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(506) 223-1327          Published Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 183         E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Warmth of the torch can be felt for many years
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The sense of liberty can be very personal in Costa Rica. You can even hold it in your hand.

Each of the youngsters who are carrying the torch from the Nicaraguan line are feeling what I felt as a student in the liceo when I, too, got the chance to carry the flame.

But there also is the fear of dropping the symbol or of perhaps being unable to finish the several kilometer stretch.

Our teachers had picked the best runners from our physical education class, and dressed in blue shorts and white athletic shirts we waited at Plaza Víquez for the flame that originated in Guatemala.

The path of the flame follows the route that messengers took 185 years ago to tell Costa Ricans that they no longer were subjects of Spain. The roads are better now.

Our contingent was substantial with some 30 students ready to take their turns, police officers on hand with motorized units to protect us and Tránsito officers there to handle traffic. The rain had ended but the streets still were wet.

Our school was Liceo Monseñor Ruben Odio Herrera. It is still in Desamparados, and students still carry the antorcha, as it is called in Spanish.

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This was a night I always will remember. The torch arrived about 6 p.m. I was so excited. I knew that I was a person with strong feelings about my country. You could say love.

Our job was to carry the flame into Desamparados while other runners completed the trip to Cartago, the old provincial capital.  We did with no mishaps.

And when we had done so, we knew that the flame was continuing on its way through Desamparados, to Aserrí and towns beyond.

My only problem was letting the flame go. I was so moved by participating in an historic event that I just wanted to hang on to the wooden and cloth base forever.

I still carry the fire of this antorcha in my heart, and I believe in democracy, equal rights, and freedom. Except now I use a computer and not a visible flame.

Close contact with Colombia seen as key to security
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country will try to maintain closer contact with Colombian law enforcement in an effort to keep Costa Rica from continuing to be a playground for international criminals and drug traffickers.

That's the gist of the results of a trip top law enforcement officials took to Colombia. They returned Wednesday afternoon after spending two and a half days meeting with counterparts.

Costa Rican officials have been shaken in the last few months by revelations that Colombian criminals, rebels and independent operators, have made such inroads. There also is the fear that the failure by immigration officials to check Colombian refugee applicants closely has allowed some really hardened criminals to live here.

The key event took place Aug. 10. Then a leader of Colombian revolutionaries, Héctor Orlando Martínez Quinto, 38, was detained in Puntarenas. As they investigated his activities here, local law enforcement officials realized that he was a key figure in a sprawling drug and arms network operated by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia. The rebel group, known as FARC, has about 17,000 loyalists.
Fernando Berrocal, the security minister who led the delegaton, even said Wednesday that there are aspects of the new immigration law that will be helpful.

The Arias administration opposed the law that was passed by the previous congress and tried to stop it from going into effect. However, now Berrocal said that the new law allows Costa Rica to expel foreigners who may not be wanted here or who may have lied on their residency applications.

Many Colombians, including those with extensive police records, are believed to have been able to obtain residency here from a helpful Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. The suggestion is that corruption was rampant.

Officials are expected to review every file of every person who sought refugee status to weed out the known criminals.

A joint statement issued by both Costa Rica and Colombia at the end of the visit contained the usual diplomatic phrasings. But the key agreements seem to be more coordination with Colombia on the issue of its nationals here, setting up an efficient means of information exchange and joint projects to control the flow of immigrants from Colombia.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 183

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Our readers' opinions
Learn to do things
the pura vida Tico way

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In today’s age most people would understand the level of frustration that your writer is displaying about security problems at the airport. However I have to question. If this person is so upset about the problem to make this much commotion, what will happen when they come to live in Costa Rica.

When they are waiting in a government line will they make a commotion about the length of wait?  If they are at a restaurant, will they make a commotion about the food? Living in Costa Rica is not like living in the United States, you have to learn the Pura Vida style of life.

I have been married to a Costa Rican (Tica) for the last five years.  I remember when we went to the government offices to file all of the paperwork for marriage and the lines that we had to endure as well as many bureaucratic obstacles. Sometimes, we even had to come back the next day just because some little thing was wrong and needed to be fixed.

You would have to get a stamp at one location then wait a couple of days for it to show at the office next door. Since it was December and the whole government shuts down for Christmas for a week, it even made it more frustrating.

However I had to learn what most Costa Ricans know as the Pura Vida style of life. Even to this day when we are at home in Costa Rica, when we have to endure a problem that might be easily solved if we do it the Gringo way, my wife will remind me we are in Costa Rica!

When many U.S. citizens come to Costa Rica, they have to remember to leave the type of mentality of their style of government efficiency at the U.S. boarder. Adjusting to the Pura Vida way of life is hard for many and this is why they turn around and go back home after a couple of years of living in Costa Rica.

Just coming as a tourist a couple of times a year does not make you knowledgeable about the way of life in Costa Rica! I would suggest to this individual to come and stay for eight months or longer before they decided to purchase a property and learn how to adjust to the life style! Otherwise they will become another casualty of the Pura Vida lifestyle!

Scott Benson
Tres Rios Cartago

Don’t come, John Brier

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Please, John Brier, DON’T move to Costa Rica. Don’t come here to change things. Stay in the U.S. with your beloved Homeland Security and make a stink with them. Maybe you can get them to instigate strip searches. ‘Cause, ya know, you can hide a plastic knife in your sock.
Sally O’Boyle

Expats should fight back
against new tourism tax

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Foreign investment keeps this little country afloat and that translates to the formal or informal right to be heard, respected and to effect needed change.

With the exception of “big business”, Costa Rican lawmakers or lack of lawmakers do not know what the expat community wants, needs or demands. Expats have never spoken up or at best have only spoken in a whisper.

Think about the outrage for only this week, and the week is only half over:

Because of the construction boom, the Jacó area is now being referred to by some as “Jacapulco.” Los Sueños is a resort community with condos valued up to $1 million or more, the marina is full of luxury boats and a new one is being constructed. Herradura will soon host yet another truly luxury hotel. The area is growing and growing…..but no  fire department!  Not even a truck or a hose. The closest fire department is in Orotina, a pleasant 45-minute drive.

As evidenced by last weekend’s fire, if you live or visit anywhere within the Jacó area, you just watch your investment, hotel, condo, business, etc. burn. Now that would piss me off, how about you?

Next, surpassed only by the stupidity of the plan to tax 4 percent of all bank transactions, including but not limited to ATM withdraws and every check, this government is now proposing and is now studying how to charge arriving tourists a flat $15 Costa Rica entrance fee in addition to the normal airport exit tax and what is paid while traveling within the country. This is to replace the 3 percent hotel tax that ICT says, “…has been difficult to collect.”

Would it not be better to demand the government learn how to correctly collect and distribute tax money before charging tourists this premium right of passage? Statistically, tourism is struggling to regain its foothold in Costa Rica. Will charging a family of four $60 up front as they get off the plane or boat help out? I don’t think so. It hurts to keep shooting yourself in the foot. (less tourists x less money = less income)

Finally this week, not a peep from the expat community on being charged for 30 days of ICE cellular service but receiving only 22 days of those services because this incompetent monopoly sold roughly 500,000 GSM lines and apparently forgot about the need to invoice on time. (Talk about going to the tennis match without your rackets)  Has ICE said the billing problem will be brought up to snuff? Not really because over charging and under delivery is easier.

Expats, would you write letters, get on Fox News, perhaps boycott if in most any other place you put your money, you pay your bills, you pay taxes and are tacitly dismissed as a valued customer? So why not here? Even the pirate taxi drivers have been seen and heard by policy maker, and they are only marginally legal.

Instead of writing letters bashing each other in the press and debating if real estate is up or down, why not aim the gun in the right direction? Costa Rica wants money, and expats have it. That’s why  they are overcharged. So get something in return, okay? Like a fire department, maybe a hospital even, correct invoicing; there is a long list to consider and security is right at the top.

Before anyone jumps on me for using the second person in this letter, I’m a “dual” as they say at the U.S. Embassy, so I do not pay as much as most of you for hotel rooms, food services and transportation. Now is that right? And, I do carry the flag to make change.

John Holtz
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 183

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Saray Ramírez Vindas
While a band and dancers perform, El Universal employees are part of the window dressing
Window contest gives store owners a chance to be patriotic
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The downtown of San José has taken on a more patriotic flare than usual. Each year, of course, the stores and structures are decked out in national colors in anticipation of the Día de Independencia, which is Friday this year.

An added treat this year are some 24 stores that are participating in a window dressing contest. The store displays are supposed to have a patriotic theme and use patriotic symbols. Their messages should reaffirm Costa
Rican values, according to the Municipalidad de San José, which is sponsoring the event.

Judges were going around Wednesday seeking to name the top three windows. The midday was festive with a band, dancers in traditional skirts and marimbas and guitars.

Although most stores did not participate, the dressed out windows span eight blocks of the downtown from Tienda La Gloria at the west end to Outlets de Marcas between calles 9 and 11.

Independence eve is the day with the most ceremonies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the day before the Día de Independencia, but it is the day with the most ceremony. The parades are Friday.

Somewhere between San José and Liberia today school children are carrying the torch of liberty that began its trek Sept. 1 in Guatemala. The torch passed into Costa Rica from Nicaragua about noon Wednesday at Peñas Blancas.

A special session of the Consejo de Gobierno, the president's cabinet, has been called for Cartago tonight at 6 p.m., as is traditional. Cartago is the colonial capital. The meeting will be in the Palacio Municipal de Cartago.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez will be there with his cabinet to greet the bearer of the torch and begin the celebration.

Friday is a legal holiday, and Costa Ricans again have a three-day weekend.

The Fuerza Pública said it has 315 patrol cars and 266 motorcycles earmarked to protect student runners and those who participate in parades all over the country Friday. The flame is replicated as it travels, and a torch comes to most
towns in all seven provinces of the country. Thousands of school children participate.

For example, two teams will leave the Ruinas de la Parroquía de Cartago tonight, one for the Provincia de Limón and the other en route to the border with Panama.

Tránsito officers and Cruz Roja workers are on the job, too.
A.M. Costa Rica will publish Friday even though the day is a holiday, and staffers will keep watch for any pressing news over the weekend.

The carrying of the torch has been going on for nearly 50 years, and the event is a highpoint for high schoolers.

One event tonight will involved special education students from six schools. They will gather at the Contraloría General de la República in Sabana Sur about 4 p.m. and take a train to the Liceo de Costa Rica in downtown San José. There they will sing the Himno Nacional, as is traditional all over Costa Rica at 6 p.m.

Then the students will board another train for a trip to Los Yoses to witness the anticipated passage of the torch on its way to Cartago.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 183

U.S. comes in for Cuban criticism as the 'hegemonic power'
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage has told the annual summit of the Non-Aligned Movement that the world is becoming more unjust as one nation dominates by applying economic and political pressure on others.

Cuban state media quote Lage as blaming a "hegemonic power," but he did not say which country he meant. Other news reports say he singled out the United States.

Cuba is hosting the six-day summit in its capital, Havana, as President Fidel Castro remains in seclusion after health problems in July. Various other Cuban officials are appearing at the summit.

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the U.N. chief will speak at the summit Friday. Annan is expected to talk about the role of developing nations in the changing dynamic of international relations.
The Non-Aligned Movement formed in 1961 during Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. It includes more than 100 nations not aligned with any major power bloc.

Another official, Cuba's economy minister, said President Fidel Castro's health problems will not lead to any changes in the country's economic system.

The minister, José Luis Rodríguez, made the comment Tuesday in Havana during the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. Rodríguez said there is no interest in adopting the Chinese economic model and opening up to private businesses.

It is not clear if Cuban President Fidel Castro will participate in the six-day summit, which began Monday. The 80-year-old Cuban leader is recovering from intestinal surgery that he underwent in July and has temporarily handed power to his younger brother, Raul Castro.

British prince visits here to help form interest group among business people
By the A.M. Costas Rica staff

Prince Michael of Kent, a member of the British royal family, was in Costa Rica Wednesday at a meeting of businessmen that is part of a commercial initiative by the new British ambassador, Tom Kennedy.

The 64-year-old prince was accompanied by Marco Vinicio Ruiz, minister of Comercio Exterior, according to a report by the British Embassy.

Prince Michael, who had a 20-year military career, is in private business as a consultant. He is the grandson of George V.  The embassy said that it has been 20 years since a member of the British royal family visited Costa Rica.

The embassy said that Kennedy wants to form a group to
consult and exchange opinions among managers of British enterprises established in the country and also of importers of British goods.

The prince also attended the opening morning session of a two-day symposium designed to reduce road deaths in Latin America.

Some 21 Latin nations were represented at the opening as well as seven other nations and international institutions.
In Latin American and the Caribbean 122,000 persons die each year from traffic accidents, those who attended were told.

Prince Michael is president of the Royal Automobile Club and president of the Royal Society for the Preservation of Life.

Diesel fuel price is cut by regulator because international prices are dropping
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Diesel fuel is going from 383 colons a liter to 364 colons or about 70 U.S. cents. This is a 5 percent reduction.

The price of liquid natural gas, which many Costa Ricans use to cook, also is dropping 10.5 colons a liter or 115
colons per 8.5 liter tank.
The reductions, sought by Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, were approved by the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos.

The drop in the international price of hydrocarbons was given as the reason.

This is the fifth cut in the price of these products this year.

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Jo Stuart
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