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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, July 21, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 144       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Capital becomes the target for slow-moving taxi protest

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Taxi drivers had Central Valley residents seeing red Thursday, the fourth day of protests in the country.

Drivers carried their slow-moving, traffic-tying protests to the heart of the capital, including to the doorway of the Asamblea Legislativa.

They are unhappy that the commercial code allows drivers without taxi permits to "contract" transportation services. In fact, many of the porteadores simply work as taxi drivers. Taxi drivers want the law changed.

Higher fuel prices, a dwindling user base and economic pressures have made taxi drivers less forgiving. So they took to downtown streets, such as Avenida Central in San Pedro at left, and major highways to express their feelings.

Charity began at home for her, agents claim
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman who collected money for an association to aid the elderly poor was in prison today because investigators said she was only helping herself and an associate.

The woman ran a charity called Asociación Pro-ayuda al Anciano Emanuel. She collected money all over the country. But agents said that there was no charitable use of the funds and that the association did not ever have a permanent location of a phone.

The woman, who has the last name of Arias, was remanded to El Buen Pastor, the woman's prison, Thursday.

The way the alleged charity was run proved to be its undoing.  The woman and a male associate who still is at large sold numbered
"shares" in the enterprise, agents said. As an added enticement, donors were told that if their share numbers matched those of a national lottery winner they would get several days free at a fancy hotel.

When a donor actually matched the winning lottery numbers with his share, he contacted the listed hotel, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. The hotel management said it never had heard of the association. A judicial complaint followed.

Some 1,000 persons gave money to the woman, and agents expect to locate more, they said. The couple collected some 100 million colons or about $190,000 during a  two-year period, agents estimated.

The woman was detained when agents raided her home in Paso Ancho Thursday.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 144

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Figaro getting married
three times this weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An experimental and minimalist presentation of the Mozart classic opera, "The Marriage of Figaro," will be staged three times this weekend: Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

The comic opera is one of the most presented in North America, but promoters here said that this effort will be presented in Costa Rica for the first time. All curtains are at 7 p.m. in the Centro Nacional de Cultura east of Parque España. The opera will be in the Teatro de la Danza of the complex.

Figaro, the former Barber of Seville in another Mozart classic, is Mario Phillips. The role of his bride, Susana, is sung by both Rebeca Viales and Sofía Corrales. These are Costa Ricans chosen with a rigorous selection process last year and earlier this year, according to Kajsa Boström, music director.

This year is the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth.

The opera is one of a lusting count, misunderstandings and settling scores during one day of castle life in Spain. The work debuted in 1786. It is based on a sarcastic book by a French author, but Mozart wisely left out some of the barbs directed at the upper classes.

Tickets from 3,000 to 15,000 colons ($29) are available at www.mundoticket.com and at 206-7675.

Nandayure corn festival
scheduled for Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Next Tuesday may not be a national holiday, but residents of the Guanacaste community of Nandayure are going ahead with their corn festival.

The first-time festival will include a parade with floats and a dance organized by the Grupo de Proyección Folklórica de Nandayure and the municipality.

The feature will be the great variety of food dishes based on corn or maíz.

All the activities including the crowning of a queen and the dance finale will be in the community's central park.

Tuesday, July 25, is the anniversary of the annexation of the Partido de Nicoya that made Guanacaste part of Costa Rica instead of Nicaragua. That was in 1824. The day has been celebrated as a national holiday for years.

However, last year the Asamblea Legislativa created a series of three-day weekends. One of the observances moved was that of July 25, which will be celebrated Monday, July 31, this year.

One citizen has decided to fight the change and has brought an action in the Sala IV constitutional court. But most believe his chances of success are small.

300 Costa Ricans reported
to be in bleeding Lebanon

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

About 300 Costa Ricans are in war-ravaged Lebanon, the foreign minister told lawmakers Thursday. However, only two citizens have sought help via the honorary consul, Riad Ab El Baki, he said.

The foreign minister, Bruno Stagno, was appearing before the Comisión de Asuntos Internacionales of the Asamblea Legislativa.

He said that a Costa Rican woman with a child sought help and was transported to a third country. A minor also sought help and was safely evacuated, he said.

The government of Panamá has offered to make available its embassy in Greece if the need arises, he said.

New British ambassador
delivers his credentials

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thomas J. Kennedy, the new British ambassador, presented his credentials to President Óscar Arias Sánchez Thursday.

He comes from Bordeaux, France, where he was consul general. He has served in Buenos Aires, too.

His appointment had been announced, and the ceremony Thursday was the last step in taking over the post vacated by Georgina Butler, who received another assignment.

The ambassadors from Spain, Arturo Reig Tapia, and the ambassador of Honduras, Marco Antonio Hepburn Collier, also presented credentials.

Youngster held as armed robber

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 16-year-old pulled an unregistered gun on two high school students Thursday and tried to hold them up, according to police.

Fuerza Pública officers nearby saw the incident and managed to disarm the young robber, they said. The incident took place at Vásquez de Coronado.

Police had noticed him because he was acting suspicious, they said. They were surprised to find that the weapon was real and not a toy.

Two held in Orotina robbery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A couple who are suspected in several robberies in the town of Orotina have been arrested. Two other persons are being sought.

The gang is suspected of holding up a pedestrian and taking a cellular telephone and then sticking up a shoe store, police said.
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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, Friday, July 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 144

Costa Rican medical tourism continues to grow
I was taking Betty Friedan to the fifth floor ladies room in the Gran Hotel de Costa Rica because it was nicer than the first floor one.  (She was visiting my friend Bill White, and a group of us were having breakfast in the restaurant.) In the elevator a youngish blond woman with a slightly battered face looked at Ms. Friedan and said

“Aren’t you er ah — Don’t I know you?”

“Probably,” replied Ms. Friedan.

“Are you here for a face-lift?” the unfortunate woman asked.

“Why?  Do I look like I need one?” Ms. Friedan shot back.

“Oh, no! No!” the poor woman sputtered.  After more verbal stumbling, the blond said brightly, “I just had a face-lift and a tummy tuck, here.  The doctor was excellent and you can’t beat the price.” 

The conversation didn’t go further because we had reached the fifth floor.
This was a number of years ago.  Today it is not unusual to see someone (usually a woman) with a slightly black and blue face, in a public place. Medical tourism, especially cosmetic surgery, is big here. 

That soon-to-be younger looking blonde was from the U.S. as are about 95 percent of the people who come here.  They come for medical treatments not covered by their insurance in the U.S. and for plastic surgery and dental work because it is between 50 and 70 percent cheaper than in the States, and for the most part, the doctors and dentists are excellent. Even staying for the length of recuperation (and taking advantage of visiting other parts of the country), people save money.  And happily for the tourism business, many people don’t come alone. 
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

One reason the blonde was so pleased was that her face-lift probably cost her between $3,000 and $5,000 and her liposuction about the same.  It could have cost her as much as $20,000 in the States.  Dental implants cost an average of $1,500, and cosmetic dentistry for that beautiful smile that everyone seems to want today, runs between $6,000 and $8,000.  Breast augmentation starts at $2,700.  Even adding the expense of a week in a five-star hotel or a bed and breakfast catering to medical tourists, the patient who comes here saves money — and gets a wonderful vacation at the same time.

Just as in any profession, there are those practitioners to be avoided. Sometimes general practitioners will advertise that they do cosmetic surgery and perform operations that only the specialized surgeons with a lot of experience should be performing.  Therefore, check things out beforehand.  The Colegio de Médicos y Cirujanos de Costa Rica is (506) 232-3433.  If you call that number and give them the name of the doctor you are considering, they will tell you his or her qualifications.   There also is the Costa Rican Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, the Society of Plastic Surgery of Costa Rica, plus several companies that will provide an entire package, including references, housing and tours.

In the day and age, with so much threatening us from all sides, people are afraid to show their age, but want to look young and beautiful, thinking that will make them happier, more successful, and more acceptable.  Not so Betty Friedan, yet she seemed to achieve it all.

Black Star Line in Limón

Restaurante La Mazorca in San Pedro
Two historic structures share heritage prize for 2006
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two historic Costa Rican buildings are the winners of this year's national heritage contest.

The first is the Black Star Line in Limón which figures deeply in the Afro-Caribbean culture there. Built in 1922, the building was and is the headquarters of the United Negro Improvement Association.

The second structure was the first school in San Pedro de Montes de Oca, east of San José. It is now the Restaurante La Mazorca. Constructed of brick at the beginning of the 20th century, it served as the school from 1908 to 1940.

In both cases, more than the buildings entered into the judges' decision. Limón is about to undergo a major redevelopment promoted by the World Bank. The Black Star Line is the most historic structure there, sharing the history of the Caribbean workers who came to the country in the 1870s to work building the railroad and developing banana plantations. It also is strongly
linked to Jamaican Marcus Garvey, a proponent of black nationalism and founder of the Black Star shipping line.

Vernon Sinclair Wade, president of the improvement association, and Charlotte Wright of the Black Star Line were present to accept the award.

The San Pedro structure is on the Calle de la Amagura, the recreational strip near the Universidad de Costa Rica and the location of many bars, an area that judges said were problemática. The structure was known as the Escuela del Mojòn.

Manuel Ivan Benites and Ruy Larragon, owners of the former school, said the restoration will include integrating a cultural space for the community.

The contest is an annual one, and the winners each get 50 million colons (about $97,000) that will go toward restoration of the buildings. The contest is run by the  Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes. There were 16 entries this year.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 21, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 144

An analysis of the news
A Calderón government would be a friend to U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexicans are still not completely sure who won their presidential election, more than two weeks after the voting.  Official results showed ruling party candidate Felipe Calderón winning by less than six-tenths of a percentage point over leftist rival Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has challenged the results.

If the legal challenges fail and Calderón is officially declared the winner, as is expected, he would keep Mexico on the same free-market and free trade track it has been on under President Vicente Fox. 

President George Bush and other U.S. officials have consistently said the United States will work with whichever candidate is declared the winner in Mexico. But the apparent victory by Felipe Calderón certainly presents Washington with fewer problems.

López Obrador is viewed by many business leaders in México and the United States as a more volatile and problematic figure who would seek changes in the North American Free Trade Agreement, called NAFTA, which binds Mexico commercially with the United States and Canada. Calderón, on the other hand, is a Harvard graduate who wants to expand Mexico's trade relations.

Business leaders at the Houston World Affairs Council were given a glimpse at what a Calderón government might do, just prior to the election.

Arturo Sarukhan, Calderón's international affairs coordinator, says trade relations are a priority. "There is no relationship more important for the future well-being of México than the relationship with the United States."

Sarukhan says Calderón sees benefits from NAFTA and other trade agreements that go well beyond imports and exports. "We have become a much more accountable nation. We have become much more open to the world, much more anchored in the world, as a result of NAFTA. In many ways, we believe that foreign policy today in México should help to anchor democratic change in México."
Sarukhan said in an interview that the major irritant of illegal Mexican immigration to the United States can be overcome through a bilateral effort.

"México, certainly, has to do its part of the work in generating the growth and the opportunities that its society needs and demands, but we also have to understand that there is a very important pull factor on this side of the border."

Sarukhan said Calderón also would favor opening the state-owned oil company, Pemex, to limited foreign investment. "We think that, if we can do this, we can make Pemex much more accountable, much more transparent, much more cost efficient and provide the types of resources that we need to tap into, to provide the type of investment to boost México and make it competitive with the likes of India and China today in the world."

But such an opening, however small, would require a change in the Mexican constitution. That would not be easy, given the divisions in Congress and the society at large. Many Mexicans remain leery of the United States. But members of a rising middle class are more open to change.

Sarukhan says President Vicente Fox's policies have contributed to the growth of the middle class. He believes that growth would continue if Calderón becomes president.

"This is probably the first time since the 1970's where you are starting to see the resurgence of an urban, lower-middle class that is, for the first time, able to access credit to buy a house, to buy a car, to send the kids to a summer holiday," he said.  "And I think there is a feeling today that people are better off than their parents were a generation ago."

But about half of Mexico's population still lives in poverty. Many of the poor see little benefit from economic liberalization.

They back the challenges from the left and could make it even more difficult for Calderón to govern effectively if he does eventually assume office.

Venezuela's Chávez off on a seven-country tour that includes Russia
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is embarking on a two-week tour that will take him to seven countries.

Chávez was to visit Brazil before continuing on to Argentina for a summit today of the South American trade bloc, Mercosur.

From South America, the Venezuelan president travels
to Belarus before visiting Russia. In Moscow, he is expected to sign a military agreement allowing Caracas to purchase Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighter planes and small arms.

Chávez is also seeking rights to build a manufacturing plant for Kalashnikov assault rifles in Venezuela.

During the tour, Chávez will also visit Qatar, Iran and Vietnam.

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