runs rampant.

In the past, party leaders often criticized previous administrations for allowing corruption to continue unchecked.

The scandal is the worst setback for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva since he assumed office in January 2003. Three other party leaders, including the president's former chief of staff Jose Dirceu, have also resigned.

Da Silva has not been personally implicated in the scandal, but a recent poll showed 55 percent of Brazilians think the president is involved. The president is expected to seek re-election in 2006.

Following Genoino's resignation, the party elected Education Minister Tarso Genro to replace him as party leader. Genro said he remains confident in the president and the party: "I have absolute faith in the integrity of my colleagues and the president."

Restoring confidence in the party may not be easy. The recent opinion poll showed that nearly half of those interviewed do not believe the party is honest.


Venezuelan judge orders trial for election activists who took U.S. cash
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

CARACAS, Venezuela — A judge has ruled that the leaders of a non-profit group must be tried for allegedly conspiring to change the government using U.S. funds.

Maria Corina Machado and three other members of the group, Sumate, helped organize the unsuccessful recall referendum against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last year.

Sumate received a $31,000 grant from the National
 Endowment for Democracy, an organization which promotes democracy worldwide and is funded by the U.S. Congress.

Sumate says the money was used to educate citizens about their electoral rights. The judicial action comes more than a month after Ms. Machado met with President George Bush at the White House.

State Department spokesman Thomas Casey says the United States is very disappointed over the legal action against the Sumate members and that the charges against them are, "without merit."

 
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