A.M. Costa Rica

Your daily English-language 
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These stories were published Friday and  Saturday, Sept. 23 and 24, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 189
Jo Stuart
About us

Slides, flooding hit Quepos, central Pacific
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(updated as of 12:45 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24)

Heavy rains lashed the Central Pacific coast Friday. The coast road from Quepos to Dominical was closed due to damaged bridges. The flooding appears to extend through the entire coastal area of the central Pacific.

In Quepos itself three houses were destroyed by a rain-induced landslide in Barrio Los Angeles. The occupants, including some toddlers, escaped serious injury. At least two dozen persons were in a shelter at the Roman Catholic church in town.

A hotel owner said that flooding in and around Quepos was significant. Isla de Damas was inundated with many homes flooded out. Matapalo, farther south near Dominical, has many homes flooded out. Many rivers and creeks started jumping their banks in the afternoon when all estuary areas were full with high tide, said the hotel owner, Robbie Felix of the Hotel California.
No one knows the extent, but significant damage is likely in in all Pacific low-lying coastal areas, she said. "My hotel had several rooms flooded out, and we have what appear to be several employees left homeless.

In addition to rain, the area is experiencing unusually high tides.  The Parrita, Paquita, and Savegre, all major rivers in the area in and around Quepos, were running out of their banks due to the rain and the high tides.

Teniente Jorge Rodríguez of the Cruz Roja said that at last three barrios in Quepos has suffered flooding. The situation is critical, he said, and additional emergency workers had
been dispatched from San José, he said. Many homeowners had moved to the second floor of their houses, he said.

Viril de Gracia of the Fuerza Pública said that all of Quepos was affected by the rains. In addition to flooding, the electrical service was inconsistent.

Friday afternoon Costa Rican officials evacuated some 486 persons in Guanacaste due to the heavy rains.

The emergency was declared in Hojancha, Nandayure, Nicoya and Santa Cruz on the Nicoya Peninsula. The  Río Las Palmas and the Río Morote were continuing to rise in the vicinity of Filadelfia, and officials there expected to evacuate more persons.  Filadelfia is on Route 21, the major highway from Liberia to Santa Cruz along the backbone of the peninsula.

Shelters were opened in Santa Cruz, Nosara, Hojancha, Filadelfia and in Tárcoles. Meanwhile, the community of  Ostional de Santa Cruz with its 760 residents has been cut off by flooding rivers there.

The  Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias has issued a warning for the entire Pacific coast to stay alert in the face of heavy rains which were expected to continue for the next two days, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Ironically, Filadelfia was supposed to be the site today for a massive earthquake disaster simulation. But the simulation was moved to north central Costa Rica when the real flooding emergency took place.

Operating hours would be cut 75 percent
Tough casino bill advances to full assembly
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislative committee studying a bill to regulate casinos gave the measure unanimous approval Thursday and sent the package to the full legislature.

The bill is the same proposal that has been in the legislature at least since 2000 and would supplant laws that date to the 1920s.

There is no guarantee that the Asamblea Legislative will even debate the proposal. But a key element of this new bill would be to cut down on the hours a casino may function. Some are open 24 hours a day now.

Carlos Herrera of Movimiento Libertario, a member of the committee complained that the bill wold cut down the working hours for casinos to about a quarter of what they are now. In addition, the measure would raise the taxes, he said.

Nevertheless, he voted for the package on the condition that his concerns were listed.

The measure would create a national gaming commission to oversee casinos and providing licensing of the business and of the persons working there. In addition, the casino must be on the grounds of a hotel. Some are not now.

The entire package is some 116 pages because it traces the proposal's legislative history.
This is not the first time the proposal has been directed to the full assembly. It has been referred by committees in the past.

The exact contents of the bill are uncertain. Although the measure, No. 13.304 is posted to the assembly Web site, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has been working with tax officials to draft some changes. The Ministerio de Hacienda was expected to present a new draft to replace the five-year-old measure, but it appears that lawmakers Thursday approved the older bill, perhaps with amendments.

Lawmakers several months ago did remove a strange paragraph in the bill that forbade the playing of casino games where chance was the principal factor in winning. That would have eliminated casino games, and the paragraph, which had survived for five years, probably was an incorrectly drafted prohibition.

The measure is believed not to include regulations over the increasingly troubling online casinos which are big business.

Some of the online casinos are thinly veiled scams that simply take money from overseas gamblers. The scamsters compete with the reputable online casinos, but lawmakers appear to be not paying heed because the victims are not Costa Ricans.

An earlier story is HERE!

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Teacher one of a pair
facing sex charges

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police In Upala arrested a man facing a molesting allegation and a second man in Desamparados who already has been convicted.

Fuerza Pública officers said an elementary school teacher in Upala faces an allegation that he sexually abused a 6-year-old boy. 

The teacher, a 39-year-old man identified by the last names Briceño Cortés, was arrested after the young victim's step-father filed a complaint, police said.  Briceño offered no resistance when he was arrested, police said.       

Doctors with the Medicina Forense del Poder Judicial are examining the boy, police said.   A judge placed Briceño under a six-month pretrial detention, officers said. 

Early Thursday, Judicial Investigating Organization agents arrested a 43-year-old Desamparados man who had avoided prison.  The man, identified by the last name Chavarria, had been arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 12 years in prison for abusing a minor, police said. 

Taiwanese photo show
will open Thursday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 65-piece photography exhibition showcasing the natural splendor of Taiwan will be on display at the Museo Calderón Guardia.

The exhibition, called "La Encantadora Taiwan," is composed of photographs of the most beautiful landscapes and more distinguished Taiwanese cultural aspects, said the organizers from the Chinese embassy. 

The exhibition will be on display from Thursday until Oct. 11.  The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.  For more information, call 222-6392 or 255-1218.  The Museum has reported an another opening date, but the date was changed.

Rescue workers will be busy

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Shhhhhh! Don't tell anyone but rescue workers, police and others have a few long days mapped out for them this weekend somewhere in Costa Rica west of Puntarenas. There will be simulations of earthquakes, hazardous materials spills, fires, and all kinds of other things that can go wrong, all in the name of training.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias is staging the disasters, and firemen, police, Cruz Roja will be called in for the simulations. The commission asked that the news media not report the locations exactly. However, citizens who see large concentrations of police and rescue vehicles on the Nicoya Peninsula Friday or Saturday should not be alarmed.

ICE union says it will strike

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The workers union of the  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad says it will strike for one day Monday and keep all agencies of the communications monopoly closed. The union also will march to the Asamblea Legislative in San José.

Union members are demanding passage of a law that would provide more resources for the institute in the face of possible adoption of the free trade treaty with the United States. Lawmakers shelved such a bill two weeks ago.

The agency known as ICE also is providing wide band Internet service in certain sections of the country, including the center of San José.  In previous strikes, workers shut off the Internet service for the duration.

Our readers' opinions

Chávez is a big threat
to whole hemisphere

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to the letter published Thursday regarding Hugo Chávez, I believe it to be irrelevant whether or not the U.S. policies in Latin America, both past and present, have been noble or just.

The sad fact is that Hugo Chávez, who envisions a Latin American “state” and sees himself as some new iteration of Simón Bolivar (or something else, you’d have to ask him), represents a threat to the future of Central and South America. While he cavorts about the region offering oil at attractive terms to “lock up” small, broke, petroleum dependent countries, he has aligned himself too closely with the FARC of Columbia for anyone to feel comfortable.

Any “president” who allows a narco-terrorist group such as the FARC to ramble about his people’s territory in an unimpeded fashion, in this case the southwest portion of Venezuela, is a threat to his own nation and the region.  Just ask one of the many Venezuelans who have left “home” since he dismantled the once robust economy and quality of life there.

Ultimately, the threat exists when Chávez-funded groups infiltrate the poor neighborhoods in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, where unfortunately there still exists a lack of opportunity despite years of relative peace. These places are ripe for change that would be destabilizing and dangerous  for all, Costa Ricans, expats etc.

I much prefer the U.S.-backed region working diligently to stave off the corruption which impedes true progress versus a region supported by a dangerous and violent network involving the FARC, the /maras/, local Communists and Socialists and funded by H.C.

Edwin Dobner
California/Guadalupe, Goicoechea

He questions Tamarindo price

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thanks to Ms. Bean and other well off Americans who will pay whatever price is asked with regard to real estate, the prices in CR have soared beyond the reach of the ordinary Costa Rican, or American for that matter.

There’s a story I once heard while living in C.R.  A gringo was looking to buy some property in San José.  The homeowner quoted him a sale price of 50,000.  The Gringo gladly paid him $50,000.  The Costa Rican, who was asking 50,000 colons, was dumbfounded, but kept quiet and told all his friends about the generous Gringos. you know the rest of the story.
Thank you, Ms. Bean
Daniel E. Martinez
Miami, Florida.
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with the observations of Dr. Lenny Karpman
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The healing powers of some really good books
One of the rocks in the road to recovery seems to be the inability to concentrate on one idea or subject or chore for very long.  My body may be resting, but my mind is dancing around a half dozen thoughts.

Reading has always been a vital necessity to my life.  A book so often has rescued me from an unpleasant present or given me a respite during a difficult time.  At the least, I always learn something new or interesting in just about everything I read.  One of my motivators right now to get better as soon as possible is the big book sale coming up tomorrow, Saturday, in Plaza Colonial in Escazú.  I am looking forward to finding some old treasure of a book that will transport me for the duration of its pages.  Recently I read somewhere that historical novels were the favorite reading of the 50s in order to escape the stifling boredom of the time.

We are certainly not living in boring times.  What kind of reading, I wonder, is good to slow the adrenaline that must be running in all of us – something to slow the fight or flight response so many of us seem to be perched for.

One way out is humor.  I recently read Kenneth Tynan’s profile of Mel Brooks.  It was 60 odd pages of nonstop chuckles for me.  (I recall Norman Cousin’s book  “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” And agree.)  More than once the point is made that Brooks humor, (he is a comic genius at verbal improvisation), is based upon fear – especially the fear of death.  Most humor is based on fear of something or other, with death right up there with rejection. 

I also read something that gave me heart and reduced the guilt I have felt for enjoying jigsaw puzzles so much.  (Silly pastime for a grownup).  It seems that when it comes to keeping the brain active and avoiding dementia or Alzheimer’s, crossword    
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

puzzles are good for the vocabulary (although how often do we use the words in a crossword puzzle?) but jigsaw puzzles are better for opening new avenues of communication in the brain.  Glad I didn’t give all of my puzzles away.

Of course, I am back to watching the news.  This was about the second thing I did when I got home from the hospital  – as soon as I was able I made some very garlicky tomato sauce, served it on capellini with plenty of good Parmesan cheese.   I could feel my sense of well-being returning.  Then the news.  By Saturday pundits were saying that although President Bush failed as a leader in the beginning of the terrible hurricane, Katrina, by Thursday he was showing his leadership qualities.  I have always thought a leader should be in command from the word go, especially if he/she is the accepted leader.  President Bush has been playing catch-up.  Maybe he will come from behind and end up being acclaimed a winner.  Horses do.

Meanwhile I have my own problems.  I just came across David Niven’s book which I thought was titled “Enter Slowly, Exit Quickly.”  How wrong I was!  The actual title turns out to be “Go Slowly, Come Back Quickly” and now, after reading the first paragraph again, I don’t think he was talking about acting at all.

Just shows you what tricks a near delirious mind can do.  Maybe there will be a copy of his book at the book sale Saturday.  Regardless, the new title has cheered me no end.

Imaginative fusions invite fine tuning in Escazú
Marco Antonio seems intense. He is well dressed and groomed, too accomplished for his very youthful appearance. He surveys every aspect of his new restaurant in a mall just north (200 meters) of Multiplaza, called Centro Commercial Boulevard. He designed the menu, invented the recipes and even the décor with a bold and creative perspective.

Even after three or four months, he re-examines each dish and fine tunes the flavors. When I asked for a copy of the menu, he petitioned me to wait another few weeks while he added a new dish, made another a little less sweet or altered the amount of garlic in a third. Chaos? No, not at all. To the casual diner, there is no noteworthy change, but he is striving for more creativity and fine tuning. If he stays the course for the long run and avoids major mistakes or burnout, he will likely have a very fine run in the restaurant business and make a proud mark.
The setting is pleasing. The front deck is open to a drab parking lot and busy street, but beyond them is a backdrop of Santa Ana’s hills. The al fresco option on tall bar stools might be a better choice for a before-dinner pisco sour. Inside, the cranberry suede banquettes front lighter plum-textured walls contrasted with decorative beige and brown bricks, well chosen art work – primitives and paintings.

The table tops are marble-like polished granite, the floors a glistening darker granite and the chairs black with comfortable leather coverings. Above the entrance, a large plasma TV plays the Food Channel without sound, and the sound system spews soft oldie ballads. In the rear, a swinging door with beveled glass panes allows a look into the pristine kitchen.
Marco’s roots are Italian, but he grew up in Peru. His flavors are Peruvian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Chinese and Pacific Rim. His fusions are imaginative, with nice contrasts in tart and sweet, soft and crunchy and different attractive colors. Most of the combinations work well together. A few could indeed benefit by a little more fine tuning. His initial offerings are quite praiseworthy in light of his youth and daring. Eating Marco’s food is fun if not perfection.
In Santiago, Chile, there is an Italian restaurant with the same name. It has three different dining rooms — each with a separate menu – Purgatory, Heaven and Hell from Dante’s Divine Comedy. Marco has only one dining room. The menu is divided into four parts.
Starters are grouped in “delirium.”  They include nachos asiaticos, fried flour tortilla chips and a tomato dice seasoned with onion, garlic and poppy seeds, a dash (?) of soy sauce and decorated with black sesame seeds for ¢1,450, two different mushrooms plates ¢2,250, jumbo prawns ¢7,000, caprese salad ¢2,500 (twice the price with fresh buffalo mozzarella), vegetable antipasto ¢2,800 and a grander antipasto for two with salami, prosciutto, two kinds of cheese and two kinds of olives ¢6,100. My favorite in the group is caponata-ratatouille ¢2,800, a mix of Italian and French cooked salads containing olives, eggplant, sweet red peppers,
Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


 zucchini, tomato, whole cloves of garlic, basil and bay leaves. The flavor was superb. It would have been perfect had the peppers and eggplant been peeled before cooking.
The next menú section, “salidos del purgatorio,” consists of an eclectic mix of pastas and salads with a dominant Mediterranean theme. Beginning include carpaccios of sea bass, tuna and salmon, mushroom ceviche, eggplant lasgna, balsamic vinegar marinated and grilled octopus, chicken asparagus rolls in orange sauce, the special house salad of prosciutto and pears with salad greens, salad nicoise, aioli tartare of salmon and tuna and a medly of seafood pastas all for ¢2,500 to ¢4,000.

The featured dishes, “escapados del infierno,” have a far more distinctive Peruvian design with typical Chufa (Chinese-Peruvian) elements and flavors from across the globe. Kamasutra chicken in a sweet coconut milk curry with a very mildly spicy chutney was the favorite of my companions on two occasions. Joan favored the rich seafood lasagna in a velvety crabmeat bechamel with flamed prawns.  My favorite was pork tenderloin in a dried mixed fruit and assorted nut chutney and Persian rice (with nuts and raisins). It reminded me of a Sephardic Passover dish, except that the later is made with lamb rather than pork.

The dishes in this group cost ¢3,500-5,000, and none were bland or boring
The dessert section is labeled “robados del cielo.” Pears, pineapple, apples, creams, liquors, cheeses, chocolate and filo pastry are the ingredients that make the desserts interesting at ¢1,200-2,500.
In his native Peru, there is a food officianado named Raoul Vargas, who has a radio program and a printed collection of food articles, both called La Divina Comida. All over South America and in Portugal there are restaurants of the same name. To the best of my knowledge, they all serve Italian food. His new variation on an old idea is very nice.
Throughout Dante’s 14th century masterpiece, the number three is supreme. Therefore it is fitting that despite a few rough edges, La Divina Comida earns ***, and costs on average $$$.

Anti-war activists to hold silent vigil backing U.S. efforts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Opponents of the Iraqi war here won't be going to the United States Saturday to participate in protests arranged by ImpeachBush, but they will be there in spirit.

A group of U.S. citizens here have formed the Committee to End the War In Iraq and have planned a silent vigil in which anyone can participate in any location.

"Here in Costa Rica we will observe a silent vigil that
anyone can join in your home, your car or office, anywhere you are," said Ann Marie Saidy, one of the organizers.  "Please join your hearts in solidarity if you want to end the war in Iraq.

ImpeachBush hopes to convince Congress to impeach President George Bush and has planned protests Saturday in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the front of the White House demanding an end to the war.

According to the group's Web site, 593,126 people have signed a petition to impeach the president.     

Bush nominee Shannon stresses defense of democracy
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States is committed to defending democracy and open markets throughout the Western Hemisphere and can serve as a catalyst to confront challenges to this political and economic agenda in the Americas, said Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., President George Bush's nominee to be assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs.

Shannon delivered his views in a statement Wednesday at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Also appearing before the committee was Texan Mark Langdale, who is the president's choice to be U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica. Langdale's statement was not available.

Shannon said the Bush administration is committed to crafting a "fully democratic Western Hemisphere bound together by good will and free trade."

To these ends, Shannon said, the United States has won a hemispheric commitment to democracy, dedicated more resources to enhance economic opportunity and prosperity, revitalized hemispheric security, attacked the illicit drug trade and terrorism and stood up to tyranny in Cuba.

The United States has helped win hemispheric respect for democracy as a "right" of all the region's citizens, through the Inter-American Democratic Charter and a "Democracy Clause" in the Summit of the Americas process, he said.

To increase prosperity and economic opportunity, he added, the United States has helped craft the Monterrey Consensus, committed new resources to
economic development and concluded free-trade agreements with Chile and also with the Dominican Republic and the nations of Central America.

He cited several U.S. efforts to bolster hemispheric security, such as support for "The Declaration on Security in the Americas," the crafting of a security and prosperity partnership with Canada and Mexico and initiatives to attack terrorism and illicit narcotics in Colombia.

The nominee told legislators that the Bush administration's efforts to stand up to tyranny in Cuba include the "most comprehensive Cuba policy review in 40 years."  This review, he said, has yielded a series of recommendations that have been implemented to hasten Cuba's democratic transition.

These accomplishments not withstanding, Shannon said, the United States also faces challenges in the region as hemispheric governments attempt to meet the high expectations that democracy has generated.

He said democratic institutions are being tested in some countries, and that the inability of some governments to deliver the benefits of democracy and rule of law "has allowed some to challenge the larger hemispheric consensus around democracy, free markets, and economic integration."

Shannon said that more must be done to protect the collective prosperity and democracy of the Americas, and that these challenges can be met.

The nominees must be confirmed by the full Senate, which is considered likely since that body is controlled by Republicans of the same party as is Bush.

Former Ecuadorian president seeks political asylum in Colombia
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Former Ecuadorean president Lucio Gutiérrez has formally requested political asylum in Colombia after receiving reports he is wanted in his homeland on treason charges.

Colombian officials say Gutiérrez submitted his application after arriving from Peru Wednesday and that he has permission to remain in Colombia for 90 days while the asylum request is examined.
Last July, the Ecuadorean government issued an arrest warrant for the former president, charging him with harming national security.  Aides to Gutiérrez say the charges may be related to comments he made in the United States shortly after his ouster in April, claiming he remains Ecuador's constitutional president.

Ecuador's Congress removed Gutiérrez from office after weeks of mass protests.  Critics had demanded his resignation for what they called an abuse of power after he packed the Supreme Court with his allies.

Passport changes now
must be made in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U. S. citizens looking to change information on the data page of their passports will no longer be able to do so at overseas embassies after Monday.

To make these changes, U.S. citizens need to fill out a new application, provide two new two-inch by two-inch photos, pay another passport fee and wait approximately 10 days while a new passport is printed in the United States. Officials said that if all personal information is on the data page, United States passports will be more difficult to fake.

However, passport applicants who want to have their passports changed within one year of issuance to show a name change or to have incorrect data corrected may receive a replacement passport without having to pay another fee, the State Department said.

Another big drug siezure

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers arrested a man near Cartago who they said was carrying more than 350 pounds of cocaine in the lining of the roof of his Mitsubishi Wednesday evening.  Officers said the suspect, a Costa Rican identified by the last names Jiménez Solano of Coronado, had driven from Panamá.

Jo Stuart
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