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(506) 223-1327             Published Friday, Sept. 21, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 188           E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Editor's basic route on Friday nights!
Yes, you can have a great time in the downtown
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lot of expats are afraid to visit downtown San José, particularly at night.  True, there are a lot of tales of robberies and muggings.

But the downtown is exciting, and this is a guide to help you get through the zone.

For starters, Parque Central and Calle 2 and 4 south of Avenida 2 should be avoided. That was where the old Park Hotel was located. Years ago the hotel was the gathering spot for expats. Later it degenerated into one of the more disgusting sex shows in the city.

Elsewhere in the vicinity, mostly on Calle 2, there are equally low places where an expat and his wallet would last together for two or three minutes.

The Gran Hotel Costa Rica is a mandatory first stop. The restaurant has gone uptown with an excellent assortment of wines and liquors. A bit expensive, but security is tight, a big consideration for expats.

The best experiences are in the areas along the boulevard, Calle 9, and Avenida 1. Since the Piano Bar was taken over by a jewelry shop in the Hotel Balmoral there has been a gap in the recreational possibilities of the downtown. There never was a piano, but the genial host, Pat Dunn, later murdered in Ecuador, always had a smile, a drink in his hand and your first name on his lips.

Still today it is possible to watch the world go by from the balcony of the Hotel Presidente's bar and enjoy a wonderful meal across the pedestrian walkway in the new El Patio restaurant.

Other places on the boulevard are tourist traps and should be avoided. An exception is Chelle's, the 24-hour restaurant on the corner of the boulevard and Calle 9. After a night of serious drinking, Chelle's is the place for mountains of french fries to offset the effects of alcohol.

Early in the evening a visit to the Del Rey and its Blue Marlin Bar and casino is in order. Everyone has heard of the Del Ray, but a lot of expats are afraid to go there. The professional women are not about to jump you and wrestle you to the floor. A polite "no, thanks," usually suffices. The drinks are not cheap.

Long-time expats gather there Friday afternoons to swap tales of the Costa Rican bureaucracy. Others admire what they call "eye candy," the hundreds of working girls who primp themselves to meet men with money. The place is the best tourist attraction that won't be in most tourist guides. Don't be silly enough to make eye contact.

It is fun to watch the North American tourists come through the door. They look like deer caught in the headlights.
Next door is the Casino Colonial where expats gather for the high-carb free dinner that is served to gamblers much of the evening. The bar with its service is probably one of the best in town, and the newly enlarged restaurant is worth visiting. Separate from the smorgasbord served the gamblers, the restaurant requires money, but the wine list is decent and the food is great.

Like most of the machines in town, the one-arm devices in the Colonial are as tight as the Scotch grandmother. But anyone can afford to drop a few bucks on blackjack and roulette, and even on the new automatic roulette tables.

If one were to slip out the back door of the Colonial, one could walk west to Calle 9 where just to the right is a nice Irishman waging a continuing battle with the Muncipalidad de San José. He made a major investment in a bar and restaurant, but, like always, there is another piece of paper required. So he may be open or he may be closed, depending on when the last city inspection took place. If he is open, the Guinness is cold.

Alas, the Bar Morazán on the corner has been closed for months. This was where expats could find cheap beers and a quick bite. An internal feud resulted in the liquor license going elsewhere.

One could stop in the casino of the Holiday Inn, north of Parque Morazán, but that really only gets rolling about midnight, much too late for old expats. The restaurant is not great.

So it is off west to Nashville South for a quick beer. We skirt Parque Morazán to the south because
the holdup rate there is off the charts. The crooks wait in the trees for passing drunk Gringos and pounce on them. The Del Mar restaurant is to the right. The food is great, but most expats are timid about eating there because of the place's association with the Del Rey across the steet.

Also to the right is the Key Largo, one of the great older homes of Costa Rica. It is now a dance spot with at least three bars where a dog with a note in his mouth could get a date. This starts rolling about 10 p.m.

After the Nashville and a quick beer, the destination is Bar Poás on Avenida 7 where the prices are more accommodating for expats. Harry Hart has changed a hole in the wall into an expat gathering place.

The route passes through Transvestite Central where the tall, beautiful creatures work their own corners along Avenida 7 and are at least as good looking as the Del Rey girls. With the one minor problem.

And that's the tour. Taxis are available on Avenida 7, and the smart expat takes one because the whole area can be a bit challenging.

And drunks are poor competition against revolvers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 21, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 188

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Contraloría cites problems
in Playa Dominical project

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría de la República has told the Municipalidad de Osa that various irregularities exist in a tourism project constructed with its approval at Playa Dominical.

The project is Hotel Kiana Dominical operated by Cabinas Sonidos del Mar de Dominical S. A. According to the Contraloría, the project is 26 bungalows.

Among other problems reported by the municipal services section of the Contraloría, the municipality approved the project even though the plans were not approved by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and the Instituto Nacional de Vivienda y Urbanismo. In addition, the Contraloría report said some of the buildings do not conform to the plans presented to the municipality and that parts of at least one building is in a protected zone along a drainage ditch.

The project is in the maritime zone, said the Contraloría. Municipalities can issue concessions for maritime zone projects in their borders. The Contraloría ordered the municipality to obtain from the developer complete plans approved by the appropriate agencies or to take appropriate action if the plans were not forthcoming, according to a release from the Contraloría.

The municipality also must seek guarantees of completion from the developer and conduct a study to see if any of the structures are in a protected zone or the public right-of-way. If irregularities are found, the municipality must proceed to cancel the maritime concession, said the Contraloría.

$113 million in water projects
includes Puerto Viejo system

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national water company is planning a $113 million investment in some 24 projects in 32 cantons of the country, according to an announcement from Casa Presidencial Thursday.

The Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica is providing $68.5 million and the water company, the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, is coming up with $44.5 million.

One major job will be in the creation of a water system in Puerto Viejo de Limón. In Puntarenas province  jobs will be in Buenos Aires, Esparza, Palmar Norte, Coto Brus, Golfito, Jacó and Ciudad Neily.  Other projects are planned for San Ramón, Palmares, San Mateo, Poasito and Atenas in the province of Alajuela..
A major investment will be made in Pérez Zeledón, said  Ricardo Sancho, executive president of Acueductos y Alcantarillados. Jobs also are planned in Nicoya and Liberia in Guanacaste province and in the west side of San José.

Northern zone fair at mall

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An eco tourism fair starts today and runs through Sunday at Multiplaza mall in Escazú. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo said that the major tourism providers from the northern zone of the country will be present. In part, the reason for the event is to attract attention to the northern zone during the low season of October and November, the institute said.

Our readers' opinions
Men also are victims
of violence, reader says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you for the article, “Some women swindle with domestic violence law” (9/17) by Garland Baker.   The abuse of domestic violence law is so often ignored in the media.

I’d like to also add that women commit domestic violence as often as men.  Although men are less likely to report the violence, virtually all randomized sociological data from around the globe shows women initiate domestic violence at least as often as men and use weapons more than men, and that men suffer about one-third of the injuries, even though crime data shows lower numbers because men are less likely than women to report it. 

Professor Martin Fiebert of California State University summarizes about 200 of these studies in his online bibliography.

In fact, a recent 32-nation study by the University of New Hampshire, which included five Latin American nations, found women commit partner violence as often as men and that controlling behavior exists equally in perpetrators of both sexes.

Gender politics has left male victims invisible while their kids suffer long-term damage by the exposure. This is a serious but hidden problem.  That's why a global coalition of concerned experts has formed to support honest, research-based, inclusive solutions that put social science over ideology.  Their Web site is at

Marc E. Angelucci, president
Los Angeles chapter
National Coalition of Free Men

He opposes tourist tax
and roadside garbage

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Not in Favor  of $15.00 entrance fee

I already pay the Costa Rican government $26 every time I leave. Now they need $15 more every time I arrive. If the government wants more tourists, instead of spending $800,000 U.S. for an advertising campaign, why not get the people of Costa Rica to quit throwing all their trash onto the road way.

The Ticos are constantly cleaning their homes and stores but continue to treat the environment as their personal trash can. The better the country looks from the window of my taxi, the more likely I will return and tell my friends how clean Costa Rica is.

Now I will be telling them Costa Rica isn't a country it's a country club with an admittance fee.  Making it more expensive to come here Carlos Ricardo Benavides DOES NOT DRIVE TOURISM TO YOUR COUNTRY.
Kevin Burdock
Ciudad Colón

Have you seen these stories?

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 21, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 188

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Nation's most visible fugitive finally arrested in Heredia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman who was on the U.S. F.B.I. most wanted list has been living openly in Heredia for years, but officials appear to have put off arresting her until her daughter turned 18.

The woman is Chere Lyn Tomayko, who was sought for parental kidnapping of her daughter, Alexandria Camille Cyprian, in May 1997.

She finally was detained Wednesday by the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad, acting with the International Police Agency. Her daughter turned 18 in July.

The case of Ms. Tomayko is a strange one because the fact that she was living in Heredia was well known to employees at the U.S. Embassy here and F.B.I. agents in her home state of Texas.

Readers contacted A.M. Costa Rica reporting her whereabouts teaching English in the area after the newspaper published a story that she was a fugitive Feb. 7, 2002.

When a reporter informed embassy officials in 2002 at the request of a reader, officials there said that the case was a sensitive one and said that a female F.B.I. agent in Texas would contact the reporter to find out additional information. The agent never called.

Periodically, A.M. Costa Rica would mention Ms. Tomayko in news stories about U.S. fugitives. The most recent was last Feb. 16. The Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy never made inquires. She also was mentioned in an earlier news story about differences in official treatment of male fugitives with offspring and women with offspring.

Also periodically reporters would discuss the case with local INTERPOL agents, but they said they had no knowledge of it.

The suspicion grew that U.S. officials were keeping their hands off the case because Ms. Tomayko is white and her boyfriend is black or that they did not want to return the
Ms. tomayko
Chere Lyn Tomayko
Miss Tomayko
FBI file photos    
Alexandria Camille Cyprian

daughter to the father. The U.S. F.B.I. fugitive poster listed the race of her daughter as black.

Said the F.B.I.:

From 1990 to 1996, Chere Lyn Tomayko and her
boyfriend were involved in child custody proceedings for Alexandria Camille Cyprian and acting as "joint managing guardians." In December of 1996, the Tarrant County District Court, Tarrant County, Texas, determined that both parents should retain joint custody. It was also determined that Alexandria's residence would be in Tarrant County.

In May of 1997, Chere Tomayko fled Texas with Alexandria Camille Cyprian in violation of the court order. Further investigation determined that, at that time, Tomayko left the United States with Alexandria and her other daughter and may have fled to Costa Rica. On November 15, 2000, Tomayko was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, on one count of international parental kidnapping.

Ms. Tomayko was not just another fugitive. She was listed as one of the F.B.I.'s 10 most wanted, and her photo and information was easily available on the Web site.

There also is the question of how private schools could hire an employee without checking the background. Information on Ms. Tomayko was available with a single simple Internet search.

A trip to the feria shows that prices usually are better there
Recently I heard something interesting on health news coming from the U.S.  Dr. Sanje Gupta, of CNN, commented that the U.S. does not grow enough fruits and vegetables for its citizens to get the desired five servings a day to keep them healthy.  That situation does not prevail in Costa Rica.  Of course, the U.S. is able to import produce — at a price.  A Costa Rican can get his daily dose without ever resorting to imported fare.

However, having heard that food is getting more expensive here, I decided it was time to check out prices at the feria.  Not being within easy shopping distance of the Pavas feria where I used to spend happy Saturday mornings, I asked my friend Doug to do the research. 

He and his ever-helpful driver, Eric, not only checked out dozens of prices at the feria, they checked some of the same products in the Supermarket.  We were amazed at the differences in some items.  I don’t have room to list all of them, but at right are some of the fruits and vegetables and their prices

Thing grow fast in Costa Rica, and fruits and vegetables are “in season” more than once a year.  In the supermarket the other day I saw what looked like a new crop of tomatoes.  When I first came here, the tomatoes reminded me of those I ate when I was young.  Real tomatoes! These, stacked high on the counter, were larger than softballs and harder than rocks.  I fear they are already being grown for export.  Change happens.
I was talking with a woman who works at a senior living complex in Virginia about institutional food.  She mentioned that for a morning snack, residents at her complex got popcorn. Here, in the morning we are brought a fruit, usually a slice of fresh pineapple, a banana, or a bowl of grapes or chunks of watermelon.  Popcorn once in a while sounds good, too. 

To end his segment on health, Dr. Gupta commented on the irony that in a country that is striving so hard to get its citizens to lose weight, the two major food products grown in the United States are corn and soy beans.  From corn comes fructose, which is used in so many sweets, drinks, snacks and foods that are not good for you.  (However, pretty soon it looks like corn is going to be turned into an alternate energy source so the price is going up on fructose, as well as corn products that are part of the basic diets of many people).

Soybeans are a very healthy food — and much of it is used for fodder — but soybean oil is used to make many products like mayonnaise, margarine, dairy creamers, and snacks, all of which contain TRANS FATS!  And none of us needs to be told how bad trans fats are for the body.

In contrast, the two main products that Costa Rica grows are bananas and coffee. Just about every day we are learning of the newly discovered benefits of bananas, that  
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart



Bananas (kilo)
635  ($1.22)
500 ($.96)
735 (1.41)
Fresh orange juice
(    2 liters)
1,325 ($2.54)
300 ($.57)
435 ($.84)
Boston lettuce
210 ($.40)
Carrots (kilo)
Broccoli (head)
420 ($.80)
Large tomotoes
570 ($1.10)
Papaya (small)
Green peppers
195 ($.37)
Mangoes (kilo)
Cauliflower (head)
495 ($.95)
Limes (five)
   (large one)
630 ($1.21)
Beets (each)
Figure 520 colones = $1.00 and a kilo  is 2.2 pounds

they are good energy food, contain fiber, potassium, lots of  vitamins, and the peels even are reported to get rid of warts.  And we all know of the new respectability of coffee, which, besides being delicious and a good pick-me-up, the caffeine it contains is considered good for the heart. 

This does make me wonder why sadly, more and more Costa Ricans are becoming fat.  Obviously it is not just the availability of healthy foods that does the trick. One must want to eat them.  I think there is an old saw that says that.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 21, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 188

Defamation laws as political tool raising worldwide concern
 Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Press freedom advocates are expressing concern that many governments worldwide are jailing reporters on specious charges of defaming or insulting heads of state.

The Virginia-based World Press Freedom Committee says that defamation of a public official remains a crime in dozens of countries, including in several democracies, "where legislators should know better than to allow such poor examples to exist."  The committee said countries where defamation laws are in effect include Russia, Ethiopia, Cambodia and Tajikistan. Costa Rica also has such a law.

The situation is particularly acute in Venezuela.  The Virginia press group said in a report that Venezuelan criminal code reforms that took effect in 2005 stiffened penalties for defamation of the country's president, attorney general, national assembly legislators and senior military leaders.  Penalties for defamation increased from a maximum of 30 months in prison to a new maximum of four years’ imprisonment if the defamation is made in a document distributed to the public.

Javier Sierra, the World Press Freedom Committee's projects director, said that Venezuela has "a new set of very severe criminal defamation laws which they use very often."

The laws were used, for example, to sentence Venezuelan journalist Julio Balza in 2006 to almost three years in prison and a fine of about $15,000 for "continuous aggravated defamation" against a government minister of infrastructure.  Balza had criticized the minister's job performance following a bridge collapse outside the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, in denouncing defamation charges against journalists in Venezuela, cited the 2005 case of Henry Crespo, a reporter for the Caracas-based weekly Las Verdades de Miguel. 

Crespo was sued by the governor of the Venezuelan state of Guárico for aggravated defamation after the reporter wrote about government corruption and human rights violations in that state.  Crespo was given a suspended sentence of 18 months in prison.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said that "for a Venezuelan public official to criminally prosecute a journalist for criticizing his conduct in office is a serious abuse of power that sends a chilling message to all Venezuelan journalists."
Thomas Melia, deputy executive director for the independent group Freedom House, said that insult laws and other provisions against press freedom "effectively bar journalists from doing what journalists do" in reporting the news.  Such provisions, he said, "constitute a growing problem in inhibiting freedom of expression in many parts of the world."

Melia said American diplomacy and the efforts of nongovernmental organizations clearly have more to do to draw attention to the importance of allowing the press to criticize heads of government and of building legal environments to protect journalists.

Libel and insult laws and alleged defamation of heads of state are issues that arise in U.S. human rights reports each year, said Melia.  American embassies should move these issues to the top of their human rights agenda because they involve stifling free speech, analysis and public discussion, Melia said.

A landmark 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a civil rights advertisement helped strengthen freedom of the press in the United States by introducing the idea of malice as a requirement for libel suits against public figures.

That case, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, involved a ruling that conformed with the free press guarantees of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The court held
that the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials, except when statements are made with "actual malice" The court defined that term to mean publishing with knowledge that statements are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity.

Following that Supreme Court decision and other subsequent rulings, plaintiffs in defamation cases rarely have prevailed in the United States because of the extremely high burden of proof needed to show a writer's intentions.

Before that 1964 decision, the Supreme Court had refused to use the First Amendment to protect the media from libel lawsuits.  These lawsuits were based on the publication of false information that damaged a person's reputation.

Hugo Black, who joined with the other eight Supreme Court justices in ruling in favor of The New York Times, said the United States could "live in peace without libel suits based on public discussions of public affairs and public officials.  But I doubt that a country can live in freedom where its people can be made to suffer physically or financially for criticizing their government, its actions, or its officials."

European Union to seek closer political and economic ties with Latin America
 By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Portugal's president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, has called for deepening political and economic ties between the European Union and South America.

Cavaco Silva said Portugal will use its current term in the rotating European Union presidency to strengthen political cooperation with South America and to revive trade talks.  He spoke in Lisbon after meeting Thursday with Uruguay's President Tabare Vazquez.

The Uruguayan leader is head of the South American trade
 bloc, Mercosur, which also includes Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

Talks on a trade agreement between Mercosur and EU officials began in 1999, but broke down in 2004.

Vazquez also voiced his support for closer ties between the two regional organizations.

Tuesday, Mr. Vazquez met with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in Brussels.  The two discussed the possibility of a joint declaration expressing the commitment of the two organizations to seek closer ties.

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