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These stories were published Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 182
Jo Stuart
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He tries to capture that nation's soul with music
By Clair-Marie Robertson
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Composer Luis Castillo has spent 25 years finding and transcribing a compilation of traditional Costa Rican music. For Castillo this is much more than a study. It’s his life’s passion, something which he wholly believes and participates in.  He cites the 19th century Russian composer Mikhail Glinka as one of his main influences.

Glinka is known for furthering Russian nationalism in his music. "I always thought that what he said about a nation creating music was very interesting," said Castillo. Glinka contended that the nation creates music and the composer only arranges it.

"After that, I realized I had the vocation for Costa Rican music," said Castillo. "My interest is not for any commercial purpose, it is 100 percent cultural and artistic. It is a work that I started and day by day I fell more and more in love with."

Castillo’s work seeks to preserve Costa Rican national identity. 

The result is his fifth book in this series "La Musica Mas Linda de Costa Rica"  Although written in Spanish, the work portrays all the fundamental cultural symbols of Costa Rica in uncomplicated terms. 

In addition to the new book, two CDs and a video are also available and demonstrate Castillo’s ability to represent Costa Rican tradition through his depiction of Costa Rica’s traditional music.

"La Pava Negra," "La Criolla,"  "El Coyotillo y la Charanga" are but a few of the many songs that are featured in "La Musica Mas Linda de Costa Rica." Each song is accompanied by its score especially composed for the guitar, the flute and the piano. In addition, the book includes lyrics for each song.

A.M. Costa Rica/Clair-Marie Robertson
Luis Castillo hard at work

"I have tried to recover otherwise unknown songs that reflect the identity of Costa Rica and how our ancestors celebrated national identity," said Castillo. 

Some songs are melancholic and others evoke images of Costa Rica’s beaches, the carreta, gallo pinto, marimba, the tamal, the beauty of rainforests, traditions and customs. This music is part of the national soul. 

This book and CDs will help preserve Costa Rican culture, to ensure that Costa Rica’s youth are educated about their country and to ensure that those who visit the country can be made aware of Costa Rica’s national identity. 

A future project for Castillo and his Producciones Muiscales L.C. is the release of a DVD that encapsulates the visual beauty of Costa Rica accompanied by traditional music. 

Clinica Biblica and Legion are seeking to create HMO here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

American Legion members and other U.S. veterans will hear today about plans to create a new health and hospitalization system for them.

"This is the first time that the vets not covered here in Costa Rica will have a chance to be part of a medical plan that will address their needs and be affordable," said Howard L. Singer. He is the commander of the SFC Raymond Edison Jones Jr. American Legion Post 16 Costa Rica.

Singer told Legion members in a meeting announcement that staffers from Clinica Biblica will be at the meeting. The idea is to create a U.S.-style health maintenance organization.

Wives and children will be accepted into this 

HMO under the current plan, and the organization will also have a plan so friends of the American Legion can receive the same benefits.

The meeting is in Oporto Restaurant in San Francisco de Heredia at 1 p.m.

Singer said that the informational meeting would be followed by distribution of a questionnaire by Clinica Biblica.

The medical insurance situation for expats living in Costa Rica is complex. Retired or disabled U.S. veterans have access to medical care. Some expats belong to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social system. Others have health plans from their home country which are honored by some private hospitals. 


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Multiple investigations
for three scandals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monday was a day that reporters needed a scorecard to keep track of who was in trouble now.

Investigators exercised a search warrant at the legal office of former president Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier. Agents also searched the home of Gerardo Bolaños Alpízar, a Calderón associate and took Bolaños and his wife, Ligia Céspedes Álvarez, in for questioning.

Bolaños is suspected of getting $90,000 from a corporation in Panamá that is at the center of the scandal involving the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. Calderón is being investigated for allegations that he shared in the money, the proceeds of an $8 million commission on the sale of medical equipment to the Caja.

Bolaños is a former Caja official.

Meanwhile, deputies at the Asamblea Nacional had a new report from the Judicial Investigating Organization that said that Alex Solís, contralor general de la República, notarized a number of signatures that were false during private legal work before he got the fiscal watchdog job.  A committee is investigating the situation for possible action against Solís, a legislative appointee.

The bulk of the signatures are of associates or relatives of Solís.

Meanwhile, two auditors from the Contraloria General were facing court action on allegations that they combined an accounting trip with making pornographic photos of minors. The pair, identified as Cortés, 45 and Fernández, 30, were picked up at a hotel in Limón Thursday on the complaint of a 15-year-old girl.

New man placed
in charge of budget

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco has named Federico Carrillo Zurcher as the new minister of hacienda, the budgeting and tax-collecting agency.

Carrillo is a former manager of the Bolsa Nacional de Valores, the Costa Rican stockmarket. He is a Northwestern University master’s graduate in business economics and finance. He also is the son of Joyce Zurcher, a member of the Asamblea Nacional and a Partido Liberación Nacional member.

Carrillo takes over from Alberto Dent who jumped ship after the executive branch gave striking public employees a half a percent additional raise during negotiations Aug. 31. Dent was supposed to be the administration’s front man for pushing through a proposed tax plan to raise $500 million more a year.

Pacheco also shifted Ovidio Pacheco to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes from where Javier Chaves had resigned. Ovidio Pacheco has been Minister of Trabajo.

The resignations were fallout from the strike and blockade of the nation’s roads by truckers.

New booklet gives
parents net guidelines

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization has come out with a pamphlet for parents on how to protect their children from dangers of the Internet.

The booklet was the product of the Oficina de Prensa’s prevention program and of the Sección de Delitos Sexuales, Familia y Contra la Vida.

The pamphlet encourages parents to supervise the Internet use of their children and to become suspicious if the child begins to receive strange telephone calls or letters.

The booklet encourages parents to place the computer in an open place and to inspect the contents from time to time for pornography or misuse.

Parents should talk with their children about their Internet use and give them instructions so they do not disseminate personal information to persons on the other end of e-mail messages or chat room discussions, aid the booklet.

The booklet calls the Internet a double-edged sword because it opens up a worldwide library to youngsters but also makes them vulnerable to predators.

About 15,000 of the booklets have been printed. These will be distributed to parents by means of their children in school, said Francisco Ruiz Mejía, press office director.

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Torch of Liberty arrives here from Guatemala
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The torch of liberty has entered Costa Rica and is expected to arrive in Cartago tonight, thanks to some 10,000 high schoolers who won with high grades the right to carry the symbol a short distance. 

The Fuerza Pública reported Monday that the torch, en route from Guatemala, the seat of the Spanish colonial government, was handed over at the border to Costa Rican youngsters about 10 a.m.

All Costa Rican communities will hold patriotic celebrations tonight. One example is the Canton of Desamparados, a highly populated southern suburb of San José.

Officials there said that at 6 o’clock tonight youngsters and the citizens in general will sing the Himno Nacional and participate in the parade of faroles, the early 19th century lanterns.

Then on Wednesday, a national holiday, a parade will go from Dos Cercas to the Parque Central de Desamparados, and a number of organizations will be represented as well as school children of various levels. Among officials will be Carlos Padilla Corella, mayor of Desamparados.

Because Sept. 15 is a legal holiday, the 183rd anniversary of independence, public offices and embassies will be closed. The U.S. Embassy confirmed this in a press release Monday. 

Analysis of the news
Policies of Chavez blamed for oil supply woes
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HOUSTON, Texas — Oil prices on the world market remain high compared to a year ago, and some analysts believe they could move higher in the months ahead. Among the reasons for the price rise is the political turmoil in Venezuela, which has vast quantities of oil and gas yet to be exploited. Many experts believe the policies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have limited the country's production.

Energy sector experts around the world have provided varying reasons for the past year's oil price increases, but one major reason cited is insufficient capacity. That means oil-producing nations are unable to increase production enough to meet rising demand. Amy Jaffe, the chief energy analyst at Rice University's James Baker Institute, here in Houston, thinks a political shift in Caracas six years ago set the stage for the recent market run-up.

"If somebody said you have to name one event that was most critical to the process of changing the outlook for the world, in terms of oil prices, I would have to say it was the change of government in Venezuela," she said. "That was the single biggest change."

Ms. Jaffe says the rise to power of President Hugo Chavez in 1998 cut short a plan to open the way for more private investment and joint projects with the state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela. She says several large companies from Houston are doing quite well in Venezuela under license arrangements with the government, but that Petroleos de Venezuela has fallen behind the production goals it had in the 1990's.

When Chavez came into office Venezuela’s oil industry was producing or had the potential to produce about 3.7 million barrels a day. the goal was to produce seven million barrels a day. 

Petroleos de Venezuela officials have defended the policy of diverting money from the oil sector to social programs. Government supporters say this sharing of the oil wealth was long overdue in a country where more than half the population lives in poverty. The Chavez government also has support among many international oil companies which currently operate in Venezuela under rules established during the partial opening of the sector in the mid-1990's. Chevron-Texaco, for example, just finished upgrade work on one project and is now considering a $6-billion investment in a new project.

Venezuelan officials blame setbacks in the oil sector

on an opposition-led strike that closed down most oil fields two years ago and caused damage to some wells. They say the nation's oil fields are now producing around three million barrels a day, although independent analysts say the real figure is 2.6 million barrels a day. 

A former director of the state-run company and a prominent critic of President Chavez, Jose Toro Hardy, says Venezuela needs to boost production in order to play its traditional role as a stable provider.

"In the past, Venezuela has been considered a very safe, a very secure, oil supplier," he said. "Very few people know, for example, that during World War II, Venezuela supplied more than 60 percent of the fuel used by the Allied Forces. Then again in each and every crisis in the Middle East when oil supply from that region of the world was threatened, Venezuela increased its oil production and helped the market."

Mr. Toro Hardy says current high oil prices on the world market are, to a great extent, the result of uncertainties in the Middle East and elsewhere. He says Venezuela, as the only non-Islamic member nation of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, could have an even more vital role to play if political circumstances worsen in the Middle East.

"Can you imagine a Persian Gulf in which its eastern shore is controlled by the Shiite fundamentalists in Iran and the western shore of the Persian Gulf would, in the future, be controlled by the Sunni fundamentalists? Can you imagine what would happen to the oil markets if that happened? But, on the other side of the world, you have Venezuela, with the largest oil reserves and we only need investment to increase our oil production," he said. "We have a key role to play in the oil markets, as we played it in the past."

But President Chavez, who last month won a resounding victory in a recall election, has shown little interest in playing that role. While the United States remains Venezuela's biggest oil customer, Chavez has worked to expand markets in other parts of Latin America and around the world. 

Although relations with Washington have been strained, the Chavez government has continued to provide around 15 percent of the oil used in the United States. The question that haunts the markets, however, is how long Venezuela can keep up its production if President Chavez fails to make a bigger opening for foreign investment as well as major new contracts.

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Museum for hemisphere's indians ready to open
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The architectural landscape of Washington, D.C., now includes a powerful testament to the enduring legacy of the first Americans: people of various tribal affiliations who established themselves in the Western Hemisphere centuries before the arrival of European settlers. 

The new National Museum of the American Indian, scheduled to open a week from now, is a bold curvilinear structure evoking the windswept mesas of the southwestern United States. Situated near the U.S. Capitol building, it offers a stark contrast to its more conventional neighbors on the National Mall.

The museum's rugged limestone exterior, in a glowing shade of maize-yellow, resembles a natural rock formation sculpted by the twin elements of wind and water. 

The four acres that surround the museum features a small agricultural plot showcasing crops traditionally cultivated by Native peoples of the mid-Atlantic region (corn, beans, tobacco), a separate wetlands area suggesting the importance of harmony with the natural world, 40 large boulders known as "grandfather rocks," and an outdoor performance space centered around a fire pit. In keeping with many native traditions, the museum faces due east, towards the rising sun. 

Established in 1989 by an Act of Congress, the new museum "is dedicated to the preservation, study, and exhibition of the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere," according to the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian is a complex of museums and research centers in Washington and New York. The Museum of the American Indian is the newest member of the Smithsonian family.

Museum officials note that the entire museum, its environs, and its exhibits were planned in close consultation with native peoples over four years. Native American architects and project designers, as well as a tribal-affiliated construction firm, were involved in the museum's creation.

This is the first national museum in the United States to be dedicated exclusively to Native Americans, "and the first to present all exhibitions from a Native viewpoint," curators explain. While the rich narrative of native peoples' varied histories, customs and folklore will be examined in detail, the museum hopes to emphasize that Native American culture remains a dynamic and evolving force, not, as some might suppose, a faded relic of the past.

"Visitors will leave this museum experience knowing that Indians are not [merely] part of history," says founding director, W. Richard West, Jr., of the Southern Cheyenne tribe. "For example, one gallery is devoted solely to modern, groundbreaking Indian artwork, and we have a number of landmark pieces commissioned by the Smithsonian throughout the museum. In addition, we have thousands of our priceless objects, from our collection of 800,000, in the three inaugural exhibitions and elsewhere in the museum."

When it opens its doors to the public, the museum will present three major exhibits, displaying 7,500 objects from the permanent collection. Among these exhibits is "Our Universes: Traditional Knowledge Shapes Our World," an exploration of tribal philosophies and worldviews. 

The exhibit offers the philosophical perspectives of the Mapuche (Chile), Lakota (South Dakota), Quechua (Peru), Yup'ik (Alaska), Q'eq'chi Maya (Guatemala), Santa Clara Pueblo (New Mexico), Anishinaabe (Winnipeg/Canada) and Hupa (California) communities.

"Our Universes" will seat visitors beneath a starfield canopy, featuring equinox and solstice markers, 

Museum of the American Indian photo
'. . . a bold curvilinear structure evoking the windswept mesas of the southwestern United States.'

and stories about the role of stars and constellations in  Native culture. In addition, "Our Universes" illustrates inter-tribal events, such as the Denver March Pow-Wow, North American Indigenous Games, and Mexico's Day of the Dead. Objects include a painted papier-maché skull for Day of the Dead celebrations and an Absaroke (Crow) beaded bridle ornament from Montana.

As a supplement to its major exhibits, the museum has installed a series landmark objects by Native artists, placed at strategic points within the building. Landmark objects serve not only to showcase the talents of native artists and craftsmen, but to help visitors navigate their way through the museum. A 20-foot totem by renowned carver Nathan Jackson (Tlingit) and a bronze sculpture by Roxanne Swentzell (Santa Clara Pueblo) will be on view, as will a Kwakiutl totem and a Navajo weaving from the museum collections.

Visitors can look forward to many other attractions, as well. A boat-building demonstration will take place in the center of the Potomac (as the museum's main entry space is called), and three native boats will be under construction over the course of the first year of the museum’s public debut. 

For a taste of authentic native cuisine, visitors may turn to the Mitsitam Café, a two-story dining space. The word "mitsitam" means "let's eat" in the language of the Piscataway and Delaware peoples of the East Coast. 

Opening Day next Tuesday will begin at 9:30 a.m. with a parade of Native Americans, many wearing traditional regalia, from throughout the Western Hemisphere. The procession will move from the Smithsonian Institution headquarters, known as "the Castle," along the National Mall towards the U.S. Capitol building, and will continue until noon, when the museum's dedication ceremony takes place.

More information is available HERE!

Jo Stuart
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