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These stories were published Friday, Aug. 5, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 154
Jo Stuart
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Just jumping for joy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The jumper is a two-week old baby humpback whale who is swimming today in the waters around Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsular.

The baby, now about 10 feet long, is duplicating the antics of mom, whose splash can be seen in the background.

The photographer is Sierra Goodman, owner of Delfin Amor Eco Lodge on the Peninsula and president of Fundación Vida Marina.

"We have been seeing it with its mom since it was about the size of a big dolphin," Ms. Goodman said.
"Humpback whales often breach," said Ms. Goodman, using a technical term. "It can be to show size and strength to potential mates, to show location to other whales or even just for joy and because they can!!"

Ms. Goodman is frequently on the water because her lodge offers whale and dolphin tours, and has done so for nearly seven years. The foundation has done extensive research on whales and dolphins and the dangers they face from man.

Ms. Goodman reports that the foundation is also doing studies on the healing affects on humans when they swim with or near whale and dolphin.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 5, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 154

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Government backing down
on global taxation plan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheo and his Partido Unidad Social Cristiana are watering down the proposed new tax plan in order to get it passed.

The president met with legislative leaders Thursday, and the group agreed to change a major tax provision in the plan. According to reports from the meeting, income earned outside the country would only be taxed if the money came into Costa Rica.

That a big change from what had been considered. The tax plan, even as it stands now in the legislature, would tax all earnings of Costa Ricans and foreign residents no matter where the money was earned. That is similar to the way the United States taxes its citizens.

Also at the meeting was Federico Carrillo, minister of Hacienda, and  Banco Central President Francisco de Paula Gutiérrez.

The tax plan, called fiscal reform by the administration, is known to be in trouble in the legislature.  The so-called global taxation was one reason.

Nevertheless, the fiscal plan anticipates taking a percentage deduction from every money transaction that brings cash into the country, sort of in the form of a withholding against anticipated taxes. This, too, worries investors, who would have to show that the money they were moving was not recently earned but was merely an allocation of existing funds. Typically getting refunds from the country's tax authorities is a long, complicated and sometime impossible process.

The change, if it is finally adopted and becomes law, would encourage Costa Ricans to keep their investment capital outside the country where it would not be taxed.

Araya denies getting
bribe in garbage deal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Johnny Araya Monge, the long-time mayor of San José, strongly denied that he took a bribe from the Canadian firm handling the area's garbage.

The declaration took place before the Comisión Especial de Control del Gasto Público, a legislative committee that had asked Araya to appear after  bribe allegations surfaced.

Araya spent two hours before the committee, but even this was not enough time for lawmakers to ask all their questions. So they asked Araya to appear again next week.

The allegations of payoff were raised by the Spanish-language daily La Nación.  The situation stems from 1991 when then-president Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier declared a national emergency relating to garbage. The Canadian company EBI obtained a direct contract without bidding to open up the current La Carpio landfill site. Calderón, himself, is under house arrest for involvement in another scandal.

La Nación based its story on a document said to be signed by a former EBI employee, Normánda Herox, which shows payoffs to Araya and a number of other San José officials.

Araya said Thursday that the document is false. "Lamentably the newspaper based its investigation on a false and spurious document that gives as a certainty information that is not," said the mayor.

La Nación went so far as to send a reporter to Canada with mixed results. Araya presented a document in which Ms. Herox said that the paper containing the payments was not signed by her and did not resemble a type of document used by her former employer, said Araya.

Araya said that the false allegations stemmed from politics and blamed Luis Ballestero Mora, a former municipal councilman, as the author of what the mayor called a journalistic ambush.  The mayor said that his honor had been attacked and that he was considering a court complaint against the newspaper.

Pain doctor named
as defensora of nation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A physician who runs a pain clinic for children, Lisbeth Quesada Tristán, is the new defensora de las habitantes.

Dr. Quesada, 53, will serve until 2009. She said she will be sworn in Tuesday. Dr. Quesada comes to the post outside of political channels. She has not been a strong supporter of any political party.

Instead, she impressed lawmakers with her straight talk and emphasis on her humanitarian efforts and her work with dying children in the clinic which is associated with the Hospital Nacional del Niños.

The defensor office takes complaints from citizens, tries to negotiate with the government agency involved and has filed constitutional suits against the government. It is the nation's ombudsman. The former defensor, José Manuel Echandi, was not selected by lawmakers to be one of the five final candidates, and he now is a presidential candidate.

Dr. Quesada won election in the third round of voting when 28 deputies supported her and three blank ballots were counted in her favor. She was supported by the Partido Liberación Nacional and the Partido Acción Ciudadana. She has said she is a strong advocate of the government health care system.

Dr. Quesada originally planned a career as an actress and took that course as an undergraduate major.  She received her medical doctorate in 1984 from the University de Costa Rica, and then took a postgraduate program in palliative medicine and quality of life at the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires.

She also is president of the private Fundación Pro Cuidados Paliativos.

Our readers respond

He liked article on police

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thanks for the great article about the overworked and underfunded Tamarindo Policemen. This should be required reading for all tourists and residents as well. Obviously they are trying their best with limited resources. Perhaps they could ignore a few pot-smoking tourists and focus on the more important stuff like bank robbers and highwaymen.
Thanks again and keep up the good work!
David N. Cook
Oxnard, Calif.
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From the editor
There were no doubts about the bomb in 1945
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The bomb that dropped on Hiroshima 60 years ago tomorrow has been the object of much hand-wringing and debate.

In our family, there is no discussion: The decision to drop the bomb was a good one by President Harry Truman. My father, a professional soldier, was preparing for the invasion of the main islands of Japan, a possibility that made even the strongest pale.

To others, trading one life for 120,000 Japanese might seem selfish. But we knew that was not the equation. Anyone who has lived through World War II or done the basic research knows that Japanese did not take surrender easily. The Pacific island campaign and the battle for Okinawa ran up death tolls that far exceeded the combined deaths of Hiroshima Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki three days later. House-to-house fighting on the Japanese home islands would have been worse.

My first recollection of the bomb was the sight of my uniformed father walking up the road to our summer home holding in his hand a copy of The New York Daily Mirror. The front page photo in the tabloid showed the mushroom cloud, probably one from the earlier Alamogordo test blast. He wore a broad smile that was not completely due to his weekend leave from his Staten Island duty station.

My father had flirted with Japanese earlier when he
trained troops for battle in Burma from a post in

The first atom bomb blast in New Mexico
India. He respected their military competence but hated them for the Dec. 7 Pearl Harbor attack. He had been stationed in Hawaii before the war and knew the Schofield Barracks and surroundings well.

Since 1945 the academics and authors, particularly those from the left, have tried to second guess Truman and his decision to drop the bombs. Somehow World War II becomes Truman's fault. That opinion would have gained little ground 60 years ago.

Did the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki die senselessly?  Their deaths ended the war and stopped even more deaths. We may mourn them, but we must not forget that their deaths were a logical consequence of authoritarian rule gone wild.

And that may be the lesson for today. Democracies do not start wars, and the world cannot be at peace until the twin scourges of authoritarianism and dictatorship can be found only in the history books.

Some inside tidbits about 'Madame Butterfly'
Every year the Teatro Nacional presents one opera.  This year it is "Madame Butterfly," and Monday Robert and Maria, owners of Tin Jo restaurant, had a reception for some opera buffs.   Guests of honor were Christine and Chosei Komatsu, Arturo Chacón, and Esteban Mata. They talked about the pre-performance preparations for the opera.  I don’t know whose idea it was, but the evening turned out to be great fun.

Christine Komatsu is the executive producer of "Madame Butterfly." Her husband Chosei is, of course, the conductor of our National Symphony and musical director of the opera.  Arturo Chacón is a member of both the national and the international opera companies that are performing.  There are only four permanent members of the committee under the Ministry of Culture that chooses and produces operas, and Christine and Esteban Mata are two of them. 

Christine and her husband went to Japan to buy the costumes for the performance. The kimonos were second-hand but probably worn only once in a wedding (and not bought for a pittance.)  We all learned, incidentally, that kimonos with sleeves reaching to the floor are worn by virgins.  Married women, thus housewives, wear kimonos with more practical shorter sleeves. Those in our audience who have seen the opera evidently found the kimonos so beautiful they were hoping they would be for sale after the performances, but Mrs. Komatsu – Christine – invested her own money, cashing in her future pension, to buy the costumes.  They are not for sale as she hopes to keep them for future performances, perhaps in the U.S.

Complete casts from both international and national companies are performing.  The singers had seven months to learn their parts and were expected to have them memorized on the first day of rehearsal.  Tenor Arturo Chacón, who is Costa Rican and has studied and performed in this country and abroad, said that he was delighted with the new professionalism of the production under the tutelage of Christine and Matthew Lata, the scene director from the States. 

As in many Latin countries, the concept of manaña is still alive and well. So for some of the national troupe there was a rude reality check when some singers who were not quite ready (but were sure they would be by opening night), when they learned that that would not be tolerated in a professional company. (I could almost hear the women to my right, members of the Little Theatre Group of Costa Rica, whispering their versions of “Right on!”

As for the orchestra – one problem with the National Theatre is that it has no orchestra pit.  The musicians’ chairs sit on a wooden floor that magnifies the music.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Thus sometimes the music drowns out the singers.  (I have noticed this in other operas.)  They have solved the problem simply.  Fewer instruments than designated will play during some of the duets.  Now in a love duet the singers don’t have to shout over eight violins when they should be whispering.  It also seems to me that fewer violins at crucial parts will give a more plaintive quality to the singing. Another thing we learned was that the singers take their cues, not from each other, from the orchestra so they have to know when to look up at the conductor.

We also got a delightful tidbit: regarding the eight children who auditioned for the part of the one child.  To help them decide, Chistine said, the soprano held each child close and sang at the top of her lungs.  The little boy who got the part did not flinch or scream.

Operas are the most expensive art form.  Besides the orchestra and singers, there are several directors responsible for various aspects, a large chorus, elaborate costumes and sets and a busy crew back stage and behind the lights. In this case the symphony chorus is made up of volunteer singers who give up many hours to perform.

This presentation of "Madame Butterfly" is top drawer all the way.  The question was asked, given that opera is considered an elite taste, is it worth it?”  (I.e. is it a good way for the Ministry of Culture to spend its money).

Many reasons were given why it was (and it was pointed out that the business community, as well as private individuals and clubs in Costa Rica have been very generous with their contributions).  It offers an opportunity for the National Opera Company to experience being part of a topnotch production, and important as an example of what Costa Rica can do in the arts, that actually children who have seen the opera have been enthralled, and that there are some seats that are very reasonable priced. 

What wasn’t mentioned, or what I perhaps missed was that a first-class production with first-class artists are a great compliment to the Costa Rican audience.  It makes us feel special, too. 

The opera is presented again tonight and in a 5 p.m. performance Sunday. Performances also will be Aug. 11 and 12. 

Yes, there is a place for solid German cooking here
The name Hamburgo refers to the Spanish spelling of the port city on the North Sea, not chopped beef on a bun. Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city after Berlin, with a population of 1.8 million. It is a city state and one of Germany’s 16 states. The Greater Hamburg Metropolitan Region, including nearby districts of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, covers 18,100 square kilometers with a population of 4 million. Its regional cuisine is influenced by its proximity to Scandinavia, and it is a major world supplier of Matjes herring.

Rolf and Roberta Koch are the owners of Hamburgo, the restaurant and bar. He is from Hamburg, and he prepares robust hearty platters that could fill the belly of a seaman or dockworker in his home town with authentic fare from all over Germany. Roberta runs the dining room. In glitsy, artsy Barrio Escalante, Hamburgo is a refreshing outlier, an unadorned eatery featuring just its well-seasoned food, unavailable anywhere else in the Central Valley to my knowledge.

How it has remained virtually unknown for its more than four years, astounds me. I feel a little foolish for having gone as far afield as Arenal to eat at a California cuisine restaurant because their menu included two German dishes.

A favorite German meal for me is rouladen (rolled beef), rotkohl (red cabbage) and bratkartoffeln (potatoes). Rouladen is made from thin sirloin or round steaks spread with spicy mustard, thinly sliced pickle, bacon and onion, rolled up and secured with string or toothpicks, browned on all sides in a skillet, then simmered in beef broth and red wine until tender. The pan juices are then thickened with flour or cornstarch and ladled over the meat alongside the potatoes.

Shredded red cabbage braised and seasoned with vinegar, salt, sugar and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper adds to the meal. For the skillet-browned potatoes, my favorite version begins with chunks, slices or cubes of four large boiled spuds browned in corn oil and residual bacon fat from first browning four slices of smoked bacon diced and a large onion finely sliced.The bacon and onion are removed when brown and re-added when the potatoes turn crisp and dark golden. Hardly a weightwatchers centerpiece, but as comforting as meatloaf with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob was to my childhood. That German trio was exactly what I ordered on our first visit to Hamburgo.

My companions demolished hefty servings of hearty cream of mushroom soup, rich onion soup, hearts of palm salad, sausage and cheese salad, Wiener schnitzel (Vienna-style breaded veal cutlet) and schweinebraten mit rotkohl (roast pork flavored with caraway seeds in gravy with red cabbage). Belts loosened against taut midlines. Despite groans, the groaners mopped up every last drop of gravy with dense bread. Remarkably, all but yours truly even managed to chase the food with a Heineken.

When a slab of hot apple strudel aside a mound of ice cream reached the center of the table with four spoons, the feeding frenzy finally slowed snail’s pace. On the ride home, I judiciously avoided pot holes and speed bumps and took turns slowly. By midday the following day we dined on light salads with small servings of fruit.
Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


We vowed to return to sample the  Hungarian goulasch, smoked pork chop with sauerkraut, white and red sausage or pfeffer steak without the overindulgences of soup, salad and bread.  The second visit was as well received as the first.

No leftovers or residual belly capacity. Overall, the star was the rouladen with red cabbage and skillet browned potatoes. The schnitzel and goulasch were decent but less memorable. The prices were very reasonable. A large main course like my rouladen, red cabbage and potatoes and soft drink runs about ¢3,500.

When the place is packed (frequently at peak lunch hour), the service can be a little slow out of the kitchen despite Roberta’s best efforts to race with mincing steps from table to table. When we were the only diners left after the lunchtime rush except for a pair at the bar, Rolf emerged from the kitchen to have a smoke with them. As he passed the table, he smiled and asked, “Shmakt?” “ Yes, very tasty,” we answered.

Not a romantic, cozy or refined package, but a great place for tasty authentic German workman’s chow. My wife and I plan to return, especially on cool rainy or windy days when a robust hot midday meals fits the bill. It is on the same street as Olio and Amaretto, about 400 meters north of Bagelmen’s in Barrio Escalante.

Two and a half *s, $$. Telephone:225-6167. Hours: lunch and dinner Monday thru Friday 11-3 and 5-9. Saturday lunch only, closed after 3. Closed Sunday.
Thanks to Pat for telling us about Hamburgo.

A few years ago, El Invernadero was one of the premier restaurants in the Central Valley. Sadly, it fell upon harder times and closed in mid July.


Nice job, Cameron (the new young chef). The lunch specials at Café Los Artistas in Escazu are a definite improvement.


Yes, Earthly Delights, the veggie place for great flavors in Ciudad Colon is now serving brunch on Sundays.


Roberto is a sophisticated diner and regular at Cerutti. He feels that the negative press about the Escazu grand restaurant is inaccurate. He loves the service and “knows of no place better in all of Costa Rica.”

Bush and Uribe reaffirm fight against drug trafficking
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CRAWFORD, Texas — President George Bush met with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez at the Bush ranch near here Thursday to reaffirm their commitment to fighting drug trafficking and bolstering peace and democracy in the South American nation.

In welcoming President Uribe to his ranch, Bush emphasized the friendship and admiration that has grown between the two leaders. He said Colombia has become more secure and more democratic since 2002, when the Uribe government came to power, and that Colombia has become an international leader as a result.

"As Colombia has improved its security and economy, it has also emerged as a leader in our hemisphere. Colombia shares our commitment to advancing economic growth, trade and democracy in the Americas. Colombia is also sharing its expertise with Afghanistan to combat terrorism and narco-trafficking in that new democracy and America is very grateful for your support," he said.

For his part, President Uribe expressed appreciation for U.S. support in fighting drug trafficking and insurgency in his country. He said he hopes the two countries will soon conclude talks aimed at creating a bilateral free trade agreement to bolster growth and prosperity in his nation. Asked about human rights, the Colombian president said the struggle against violence and insecurity in his nation must be founded on respect for human rights.
He said Colombia's security policy must be sustainable and that for it to be sustainable there must be respect for public opinion and transparency in regard to human rights.

International human rights organizations have accused the Uribe government of neglecting to arrest and punish members of rightist paramilitary groups who have been fighting against Colombia's two leftist insurgencies. Several thousand paramilitary fighters have disarmed in recent months, but, according to Human Rights Watch, only 25 former paramilitary men have been detained for rights violations.

Colombian citizens have issued thousands of accusations against these groups for atrocities committed over the past two decades.

The Uribe government has defended its policy of demobilization of such groups as part of the path toward peace. The government has concentrated most of its military efforts on the leftist guerrillas, whom President Uribe refers to as terrorists.

These groups sustain themselves primarily through drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion and are also viewed by the United States as terrorist organizations.

Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department certified Colombia's human rights efforts, thereby releasing around $70 million in aid that had been held up for a year. The meeting between Uribe and Bush Thursday was the sixth encounter between the two leaders since Uribe assumed office three years ago.

U.S. is blaming Chavez for destabilizing region
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States Thursday expressed concern that terrorist groups fighting Colombia's government are finding refuge across the border in Venezuela. Senior U.S. officials have been increasingly critical of the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The State Department says that either by design or negligence, Venezuela's border region with Colombia is becoming a place of refuge for armed groups battling the Colombian government including left-wing guerrillas.

The comments here followed publication of a letter from a senior State Department official to a member of Congress containing some of the strongest U.S. criticism to date of the Chavez government.

In the letter to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Matthew Reynolds, acting assistant secretary of State for legislative affairs, said the Bush administration has found mounting evidence that Venezuela is actively using its oil wealth to destabilize democratic neighbors.

Reynolds also said the United States is continuing to monitor what he said were the potentially destabilizing effects of recent Venezuelan arms acquisitions including 100,000 assault rifles from Russia.

Asked about the letter at a State Department news briefing, acting Spokesman Thomas Casey said the concerns raised by Reynolds are well-documented though he said he would not discuss U.S. intelligence.

He said weapons and ammunition known to have come from official Venezuelan stocks have been finding their way into the hands of Colombian terrorist groups, and that the same groups have come to look on Venezuelan territory as a safe haven.
"Venezuela hasn't been able, or hasn't been willing, to assert control over its 1,400-mile [2,253-km.] border with Colombia," Casey said.

Left-wing rebel groups and right wing forces are continuing to look at Venezuelan territory and regard areas near the border as a safe area to conduct cross-border incursions, to transport arms and drugs and provide rest for their members and secure logistical supplies, he said.

Spokesman Casey insisted the issues raised by Reynolds were not new and that he was not alleging official Venezuelan support for the Colombian groups.

He also said the State Department stood by Reynolds charge in the letter that the Chavez government has been funding anti-democratic groups in Bolivia, Ecuador and elsewhere, though he declined to elaborate.

Reynolds told Rep. Ros-Lehtinen in the letter dated July 27 the United States is working with friends in the region to deter what he said was Venezuelan and Cuban meddling in the internal affairs of regional democracies.

The Chavez government has accused the United States of interfering in its affairs by providing money to Venezuelan non-governmental groups including some which supported the recall movement against Chavez last year.

Last month a Venezuelan judge ordered leaders of one such group, Sumate, to be put on trial for conspiracy for accepting money from the congressionally-funded National Endowment for Democracy.

Casey said U.S. funding for groups in Venezuela as well as others throughout the hemisphere is to help support development of democratic civil society, and not directed to any specific candidate or movement.

Jo Stuart
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