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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, July 19, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 142       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Beer for people who have something to prove
By the A.M. Costa Rica beer staff

These Dutch people are pretty tough. They carved a country out of the sea bed, and everyone speaks about five languages.

And when it comes to beer, the challenge is tough, too.

This challenge is right there on the beer can: "11.8%," the can says. The manufacturer is Royal Grolsch Brewery, and the brand is Amsterdam. The variety is gently named the "Maximator." Visions of Rambo crushing a can in his teeth.

And Amsterdam only is sold in 500 milliliter cans, half a liter.

The brand and two of the three versions of Amsterdam have been on sale in San José supermarkets. This is a country with unimpressive beers that are in the 4.5 percent range, and European beers are welcome and expensive.

But 11.6 percent? That's 58 milliliters of alcohol per can. Someone would have to gulp nearly four cans of Costa Rica's Imperial at 4.6 percent to get the same kick.

The bad news is that the Maximator has a heavy, wheaty taste that most beer drinkers would not appreciate.

Another Amsterdam variety, the "Explorator" at a mere 6.8 percent alcohol has a much sharper, clear beer taste. A third variety, "Navigator," promises 8.4 percent

A.M. Costa Rica photo
The challenge is right there on the can

alcohol but does not seem to be available locally.

Ticos must like the beer. A whole display on Maximator vanished quickly at an upscale AM/PM supermarket.   Or maybe it is the macho attraction of "one of the world's strongest beers."

Take the Amsterdam with the training wheels, the 6.8 percent Explorator, and leave Maximator at 1,200 colons (more than $2) for those who have something to prove.

Swap meet hopes to instruct citizens on how to avoid money
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For years Costa Rica was basically what was a barter society. The exchange of goods for goods or services was important in a society where currency was scarce.

The country returns to those days July 29 when La Feria del Trueque takes place in Barrio El Carmen de Paso Ancho. Trueque means barter, swap or exchange in Spanish.

Booths will be available for all to offer hand-made items, organic foods, prepared foods, homemade preserves, tools, utensils and even used clothes.

The event is being sponsored by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and the idea is to help citizens learn to share, exchange,
recycle all types of products without the use of money.

But participants should leave the bootlegged booze at home. Organizers say no alcohol, no commercial foodstuffs, and no new items or clothes.

The event is one of the activities of the Proyecto de Escuelas Sostenibles, which is a program to encourage students teachers and parents in three pilot schools to eat more fruits and vegetables.

For those who can't wait, there is a continuing garage sale Saturdays and Sundays on the east side of the San José municipal building in Sabana Este.

There also is a fruit and vegetable market Saturdays. But they take money there.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 142

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A.M. Costa Rica/Walter Bibb
This pothole sits unmolested on a main street in San Pedro. It has been here at least two weeks.

Woman's death big hit
with television newscasts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The apparent murder of a judicial aide has grabbed the attention of the public and the crime is a lead item on local telecasts. In part, this is because her husband is a public defender.

As usual in cases like this suspicion is on the husband.

Channel 7 Teletica had one reporter and a remote unit at the Morgue Judicial in San Joaquín de Flores de Heredia Tuesday night. Another reporter and a remote unit was at the couple's apartment in Zapote.

Channel 6 Repretel also covered the lack of developments in depth.

Police located the woman's body Sunday morning near Atenas. She was Maureen Hidalgo Mora, 28. The footage of her shrouded body being placed in a vehicle is repeated continuously on the news shows.

Her husband, Luis Fernando Burgos, 48, is photographed entering and leaving the couple's apartment, riding in an investigator's car and attending the funeral of his wife.

The man denies any involvement with the death. The woman vanished a week ago after she took a personal day off from her job as assistant to a judge.

The body was in a ditch unprotected for some time, investigators said, and buzzards and other animals have damaged it to the extent that an autopsy has not revealed why the woman died.  Rumors are rampant, and prosecutors have opened a case of premeditated murder against the husband. However, agents say there is no evidence against him.

Investigators took him to be examined Tuesday, and photos were taken of his body. They are looking for signs of violence. He has been cooperative. Even before his wife's body was found, he allowed agents to search the apartment.

Costa Rica faces claim
of human rights errors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica found itself in the unusual situation Tuesday of being accused of human rights violations.

The allegations came from the government of Nicaragua which is asking the InterAmerican Commision of Human Rights to open a case against Costa Rica.

At issue are two cases in which Nicaraguan immigrants to Costa Rica were treated badly. Costa Rica's lead lawyer,  Gioconda Ubeda, called these isolated cases.

The head of the Nicaraguan delegation, Juan Antonio Tijerino, said the cases are examples of xenophobia and discrimination against his countrymen.

At least 100,000 Nicaraguans are living in Costa Rica. Many of them are illegal, and Costa Ricans generally look down on people with darker skin color.

Ambassador Ubeda asked the commission to shelve the case because both incidents are under judicial investigation and internal remedies have not yet been exhausted. The commission hearings were in Guatemala City.

One Nicaraguan, Natividad Canda Mairena, died last Nov. 10 when rottweiler guard dogs encountered him while he was in the act of burglarizing a junk yard. Police and the dogs' owner did nothing until firemen arrived to drive the animals away with a spray of water. The man died later of multiple wounds, and his death triggered a flood of jokes in bad taste about Nicaraguans among Costa Ricans.

Three weeks later José Ariel Urbina Silva died in a fight where five other Nicaraguans were injured in a confrontation with Costa Ricans. The fight developed from comments and barbs about the burglar's death.
At the time, high officials of the Nicaraguan government visited Costa Rica as did a prosecutor who took statements about the dog mauling.

There are other implications of the hearing Tuesday. Costa Rica has hailed Nicaragua into the International Court of Justice in the Hague over limitations on access by Costa Ricans to the Río San Juan. Nicaraguan officials were annoyed by this action.

18 here can seek U.S. visas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Eighteen Costa Ricans have won the right to apply for a U.S. permanent resident visa that allows them to immigrate into the United States, the U.S. State Department reported Tuesday as it released results of the immigration diversity lottery for 2006.
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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 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 142

A guest editorial
Poker player is afraid of his own (U.S.) government
By An Expatriate Afraid of My Own Government
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
After reading this morning’s piece on BetonSports with its federal indictments and arrest of key executives in the U.S.A., I can’t help but think, “Here goes . . . . The U.S.A. Police state is at it again!”
Being a recreational gambler and poker player, I find myself terrified by my own government even here in sovereign countries where gaming is legal and legitimate.

The argument starts at the fundamentals of the Constitution and the over reaching arm of the federal government in trying to legislate morality. These powers were never intended as part of the federal government’s authority when our country was founded. The core role of government was for the protection of our borders and enforcement of international treaties/contracts (when are they going to start focusing on their job and getting THAT done?), not dictating to its citizens their religions, lifestyles, or how they can use their money.

I thought democracy was about protecting the rights of INDIVIDUALS? Instead, it seems to me our “moral minority” government is spending a lot of taxpayer money protecting the taxpayers from . . . . themselves. The moral crusaders in the U.S.A., standing behind “God and the Bible,” are reaching as far and as furious as they can to control the lifestyles and behaviors of their fellow citizens — even in far away states such as Costa Rica.

Just like liquor and tobacco (which can kill you a lot faster than wagering online), our government found that prohibition didn’t work, so they choose to regulate and tax the hell out of such things. “Sin taxes” I think is what they call them.

Why can’t they see the potential of this revenue in regulating gaming in the U.S.A. like England and many other first world contemporaries of ours do? Does the U.S. government honestly think they can control the whole world in gaming rights too? Do they think they own technology and the Internet worldwide so as to regulate its use? I thought China’s totalitarian control of their citizens was bad, but I am beginning to see our government as not that far apart, and the quiet menace of that for individual liberty is a terrifying thought.
The other strangeness of these federal actions is how can they make a federal case out of businesses offshore and businesses that simply compete in a space that in the state of Nevada and on U.S.A. Indian reservations have until now had a monopoly?

I thought these laws were a state-by-state issue? Is the endgame to dictate to Nevada their gaming practices too? How can you not enforce rights equally for ALL citizens of the country? Is Costa Rica now going to kowtow to the U.S.A. Moralist government and lose its sovereignty over its gaming laws and the thousands of jobs for young Ticos? Why should a fine online news periodical like A.M. Costa Rica have to reject advertising revenue from legitimate online
poker and gaming companies from fear of the U.S. government?

I just got back from a two-week trip to the U.S.A., having lived offshore for years. I went to the Fourth of July parade, saluted the veterans going back to World War II who marched in that parade. I still get a lump in my throat singing various patriotic songs and thinking about the sacrifices made historically to preserve our freedoms.

But when I see my government limiting freedoms and spending countless hours and millions of taxpayers dollars to keep people from playing poker online, or even to the extent of controlling their bedroom activities, I start counting my blessings that I have the freedom to live away from this madness. Sure, there is USUALLY due process of law, and in the long run I can’t see how these charges against BetonSports will be upheld.

But the reality is that justice will be there for those who can afford it. When the police come to my door for playing poker online and arrest me, will I be able to afford justice?
I’m sure many U.S.A. Readers will feel defensive and are in agreement that “gambling is immoral” along with a long list of other behaviors and defend their governments actions on this. But in the end, what business is it of yours or your government’s of what other citizens choose to do with THEIR money and time? Where does this pursuit end? This is ludicrous.
In the long run, prohibition and totalitarian governments do not work or last long. But it is painful having to put up with them while they exist. The fight against drugs is a waste of billions of dollars every year, in a country that is going broke. It is ridiculous to me that they don’t regulate gaming like Nevada does, where gaming taxes pay for EVERYTHING in that state. No state income tax. What an idea!

But instead, our government “cuts off its nose to spite its face” and “looks a gift horse in the mouth.” No wonder there is a huge tide of people moving offshore and that a significant percentage of baby-boomers will live and take their money offshore. In time, much of the money will be offshore, and the illegal immigrants raping our legal system will be the ones left “holding the empty bag” in their new country.

This U.S. government is now just taking it too far. I hope in the long run justice will prevail, though it will be very costly to my fellow citizens in the U.S.A. In time, resources and lost gaming revenues.
If anyone reading this wants their voice to be heard on the past and upcoming legislation for online gaming, they might want to review this link... https://www.pokerplayersalliance.org/keep.html

EDITOR’S NOTE: We do not agree with certain parts of the opinions expressed above, but we are shocked that writers would so fear the U.S. government that they do not want their name printed on essays reflecting their legitimate political views. 

Free trade pact would not provide protection for sportsbooks here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Don't expect the free trade treaty between the United States and Costa Rica to protect online sportsbooks and other gambling operations here.

A May 28, 2004, side letter to the agreement signed by Robert B. Zoellick, then the U.S. Trade representative, puts gambling outside the scope of the agreement. Previously, the text of the letter was interpreted here to allow Costa Rica to continue to host sportsbooks.

The core of the letter says:

"Nothing in Chapter Ten (Investment) or Eleven (Cross-Border Trade in Services) prevents the
United States or Costa Rica from adopting, maintaining, or enforcing any measure consistent
with the agreement relating to sportsbooks or other gambling activities within their respective national territories."
In the wake of the indictment of 11 persons by the United States for operating online gambling operations in Costa Rica it is clear the side letter would prevent any actions by Costa Rica. The U.S. Department of Justice is handling the BetonSports case as an internal matter.

The nation of Antigua and Barbuda brought an action against the United States under World Trade Organization rules, claiming that Washington violated the trade pact by banning cross-border Internet gambling.

Although the case is not over, Antigua and Barbuda appear to have carried the day before a dispute panel.

The free trade agreement side letter would seem to rule out such an appeal by Costa Rica if the United States cracks down on Internet gambling here as gambling activities within its national territory. The pact has yet to be approved by the Asamblea Legislativa here.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 142

New, lighter currency will displace octagonal coins
By the  A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new aluminum coins are out making Costa Rica a  country with three coins of five colons and 10 colons.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Front and back of the new aluminum coins are in the lower right. The brass coins stay but the octagonal  coins at top are being recalled.
The Banco Central de Costa Rica has plans to withdraw the octagonal silver coins of five, 10 and 20 colons and the older round one- and two-colon coins. But there are no plans to withdraw the brass one-, two-, five- and 10-colon coins.

The new aluminum coins are much cheaper to produce, and are lighter. The 10-colon coin is just 1.10 grams and the five-colon coin is .9 grams.

As with much of the Costa Rican currency, each coin carries its denomination in braille on its face: two correctly arranged dots for five colons and four dots for 10 colons.

At the current rate of exchange a 10-colon coin is worth just a fraction less than two U.S. cents. One-colon and two-colon coins are almost never seen in circulation.

Most store transactions are rounded off to the nearest five or 10 colons.

The programed devaluation of the colon has reduced the worth of the coinage much like the penny in the United States.

Thousands trapped by fighting in Colombia, U.N. agency reports
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Thousands of civilians in Colombia are caught up by armed clashes occurring in two of the country's Pacific coast departments, says the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Scores of people are trapped and unable to flee to safety from the violence, the U.N. agency said.

The agency said the fighting is occurring in the department of Nariño in southern Colombia near the border with Ecuador, and in the department of Chocó to the north near the Panama border.

In Nariño, more than 1,300 people have fled since fighting began during the week of July 9 between an irregular armed group and the Colombian army, said
the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.  Chocó also has seen a marked increase in violence, with fighting between irregular armed groups leaving several indigenous communities in that area cut off from each other and the rest of the world.

The agency said that while hundreds of families have left their homes, "indigenous communities in both departments are trapped on their territory and unable to flee to safety."

In the ongoing combat, thousands more people could be at risk of forced displacement, the agency said.

The agency has estimated that more than 2.5 million people in Colombia have been displaced at some point during the last 15 years. The country is engaged in a long-running civil war.

Vote on a third lane for Panamá Canal is scheduled for Oct. 22
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Panama's President Martín Torrijos has authorized holding a referendum Oct. 22 on whether to expand the nation's canal.

Torrijos signed the measure Monday, two days after lawmakers agreed to the vote on the more than $5-billion project.

The plan would add a third set of locks to the canal to increase traffic and to allow larger vessels to transit
between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. There may be some hidden environmental dangers. See story HERE!

Officials say they plan to raise tolls at the canal and seek loans to finance the expansion.

Some Panamanian workers' unions say they oppose the building project, saying more money should be spent on social development.

Panama took over administration of the canal from the United States in 1999.

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Jo Stuart
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