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(506) 2223-1327                   Published Friday, Aug. 1, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 152                    E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Black Beauty candidates
Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes photo
Candidates for the Miss Black Beauty competition Aug. 23.
Michelle Matturen Birch, Dayna Monterrosa Bryan, Aisha Robinson Uphan,
Denicka Salmon Rodríguez and Shanell Donaldson Cánica.

Limón gearing up for its big festival this month
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Luisa Hutchinson had the eyes of more than 100 kindergartners glued to her every move as she shouted and sprinted across the sunlit room. She got
Ms. Hutchinson
claps, cheers, and shouts of encouragement in unison before her performance was even completed.

Ms. Hutchinson is not an acrobat, a singer, or a dancer. She is a storyteller and captivates her young audience by interacting with them and expressing every emotion imaginable in her face and waves of her arms.
“I have been telling stories since I was a little girl,” said Ms. Hutchinson, who donned a neon lime skirt
and a traditional ruffled blouse Thursday. Most Ms. Hutchinson's stories were told to her when she was young, she said. Now Ms. Hutchinson travels to schools in Limón and San José sharing lessons to classes of eager listeners. She participated in a preview of the black culture festival at the  Centro Nacional de la Cultura Thursday.

Students listened wide eyed as Ms. Hutchinson told a spiced up version of the prodigal son and an adventurous story about the tricky spider Anansi, who is an emblem of folklore in Western Africa that has made his way around the world.

But traditional stories are just the start of the upcoming celebration. Gospel music will float through the air and Limonese dancers will pound their feet to the ground as the national black culture festival, the X Festival de la Cultura Negra, takes
 off next week in Limón.  The festival was started 10 years ago by a group in Limón worried about the black population losing traditional values. This year's theme is “Back to our Roots.”

“We want the press to realize that Limón is not only crime,” said Haydee Jiménez, coordinator of the civic committee during the conference Thursday. “We have so much more to offer.” Ms. Jiménez said tourists come to Costa Rica to experience culture, food, dance, song, and Limón has all that and more.

The founding group, Comité Cívico Cultural Etnico Negro, has tried to cultivate culture, values, education and civics through the annual event and other activities.

The first big event will be the Costa Rican Calypso Festival Aug. 8, at the Black Star Line in Limón. Calypso groups from all over the country will start the show at 8 p.m. The Miss Black Beauty competition is Aug. 23 at  8 p.m. Candidates are
Michelle Matturen Birch, Dayna Monterrosa Bryan, Aisha Robinson Uphan, Denicka Salmon Rodríguez and Shanell Donaldson Cánica.

Events continue through the month and culminate in the Gran Parade de Gala at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 31 in Limón. That day is the Día del Negro y de la Cultural Afrocostarricense.

“Get up cross the  Zurquí, the culture of Limón is waiting for you,” is the committee's invitation for everyone to come attend the events.  The Zurquí is the mountain tunnel on highway 32 north of San José. "This is not just for the people of Limón, what we want is that Costa Ricans are aware and closer to this part of our own identity. As we discover as multi ethnic and multicultural, we will be stronger and we will have more angles to show the world," said Ms. Jiménez.

Environmental tribunal says it has 40 open cases
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's environment police has 40 open cases as a result of four sweeps through the Caribbean, Guanacaste and Puntarenas province  from March through July, the agency said Thursday.

This is the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo. The sweeps were of development projects and houses. The agency said that it had 13 cases in Guanacaste after having visited just the cantons of Santa Cruz and Carrillo. There are six cases in central Pacific cantons of Garabito and Parrita, and in the south Pacific in the Canton de Osa there are 15 cases. Some six cases originated in the Caribbean coast.

Some projects have been frozen. Some early cases resulting in closings and developers are negotiating remediation of the landscape. Other cases still are in investigation. The primary concern of the tribunal is destruction of the landscape.

The tribunal in a news release singled out the Sea Breeze Mountain development in Las Delicias de Santa Cruz for special notice. The development includes four mountains, and the tribunal said that developers had constructed a network of roads. The problems include road cuts at 90-degrees from the horizontal, development in a waterway and the destruction of a number of trees.
ste removal at the Barceló Playa Langosta.
Also singled out was the Hotel Hyatt Azulera in Playa Brazilito where the tribunal said that permission was granted for cutting an excessive number of trees by the local office of the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

In Playa Panamá the tribunal said it halted work on the Condo Hotel Loma Linda where the investigation centers on the extensive movement of earth and the cutting of trees. In Cuajiniquil de Santa Cruz the Proyecto Marbelleza is being investigated because tribunal experts said they found obstructions to three waterways and a kilometer of roads in a dry tropical forest.

In Tempate de Santa Cruz, the tribunal said it found a 52-unit apartment complex being built without a single permit. The press release identified the project as Villas Mediterraneous.

In Potrero the tribunal froze work on a gigantic home of some 650 square meters (nearly 7,000 square feet) because it said the project lacked environmental viability. The structure is perched on a hill and has a turret. The neighbors have dubbed it El Castillo. The tribunal said the home is owned by a German.

The tribunal said it also found a violations of the 50-meter restricted maritime zone at the Tamarindo Diriá hotel and sought a plan for waste removal at the Barceló Playa Langosta.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 152

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All feet head to Cartago
today for La Negrita

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the big day for pilgrims on their way to Cartago. An estimated 2 million persons will either be on the route involved in worship at the basilica there.

The major religious celebration is Saturday, the Roman Catholic feast day of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles,m the nation's patroness. In order to be present at the morning ceremonies and the veneration of the dark statute of the Virgin and Child known as La Negrita, pilgrims will try to arrange their trip so that they arrive tonight.

The crush of pilgrims, or romeros as they are called in Spanish, is so great that a major chore would be walking west, away from Cartago, this evening on the pedestrian mall in San José, weather permitting.

The route is heavily guarded. The Policía de Tránsito alone says it will  have 180 officers between the Fuente de Hispanidad at Mall San Pedro and the basilica. Some 16 more officials, inspectors, will be checking on buses.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes has authorized 180 more buses on the various routes to Cartago. Pilgrims may walk to the basilica, but most want to ride home.

The toll for the Autopista  Florencio del Castillo will be suspended at 6 p.m. today through 6 a.m. Saturday.

Pilgrims have been facing unsettled weather, although there have been no serious incidents reported. Officials are warning about the possibility of lightning strikes.

The pilgrimage is more than a religious experience. It is a social one, too. And even politicians will be in the audience for the ceremony Saturday. President Óscar Arias Sánchez will not be. He will be heading by by air from Brazil where he made an official visit.

Our reader's opinion
More jobs are the answer
to making country better

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I read your paper everyday here from the States.  My wife is a Tica and we own a small property with a few apartments that we rent out near Heredia.  Our biggest problem is not being able to be in Costa Rica more, maybe someday. 

You said today that you wanted some input into what expats can do to help and solve some of the problems in Costa Rica.  The first thing I feel is to provide jobs.  Right now there is a big gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”  and it is getting bigger, and that gap leads to drugs and crime, and that is a big problem not only in Costa Rica but in most of the world right now.  If the expats in Costa Rica would start small businesses, at least they would be helping put food on someone’s table, which will go a long way. 

The second thing is to support the education system in some way.  The kids are the future, and when they are educated and then able to make a good living, they will not turn to drugs and crime.  People have to have hope for their future and if we can do the things, even the small things to give people some hope then I think we have done a lot. 

Another problem, and this is one of my pet peeves, is that wherever North Americans go they want to change that country and make it like home.  Why not just enjoy a country for its own uniqueness?  Why do the stores, the restaurants, the homes, the streets all have to look like they do up north? Why do they have to buy up large tracts of land and build million dollar homes? 

To me this is making the gap bigger than ever between the “haves” and the “have nots.”

It’s no wonder that there are so many problems. We are creating them.
Bruce Gibson
Sarasota, U.S.A.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 152

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Elderly, blind lady has to go to court to get her money at Banco de Costa Rica
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Banco de Costa Rica would not allow an elderly woman who is blind make a withdrawal Wednesday, and now the family is taking the matter to the constitutional court, said her son.

The woman, María Cecilia Pacheco Fernández, 77, can no longer see well enough to sign her name, so a bank employee told her several months earlier that she could use her thumbprint instead, said her son, Jack R. Wilson-Pacheco. But when she actually tried to use her thumbprint to make a withdrawal Wednesday in Alajuela, a bank employee refused to allow her, saying it was not bank policy, according to Wilson.

The press officer for Banco de Costa Rica was in a meeting when a reporter called Thursday and unable to get a comment later.

Ms. Pacheco used to be an English teacher in Alajuela. She married a language professor from Texas, and the two had four children, said her son. The family lived for a time in Michigan, said Wilson, but most of Ms. Pacheco's life was spend in Alajuela. Ms. Wilson's sight has been progressively deteriorating over the years, said Wilson, who is living with her and helping care for her. Ms.
Pacheco now has about a dozen grandchildren and one great-grandchild, said Wilson.

The bank contacted Ms. Pacheco two months ago, asking if she needed to update anything, said her son. The 77-year-old explained her situation and went to the bank's offices to get her prints taken, said her son.

In the amparo or appeal for help filed with the Sala IV constituional court Thursday,  Ms. Pacheco states that she arrived at the bank in Mall Internacional in Alajuela with her son. A bank representative helped them and made a phone call. He then told them that he could not accept a digital fingerprint for a withdrawal, said the son. Wilson contacted Ms. Pacheco's niece, who is a lawyer. Wilson then talked with Mónica Arias on the legal team of Banco de Costa Rica. Ms. Arias said the use of a digital fingerprint was a legal substitute for a signature, but it was not bank policy to accept it, Wilson said.

The amparo cites Law 7600: Ley de Igualdad de Oportunidades para las Personas which states that people with disabilities should receive the same rights as other citizens.

Wilson said on top of everything, he was later told that his mother's fingerprints, which were done about two months ago still did not appear in the bank's computer system.

global warming mural
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas      
A pedestrian waits at a bench before the global warming mural
Hey, Lawmakers! Take a look at this critical problem!
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

How can private citizens who feel strongly about a political issue get the attention of politicians?

A group of university students answered that question by installing a vivid mural opposite the legislative chambers.

The mural has the theme of global warming and was created by some 30 students from the Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología, otherwise known as ULACIT.

The mural features fire invading clouds and green 
mountains, presumably those of Costa Rica. Hidden within the mountains are the letters S O S, the international distress signal. There also is a painting of the globe surrounded by fire.

Andrea Blanco, one of the students, said that the mural was done on the wall of the Edificio Sión along the pedestrian walkway east of the main legislative building to get the attention of powerful persons who frequently the area. Five professionals helped with the design and application.

The project started last week, and there still is some work to do. The students are doing the work as part of a university project, and they have created a Web site to go along with the mural.

These folks could have been talking about Costa Rica
The world is made up of two kinds of people — lots of two kinds. In one of those two groups are the kind who keep books in their bathrooms and the kind who don’t. For the first, I have a suggestion. Put "Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations" there with your other books. It is fascinating reading, and there is a lot of be learned in a short time. And there are some gems from surprising sources.

 Since I have been feeling under the weather since I returned, I have been spending more time reading Bartlett’s than getting out and about. So I have decided to share some of the quotes from my favorite writers, others just quotes I find pertinent to life today.

Ben Franklin had lots of interesting things to say, like:

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.

Obviously, many of the people in Bartlett’s said or wrote things worth reading.

Add to that, Ben went on to say:

"The next thing most like living one’s life over again seems to be a recollection of that life, and to make that recollection as durable as possible by putting it down in writing."

Maybe that is why so many people are writing their memoirs even though it doesn’t explain why people are reading them. Or maybe the readers are heeding the catch phrase of today to: "Get a life." And can’t find one of their own.

And some quotes pertinent to politics and war and peace:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin, who also said:

"There never was a good war nor a bad peace." Oh, dear, we keep forgetting this.

"There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it could confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rain, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing."

Surprisingly, it was President Andrew Jackson who said that.

From one of my favorite writers: W. Somerset Maugham. "Like all weak men, he laid exaggerated stress on not
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

changing one’s mind." — "Of Human Bondage," Good advice for all political candidates.

An American soldier in the ruins of a French village in 1945 —  quoted by Max Miller "We sure liberated the hell out of this place."

"Peace is not an absence of war. It is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice." Benedict de Spinoza. 1632-1677.

"The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong."

Ecclesiastics. So much for you, Darwin.

And on the lighter side:

"Happiness Makes up in Height for What It Lacks in Length."

That is the title of a poem by Robert Frost.

From Agatha Christie: "It is completely unimportant, that is why it is so interesting." — "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd." She must be referring to gossip, or I wonder if she was referring to my column.

And the inimitable Dorothy Parker: "Four be the things I am wiser to know: Idleness, sorrow, a friend and a foe. Four be the things I would be better without: love, curiosity, freckles and doubt."

Gertrude Stein wrote "Pigeons on the grass, alas." I agree with my own:

Pigeons on cement, I lament.

And from Maugham: "Do you know that conversation is one of the greatest pleasures in life? But it wants leisure." And that is why we retire to Costa Rica.

And finally, Cornelia Otis Skinner who gave me a subtitle for my master’s thesis: "Women’s virtue was man’s greatest invention." And ever since Moses came down from the mountain, man has done everything he can to make his invention work.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 152

Stricken expat falls through the cracks and faces grim future
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. man who had a stroke last week is now lying comatose in the hospital with no way to get home, said his friend and business partner.

The man, know as John Richards or John Ruggeri, was living illegally in Costa Rica and is in Hospital Calderón Guardia unable to speak. Ruggeri can only make efforts to squeeze with his hand, said the friend, Shelly Kostner.

The ailing man represents an extreme case of what can happen to an expat who does not obtain residency or enroll in the country's social programs.

Kostner said the worst part is that Ruggeri's family has no money to get the man back to Las Vegas, Nevada, where his children are. A U.S. Embassy employee said that his government could only put him in a shelter and that he needs to leave the hospital today, said Kostner.

An e-mail from the embassy sent to the family said: “We have until Friday to answer. Unless the family comes up with a solution by then, we have no choice but to tell the hospital to dispose of the patient the same way they would a Costa Rican patient.” The message carried the name of Isabel Picado of the U.S. Embassy.

The embassy confirmed that Ms. Picado was an employee but said a press spokesperson could not comment on specific cases due to the privacy act, behind which State Department officials cloak many of their actions.
“John was the kind of guy who was always cracking jokes. He would walk into a pulpería and have the person laughing before he left,” said Kostner.

Ruggeri worked in various businesses in Costa Rica, said Kostner. The latest was an online pharmacy. Ruggeri apparently lost his passport some time ago and was unable
to obtain another one, according to Kosner. It was unclear to her  as to why he did not get another passport, said
Nancy Ruggeri, his ex-wife in a telephone call from Las Vegas.

Although Ruggeri and his former wife Nancy Ruggeri are separated, she said he has always been a good father and she wants to get him back home. “This could happen to anyone who is disenfranchised,” said Ms. Ruggeri, who said to get her ex-husband home would take an air ambulance and cost about $4,000. “The U.S. Embassy won't help you or get you home,” said Ms. Ruggeri, who added that she was frustrated with the initial contact she had with the embassy.

If the family can bring Ruggeri home, they will have to pay $6,000 a month until they can get him on insurance or Medicaid, since he is no longer a resident of Clark County, Nevada, said Ms. Ruggeri.

Ruggeri came to Costa Rica about eight years ago. He used to live in Flamingo and owned part of a hotel there, said Kostner. He was well known and liked in the area as Richards, and later moved to San José, said the friend. Ms. Ruggeri said the family had not heard news from him since he left.

The director of social work for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social at Calderón Guardia said that since Ruggeri has no pension from the United States or from Costa Rica, he has almost no options.

The director, Lucylena Quirós, said that workers had previously thought the family, U.S. Embassy, or a U.S. social association would be able to pay for Ruggeri and care for him when he left the hospital, but that now did not seem to be the case. Since Ruggeri is still in his 50's he can't get any extra help from Costa Rica, she said. Ms. Quirós said that social workers were researching the situation and would hopefully have an answer by next week. Ms. Quirós said that Ruggeri should leave as soon as possible but that didn't necessarily mean today. “We won't put him out on the street,” said Ms. Quirós.

The family would appreciate any suggestions or help in this difficult situation, said Ms. Ruggeri.

Central government issues decree to promote telecommuting
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch has issued a decree to encourage telecommuting by public employees. The idea is to save on fuel and improve productivity.

The decree was outlined and signed Thursday by Laura Chinchilla, the vice president and also the person in charge of encouraging digital government. She was filling in for President Óscar Arias Sánchez, who was in Brazil.

Casa Presidencial said that some 1,000 employees of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad already are involved in telecommuting as is the  Universidad Estatal a Distancia

 with 30 employees and Banco Nacional, also with 30 employees. Several other public agencies are involved in the experiment.

The proposal is to have those involved in telecommuting work about 80 percent of the time at home but visit their workplaces for discussions and contact with colleagues and supervisors. Several major computer-related businesses in Costa Rica also allow their employees to work from home.

For now, the central government is setting up some pilot programs. The purpose of the decree is to create an evaluation and coordination framework for those agencies planning to allow working at home.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 152

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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U.S. says visa scheme
brought in $5 million

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Riverside, California, man have been arrested on charges of filing nearly a thousand fraudulent petitions with U.S. immigration and labor authorities, which allowed him to obtain work visas and other immigration and labor benefits for more than 550 aliens. Investigators said the man made nearly $5 million over 10 years with his scheme.

He was identified as Alexander Sales Vista, 61. The arrest was by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Over the course of more than 10 years, Vista allegedly filed nearly 1,000 fraudulent petitions that sought work visas for more than 550 aliens, who Vista claimed were going to work at companies he owned. Many of the aliens were granted work visas. However, according to the complaint, the jobs often did not exist and the companies were simply shell companies that did not conduct any real business.

In some cases, the aliens worked for Vista, but they were paid substantially less than what Vista told Labor Department and immigration officials, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles said. Charging the aliens between $7,000 and $12,000 to file a petition, Vista made nearly $5 million over the course of his visa fraud scheme, said the U.S. attorney's office.

Farmers in Peru's highlands
battling severe cold spell

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Farmers in the Peruvian highlands are suffering as a result of a severe unseasonable cold spell, known locally as El friaje. The principal victims are livestock.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said it has provided urgently needed medical supplies.

The antiparasitic medicines, antibiotics and vitamins are being used to treat some 18,000 alpacas in the country’s Pilpichaca en Huanvavelica district that have been weakened or fallen ill as a result of the unexpected cold snap.

The El friaje phenomenon involves a combination of unseasonable low temperatures, frosts, snow and hail that damages crops and the high-altitude pastures on which alpacas graze.

This year, the cold arrived well ahead of the usual season — in March and April, instead of June — and many small-scale farmers have not been able to harvest their crops.

The early arrival of the cold weather has greatly affected alpaqueros — farmers in high-altitude areas whose livelihoods depend completely on raising alpacas. Pastures have been covered in snow which has frozen over, making grazing impossible.

The gravity of the situation has led the Peruvian Government to declare a state of emergency in 11 of the country’s 25 provinces.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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