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These stories were published Friday, July 29, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 149
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Badilla steps down as head of immigration
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of the nation's immigration department has quit and will be replaced Monday.

He is Marco Badilla, who has served as director general of  Migración y Extranjería since  May 8, 2002.

The resignation was a surprise because the  immigration department has just completed a

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Marco Badilla
reorganization and a new law for immigration is nearing approval in the Asamblea Legislativa. Badilla played a key role in pushing the new law.

The announcement from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública was upbeat. Badilla was leaving because he has completed his goals, a formal statement, release Thursday afternoon,  said.  However, the
immigration department has been the source of many complaints since the restructuring.

The immigration department is where North American and European foreigners go to obtain residency and rentista or pensionado status. It also is where hundreds of Nicaraguans go each day in search of residency documents.

The ministry said in mid-May that the Dirección General de Migración has combined all the services for foreigners into one department. The new section of Extranjería includes what used to be the offices for pensionados, rentistas, refugees, residencias, temporary permission and amnesty. The restructuring began May 19, and the
immigration offices were closed for much of the week to customers. As a result, North Americans lost what they considered their own department that did not have the long lines and assembly line feeling typical of other departments.

Since then, those who help North American foreigners obtain residency have been unhappy with the need to schedule an appointment for even the most simple task, such as just dropping off a completed form.

The department also has been hit with its share of scandals. Blank passports have been stolen, employees have been validating documents falsely and more recently a series has been uncovered of what are presumed to be marriages faked so one of the partners could obtain residency.

Badilla and the department suffered setbacks when the Sala IV constitutional court ruled against some enforcement efforts. For example, the court took the side of Cuban and Asian marriage partners and basically halted an investigation into such unions arranged for immigration purpose.

The Sala IV also stopped the department from voiding the residency status of many North American rentistas and pensionados because of flawed paperwork. The immigration department took over the rentista and pensionado programs from the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo shortly after Badilla arrived.

The department has been in the news almost every week as agents directed by Badilla conduct sweeps of places where illegal foreigners congregate.

Johnny Marín Artavia, 35, a man with 11 years experience in the department, was named to replace Badilla. Marín, a lawyer, has been deputy director of immigration since June 1. Earlier he was the head of the legal department.  Roxana Quesada Zamora, 47, was named to the deputy director's job.


Once again many head to Cartago and Virgen de los Ángeles
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

That faint shuffling will grow in intensity over the weekend as hundreds of thousands of the faithful walk along country lanes, roads and major highways. They are timing their trip so that most will be in Cartago and the Basílica de los Ángeles by early Tuesday.

Tuesday is the feast day of the Virgen de los Ángeles, the patroness of the nation and perhaps the only individual who exceeds the popularity of fútbol.

Officials will meet today to outline their security plan for the pilgrims. Some come on foot from as far away as Panamá and
Nicaragua. Officials will provide a strong police presence to protect the walkers, and traffic police will block off lanes or cut off intersections to protect the pilgrims.

Tuesday is a holiday in Costa Rica, and even the U.S. Embassy will be closed  The day marks the 370 anniversary of the appearance of the Virgin in Cartago, according to Roman Catholic tradition. Employers have to pay their workers double if they are on the job Tuesday.

This is a special time for Cartago Catholics because the area has just been converted into a diocese and a bishop has been installed. More than a million will make the trek.


mmmm
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HERE!


 








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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 29, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 149

 
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Reaction to OK on free trade pact is predictable
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The reaction in Costa Rica and elsewhere to approval of the Central American free trade treaty in the United States was predictable.

Union leaders here repeated their threat that they would stage a general strike if President Abel Pacheco submits the treaty to the Asamblea Legislativa for possible ratification.

Pacheco said he would not do anything until the assembly passes the massive tax plan known as reforma fiscal.

Casa Presidencial noted that a committee is studying the free trade treaty and will give Pacheco an opinion by Sept. 17.

Now that the treaty has been approved by the U.S. House, supporters in Costa Rica have been reinvigorated. The organization representing private industry, the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones de la Empresa Privada, sent out a statement saying that Costa Rica would face many commercials risks if it did not join the pact.
 
Lita Haeger, president of the Association of Bi-National Chambers of Commerce in Florida, said  that the agreement was beneficial to the Central American economies, helping them develop by attracting more investment, be more competitive, and thereby creating employment and prosperity in these countries. Her umbrella organization includes a newly formed Costa Rican chamber in Florida.

In New York, Fitch Ratings today said that the passage of the agreement known as CAFTA will have positive economic implications for the Central American region and the Dominican Republic over the medium to long term.

Fitch has rated Costa Rica's foreign debt instruments BB.  "In Fitch's view, the CAFTA agreement could engender a virtuous cycle of higher foreign direct investment and higher growth in some countries," the company said in a statement. "Foreign companies may have an incentive to set up operations in these countries to take advantage of lower labor costs as
they will be guaranteed access to the U.S. market. However, the degree to which foreign direct investment will increase in the region will depend on the efforts made by these countries to improve their legal and regulatory environment, infrastructure facilities, and human capital. In some cases, such as in Costa Rica, the state monopolies in the telecommunications and insurance sector would have to be opened up to competition, which will indirectly benefit the industrial and services sector in that country as well."

In opposition, Leo W. Gerard. president of the United Steelworkers, said "The showdown in the House of Representatives that eked out a 217-215 approval of CAFTA was a vote for big business and not for America's working families." He praised his staff and some members of Congress for their "public commitment and vote against the job-destroying deal negotiated by the Bush administration."

"CAFTA lacked protections for workers' rights, it threatens good paying middle-class jobs, it expands the openings for companies to move out of the U.S. and it allows foreign employers to contest our environmental laws," said Gerard. "The 15 Democrats who voted wrong deserve the wrath of all working Americans, and the 27 Republicans who voted right against CAFTA deserve our thanks," he said as he provided a list of these lawmakers in his statement.

In contrast, the Semiconductor Industry Association applauded passage and said that the trade pact will liberalize the telecommunications and computer-related services sectors, key customer segments for semiconductor products. The agreement also includes strong E-commerce and intellectual property provisions important for the industry, the San Jose, Calif.-based organization of chip manufacturers said.

The free trade pact only lacks the signature of president George Bush to go into force. Most of the provisions will kick in Jan. 1, but a lot of the tariff reductions are stretched over 20 years. Nearly 80 percent of Costa Rica's exports to the United States would be tariff-free on the day it joins the agreement. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have ratified the treaty.

 
Our readers' opinions

He prays about impact
treaty would have here


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I could not agree more with Ralph Antonelli's article that was published on Page 2 of today's A. M. Costa Rica.  I live and work in America and the working-class people of America regret the day we allowed passage of NAFTA.
It has removed jobs from this country and has put a lot of small businesses under.  Large corporations flourish and the working man is losing any benefit or value that he ever had as Big Money seeks cheaper labor overseas.
I love Costa Rica and its beautiful people, and it will be a cloudy day when the full effects of CAFTA fall on the Tico's shoulders.  My prayers are with you.

Eric E. Scheuer
Warren, Michigan
    
Campaign contributions
are tied to trade vote


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The August 2005 issue of The Progressive magazine has this article in their "No Comment" section, i.e. it is true news that requires no further comment:

From the Washington Post:  "With the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in serious trouble, a prominent business leader recently laid it on the line:  Business groups are prepared to cut off campaign contributions to House members who oppose the pact.  'If you are going to vote against it, it's going to cost you,' said Thomas J. Donahue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

So even though the U.S. has now narrowly passed CAFTA, Costa Ricans should be very cautious.  Beware.  Clearly business groups have now come right out and threatened monetary sanctions for all of our elected "representatives" if they fail to take heed.

What a way to run a "democracy."  And King Geo. Bush wants to export this brand of "democracy" to all parts of the globe.  I see little difference between the U.S. style of getting things done and the bribery and corruption that the U.S. always complains about in other countries.

Judith Loring
Stevensville, Montana
     
Costa Rica should be
wary of U.S. and firms


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Interestingly, the letters published today regarding the free trade agreement and the article regarding U.S. efforts to improve their image in Latin America are strongly related and of much interest.

While the US villifies Hugo Chavez, he is respected in South America and has taken a position of leadership in various initiatives there. I believe he recently took on a major role in the OEA and that his only real challenge as far as relations in Latin America are with Columbia, the one country that the U.S. uses as it's "example" to Latin America. Sadly, Columbia is not a very good example to use, it is a warring nation with problems that preceded the U.S. intervention and will probably continue long after the U.S. has lost interest. That the U.S. "invests" $300 million a year in military aid,  pouring gasoline on a fire that started long ago doesn't impress many Latin Americans .

One letter mentioned that sovereignty was a basic issue regarding free trade, but what all of these articles and letters point to are issues of sovereignty. Do we, like the U.S., want to be controlled by multi-national nameless, faceless corporations who have NO LOYALTY to any country, any human, any moral or religious principles, whose only loyalty is to the "shareholders" who, by the way, are generally primarily the board of directors and executives? 

The issues presented by Free Trade agreements ARE issues of sovereignty, the issues of the bad image of the U.S. government in Latin America are also generally related to a lack of respect on the part of the U.S. for the sovereignty of other nations.

Perhaps it all boils down to sovereignty of nations and individuals. Are we willing to give up ours here to multi-national corporations? Are we willing to give it up to the U.S.?  Everyone who lives in these parts knows that as far as respecting sovereignty the U.S. has a LONG way to go! While the U.S. talks a good story, their record speaks for itself. Throughout the world, US intervention, invited or uninvited, has left scars that run through the fabric of many countries, from Nicaragua to Chile, from the Middle East throughout Europe....

It is truly time that the U.S. take care of it's own problems at home and give the rest of the world the gift of controlling it's own destiny. Just a theoretical idea, but, all those guarantees of liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the U.S. Constitution should, perhaps, be the rights for everyone in the world? Not just some elite few, nor for some faceless corporation, but for individual human beings everywhere? The U.S. government has overthrown democratically elected governments in Latin America more than a few times. Should we consider that given the opportunity they might try it again? Only this time using one of the most powerful of all human motivations? Like GREED? And doing so with their partnership with multi-national corporations?

I think that the Costa Rican government should be very wary of the U.S. government and powerful multi-national corporations. They are a little mouse staring down a huge crocodile. In these situations, caution is highly adviseable. Hugo Chavez has been staring down the crocodile and proved himself a smart mouse and a worthy advesary, if the U.S. isn't careful they will create more smart mice.

Robbie Felix
Quepos-Manuel Antonio

Mexican dance group here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Mexican folklore ballet group Cuerami, from Morelia, Michoacán, is scheduled to visit Desamparados, said a press release issued by the town. 

The group should perform Monday at Parque Centenario, Tuesday at the San Miguel church and Thursday at the Instituto Cultural Mexicano.  All performances are at 7 p.m., said the press release.  

The 11-year-old Cuerami group is influenced by indigenous dances from throughout the state of Michoacán, the release said.
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


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formerly with  Carico and now with Great Estates
15 years Costa Rican
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Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000

Member of
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samargo@racsa.co.cr
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Legal services


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E-mail: legalxpt@racsa.co.cr
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A week full of some good news and one pretty bad
A letter from two readers who have just completed a visit to Costa Rica reaffirms what others (and I) experience in our encounters with Ticos.  They say,

“What we liked most about the country was stated in your article last week; the people. The Ticos that we encountered were gentle, sincere, welcoming and eager to help. We are aware that we experienced the people and culture in a “sheltered” environment in that we did things and went places as a group on a tour . . . . However, at the end of our tour we took a SANSA flight to Palmar Sur on our own and found that our experiences in this part of the country were matched by what we had enjoyed elsewhere.
 
We were especially fond of the area around Arenal and Tilirán. We met some wonderful people who call Costa Rica home and learned so much about the political, economical, cultural and historical aspects of the country.”

But hot on the heels of this glowing report was my stunned reaction when I joined two friends from Atenas for lunch.  One of them (I’ll call her Dee) had her arm in a sling and about 20 stitches on her upper arm, plus huge bruises on her thigh and other arm. While taking a walk with a friend she was attacked by a dog.

A German shepherd had broken his leash and leapt upon her before she could escape.  As much as the two women screamed, no one came to their rescue, least of all the guard in charge of the dog.  As wounded as she was, Dee finally grabbed the dog’s collar and had to march him to the guard’s house before she could get help.  By this point I would have just fainted.  Because of a childhood experience I have a fear of dogs that I must overcome with each new encounter.  The owner of the dog, who happens to be a Tico, is paying for Dee’s medical bills, which include plastic surgery to repair the extensive damage to her arm.

I tell this story in detail because this is a growing problem in this country.  Many people have guard dogs but too many of them mistreat or neglect their
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

animals so that they become vicious even when unprovoked.  This particular dog has attacked other people, and the owner has been taken to court, promising to keep the dog in safe custody. 

But this week was also marked by a celebration.  Mavis Biesanz was 86. Mavis, practically an icon to much of the expat community here, is the author of many books, including “The Costa Ricans” and later an updated version with her children, to “The Ticos,” a book I often recommend to people interested in learning about the people and culture of this little country. 

A friend and neighbor of Mavis, Pon, from Thailand, had a birthday lunch for Mavis, and I was invited.  Pon’s home is high in the hills (mountains?  I am never sure when a hill becomes a mountain), of Escazú.

Designed by two architects, with much help from Pon’s husband, their house has been featured in two architectural magazines. One steps down into the large airy living/dining room area. The opposite wall is entirely glass with French doors about 18 feet high looking onto a terrace and a breathtaking view.

 We were just six women – representing three countries – and conversation never lagged from noon until nearly 4 covering every topic one can imagine from war and peace, politics, family and marriage and personal histories.  This, as we enjoyed Thai dishes.  

It was my kind of afternoon.  I considered myself very lucky: I had attended Mavis’ 80th birthday party, held six years ago at the Country Club in Escazú.  This was more fun because it was up close and personal. And I got to know better some very interesting women.



A report on some nice people who are doing well
As any sports fan knows, it is hard to remain objective and be a fan at the same time. I do my best, but, admittedly, I root for the very nice people who work extremely hard in the restaurant business. I get a kick out of seeing my favorites succeed against long odds. Some of the most talented don’t make it.

Reviews reflect the reality of a single week or month. Owners, suppliers and chefs change frequently. Revisits are therefore a must.
 
My post office box is in Alajuela. Nearly two years ago, Joan and I watched with delight as a new Tex-Mex restaurant, Jalapeños Central, opened a half block before the post office on the same one-way street. We met the owners early on. Norman and Isabel Florez were incredibly charming and industrious newlyweds. Their roots are Columbian. He grew up in New York and learned to cook Tex-Mex in Los Angeles. At first, the restaurant was not different from dozens of other bare-bones sodas with a theme. Their entire menu was written on a small chalkboard over the counter. The décor was nonexistent. They survived on personal and excellent service and affordable, but limited choices.
 
The menu now covers three chalkboards. The décor is festive with murals, pictures, fake chili peppers and an obvious Mexican feel to the lively place. More important, it teems with smiling faces, mostly gringos, greeted warmly by Norman by name amid handshakes and cheek kisses. The patrons enjoy their host and hostess, the happening atmosphere and the food.

The quality and variety of the fare has improved over time.  The prices are still rock bottom. Full plates are ¢1,650 at lunch (¢480 colons to the U.S. dollar) and only a little more at dinner. Included with the main courses are rice, beans, guacamole, pico de gallo and a fruit drink. Nothing costs more than ¢2,000 and there are several individual items for well under ¢1,000. Nothing is as spicy as it might be in Mexico. The chili con carne has a satisfying authentic flavor. The hot sauce on the side is very flavorful and affords enough kick to suit most tastes. My friend Marty grew up in a part of San Francisco that was heavily populated by Mexicans and he thought the chimichanga he had at Jalapeños Central was the best ever.
 
The menu is simple and straightforward. From flautas to quesadillas, salads in tortilla cups, enchiladas, chalupas, burritos, and fajitas, there are no surprises, just fresh quality ingredients prepared simply. Breakfast items are the draw primarily for Saturday mornings, but also for weekday brunches; choices include a breakfast burrito, huevos rancheros and a ranchera omelet.

The style is Tex-Mex, not complex sophisticated Mexican haute cuisine. Nothing is greasy, stale or wilted. Earl Willis, who supplies desserts for Teatro Nacional, does theirs as well from his La Casa de Chocolate in Santa Barbara.  Hooray for Norman and Isabel and the fruits of their labors over two years. Jalapeños Central is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, closed on Sunday and open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.Telephone: 430-4027   ** $.


At Earthly Delights, Mario the waiter and Pablo the chef have replaced the New Jersey couple as partners with Marco and Wendy, four lovely people. The menu has been expanded to include new salads, homemade fresh pasta, more home-baked choices, falafel and an imaginative Sunday brunch beginning at 10 am. More diners are discovering their fabulous vegetarian flavors in Ciudad Colón.
Dr. Lenny Karpman

On 
the 
food
we eat

 
 
Satto is a Korean and Japanese restaurant in the block of  Paseo Colón closest to Sabana Park. I reviewed it about a year ago and was impressed with the authenticity of its Korean menu, particularly its steamed dumplings (mantu). A few months ago, a diminutive soft spoken gentleman from the Korean seaport of Inchon bought the restaurant. He installed a new chef, a Korean woman and amended the name to Satto Sushi & Roll. The food is as good or better than before.

My beloved dumplings are still on the menu, but in a soup. If you are not a fan of spicy fermented cabbage (kimchi) or cooking marinated steak strips (bulgoki) at your table, go for the Japanese menu. The Korean dinners include tasty little dishes of bean sprouts, spinach, sliced meat and kimchi, plus rice and soup and fresh fruit for dessert (Korean dinners cost from ¢3,000 to ¢3,650).

The Japanese dumplings (gyoza) are sensational and are part of a few of the lunchtime bento boxes (¢2,450-3650). As an a la carte appetizer, gyozas cost ¢1,700. The enormous variety of Japanese dinners run ¢3,000 to ¢5,000. Sushi made from fresh local fish runs about ¢1,150 an order – imported fish choices average ¢600 to ¢800 more.
 
Tourists from two nearby hotels flock there to take advantage of free Internet and cheap phone calls to the U.S. More Korean patrons than I knew existed here, frequent the restaurant for dinner. It is my favorite place for Korean food. ** to ***,  $$-$$$.
Telephone: 221-3331.
 


As I feared, the labor intensive, very nice dim sum at Lotus never attracted the following I thought it deserved, so they discontinued their Saturday and Sunday morning offering.


 
Colbert, the fine French restaurant in Vara Blanca, not only is surviving its remote location, but a nice review in the Let’s Go travel guide has brought in many tourists headed for Poas volcano or La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Business is good and the diners are pleased.

For those of us he has spoiled with his marvelous loaves of French bread and his pastries, Joel tells me that we can get them all on Paseo Colón. He and his wife bake them in Vara Blanca before sunrise and she transports them daily to her patisserie, Boudsocq, between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut, 100 meters from both, on the same side of the street.
  

 
  
Despite Leo Durocher, who said that nice guys finish last, in the grueling restaurant business, nice guys who work very hard sometimes do very well.


Month-long culture festival in Limón starts Monday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The annual month-long black culture festival in Limón is scheduled to start Monday and run through the end of the month. 

The festival, started by Alfred Josiah Henry Smith in 1949, is designed to celebrate life in Limón with gospel and calypso music, Caribbean dance and poetry, songs, theater and a parade. 

Other events include a contest for typical foods and drinks of Limón, a children's talent show, and skits to honor Mayor Benjamín Lynch and Marcus Garvey, who had ties to Costa Rica and visited here in the early part of the 20th century.

The crowning events of the festival are the coronation
of the black beauty queen the evening of Aug. 27 and the Día del Negro Aug. 31. 

King died in May at 87.  The funeral procession to the local cemetery was said to be like the carnival he started with dancers and bands.

He had 17 children which may have led him to become a father figure through his leadership in the Universal Negro Improvement Association of Limón. 

King was born in Pococí in 1917.  His name came from “The King,” a nickname he earned winning dance contests as a young man.

The Universal Negro Improvement Association's headquarters in Limón is known as the Black Star Line. 


Bush taps congressional staffer to hasten Castro's exit from Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President George Bush has named a veteran congressional staff official, Caleb McCarry, to the post of transition coordinator for Cuba. McCarry will coordinate U.S. policy efforts aimed at a peaceful end to Communist rule in Cuba.

The selection of a transition coordinator was among recommendations of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba that reported to President Bush in May of last year on ways to hasten the end of the Fidel Castro dictatorship in Cuba.

The announcement that McCarry will fill the position was made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who told a gathering at the State Department, including leaders of the Cuban-American community, that the aim of U.S. policy is to "accelerate the demise" of Castro's tyranny on the Caribbean island:

"I know that a lot of hard work lies ahead, but the people of Cuba desire and deserve to share in the democratic progress of the Americas," she said. "With Caleb's help and the help of others in this room, the United States is going to hasten the coming of the day when a free Cuba is no longer a dream, but a reality.
McCarry has spent the last eight years as a senior Republican staff member specializing in Latin America for the House International Relations Committee. Prior to that he was vice president of the Americas program at the Center for Democracy.

He told the State Department audience that while the Cuban dictatorship conspires in darkness to perpetuate itself, the United States through last year's commission report has made a public statement on what it is prepared to do to help Cubans secure their rights to liberty and prosperity:

"For 46 years, the dictatorship has willfully and cruelly divided the Cuban family," he said. "It will be Cubans, brave souls on the island itself and from around the world who will determine the future of a free Cuba. It is the responsibility of the civilized world to act to see that the Cuban family is reunited under political and economic freedom."

In addition to recommending the appointment of the transition coordinator, the 2004 commission report also urged a number of steps endorsed by President Bush, including spending nearly $60 million to promote Cuban democratization and overcome the jamming of U.S. broadcasts to Cuba.


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