A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Friday, Aug. 6, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 155
Jo Stuart
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U.S. citizen saves his kids but dies in Jacó surf
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 56-year-old U.S. citizen died Thursday morning saving his two children from the surf at Jacó.

The man was Anthony Peter Lech according to the Cruz Roja of Jacó. He was believed to be a tourist.

According to a Cruz Roja worker, Lech saw his two children get in trouble in the surf and dove in to rescue them. He managed to hand the children off to another person but then vanished in the surf.

Rip tide is a hidden danger at Costa Rican 

beaches, and Jacó has complex tides that frequently trap bathers. 

The Cruz Roja worker did not know the ages of the children but said they were younger than teenaged.

The tragedy happened off Calle Morales in front of the Cabinas Alice, although a cabina employee said the family was not registered there.

Lech’s body was found some 200 meters from where he effected the rescue. He was without vital signs when found, said the Cruz Roja worker. The body was brought to Hospital Monseñor Sanabria in Puntarenas, and the Judicial Investigating Organization is in charge.

Fruits emerge better than you might think
Frankly, my dear, ¡me importa un rábano!

That is what a bilingual Rhett Butler might respond because it is a Spanish way of saying "I don’t give a damn." But, according to my little book entitled "Frut terapia," radishes are of considerably more value than a tinker’s damn as they eliminate the toxins that are in fish. 

Thanks to a suggestion from reader, Paul, I decided to open my little advice book sooner rather than later. Later would have meant that it would be lost among my papers. Although fruit is in the title, the booklet deals with other foods as well. Maintaining that all animal products have toxins, it says onions eliminate the toxins in red meat, mushrooms purify eggs and poultry, lettuce does it for cheese and carrots for pork.

Since my favorite fruit, in spite of the many exotic fruits available here, is the grapefruit, they were the first fruit I checked out. According to the book, grapefruit are good as a general purgative, inflammation of the prostate, and for lowering the blood pressure. The authors also add that the skin makes a good sweet. This refers to the supersweet candy Costa Ricans make by soaking grapefruit in a sugar mixture. 

My next favorite fruit, the apple, is even more efficacious. It is supposed to alleviate physical and mental fatigue, cure anemia, rheumatism, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, hepatitis, gastric ulcers, bronchitis, insomnia and nervousness.

No wonder Ben Franklin or someone said "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

The mango is supposed to strengthen the heart and give relief to an irritated intestine. 

All berries as we now should know, are especially good for us. The strawberry is probably queen of them all. There are many ways to use or ingest them. You can rub strawberries on chilblains on your hands and feet to make them go away; or rub them on skin infections a couple of times a day (could I be misreading this?) Stewed strawberries are good for irritations of the liver. Eaten any way they are supposed to reduce cholesterol. And a cure for arthritis is a breakfast of 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

strawberries only (or with a bit of honey and pollen) for 20 days. 

The tamarindo is supposed to treat constipation. It is used in juices, marmalades and ice cream. 

The wonderful thing about fruit here is that they are so widely available and in the ferias, so reasonable. In Costa Rica there are several growing seasons. I am currently waiting for grapefruit to come back to the ferias. They don’t have them during the rainy season. Last season I could get four for 100 colons (less than a quarter).  In the stores they are twice as much for three. The grapefruit here have dozens of seeds, but it is easy to cut around the center and take them all out at once. A good one tastes great.

And finally "Frut terapia" has a suggestion for those who are concerned about how to clean fruits and vegetables. Soak them in a bucket of fresh water, to which you have added three teaspoons of vinegar and a tablespoon of salt. Then wash them well. (Less water, less of everything else, of course.)

The other day I was thinking about the coming of grapefruit and remembered as a kid waiting for the tomatoes to get ripe, and then the fresh corn. Today in many countries these items are available all year long — but gone is the pleasure of that first taste of the first beef tomato. 

To this day I remember as a kid, spending the summer with friends in Buffalo, New York, and the mother would give me the first beautiful beef tomato slices with fresh mayonnaise. Nothing better. 

Do I hear someone ask, "Who would spend a summer in Buffalo, New York?" Actually, I loved my summers in and around Buffalo. We could actually swim in Lake Erie then. But I do prefer Costa Rican winters. Fruit does not grow in the winter back there.


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Spanish airline plans
more direct flights 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Iberia, the Spanish airline, is setting up direct flights from Madrid to San José, in part, to avoid burdensome U.S. visa requirements for in-transit passengers.

The new routes avoid a landing in Miami, Fla., where all passengers not from visa-waiver countries would have to have a U.S. visa even for a brief stopover.

Costa Rican tourism officials see the flights as an advantage of attracting the European market. The flights will also be an advantage for Costa Ricans who wish to fly to Europe and want to avoid the hassle of getting a U.S. visa here.

Three flights, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, will be from Madrid, to San José to Panamá and return to Madrid. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the flight will go from Madrid to Guatemala City to San José and return to Madrid. The Sunday flight will be Madrid, to San José and return to Madrid, said the airline.

The first flights will be in October.

Drug-fighting aircraft
get veto in assembly

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Nacional turned thumbs down Thursday on a plan to let some 35 U.S. military aircraft land in Costa Rica for refueling and supplies.

The Constitution requires legislative approval for the arrival of military ships and the landing of military planes. Usually such approvals are routine.

Thursday the 24 minority members of the assembly voted together to deny permission. The government’s Partido Unidad Social Cristiana could muster only 21 votes. The permission had been sought by Rogelio Ramos, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The landings would have been between Aug. 15 and Nov. 15. The aircraft involved are engaged in surveillance along both coasts as part of the anti-drug operations there.

The landings would be in Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela, Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia and elsewhere.

Deputies previously have denied landing rights to U.S. naval vessels.

The voting Thursday was for several reasons, according to sources at the legislature. Some deputies voted against the approval to punish the government for threatening to fire striking air traffic controllers.

Other deputies said that they did not have enough information on the reasons for the military landings.

The aircraft are a strong weapon against the use of fastboats to bring cocaine and heroine from Colombia to the United States.

The measure likely will be taken up again.

Where is all the mail?

A.M. Costa Rica has experienced an unusually high percentage of lost e-mail messages in the last four weeks. We do not know why, but we remind readers that Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., RACSA, automatically rejects messages with certain words in the subject line, with certain types of attachments and of certain sizes.

A.M. Costa Rica maintains surveillance at its U.S.-based server and discovered that the bulk of the missing messages never make it out of Costa Rica. If you have experienced such problems, we would like to hear from you.  Our number is  223-13-27 or you can try to send your message again to


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Latin and Caribbean economies doing better in '04
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Favorable international economic conditions are helping the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean do better in 2004 than previously forecast, says the United Nations.

In an statement Thursday, the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean said that the economy for the region will grow 4.5 percent in 2004, instead of at about 4 percent as was predicted in May. Almost every country in the region is benefiting from the improved global economic climate except Haiti and the Dominican Republic, said the commission.

A new report, called "Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean, 2003-2004," says that the growth is driven by exports, which are responding to favorable international conditions, especially the recovery in some developed economies, such as the United States and Japan, and a boost in the economy of China.

The agency said the region's ability to capitalize upon the  international economic climate is in large measure a "reflection of its implementation of domestic economic policies geared towards maintaining tighter fiscal and monetary control and more competitive exchange rates."

Venezuela will lead growth in the region at 12 percent, followed by Uruguay at 9.5 percent and Argentina at 7.1 percent, said the report. All three countries are recovering from previous deep plunges, the report noted.

The growth rate for other countries is 5.5 percent in Ecuador, 4.5 percent in Chile, 4.2 percent in Peru and 3.9 percent in Mexico, while Brazil, Colombia, and Costa Rica will each grow at 3.7 percent. In contrast, Haiti's economy will fall by 2 percent, and the Dominican Republic's economy by 1 percent, said the commission.

The U.S. economy should grow 4 percent in 2004, with the world economy expected to grow 3.8 percent.

Despite the mostly positive numbers, the commission said that unemployment in the region remained high in the first part of 2004 at 10.3 percent, and is expected to decline very slowly. During the same period in 2003, unemployment was at 10.7 percent.

Almost half the region's people live in poverty, the commission said.

The report is available online at: http://www.eclac.org/

Highway conditions and new laws draw letters
Roads are in the hands
of local politicians

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I noticed on the story about people blockading the roads at Arenal mention that the topography makes the road difficult to maintain. That may be true, but let me take a minute to note a few experiences of my own with regards to the complexity level of road maintenance.

I live in the Quepos area. There have been recent articles in our local paper, the Costanera, that the alcalde was one of 10 in the country who didn't remember to solicit the available funding for road maintenance in time from the federal government. His oversight meant for us that there are NO funds available for road maintenance in the Canton of Aguirre until next year. Recently, one bridge collapsed in the entry to Quepos and two more are in a sorry state.

Having recently tried (and failed) to walk to Cartago on back roads from Quepos, I had the pleasure of seeing some road maintenance examples on some roads that are EXTREMELY difficult to maintain, those that are arteries that pass through the mountains of Los Santos from Quepos. These roads, in mountainous terrain, with incredible cliffs, very wet weather and basically every challenge, including waterfalls that fall directly into the roads, are in a very well maintained state! 

I was surprised as I thought that in the rainy season they were only passable on a horse. That is not the case. Apart from one very problematic waterfall, the road from Esquipulas to San Marcos is in an excellent state and very well maintained!

Let me also mention that Parrita, who has fewer people than Quepos and likely a MUCH smaller tax base, has done an excellent job of building, maintaining and improving the roads and bridges in their Canton. The terrain in Parrita is very similar to that in the Quepos canton of Aguirre, yet the road quality in Parrita far exceeds that of the Quepos area, as does the quality I have seen in the other adjoining community of San Marcos where the terrain is 100 times more difficult!

It appears to me that the quality of road maintenance in any canton in Costa Rica seems to largely hinge on the commitment of the local municipalities to solicit funds, organize and plan projects and serve the populations of their communities. It is glaringly apparent that some municipalities are far more committed to serving the local community than others!

Personally I can only comment on my observations, but from what I have seen, there are certain communities that really deserve some credit for their commitment to serving the local populace. Parrita and Los Santos appear to be communities 
where the commitment is real and the effort is 

made. But how sad that communities that count on tourism, such as Aguirre and Arenal, cannot count on local government to serve their own interests! 

It is in the interest of communities whose primary business is tourism, to maintain, improve and focus on road maintenance as a key part of their strategy to support the industry that feeds the population in said communities!

It is in the best interest of all of us to take more interest in election years in the candidates for local office. As far as local services, they are all decided locally. The quality of the roads where we live are in the hands of local people.

Robbie Felix
Manuel Antonio-Quepos
He says we are doomed

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You may recall that I recently submitted a letter in which I made reference to the "dumb laws" that come out of the Costa Rican Legislature. Now I believe I have heard it all: Wednesday’s article titled "Officials have to answer your applications."

Talk about dumb laws. The writer outlined the major reason that Costa Rica will remain a poor backward country: Bloated and inept bureaucracy staffed by people who think they should get a little extra money (payoff) to do their job. 

Back to dumb laws: The fact that their has to be a law requiring government applications to be acted on in 60 day simply tells us how corrupt and lazy the bureaucracy is. The dumb part is the fact that the law does not require that applications be acted upon within three days. As I have mentioned before, if I go down to the courthouse here in my city to apply for a business license, the process will take me and hour or so. Anymore than that, and I would be irritated. 

Secondly, in today's AM Costa Rica regarding hotel/apartments and the legal status of the renters. This law is even more stupid that the one outlined above. The property owner operates a hotel, he does not run an immigration office. 

I believe that is the jurisdiction of the police or immigration officials. 

So if someone is in Costa Rica illegally, he gets a big fine. Of course nothing whatsoever is going to happen to any government official for allowing the person to be in the country illegally. Again let me say: The Costa Rican government, from the president on down, is an example of immature children attempting to run a country.  Costa Rica is doomed.

Nicholas C. Allen
Evergreen, Colo.

Missionary, killed in Honduran air mishap, located by rescuers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras —  Rescuers say they have found the body of a U.S. missionary whose plane disappeared in western Honduras Saturday. 
Officials say they believe the small plane carrying Michael Hines was flying at about 2,100 meters (about 6,800 feet) when it slammed into a cliff in the Celaque mountains. 

A police spokesman said the impact threw Hines's body a considerable distance from the wreckage of the plane.  Honduran officials say they are transfering his remains to the town of Gracias, about 150 kms. (93 miles) northwest of here.

Relatives say the 66-year-old missionary had performed charity work for the Assemblies of God church in the area for 17 years.

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This is THE place for the weekend house-hunter 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ExpoCasa is an obligatory visit for anyone at the point of buying real estate or ready to make a move into an upscale home.

Every major bank and home lending organization appears to be there, as are representatives from some of the country’s leading condominiums and subdivisions.

There are a few home decor companies represented, such as portones, hardwood flooring and wrought iron. But for the most part, the exposition is new housing. That’s to be expected because one of the sponsors of the expo is the Cámera Costarricense de la Construcción.

The overall impression of the expo is that Costa Rica is on a building boom. Condo project after condo project maintains a booth with flyers and reasons why you should be moving in. Visitors can place the names on some of those projects they have seen vaguely through the windshield in Santa Ana or Sabana Oeste. 

Although the impression also is big bucks, some subdivisions are offering homes from $37,500 and a reasonable selection exists in the $60s range. Of course, the banks will be happy to provide you with an 18.75 percent adjustable rate mortgage for 30 years. Rates are substantially lower for dollar loans. Some were advertised for 5 percent.

There even is a booth for lawyers to help you with the fine legal points.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Booth of the Instituto Nacional de Vivienda, a government agency, generated a lot of traffic.

The expo runs until Sunday at the Herradura Conference Center on the highway to the airport, the Autopista General Cañas in Heredia. Parking always has been a problem there with cars parked all over the access roads. But there also is substantial off-site parking with minibus connections for 500 colons ($1.14).

This is the second year, and sponsors said that more than 8,000 people attended last year.

Allegations of fraud cloud results of voting in Mexican elections
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican election officials have begun counting ballots from local elections on Sunday, amid charges of voter fraud and tampering.

The official count began Wednesday, one day after a gubernatorial candidate in Oaxaca State vowed to challenge the results.

The challenger, Gabino Cue, says he believes nearly 32,000 votes had been improperly voided in the southern state. At a news conference, he displayed 

ballots that he said had been dumped on a roadside. Cue also alleged that someone tampered with initial voting results that were posted on the Web site of the nation's election commission earlier this week.

Rival candidate Ulises Ruiz has claimed victory in the contest, after unofficial results showed him with a slim advantage.

Election officials are also tallying votes in the mayoral contest in the border city of Tijuana, where businessman Jorge Hank Gonzalez is reported to have a slight lead.

Bolivia and Peru agree on exportation of natural gas via Pacific
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

LIMA, Peru — Bolivia and Peru have signed an agreement for landlocked Bolivia to export natural gas through its Andean neighbor. 

Bolivian President Carlos Mesa and Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo signed the deal here Wednesday, less than a month after Bolivians voted to allow natural gas exports and increase state control over the country's vast reserves. 

Labor groups and Andean Indians wanted Bolivia to nationalize the gas industry and keep its supplies for domestic use. 

Mesa's predecessor, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, was forced to step down last October following a popular revolt against his plan to export the gas through Chile. 

Bolivia lost its access to the Pacific Ocean following a war with Chile in 1879.

Jo Stuart
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