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These stories were published Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 177
Jo Stuart
About us

Robert Evans photo
Perhaps the world's largest bedroom awaits evacuees on Saturday.

Gambling firms take the lead in helping out
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Online gambling businesses in Costa Rica are taking the lead to provide aid to hurricane victims in the United States.

Robert Evans of Nine.com in Rohrmoser just returned from delivering two truckloads of water, food and necessities to refugees stranded at the Houston Astrodome. He said he managed to do in 12 hours what disasters agencies seemed to be unable to accomplish.

90 countries and agencies offer aid

777rock.com, a sportsbook based in San José, also is joining the steady contingent of private organizations in Costa Rica that are donating to relief efforts. The firm gave $20,000 to officials in New Orleans.

In addition, this morning a Hummer loaded with the supplies will join a 20-truck convoy headed towards emergency shelters in New Orleans where the items will go to whomever needs them, said  Marshall Williams, a spokesman for 777rock.com.

Evans of Nine.com already is back from his trip to the disaster area. He left at 7 a.m. Saturday. By 2 p.m. he was arriving with two tractor trailers at the Astrodome parking area.

"We were the only company that as of Saturday  delivered the amount of supplies we did directly to those people who needed  it," said Evans. "While of course many U.S. companies donated millions of dollars, I can tell you it is not what the people need right now . . . . They need food and  water, and blankets."

Evans said he hired the trucks in Nashville, Tenn. over the telephone and directed them to make a pickup at COSTCO in Dallas, Texas.

"While I did not see the destruction,

Robert Evans of Nine.com stands near pallets of water being unloaded in Houston.
devastation or death in New Orleans  directly, I was allowed to enter the Astrodome itself . . . where 20,000 plus people displaced from New Orleans and Mississippi were  transported to," said Evans. "What I did witness was the largest room in the world maybe . . . filled with crying and sadness. It was an emotional experience I will  never forget."

Evans said he was sensitive to the plight of those in New Orleans because his firm sponsors a music festival there and has many friends. The company is setting up an airlift of Costa Rican fruit, including bananas, via DHL, Evans said.

777rock.com will get some of its items to donate in New York. The sportsbook has several people in New York City shopping for water, kids toys, clothing, books, crayons, coloring books and anything else that will help the younger survivors of Hurricane Katrina, said spokesman Marshall Williams.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 177

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Bullets punctuate
San Pedro coffee hour

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A meeting over coffee erupted into murder Tuesday just off the main street of San Pedro about an hour before noon.

Left dead was a citizen of Colombia. His companion, another male Colombia, is in critical condition in Hospital Calderón Guardia with three bullet wounds.
The drama started inside a soda or small cafe at the Mr. Car car wash some three blocks east of the San Pedro church.

Investigators said that four men had arrived at the car wash in at least two cars. The dead man and his companion began to drink coffee and discuss something with two other men. Suddenly two men pulled guns and the dead man, later identified as  Winston Antonio Diusa Ruíz, 43, and  Javier Martínez Sánchez, 33, fled for their lives from the soda.

The assailants pumped at least 12 .38 caliber and 9-mm. bullets after them punctuating the pre-lunchtime atmosphere of the area.

By the time police arrived  both assailants had fled, Diusa was dead and Martínez had sufffered critical wounds.  Police later found the car of one assailant on a sidestreet not far away.

Who you gonna call?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When the water shuts off, or the phone line goes out, parents will be able to turn to their kids to find out who they should call to fix the problem. 

After students see the theatrical performance “Despierta Alicia, despierta,” the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos hopes that students will be able know which public services perform which functions, explain their rationale and know the rights and obligations of the residents who use these services, said the agency.

Officials with the Autoridad hope the presentation of the information in an “attractive” manner, like a play, will make students more likely to remember their responsibilities as users of public services.   The shows are scheduled to take place at five schools in Alajuela and Moravia Thursday and Friday. 
Our readers' opinions
She has a home for refugees

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

If anyone out there knows a couple or family that needs a home, I have a nice little two-bedroom, two-bath house and am also willing to pay the expenses of a couple or small family to get here and take care of their other needs. I know that Manuel Antonio, my neighbor and my workplace, will extend the warmest welcome to anyone who has been left homeless due to this tragedy. We have all pulled together before and I know we can again.
Robbie Felix
Manuel Antonio/Quepos
Maybe Bush was the blame

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It could be argued that Mr. Powell was overstating his position concerning the Bush Administration’s ability
to control the weather.  It’s hard to believe, but I have heard that such an accusation has been made.  The administration, failing to jump on board global warming, has been accused of being a proximate cause of the increased number of hurricanes over the past several years. Remember “what you hear from the mouths of babes" or paraphrased "what you hear from Bocas de Toro."
Joseph James Verce
President Bush is not afraid

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I’m wondering if the Schmits did what I did? When Clinton was president I moved to Mexico. I think Clinton was a disgrace to the U.S.A. I thought he was a coward for not doing anything about our embassies being bombed and a few other things that happened.

Are they aware that President Bush is not afraid, and I’m wondering if they know that the Governor of each State has to ask for help from our government. Mr. Bush does have other things to do and I’m not sure he knew how bad it really was until he went to look.
I’m thinking that maybe the Governor’s are to blame. Besides if the Schmits are so worried why don’t they get back to the States and help build back what happened. They are EXPATs and obviously they want to be EXPATs for some reason.

If they are so worried about what is going on in the States why did they leave? I always thought that action speaks louder than words. I think that anyone that picks on President Bush is only doing it because they are Democrats and feel it’s a responsibility to pick on the Republicans.
The way I look at it, put up or shut up. But don’t blame Bush. That levee that broke in New Orleans should have been fixed a long time ago. They knew it would break some day, and of course “Lets blame President Bush.” It has to be his fault because he’s a Republican. That’s all I have to say.
Larry Rowe,
He agrees partly with his critic

Dear A.M Costa Rica:

I respect and applaud your publication of diverse points of view even those of a three-month visitor’s “analysis” and (to me) an inane critique of my free offer to Katrina victims.

To assist Ms. Rebecca Baitty I suggest she point, if she can, to where my offer is or was directed to “a few wealthy Americans”. I note that she appears to think the fact, if it is a fact, that Costa Rica’s government has offered no assistance to the U.S. victims of Katrina is just fine.

Looking for something in her letter, which I would consinder generally to be a diatribe — to agree with, I found it! The observation that the Costa Rican People’s “kindness and generosity are legendary” is close to being accurate. Having visited all but one of the Central and South American countries over the past 70+ years I feel the Costa Ricans ARE generally the friendliest.

The offer, via A.M costa Rica, included SELECTION of the senior couples to receive free accommodations at Bahia Luminosa by A.M Costa Rica, NOT by me. I do not have even a veto power as to who may take advantage of the offer.

Re Ms. Baitty’s refererence to “avoiding taxes” I respectfully refer her to Oliver Wendell Holmes’ observation that it was every American’s duty to avoit taxes, but not to evade same.   
George Perrochet, president
Bahia Luminosa, S.A.
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These masks, including two of the Devil, are used to open some religious ceremonies in Guanacaste.

This figure is one of the participants in 'The Historian' dance seen in rural El Salvador. The dancers fight with swords — sometimes eight hours a day for up to five days.

The right time and the right mask in America
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Though some of the punk-rockers who frequent Plaza de la Cultura may look like they're wearing masks, the real ones can be found underneath at the Museos del Banco Central. 

An exhibition, “Rostros, diablos y animales" (faces, devils and animals), shows headware used in fiestas from throughout Central America. 

“The exhibition isn't so much about masks as it is about their function in the larger context of Central American fiestas,” said Gisela Sánchez, an employee of the museum.  And the fiestas in the region can be extraordinary. 

The Danza de los Diablos in Panamá is held annually on Ash Wednesday.  Dancers dressed as angels drive others dressed as devils into a church where they detain the devils and whip them for punishment.  Then, the devils get crosses painted on their foreheads in ash.  Thus, they are detained. 

Another dance in the indigenous towns of El Salvador called “The Historian” is acted out on the holy day of each town's patron saint.  The masked dancers move continually for four or five days straight for seven or eight hours a day.  There are also masks used for religious and ceremonial purposes from throughout Costa Rica.

“Masks are one of the more passionate cultural expressions,” said Felicia Camacho, coordinator of the project, in a written summary.  “Even though they exert a grand attraction by themselves, if we are to immerse ourselves in what they tell us, we can appreciate them much more.  Furthermore, they speak to us about the communicators that used them, the artists that made them and the dancers that danced with them.” 

The more than 250 pieces are accompanied by placards in both English and Spanish that tell the history behind each one.  All of the masks are used in fiestas, and the majority of those are religious in nature.  In many countries, the religions of  Catholicism and of the indigenous people fused together over time to create a contemporary method of worship that is unique.  The accompanying masks are as well.

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Jesse Froehling
This tiger mask is used in the Danza de el Tigre in El Salvador.
The Central American region is distinguished for its natural and cultural diversity, said Alejandro Tosatti
of the Asociación Cultural InCorpore in a summary.  As a result, the accompanying masks are as well. 

They have roots in the preColombian age, and the age of the Spanish conquerers and their subsequent colonization.  The most recent masks have an origin in the formation of the nations as they are today, said Tosatti.  Visitors can see them on display. 

The Asociación Cultural InCorpore describes itself as a team of artists, communicators and investigators who work in conjunction with high schools  to develop the culture of Central America.

The exhibition, which opened Sunday, is scheduled to run to the end of the year. 

Dominican Republic signs on as fifth member of free trade pact
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The lower house of The Dominican Republic's legislature approval by an overwhelming margin Tuesday the free-trade agreement with the United States and Central America.

By a vote of 118 to 4 the country's chamber of deputies approved the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. The nation's senate approved the measure Aug. 26.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Rob Portman, the U.S. trade representatives, offered his congratulations and said that the United States will be coordinating the implementation of the accord with signatory countries in the next few weeks.

The Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala,
Honduras and the United States have now approved the pact.  Nicaragua and Costa Rica -- the other two signatory countries -- have not, thus far.

The Dominican Republic came late to treaty negotiations but was consistently in favor of the measure. The country was seen as a competitor to Costa Rica due to its extensive agricultural sector.

The trade agreement will go into effect among the five countries Jan. 1. approval by that time by either Nicaragua or Costa Rica is unlikely. Nicaragua is emeshed in a political battle between the executive and legislative branches with the prospect of serious decision making unlikely.

President Abel Pacheco of Costa Rica has consistently delayed sending the measure for possible ratification to the Asamblea Nacional.

Qatar and UAE each donate $100 million
90 countries and agencies offer aid to United States
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The State Department says cash and material assistance donated by foreign countries has begun flowing to New Orleans and other parts of the southern United States ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. More than 90 countries and international organizations have offered help.

The United States, which is more accustomed to providing rather than receiving disaster help, has welcomed all the foreign assistance offers and rejected none of them out of hand.

The State Department is working with other federal agencies and local authorities to match the offers with actual needs on the ground and coordinate deliveries of overseas aid, which began late last week.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said helicopters loaned to the United States by Canada and Singapore are already at work in the stricken area, helping to deliver relief supplies that include military rations contributed by among others Germany, Italy, Britain and Mexico.

The spokesman said cash donations from foreign countries, some from Gulf oil states in the hundreds of millions of dollars, are also flowing to relief agencies.

McCormack said Americans are moved and grateful for what he termed the "tremendous" outpouring of support for those affected by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

"Over 90 countries and organizations around the world have made offers of assistance to the United States and the American people in our time of need," said McCormack.  "And I think the American people can take great heart from the fact that when we need help, when we need assistance, the world is answering the call."

Spokesman McCormack said decisions on accepting aid offers are being based solely on needs and not political considerations.
Long-time U.S. adversary Cuba has offered to provide more than 1,000 doctors for hurricane relief. But McCormack indicated that Cuban medical workers would not be needed because of what he said was a "robust" volunteer response from the U.S. medical community.

The spokesman said Venezuela, another country with which the United States has had difficult relations in recent years, is providing financial aid through Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of its state oil company.

He said Germany will be providing high-capacity pumps to help reduce the floodwaters in New Orleans, while the Netherlands, which like New Orleans is partly below sea level, is sending experts on levee reconstruction.

An interim tally of foreign contributions from the State Department Monday said that Kuwait is providing $400 million worth of oil and another $100 million in cash.  There were $100 million contributions from both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The State Department, meanwhile, said it continues to work with governments around the world to locate foreign nationals who were believed to have been in the hurricane area last week and still unaccounted-for.

Officials say the number of such cases remains in the hundreds though this does not necessarily mean they are among hurricane casualties.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday the State Department has set up an operations center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to deal with the issue.

She urged foreign citizens in the impacted area who have not yet done so to call home and to contact their respective embassies or consulates.

More than 30 governments, mainly from Latin America and Europe, had consulates in New Orleans, all of which closed when the city was ordered evacuated. This included the Costa Rican consultate that has been relocated.

Jo Stuart
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