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These stories were published Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 152
Jo Stuart
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U.S. State Department photo by Janine Sides  
It's a done deal

U.S. President George W. Bush signs the Central American Free Trade Agreement bill in Washington Tuesday morning amid applauding officials and representatives of Latin governments, including Costa Rica.

Our story is HERE!

Tango is in the spirit and not just on stage
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tonight and tomorrow "La Esquina de Carlos Gardel" will be staged in San José, and although the show is a Buenos Aires standout, the production could give wrong ideas.

As with every tango show, the dancers border on ballet, and the handsome and beautiful young performers test the envelope.

But tango is for the people. It began with the people, the shabby Buenos Aires bars with the dance pueblo, the milonga, as a direct ancestor. As with tennis, one can tango into the 80s.

Even more so, tango is for two, or as dance proponents say: one body and four legs. And the thump, thump, thump of the music is characterized as the beating heart.

The production tonight commemorates the 70th anniversary of Gardel's death. He was the Elvis of his time, and his death in a
Colombian aircraft accident generated the same kind of denial as thousands insisted he was still alive. A popular comedic movie in Spanish continues that theme.

Rather than a dancer, Gardel was a singer and made the tango a form of music that respectable Argentinians could enjoy. He was a song writer, and these examples of his Buenos Aires blues continue in popularity. He's also the man wearing the hat on the walls of Argentine restaurants.

The tango has its own instrument, the bandoneón, sort of a Latin accordion that imparts a special, reedy, rich sound.

But tango is more than music or a dance. It is a state of being, a spiritual event that 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Even San José has a memorial to Carlos Gardel. It is opposite La Solidad church in what is now a municipal construction site.

generates feelings many levels deeper than most music. Which explains why they are dancing until 4 a.m. in Buenos Aires.

Tango has gained a special following all over the world, and the trend will continue as Gardel's music enters the public domain next year.

In San José there are tango singers and great dancers. The Tango Bar in Centro Comerical el Pueblo runs kind of a tango karaoke where patrons sing their favorites. But don't arrive too early. Several instructors offer tango classes and there are a few professionals who offer shows somewhat less extravagant than "La Esquina de Carlos Gardel."

The show tonight and Thursday is in the Teatro Popular Melico Salazar opposite Parque Central. Tickets range from 8,000 ($16.60) to 20,000 colons ($41.60).

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 152

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Our readers views

He says we encourage
disobedience to taxes

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I disagree with the tone of Garland Baker's article, which seems to be warning people about the openness of the new banking rules in Costa Rica. Huh! We have had the same rules here in U.S.A. for many years, and honest, law-abiding people have nothing to fear (I include myself among that group.)

There is something inherently wrong in the tone of the article that suggests that your real estate dealings will somehow be no longer tax deductible — well, they never were deductible to begin with unless it's your primary home! If it is your primary home, then you can deduct up to $250,000 of your gain (he fails to mention that); he also fails to mention that you can turn over your primary homes more than once.

If you are in business of real estate (or anything else for that matter), you should be paying taxes.  Not paying taxes to a developing nation like Costa Rica can have tremendous impact on its infrastructure. I would guess he supports those who complain about the bad roads, the bad bridges, the bad sanitation, the bad public service and yet seems to promote tax dodging.

On one hand many foreigners living in Costa Rica seem to be complaining about how things are not like U.S.A. and more like 'third-world' and yet do not want to pay for the maintenance and improvement of the country that they are using to live in or make their living from.

This attitude is definitely not Pura Vida

Raman Jalota
Denver, Colorado

He says U.S. acting
in contradictory fashion

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It never ceases to amaze me how the Washington legislatores and so-called  intelligentsia continually find new international enemies, while the majority of global countries are at peace. They kill our young in
unjustified wars in vain and falsely "in the name of their country" in the  beginning years of every new decade, want us live in an obedient heightened state of alert or paranoia — all to the detriment of our society and national treasures.

They did this to us in the 50's and 60's when we feared nuclear attacks and child consuming Communists under our beds. As current examples, the enemy list being sold to the uninformed gullible U.S. citizens include: Venezuela,  yet we rely on 15 percent of our oil from Venezuela whom we are continually terrorizing, China the country that produces everything within your grasp,
as you read this article, and who monthly invests billions of dollars in the U.S.A. to keep us from having a new and total economic depression, Iraq the country and Sadam who kept Iran in check, our strong ally (albeit corrupt  and as vicious as our dictator allies) and who supplied us oil (Yet we attacked and blamed him for 9/11 knowing very well that it was Saudis who did it, with waffling rationalization for the invasion currently "for  democracy") and Mexican illegal immigrants, who if they instantly left, would cause a secondary economic meltdown.

Why is that we fight what we need and hug what we don't: the real causes of the terrorism and hate towards us, our support of ruthless dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Egypt, puppet governments, while we die "for  democracy" in Iraq, blind one-sided support in Mideast territorial conflicts, cow-boy diplomacy, waffling global politics, hiring Karen Hughes back at the State Department to improve our global image while sneaking  global hater John Bolton as head of U.N. diplomacy to perpetuate the hate.

Is  there any rationality or real patriotic Americans left to alter this very stupid course?

Edgar Torres
no address
He hopes bad experience
does not sour her

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After reading Erin Zlomek's article today, I can really appreciate her feelings of violation, suspicion and anger. I have lived in San José for almost a year and a half, the first six months of which I lived in downtown San José. I have heard many stories from people such as her who have been mugged.

I was mugged once walking late at night, and I, too, foolishly ran after my three attackers. I was lucky to escape with my $15 hat – and my life. Chasing them something I would not do again.

It is really sad that there seems to be a cultural acceptance of these acts of violence and theft here in San José. Without fail, those who commit muggings in San José do so without running into resistance from those around them. People are used to watching them commit this act and seem to be afraid of interfering. Socially, once this standard has been set, it becomes a part of the culture and totally acceptable.

Even though people say they don’t approve of the actions, their non-action and the refusal of the police to take action are a direct green light to the community that this type of behavior is acceptable. Therefore until something changes, we continue to see these types of crimes and criminals thrive.

What makes me even more sad than the fact that these types of crimes continue is the fact that fine people such as Erin Zlomek come to this beautiful country and can have one bad experience change their opinion about Costa Rica and the people who live here.

For myself, I decided a long time ago that the misbehavior of a few individuals are not going to have an affect over my happiness or my ability to enjoy myself, no matter where I am. Only I have control over that.

I also find that what I look for, I find. Outer experience is a reflection of inner reality. If I have an expectation of finding trouble, I find it. If I concentrate on the beauty in the people around me and am secure in knowing how safe I am, I have a much more pleasant experience.

I hope that your experience didn’t sour Erin Zlomek on Ticos and I hope she is able to really enjoy time here in Costa Rica.

Scott Pralinsky
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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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New decree will regulate whale-watching, group says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An environmental group is taking credit for passage of a decree that prohibits swimming with whales and dolphin and capturing the animals in Costa Rican waters.

The organization, Fundación Promar, said in a release Tuesday that a decree was published in La Gaceta Thursday that sets out regulations for companies, scientists or tourists who want to view whales and dolphin. It is decree 32495 that was sponsored by the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería and the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Among other things, the decree prohibits observing whales and dolphin from aircraft unless for the purpose of filming or for scientific research, said the organization.

The foundation said that as a result of the decree Costa Rica became the first country in the world to prohibit capturing whales. It is not known if there are any whales in captivity here.

The foundation said that in 1998 only three companies offered whale-watching as a tourist activity. Now there are 45, the release said.

The decree includes a requirement for companies to
register, and it appears from the foundation's statement that tour companies will have to file a form each time they take visitors on a tourism trip, and the form will include names and other data of everyone present.

The foundation was not clear on what organization would enforce the regulation, although the Guardacosta Nacional has boats on the high seas.

The prohibition against swimming or skindiving near whales and dolphin rests on scientific studies that show this activity is risky to the whales and the humans involved, the organization said. It did not cite its scientific evidence.

Costa Rica has some 29 species of whales at times in its national waters, some 35 percent of the known species.

Presumably the regulations only will relate to organized trips specifically formed to watch whales. Fishermen and boaters see them frequently.

Promar identifies itself as a non-profit Costa Rican foundation that works for the conservation of the marine ecosystems of Costa Rica through environmental education, research and influence in management policies. Among marine animal groups, it is specialized in dolphins and whales, according to its Web page.

Crowd begins to thin at Cartago basilica after archbishop raps poverty
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The crowd has thinned but not vanished at the Basilica de los Ángeles in Cartago, and most pilgrims have returned home by car or bus in anticipation of a normal workday today.

A Mass Tuesday in honor of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles was keynoted by Archbishop Hugo Barrantes, who criticized the gap between the rich and the poor in the country. He also called sexual abuse of children by priests a horrible sin in the eyes of God. Several cases have been in the news lately, and one priest still is a fugitive.

Barrantes said that the bishops of the country will confront the problem. The Roman Catholic Church has been generally quiet on the issue for the last two years. And the priest who is a fugitive has had help form clergy in evading arrest.
In the audience was President Abel Pacheco and most national-level politicians. They were caressed by a light rain.

Two pilgrims have died this year when struck by vehicles in separate incidents. There was little serious crime. Two young men came up against undercover officers working with the pilgrimage when they tried to rob a young woman hiking in Curridabat, said the Fuerza Pública.

The police agency said that there were no criminal actions in the vicinity of the basilica where thousands of pilgrims spent Monday night and Tuesday morning.

A total of 12 persons were arrested for theft and violence elsewhere along the pilgrimage routes in the province of Cartago since Saturday, police said. At least 40 more were arrested for harassing the pilgrims or for acting badly while drunk, officers said.

Downtown traffic prohibitions begin today in an effort to save fuel
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the day that the government's plan to save motor fuel by decreasing traffic begins.

Vehicles that have 5 or 6 as the last digit of the license plate are banned between 7 to 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the downtown area, bounded by Avenida 9 to the north and Avenida 16 in the south. That's roughly from the Instituto Nacional de Seguros building south to Clinica Biblica.
At the same time the bulk of the governmental workforce is reporting to jobs at 7 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. The time change is designed to help them avoid traffic jams.

Transit police said they will concentrate on an educational campaign today, but a 5,000-colon ($10.50) fine awaits violators. Vehicles with the last license plate digit of 7 or 8 are banned Thursday. Public transportation vehicles like buses or taxis are exempt from the rules.

George Bush shakes hands with legislators, officials of his administration and guests Tuesday in the East room of the White House, after the signing ceremony for the Central American Trade Agreement Implementation Act.

Among those shaking hands are Ambassador Guillermo Castillo Villacarta of Guatemala, Special Envoy for Honduras Norman Garcia, Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and Rep. E. Clay Shaw of Florida.

White House photo by Krisanne Johnson

Bush signs free trade bill and pact is a done deal
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President George Bush Tuesday signed legislation enacting the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which he says will help young democracies in the region and create more U.S. jobs.

The hard-fought trade agreement would eliminate tariffs on about $15 billion worth of annual U.S. exports to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.

Those countries already enjoy duty-free status for most of their exports to the United States, and President Bush says the new deal will level that playing field.

So far only Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have ratified the agreement. Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic are the other three possible participants.

At a White House signing ceremony, President Bush said the trade deal, known as CAFTA, will help create more U.S. jobs while helping Central American nations deliver better lives for their citizens by attracting more foreign trade and investment.

Bush says that growth will reduce poverty and contribute to the rise of what he calls a vibrant middle class, giving hope and opportunity to people who have chosen democracy.

"All of us understand that strengthening our economic ties with our democratic neighbors is vital to America's economic and national security interests," the president said. "And all of us understand that by strengthening ties with democracies in our hemisphere, we are advancing the stability that comes from freedom."
Bush says the small nations of CAFTA are making big commitments, and the trade pact is a signal that the United States is standing with them.

The president says free societies eliminate the lawlessness and instability that terrorists, criminals, and drug traffickers feed on. Bush says that makes helping regional democracies vital to U.S. national security.

"Two decades ago, many of the CAFTA nations struggled with poverty and dictatorship and civil strife," he said.

"Today they are working democracies, and we must not take these gains for granted. These nations still face forces that oppose democracy, seek to limit economic freedom and want to drive a wedge between the United States and the rest of the Americas."

President Bush said greater opportunity in Central America means it is less likely that citizens of those countries will try to come to the United States illegally.

The free trade pact narrowly passed the House of Representatives last week after intense lobbying by the Bush administration.

Vice President Dick Cheney spent more than five hours on Capitol Hill during the vote, while President Bush telephoned members of Congress from the White House.

Fifteen Democrats joined most House Republicans in passing the measure by just two votes. Opposition Democrats say the pact does not do enough to protect workplace safety in Central America. Some Republicans say the measure will hurt domestic sugar and textile manufacturers.

Drug gangs using West Africa as a transit point, U.N. reports
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations says South American drug cartels have started to use West Africa as a major transit point for cocaine, which is then shipped to mainly European markets. The agency is worried that drug abuse and also crime are on the increase in the region.

The head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in West Africa, Antonio Mazzitelli says Latin American drug cartels are setting up business in West Africa, attracted by the lax policing of crime in the region.

"West Africa clearly represents a privileged location both for geographical reasons and, also I would say, for strategic reasons in terms of protection or impunity that cartels might secure," said Mazzitelli.

Drug cartels run a greater risk of having their shipments confiscated if they ship drugs directly to Western Europe from Latin America. Mazzitelli says cartels have been operating in West Africa for several years, using it as a point to transfer drugs to different ships. About 40 tons of cocaine has been seized from ships coming mainly from West African countries.
Mazzitelli says that the agency is concerned that the increased presence of drug cartels in the region will increase drug abuse in the region.

"Some drugs trafficked remain in the transit countries and then is used for feeding a growing domestic market," he added. "Several countries in West Africa have reported increased abuse of crack cocaine."

Cape Verde, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have reported an increased use of crack cocaine in the past few years. Heroin from South Asia has not started to come into West Africa, but Mazzitelli does not rule it out as a possibility.

The U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime is training doctors and other medical personnel to treat drug addicts

The use of West Africa as a transit point suggests that countries like Costa Rica have been successful in disrupting drug shipments to Europe. Costa Rica is an intermediate stop by drug mules who are on their way to Europe, but enforcement has been tightened at Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela.

Jo Stuart
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