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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, July 27, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 148       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Corn is a major element in queque de elote
 and a tamal asado de la abuela.

A variety of flour dishes includes tortillas, picadillos and a salad of bread and tomatoes.
Contest to set the record straight on Tico food
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has not distinguished itself as a nation of wonderful foods, but a cook-off Aug. 6 in Ciudad Colón aims to set the record straight and incorporated traditional dishes as the country's intangible heritage.

The contest has been run by the culture ministry since 2001. Even though the nation's kitchens do not produce show stoppers like Mexico's mole poblano or a Venezuelan arepa, there are a number of dishes that are traditional and can stand comparison with the better-known ones.

This contest is designed for cooks in Escazú, the Cantón de Mora and Santa Ana. And the cook-off will be held in the principal city of Mora, Ciudad Colón, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

The Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural and the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes want to show that Costa Rica is more than one set of typical foods. The country hosts countless regional variations, from Guanacaste, to the Central Valley, to the Afro-Caribbean diet of Limón to the very small regional variations caused by differences in agricultural practices. For example, Santa Ana is a major onion producing area.

Authenticity will be one of the points judges will be seeking. Three categories include the plato fuerte or main course, drinks and desert. First prizes range from 150,000 colons ($290) for the main course to half that for drinks. One past entry was a homemade jug of rompope, the sometimes alcoholic drink with a milk base.

Anyone, including expats, can enter by calling  223-2533, 255-3523, 249-2052,  282-9106 or 208-7513. But the catch is that the chef has to provide a written recipe that

Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud
y Deportes photos

Gallina enjarrada is filled with an egg and potato stuffing and cooked wrapped in a banana leaf.

will be archived by historians.

The Centro de Patrimonio is compiling recipes from each region of the country as the cook-offs are held there.

Historian Yanori Alvarez sees more than just recipes. She sees a cultural, geographical, agricultural and economic history of each region displayed in the diet. She is the coordinator of the contest.

The unique Costa Rican cooking began with the Indians and merged with the conquering Spanish.  Rice and beans, which make up the national dish gallo pinto, are a mainstay.

Every migration brought a more varied table. The 1870 construction of the railway brought many culinary options to the country. And, of course, high speed travel has opened the nation to an international kitchen tradition.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 27, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 148

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Lawmakers get more time
to accept Japanese loan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers just could not get around to accepting a $130 million loan from the Japanese Bank of International Cooperation.

The deadline will be Monday, but there is little chance of passage by then. Ricardo Sancho Chavarría, executive president of the Instituto de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, told lawmakers that he had to seek a 30-day extension from the Japanese bank manager, Hajime Takeuchi.

It was Sancho who went before lawmakers July 4 and urged them to hurry up and pass the measure. The money will be used to reconstruct the sewer system in the Central Valley and build a sewage treatment plant. Now Central Valley sewage flows into the Río Tarcoles and then the Gulf of Nicoya.

The loan is a favorable one with a low interest rate. But some lawmakers, remembering the corruption scandals of last year involving foreign loans, want a full study of the contract.

The metropolitan sewer system does not cover the whole area and where it does the pipes are rusted through in some cases. Large quantities of raw sewage flow into streams when rain infiltrates into the sanitary system.

Our readers’ opinion

Corruption costs more
than story suggested

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Poor countries are not plagued by corruption.  They are poor because of corruption.

When someone is bribed, the seller adds a lot more than the bribe to their price. Your story implied this added 5 to 7 percent to costs as the estimated amount of the bribes.  In fact, bribes raise prices by 300 percent or more because this corruption eliminates competition.  Once a bribe is accepted, the seller can charge whatever they please.

This inefficiency adds a huge burden to economies and drives efficient producers out of business.  Solutions:  Widespread sting operations in the thousands; independent, ongoing and secret with severe penalties can help solve the problem.

The concept of raising standards of living by the efficient use of labor and capital does not seem to be widely embraced in many countries.  Corruption is only one facet of that waste, but it is right up there with bureaucratic labyrinths.

Dan Reed
Byron, California

Sportsbook scandal
being downplayed in U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Under “Our Reader’s Opinions” in Tusday’s edition Señor John Holtz of Escazú asserts that the sportsbook scandal has been extensively reported by international media and virtually ignored by Costa Rican media.  I must rebut this at least as far as it pertains to U.S. media.

Two things up front before I continue.  First off, I do enjoy gambling (slot machines) and going to casinos but would never consider placing bets on the Internet or with a sportsbook.  People will always gamble and many become addicted to gambling.  It is a recognized disease.  The internet and sportsbooks make gambling too easily accessible to those addicted.

Second, I still currently reside in the U.S., in St. Petersburg, Florida, which has become known as the Tampa Bay Area.  The area is composed of the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and numerous small communities.  Within the area reside well over two million people.  We have two major newspapers, over five TV stations and numerous radio stations.

I found the initial reporting of this crackdown by the U.S. government extremely interesting as there was nothing mentioned either locally or on national news broadcasts I watch.  I found this very strange as about one and a half to two months prior there had been extensive reporting by both local and national news agencies of the U.S. government’s intended crackdown on Internet/sportsbook gambling.

After that initial coverage nothing else has been reported.  I receive the St. Petersburg Times each morning and read it extensively, scan the Tampa Tribune on-line, watch the local morning and evening news broadcasts on TV Channel 8 as well as the Today Show and the national evening news and occasionally during the day tune into CNN’s news up-date channel.  I also scan BBC news releases.

To this day I have only seen one mention of this crackdown and that was a short piece this evening on CBS’ evening news.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see the whole thing.  What I saw and heard simply mentioned that BetonSports, which had been closed down by the federal government, had fired David Carruthers as the company president.  The video portion showed a handcuffed and shackled Carruthers clad in an orange prison jumpsuit being led to a waiting car.  There has been no coverage by any type of local media at all.

I must add that I found the inside information provided by Señor Holtz most informative and interesting with it serving to solidify my opinion of internet/sportsbook betting.  Why the absence of coverage...who knows.  It’s not just the gambler, addicted or recreational, who has been taken advantage of here, it’s also the local employee trying to make a living to support theirself and their family.

Frank Walker
St. Petersburg, Florida

EDITOR’S NOTE: Although A.M. Costa Rica has published the most extensive group of stories on the BetonSports situation, The Wall Street Journal did come forth with a news story for Wednesday and the Spanish Agencia EFE S.A. Moved a story Wednesday at midday.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 27, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 148

Almost a five-day weekend for patriotism and Virgin
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The highway from San José to Cartago is about 23 kilometers, and it is but one of three major routes to the town.

Starting this weekend, all those routes will be congested with pilgrims on their way to do homage to the patroness of Costa Rica, the Virgen de los Angeles.

The feast day of the Virgin is Wednesday, and the day is a national holiday. Due to a new law, the weekend is an unusual one. Monday is a holiday, too.

It is the new and controversial date for Costa Ricans to celebrate the Annexation of the Partido de Nicoya. The actual date for that is July 25, but Costa Ricans have a three-day weekend, thanks to the new law.

Tuesday is the only day that stands in the way of a five-day weekend. But this is the day pilgrims will be on the move and will be converted into an unofficial holiday.

Perhaps as many as 2 million persons will make the trip from their homes to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, the site of the small statue venerated by Costa Ricans.

The weekend is the biggest effort of the year for police and Cruz Roja workers. Some pilgrims certainly will be injured, perhaps by vehicles and perhaps by fellow walkers. Some may die.

 Traffic deaths are possible with so many thousands of person on the road and at very early and very late hours.

 A Zarcero man died last year after being hit by a car on a service road alongside the Autopista General

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Cartago's basilica from the air

Cañas in La Uruca.  The motorist faced a drunk driving charge.

The Policía de Tránsito will be out in force, and some traffic in the Cartago area and along the approach routes will be detoured.

Not all who march to Cartago have religion on their mind. Some are crooks or worse, so Fuerza Pública officers will be stationed every few hundred feet. Thefts and other crimes of opportunity are the unpleasant prospect for a small number of pilgrims.

Officials are trying to crack down on the number of vendors who depend on the pilgrims, but walkers frequently depend on roadside stands for water and other drinks and food.

The faithful come on foot from as far as Panamá and Nicaragua.  Some come early and are back home by the time the Tuesday morning religious service takes place. Most officials attend.

Lawmakers decide to sidestep declaration on Jesus
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative commission shelved a hot potato Wednesday when it rejected a declaration that Jesus Christ has sovereignty over Costa Rica.

The action took place in the Comisión con Potestad Legislativa, and the vote was 11 to 3.

The measure had been proposed Nov. 11, 2003, during the previous legislative session. The proposal
was closely identified with Carlos Avendaño Calvo, an outspoken Christian.

At one point the vote on the measure was a tie, 7 to 7. Then it was approved on first reading 9 to 6. The vote Wednesday came on the second reading but with new legislative deputies.

All the expected arguments had been raised: that Costa Rica is now a pluralistic society and that the measure would have not real significance.

U.S. businessman and companion convicted in murder of associate
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen and his Colombian companion have been sentenced to 12 years each in prison in the death of Benjamin Daniel Wood, the Poder Judicial confirmed Wednesday. The trial ended last week.

Convicted were Dennis William Emmett and Sandra Corrales Chaverra. The charge was simple murder.

The murder happened April 15, 2005, in San Miguel de Turrùcares in the quinta La Piña Dorada where Wood, a long-time associate of Emmett, died from a gunshot wound to the head. The motive is still uncertain.

Judges Anameri Hall, Carolina Leiton and Franz Paniagua of the Tribunal de Juicio en Alajuela handed down the decision.

Passers-by discovered the body of Wood, also a U.S. citizen, where it had been dumped outside of San Miguel de Turrúcares.
At first the dumped body was unidentified, but a spokesperson for the Judicial Investigating Organization said that the major break in the case came when the victim’s Costa Rican girlfriend identified him.

When they knew the dead man was Wood, agents easily tied the death to the man for whom the victim worked, Emmett, said investigators at the time.

Emmett owned the quinta as well as a nearby commercial center, Centro la Garita. Wood worked as a maintenance man.

Private guards told investigators that they saw Wood enter the Emmett home and heard a loud discussion between Wood and the Corrales woman, agents said. But the guards were unaware of the murder.

Blood was found in a Range Rover automobile at the Emmett home, agents said.

Turrúcares is in the west end of the Central Valley near Atenas.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 27, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 148

Dead zone in gulf expected to be larger this year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The seasonal dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico will be about 40 percent larger than average this summer, according to a projection compiled for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The dead zone is an area in the Gulf of Mexico where seasonal oxygen levels drop to a point that does not sustain life in the bottom and near-bottom waters, causing a state called hypoxia. A scientist at Louisiana State University predicts the hypoxic zone will be almost 23,000 square kilometers (5.7 million acres) in 2006, compared to an average area of about 16,500 square kilometers (4.1 million acres) since 1990.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the results of the research this week.

Hypoxia is caused by a seasonal change in which algae growth, stimulated by nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from rivers flowing into the gulf, settles and decays in the bottom waters. The decaying algae consume oxygen faster than it can be replenished from the surface, leading to decreased levels of dissolved oxygen.

“We are anticipating a larger hypoxic zone this
summer because the nitrate loading this May, a critical month influencing the size of the area, is higher than last year,” said Eugene Turner of Louisiana State University.

Hypoxic waters can cause habitat loss, stress and even death to marine organisms, adversely affecting commercial harvests and the health of ecosystems.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cautioned, however, that the prediction is not absolute. The computer-modeling techniques used to make these projections are still in the experimental stages, although Turner’s method has demonstrated accuracy in past performance.

The increased levels of nitrogen flowing into the gulf come largely from the use of fertilizers on farmland. The rivers that drain into the gulf collect two-thirds of U.S. water flow as they meander through the agricultural heartland of the United States.

The research on the dead zone is part of a larger effort to develop a fundamental understanding of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem with a focus on the causes and effects of the hypoxic zone over the Louisiana continental shelf and the prediction of its extent and impacts on aquatic life.

Continued economic growth predicted for region for this year
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Latin America and the Caribbean will enjoy a fourth consecutive year of economic growth in 2006, reports a U.N. economic commission for the region.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean said the region's gross domestic product will grow by about 5 percent in 2006.  The forecast was made in a new report called "Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean, 2005-2006."  In 2007, the region’s gross domestic product is predicted to be 4.5 percent, which the commission said will be within the context of a moderate slowdown in the world economy.

The commission said the present economic expansion is spread across Latin America and the Caribbean, ranging between 3.5 percent and 6.5 percent for most
 countries of the region.  The exceptions are Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, with growth rates of over 7.5 percent, while in Haiti the growth rate will be at about 2.5 percent.

Caribbean nations are expected to grow in 2006 by 6.3 percent, South America by 5.4 percent, and Mexico and Central America by 4.1 percent, the comission said.

In an earlier report released in April, the commision had estimated that growth in the United States in 2006 would be slightly below the 3.5 percent rate achieved in 2005, probably approaching 3 percent.

The commission also has said that the implementation of the U.S. free-trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic will significantly increase the rate of investment in the Latin American region.

Castro celebrates the start of the Cuban revolution in 1953 attack
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BAYAMO, Cuba — Tens of thousands of Cubans gathered Wednesday in this eastern city to celebrate Cuba's Revolution Day.

President Fidel Castro, now almost 80, addressed the crowd. He said that more and more Cubans are reaching the age of 100 thanks to his Communist government's social services programs.

He joked that his "neighbor to the the north" (the United States) need not worry because he is not
planning on leading Cuba at that age.

On July 26, 1953, Mr. Castro led an attack on an army barracks (Moncada) in Santiago that marked the beginning of the armed struggle against the regime of then-dictator Fulgencio Batista. The barracks attack failed, with many of the assailants killed or imprisoned, including Castro. But it is seen as the official start of Cuba's revolution.

President Castro and other prisoners were released in May 1955 under an amnesty. He has been in power for 47 years.

Jo Stuart
About us

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