A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Monday, Aug. 23, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 166
Jo Stuart
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But marchers sure to clog downtown
Some transport operators back out of strike
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Government negotiators managed to convince representatives of transport workers to avoid a general strike called for today by labor organizers. The result is that many buses and taxis will continue to run today.

Representatives of the Foro Nacional de Transporte Público said their employees would work normally today. The announcement followed a meeting at Casa Presidencial.

Had most transport workers participated, protestors would have succeeded in shutting down the country.

The operators’ group, the Cámara Nacional de Transportes, said it had received assurances that the government would help increase fares to offset the growing cost of fuel.

Some 24 other unions, under the banner of the Movimiento Cívico Nacional, were scheduled to begin their 24-hour strike at 4 a.m. Transport workers, including taxi drivers, were unhappy with the vehicle inspection monopoly awarded to Riteve S y C, a joint Costa Rican and Spanish company. That was one of the multi-pronged demands of the strikers: to restructure the vehicle inspection process.

Despite the agreement reached Sunday, some transport workers still may join the strike. Also participating will be representatives of mechanical shops that have done vehicle testing in the past.

A major union involved in the strike today says that a goal is to bring down the government of Abel Pacheco.

Albino Vargas, secretary general of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, has equated the march today with Venezuela’s referendum on President Hugo 

Chavez. "The referendum of the street, for example, permits us to show our anger over the form in which we are governed," he said.

Vargas, in a posting on the association’s Web page, laments the fact that Costa Rica does not have a recall provision in its constitution the way Venezuela does. If it had, he said that several previous presidents would have been recalled.

Vargas notes that Eastern European governments fell when the citizens went into the streets.

The association has many members among the state monopolies and it opposed vigorously the proposed free trade treaty with the United States. The group has support from leftist organizations from the Universidad de Costa Rica.

The association also opposes a proposal to privatize the Instituto Costarricense de Puertos del Pacífico, which runs the docks in Puntarenas.

Another big gripe of the marchers is the 4.5 percent pay hike mandated by the government for the second half of the 2004 fiscal year. Pacheco specified the increase when negotiators could not agree.

Union employees think they should get more, and the increase actually represents a slight pay cut due to the devaluation of the colon currency. Pacheco says the government simply does not have more money. 

Several teacher unions have decided not to participate in the strike, although the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza has signed on and suggests that the government should boost salaries 10 percent if a quality education is wanted. Also supporting the march is the Sindicato de Educadores Costarricenses.

Leave your 'I love Abel' buttons at home
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats here probably will suffer few inconveniences from the general strike called for today unless they have urgent business with government offices.

Many transport workers will not be joining the marches, and travelers should expect near normal bus and taxi operations. However, travel into urban areas will be slowed by marches and demonstrations promised by the strikers.

Private employers are not targets of the strike, so supermarkets, restaurants and bars will not be affected. The tourism industry will function normally, although purchase of exit stamps at the two international airports might be slower.

Travel in downtown San José will not be rapid, particularly in the afternoon hours when 

strikers close off Avenida Central in front of the Asamblea Nacional. Today is not a good day to pay bills. Most utility workers will be marching instead of working. Banks which always are slow might be slower.

During the last labor protests, employees of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad turned down the high-speed Internet service to a trickle. Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. probably will not be affected, but today is not a day for technical support calls.

Parents who have children in public school are being encouraged to let their offspring attend, but chances are most teachers will not be there.

The best entertainment bet for expats will be to watch the marchers and attend the big afternoon rally. Leave "I love Abel" and "Free trade for me" buttons and banners at home.

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U.S. bail jumper
caught in Flamingo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents arrested a man wanted on a Boston, Mass., drug charge at a Flamingo condominium Friday.

He is David P. Kelly, who most recently entered Costa Rica May 28, said agents. The arrest was made by the Judicial Investigating Organization and local representatives of the International Police Agency (INTERPOL).

Agents said that Kelly failed to appear at a Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Superior Court hearing July 21. He had been free on $75,000 bail.

Kelly, his brother Christian and a third man were arrested four years ago on a charge of distributing the opium derivative oxicodona, methadone and a form of steroid, said agents.

Kelly will face extradition proceedings in the Tribunal Penal de Juicio of the Primer Circuito Judicial en San José.

Taiwan courts Managua
with free-trade pact

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Taiwan's Prime Minister Yu Shyi-Kun has arrived in this capital for the last leg of a diplomatic tour of three Latin American countries. 

Yu was scheduled to start negotiations over a free trade treaty between Taiwan and Nicaragua. Last week he visited the Dominican Republic, where he attended the presidential inauguration of Leonel Fernandez, and Honduras, where he met with President Ricardo Maduro. 

The three Latin American countries are among 26, including Costa Rica, that maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei. Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and demands that nations not have ties with the island. 

Tourist dies in river

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Río Pacuare near Siquirres has claimed the life of another tourist who was whitewater rafting.

The dead man, a young Canadian man, fell in the river and was swept against rocks by the current, said rescuers. His name was not available immediately.

The Pacuare, which runs east to the Caribbean, is a well-known whitewater location. But periodically rafters die there.

So who is the buyer?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They may be great thieves, but their marketing knowhow is a little faulty.

Investigators have arrested three persons and recovered some 97 electric meters that have been stolen from locations around San José. The meters are worth thousands of dollars, but there is only one major buyer for them in the country, the Compañia Nacional de Fuerza y Luz. That’s the same company that was the victim of the thieves.

GOP to register voters

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Republicans Abroad of Costa Rica will be holding a U.S. citizen voter registration Saturday, Sept. 4, in Atenas from noon until 7 p.m. The location will be Vista Del Valle Plantation Inn, and the menu includes wine and bocas. Those attending may call Elisa or Marvin at 450-0800 for directions, said an announcement.

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Ticos have their own rich vocabulary for fútbol
¡Oeee-oe-oe-oeee Ticos, Ticos!

This is what we chant in the stadium, in bars and at home when we are watching our Costa Rican team play soccer. It doesn’t really mean anything in particular. It’s just a way of expressing our collective support and encouragement for our team. It’s also an expression of pride and hope that our national team will be victorious.

There are other things that we yell at sporting events, a number of which are not printable here. But there are many we can print so you will know how to root for our team. But before we continue, however, let’s remember Costa Rican sports fans’ three basic rules: 1. If we win, WE were always great. 2. If they win, they are still terrible and undeserving of victory. It was only a fluke. 3. Whenever we lose, it’s almost certainly because the referee hates our team. No partisanship here, right?

Since football started in England we use many English technical terms that have merely been adapted to Spanish. For example soccer (or football) is fútbol, penalty is penal, a foul is una falta, a corner kick is tiro de esquina and a goal is, of course, ¡gooooooooooooooool! The ball itself is la bola or la pelota, When a player does not kick the ball well someone may yell from the stands tiene la pata torcida. "He has his legs crossed," or cómo si la bola fuera cuadrada. "As if the ball were square."

When one of our players advances towards the other team’s goal we yell ¡vamos! ¡vamos! "Let’s go!, let’s go!" And the closer he gets to the net the louder and more frantic our screams of ¡vamos! ¡vamos! become. If the player fails to make the goal, we may comment: salado, pero la pulsó, meaning; too bad but he tried his best. Now, this is a purely colloquial expression we use when someone 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

tries with all his or her heart because the verb pulsar refers to the heartbeat or pulse.

When the opposing team is approaching our goal, we yell many things, but the one I remember the most is ¡zafala!  This is sort of like saying "lose it," meaning that we hope the opposing player will lose control of the ball. But this expression is also a kind of curse simply wishing the player bad luck. If  an opposing player makes a goal against us we say  #*%±/~ox# or que mala suerte, meaning "what bad luck" (#*%±/~ox# is, of course, untranslatable).

So if you pass by a San José bar where the patrons are all gathered around the TV raucously cheering Costa Ricans on to victory, walk inside and join in the fun by starting a chorus of ¡Oeee-oe-oe-oe, Ticos, Ticos! ¡Que Viva Costa Rica!

Daniel Soto divides his time between Indiana and  Costa Rica, where he owns a home in Santo Domingo de Heredia.

Germany will try to extradite Argentinians involved in 'Dirty War'
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NURENBERG, Germany — German prosecutors say they will seek the extradition of five former senior Argentine officials for the deaths of two German students during what's known as the Dirty War of the 1970s. 

Officials here said Friday they have issued arrest warrants for former dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, former admiral Emilio Massero, two former generals: Carlos Suarez Mason, Juan Bautista Sasiain, and former el Vesubio detention center head Pedro Saenz. 

The five men are accused in the indirect murder of Elisabeth Kaesemann and Klaus Zieschank. Ms. Kaesemann was allegedly killed at the detention center in 1977. Mr. Zieschank was found dead in 1976. 

Videla is currently under house arrest in Argentina. 

The Germans have decided not to seek 69 others they believe were involved in the "Dirty War" carried out by the Argentine junta then in power against as many as 30,000 political opponents, many of them students.

Audit of ballot boxes confirms victory by Chavez in Venezuela
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela —  Election officials say an audit of the Aug. 15 recall referendum has confirmed that President Hugo Chavez won fairly. 

Election officials said Saturday they found no evidence of fraud after recounting ballots in 150 randomly selected polling stations. 

International observers from the Organization of 

American States and the Carter Center in the United States had requested the recount after Venezuelan opposition leaders claimed the government rigged electronic voting machines during the August 15 poll. 

International observers had said they hoped the audit would raise public confidence in the government's declaration that President Chavez beat the recall vote by a wide margin of 58 to 42 percent.

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Amnesty on stolen Indian relics raises awareness
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Every year, millions of dollars worth of stolen American Indian artifacts change hands. Many of those items were looted from reservations. Authorities prosecute thieves when they catch them. but, the number of prosecutions fall far short of the number of thefts. 

So, this summer, officials in the four corner states tried something new. They offered amnesty to looters who gave their stolen items back. The program ended this week.

The black market for stolen American Indian items is estimated in the millions of dollars a year, but Vernelda Grant, archaelologist of the San Carlos Apache reservation, says looters are taking more than profitable items. "These are things that we use to pray with, or they're used in our ceremonies and, you know, the prayer keeps us in line to walk a good path and a good life," she says. 

Ms. Grant says the decision to join the amnesty program wasn't an easy one for her tribe.  Others in Arizona had similar misgivings. According to Diane Humetewa, the tribal liaison for the U.S. Attorney in Arizona, most of the state's 21 tribes gave the amnesty an overwhelmingly positive response, but only two submitted lists describing the items they wanted back. 

"The unfortunate thing is there were more tribes out there who wanted to participate, but it was sort of difficult for the cultural leaders to agree to sort 

of divulge the descriptions or the particular uses for the items," she says. 

Difficult to divulge, because the items are sacred and describing them to non-tribal members is often seen as sacrilegious. Still, Ms. Humetewa says the San Carlos Apaches and her own tribe, the Hopi, decided revealing those details was the lesser of two evils. "There was a sort of desperation on the part of those tribes to get these items back because each day, each year that a particular item is missing, people are losing the cultural significance of that item," she says. 

Those items included ceremonial masks, headdresses and even an altar. None of the items on the tribes' lists in Arizona was returned, but several pots, a grinding stone and several sets of human remains, including skulls, did come back throughout the region. And, Walter Lamar of the Bureau of Indian Affairs says, officials got more out of the amnesty than returned artifacts. 

"This amnesty program has flipped the switch, it's lighted the light, it's created an awareness and an education that is so critical to those of us that investigate and seek out the people who have the remains of our ancestors," he says. 

Now that the amnesty program is over, federal prosecutions will resume, with penalties of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Despite calling the program a success, the U.S. Attorney for Arizona says it'll likely be a long time before law enforcement offers this kind of amnesty again. 

Researchers confirm a relationship between soil moisture and rain
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Forecasters, water resource managers and farmers may benefit from a better understanding of the connection between rainfall and the water in soil, says a National Aeronautics and Space Administration press release.

A NASA researcher led the Global Land-Atmosphere Coupling Experiment, a study that used a dozen computer models to locate hot spots around the world where soil moisture may strongly affect rainfall during the northern hemisphere summer. Results appear in the Aug. 20 issue of the journal Science.

"The study arguably provides the best estimate ever of the areas where soil moisture changes can affect rainfall," said Randal Koster, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Koster and colleagues duplicated the same experiment using 12 different computer models from around the world. With each model, researchers compared rainfall behavior in two sets of simulations: one in which soil moisture differed between simulations, and one in which all simulations were conducted with the same level of soil moisture.

Hot spots where soil moisutre and rainfall correlations occurs appear in the central plains of North America, the Sahel, equatorial Africa and India. Less intense hot spots show up in South America, central Asia and China. Hot spots are analogous to ocean areas where sea-surface temperatures strongly affect climate and weather, the most famous example being in the eastern tropical Pacific, where El Niños occur.

Understanding soil-moisture levels and their connection to rain may improve forecasting. 

Jo Stuart
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