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These stories were published Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 160
Jo Stuart
About us
Mother's Day joins the family with religion
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

"This is almost as big as Christmas," said the young Tica as she raced off to do some last-minute Mother’s Day shopping.

That was not an understatement. Costa Rica is posed to celebrate Thursday it’s version of Mother’s Day, which blends maternal love with religion.

There is no accident that the day falls on Aug. 15, which — by no coincidence - also happened to be the Catholic Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the United States and even in other Latin lands, such as Cuba, Mother’s Day is a secular celebration held on the second Sunday of May. But Costa Ricans could hardly ignore the parallels in love of one’s mother and love for the mother of Jesus.

In Catholic theology, the Assumption is the anniversary of the day when the Virgin Mary was bodily assumed into heaven, thereby escaping the normal death and decay that is the lot of other humans. This day is the biggest feast day for the Virgin Mary worldwide, although some may argue that in Costa Rica, the Día de la Virgen de Los Angeles, Aug. 2, is a much  more visible celebration.

The Day of the Virgin of the Angels is when the faithful make pilgrimages to Cartago and the Basilica there.

On both days, most stores and all except emergency government services will be closed. The U.S. Embassy, where staffers honor local holidays, also is closed.

In North America, Mother’s Day may mean flowers, a box of candy or Sunday dinner at a restaurant. Here, the appropriate gift could be a big-ticket household appliance.

Mother’s Day certainly will include Mass for the Catholic families. There will be cemetery trips to visit dead mothers or grandmothers Flowers will be much in evidence.

And the extended Costa Rican families will sit down to another afternoon-long dinner/social gathering that reinforced the social ties.

The combined family-religious celebration is not new. The ancient Greeks had similiar festivals. U.S. author-priest Andrew M. Greeley of Chicago notes in his website  that the Assumption Feast of Catholic theology has the same time frame as the Celtic harvest festival of Luchnasa.

The pagan celebration became a festival to honor Mary "because Mary reflected the life-giving, life-nurturing love of God," he said.

Theologians cannot find contemporary biblical references to the assumption of Mary. The recognition of the event stems from the late Fifth century. The event did not become a dogma of the Catholic faith until Pope Pius XII proclaimed it as such in 1950.

Tourism office in downtown taking vacation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The downtown tourist information office run by the government has been closed for at least a week.

The office adjacent to the entry to the Banco de Costa Rica Gold Museum under the Plaza de la Cultura is listed in virtually every guidebook and piece of hotel literature as a place were visitors can find maps and information about the country.

A steady stream of tourists has been visiting the empty office since at least last week. They are greeted with a sign that says the office has been closed for remodeling. However, there is no sign inside of any construction work.

A guard said Saturday that the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo that operates the office has been experiencing personnel problems.

A Gold Museum guard Tuesday directed visitors to the tourism institute main office in a building a block away. So did the sign posted on the window. However, a guard at the building a block away would not let visitors go to the 11th floor as instructed by the sign. He said the tourism office closed at 4 p.m.

A request to visit the office of Tourism Minister Rubén Pacheco Lutz also was denied. The minister was in a board meeting and could not be disturbed, the guard said.

The information office contains stacks of 

Signs announce office is closed

literature left by a number of tourism destination businesses in the country. Multilingual attendants frequently outline trips and sightseeing possibilities for tourists who visit.

The Gold Museum and a gift shop adjacent to the information office continue to be open. The guard said Tuesday that the information office would be open next week but he was uncertain on how long it had been closed.

No announcement was made that the tourism information office would be closed. August is a time of younger, more active tourists, and the downtown streets are teeming with North Americans and Europeans, many of them students on university vacation.

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Rip tide dangers draw some tips from our readers
EDITOR’S NOTE: A first-person article Tuesday told how one of our reporters found himself caught in a rip tide at Playa Negra in Cahuita. Several readers have additional tips, and we publish two below.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thanks for the article by Christian Burnham on the Riptide Experience. In light of the many drownings each year, especially on the Pacific side, and many of these due to riptides, let me share some information that someday will save your life:

As a lifeguard, I am aware that much education is needed when it comes to this subject. People in general are quite ignorant about this phenomenon, Riptide, and its name does not do anything at all to clarify this. 

Let me give it a try. One of the reasons for a Riptide, especially the ones off the Costa Rican coast, is the amount of seawater, driven to the beach by the ocean's movement. All this water clearly can not pile-up or go uphill, so, depending on the local conditions, this "extra" water starts to flow back into the ocean. Most of the time this is hardly noticeable, but on occasion, it forms "rivers," that stream into the sea. 

Sometimes you can see these flows from the beach. Jaco has them, but, due to the gentle surf there, they are mostly very benign. Usually! Never take the ocean for granted! Playa Manuel Antonio seems to have a constant area where a very strong Rip Current is present most of the time. Many people there have succumbed to this. At Dominical even more so, due to the rugged geographical conditions there.

Now, as Christian indicated in his article about his personal experience, nothing was "ripping" or "grabbing" at him. If it had not been for visual references to the beach, he might not have even known that he had ended up in one of these currents. 

Of course, with a view of a quickly disappearing playa and loss of foothold, in spite of his common sense, he struggled anyway for five minutes. If the sea would have been rough enough for the waves 
to wash over his head, he might have drowned right then and there. Getting exhausted in the 

water is an experience that one must feel to believe! 

The technique that he used to finally make it back, this "riding the waves" is excellent. Use the power of the ocean to return to safety, but it would have worked better outside the riptide. 

Fortunately, Riptides or Ripcurrents are not very wide, one can swim across one in a matter of minutes. Instead of panicking and swimming against it, just relax and swim parallel to the beach. Do not attempt to swim towards the beach but rather "up or down." Pretty soon you will be outside the Rip Current and the seaward movement will have seized. Now you can either ride the waves back in, much like you would on a boogy board, or swim back.

If you are not a strong swimmer, you have no business going more than waist deep into any ocean. Know your limitations, keep an eye on the kids at all times, and never, never underestimate the power of Mother Nature!

Hank Guichelaar 
Longview, Texas


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was reading your article on how a rip tide incident almost ended up in disaster. The problem with this problem is that no education on the subject is ever published in Costa Rica, so many tourists and more Ticos die each year. 

There need not be ANY deaths. All a person has to do is swim parallel to the land when they are caught in a Rip Tide and they will swim out of it. Then they can swim to shore. Another way is just to go with the Rip Tide and it will quit pulling you out in a few minutes. Then you may have a longer swim to shore then the first way but you will live. 

I wish this would be posted on every beach and school in Costa Rica. Just a simple thing like that would save many lives per year. 

Dr. Jerry A. Hecker 
Arlington, Va., 
and Zapote, Costa Rica.

Canadian facing
heroin charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Drug police arrested a naturalized Canadian citizen Tuesday when he was on his way to Atlanta in the United States.

Police said he had ingested small packets that totaled 1.2 kilos of heroin. The man was identified by his last names of Morales Alvarado, 58, said police. He is Guatemalan by birth, they said.

Agents said they noticed the man acting suspiciously at Juan Santamaría Airport. The man’s body contained 98 packets of heroin that were removed at the Hospital De Alajuela, said police.

Some tourists to U.S.
will be fingerprinted

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Some foreign visitors to the United States will be fingerprinted and then checked against a criminal data base.

That was revealed Monday by Attorney General John Ashcroft as he announced that the Immigration and Naturalization Service next month will begin implementing new requirements for foreign visitors as they enter and exit the United States.

An evaluation and testing period for the new system will begin Sept. 11, the Department of Justice said. At selected ports of entry, a small percentage of entering foreign visitors will be fingerprinted; then, the results will be checked against a criminal database. The new system will also require that visiting aliens designated as high-risk keep authorities informed of their whereabouts through the duration of their stay in the United States.

Another source said that all tourists, students or businessmen from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria who are granted visas to enter the United States will be photographed and fingerprinted when they enter the country. Other visitors also may be fingerprinted.

Outlined in the USA PATRIOT Act approved by the Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the new system will be in effect at all U.S. ports of entry by Oct. 1, according to the department press release.

Concerns on water
conference keynoter

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Klaus Toepfer, head of the United Nations Environment Program, has called on world leaders who will attend the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development to tackle the growing global water crisis before it’s too late.

In a keynote address to the Stockholm World Water Symposium, Toepfer said it is vital that countries start implementing the Millennium Declaration goal to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people who do not have access to safe drinking water — currently 20 percent.

Quoting a recently released third Global Environment Outlook report, Toepfer said 1.1 billion people still lack access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion lack access to improved sanitation.

Toepfer called for revisions in water pricing to reflect the true cost of the resource, taking account of the economic, social and environmental value of water.

Water is one of five central issues on the agenda of the world summit that starts in Johannesburg, South Africa Aug. 26. Heads of state from more than 100 countries are expected to attend the summit.

Population instability
blamed on misuse

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A top United Nations official says the world's population faces long-term instability unless nations cooperate on conservation of natural resources. 

Undersecretary General Nitin Desai told a news conference Tuesday that he hopes President George Bush will join around 100 other leaders to discuss the problem at a world conference on sustainable development in Johannesburg, South Africa. The so-called "Earth Summit" is scheduled to take place from Aug. 26 to Sept. 4. 

Desai says global participation is essential to develop policies on resource use. He says three million people die each year from the effects of air pollution, while two million more die from contaminated water. 

A U.N. Department for Economic and Social Affairs report released Tuesday concludes that the planet faces interrelated crises in five areas - water, energy, agriculture, biodiversity and health. 

The study says sea levels rose and tropical forests, mostly in Latin America and Africa, were destroyed at unprecedented rates during the 1990s. 

Enterprise winner
stresses responsibility

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Peruvian credit union, a Nicaraguan foundation that provides micro-credit, and a non-governmental organization that supports the poorest regions in Brazil are the 2002 winners of the Inter-American Awards for Micro-Enterprise Development, presented by the Inter-American Development Bank.

The bank said Monday that the winner of its annual award for social entrepreneurship is Oded Grajew, founder of the Ethos Institute, a Brazilian organization that advocates corporate social responsibility.

The Peruvian award-winner is Municipal Savings and Loans of Arequipa, a credit union cited for its leadership and innovations in client services and financial performance. The credit union serves more than 100,000 clients through its 13-agency network in southern Peru and has plans to expand to Lima.

The Nicaraguan winner is the Foundation for the Support of Micro-Enterprise. This foundation overcame the upheaval triggered by Hurricane Mitch, which struck the country in 1998, to boost efficiency and maintain profit margins even after cutting its interest rates, said the bank.

The non-governmental organization World Vision Brazil won for providing technical service, training, and marketing services to small farmers and indigenous communities in some of Brazil's poorest areas. 

Toledo defends
wife in scandal

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA,  Peru —President Alejandro Toledo has publicly defended his wife, Eliane Karp, from accusations that her $10,000 a month bank consulting job is unethical. 

In a televised address Monday, Toledo blasted attacks on Peru's First Lady as a bid to undermine him politically. "Above everything, she is my wife and I demand respect for her," he said. 

His comments were his first public reaction to a scandal that has been broiling since the newspaper, La Razon, disclosed Friday that Ms. Karp had been working since January, 2001, for the Wiese Sudameris Bank.  The bank is under investigation for its links to Peru's former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, and former president Alberto Fujimori concerning a corruption scandal.  The president's wife was not in Peru to respond to the widening scandal. She has been on vacation in Tahiti with their daughter, Chantal. 

Argentina’s crises
affecting neighbors

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Argentina's economic crisis has had "multiple" negative effects on that country's neighbors, says a United Nations economic agency for the Americas.

The repercussions of Argentina's crisis for neighboring countries has adversely affected trade in goods and services, inflows of foreign resources and remittances from migrant workers, the banking system, and the profitability of foreign companies with investments in Argentina and the region, says the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The agency said Argentina's crisis is "exacerbating" the difficulties that countries in the region were already facing "as a result of their own domestic problems and the shocks they have sustained in recent years."

The agency's conclusions were made in a recently released report called "Current Conditions and Outlook: Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean 2001-2002."

"The greatest danger of all is that these disturbances" in Argentina "could be transmitted to other economies," the report said, adding: "Contagion of this sort could trigger a systemic crisis in the region and perhaps even in other emerging economies. This threat is particularly serious because of the current fragility of the world's financial system." The report said the economic problems currently confronting Brazil have fueled these concerns.

Paraguay to get
$200 million credit

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The International Monetary Fund  announced Tuesday that it will recommend a $200 million in stand-by credit arrangement for Paraguay. This recommendation is conditional on the Paraguayan government’s passage of important fiscal reforms, a law to help resolve problems in the banking sector, and introduction of lending limits on the state-owned development bank, the fund said in a press release.

Paraguay had requested IMF support for the economic reform program it is implementing to allow the nation to better address the effects of economic turbulence in the region, according to fund Deputy Managing Director Shigemitsu Sugisaki.

Brazilian official
cools to free trade

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A top Brazilian official says his country may not join the proposed western hemisphere free trade zone if the United States does not eliminate trade barriers to Brazilian products. The official, who spoke Tuesday, said he expects difficult negotiations ahead. 

The official is Trade, Development, and Industry Minister Sergio Amaral, who gave a cautious appraisal Tuesday of Brazil's prospects in the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. 

The U.S.-promoted FTAA was first proposed in 1994, and aims to establish a hemisphere-wide free trade zone in 2005. Negotiations to achieve this goal received a boost last week when President Bush signed legislation giving him expanded authority, commonly known as "fast track", to negotiate trade deals.

But speaking to foreign reporters in Rio, Trade Minister Amaral said despite Fast Track, Brazil is concerned about U.S. trade barriers on its products, especially in agriculture and steel. For this reason, Amaral said, his government views FTAA trade talks with caution. 

"Brazil is cautious, because the main export products to the United States face some kind of trade restrictions," he said. "Sometimes very high tariffs, for instance on orange juice; sometimes very small quotas; sometimes safeguards like on steel; sometimes a very significant subsidy [or] domestic financial support for producers that in effect take Brazilian products out of the U.S. market."
Professional Directory

A.M. Costa Rica debuts its professional and service directory where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may provide a description of what they do.

If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


United States Dentist in Costa Rica: Dr. Peter S Aborn, Prosthodontics and general dentistry private practice. 25 years in New York City. 5 years in Costa Rica. Professor and director of postgraduate prosthodontics Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. Former chief of prosthodontics Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City. Education: N.Y.U College of Dentistry; Westchester County Medical Center; Eastman Dental Center; University of Rochester Graduate School of Medicine and Dentistry. Location: 300 meters from the U.S. Embassy. Telephone: 232-9225. Cellular 379-2963. E-mail: jopetar@amnet.co.cr


American/Costa Rican attorney located in Costa Rica. Specializing in business law, commercial law, real estate sales, immigration law. Lic. Gregory Kearney Lawson. KEARNEY LAWSON & Asoc. Tel/Fax: (506) 221-9462 gkearney_lawson@hotmail.com

Legal and Consulting Specialists
Foreign Residents and Business Owners
• Reliable and Responsive •  Excellent References
Stafford, Obregón y Valle
• Consultants • Lawyers • Notaries
Apdo. 11846-1000, San Jose, Costa Rica
Tel: (506) 253-9655   Fax: (506) 280-4576 
Cel: (506) 386-9324
Email: ulimar@costarica.net

Real estate agents

Coldwell Banker Coastal Properties Escazu
Nancy Bruno
289-5790 office
387-6820 cell
Located in the new Plaza Itskazu, next to the Court Yard Marriott Escazu #203

15 years Costa Rican real estate experience
Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000 
Member, Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce
(506) 232-5016 home   (506) 233-8057 office  (506)382-7399 cell 

Web design

Professional Web site design and development in English, Spanish and Italian. Our services include: design and layout of Web site, search engine optimization and submission, Web  site hosting, e-commerce solutions (sell your products on your website by accepting credit cards online), registration of domain names and professional Internet consulting. We have complete 'one price' Web site packages that include design, marketing and hosting at low prices and includes a listing on our Web sites.  Visit www.istarmedia.net or e-mail us at webmaster@istarmedia.net or call at 399-9642

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