A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 30, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 194
Jo Stuart
About us

High court stops evictions from luxury hotel
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court, in a surprise decision, told the environmental ministry to stop its takeover of a Caribbean hotel.

The court also warned the ministry and the minister, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, that failing to obey the order could result in jail time or a fine.

The court decision was made Thursday, a day after ministry officials, police and others entered the hotel to evict the owner, Jan Kalina, his staff and guests. The minister said then that the hotel would be handed over to the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and the  Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje to become a hotel and tourism school.

The facility is located near Punta Uva and the wildlife refuge Gandoca-Manzanillo. The situation has a high profile among environmentalists.

The fight over the hotel began in 1993. At that time the ministry canceled a use permit, but the operator of the hotel chose to go to court.  The luxurious hotel is some 1,500 square meters of structures and has access to a
protected bay where ships could anchor.

The freeze by the court is a temporary one in effect until a final decision is made on Kalina's appeal for judicial help. Employees of the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía claim that Kalina has violated his concession on public land by make alterations to the terrain, such as drainage systems and excavation of sand.

The Sala VI decision, announced Thursday afternoon by the press office of the Poder Judicial, seems to be based on the thrust of a ministry resolution that ordered Kalina to return the land to the state in which he found it before making changes. The court said this resolution never mentioned that he might be evicted and that the ministry failed to provide him with a list of what he had to do.

There is a curious aspect to the takeover, which began Tuesday. Rodríguez, the minister said that Kalina's wife attacked a policewoman and hit her in the face. The minister said the woman had been arrested. However, a two-day effort by reporters had failed to locate any criminal action against the woman.  Police officials, who usually are quick to report injuries to their officers, deny  any knowledge of the incident.

Heidi becomes an icon for sexually abused children here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was a flap Wednesday when Heidi turned up pregnant.

The featured character of the 1880's children's classic was the central figure in a full-page ad published by Fundación Paniamor in Diario Extra. Some parents made calls to complain, a foundation spokesperson said.

But this impact is exactly what the foundation wanted. Mariá Teresa Guillén was ready with the statistics: In the first quarter of 2003 2,602 minors were victims of intrafamily abuse, she said, comparing that to the 382 who were victimized by non-family members. There were 1,041 cases of incest reported for those three months. And those were only the reported cases, the spokeswoman said.

The purpose of the ad, created and donated by a well-known ad agency, was to get adults to reflect on the abuses facing children, she
 said, adding that the newspaper donated the 

back page. The foundation is an advocate for the rights of children. People should reflect on the problem and not the Heidi of the children's story, she said.

"Heidi" by Johanna Spyri tells the story of a young girl sent to live in the mountains of  Switzerland with   her grandfather. It is
a charming tale of a young girl's struggle for freedom but contains no sexual abuse.

For Ms. Guillén the character Heidi is the "icon of innocence" Paniamor was seeking to gain the attention of readers. The ad also contained contact information for people who want to report abuse of children.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 30, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 194

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Lawyer arrested again
on trafficking charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers arrested a lawyer, her son and two more persons to face allegations of selling cocaine, crack and marijuana from the Hotel Azul in downtown San José, said security ministry officials.

The 41-year-old woman, identified by the last names Cortés Lacayo, had been arrested on an allegation of drug trafficking from her office May 13, 2004, and police authorities had no idea why she was not in jail.

In the hotel, agents said they found 60 baggies of cocaine, 20 marijuana joints and 115 doses of crack as well as televisions, three vehicles and a large amount of cash.  When they went to her house, agents said they found a kilo each of cocaine and marijuana and 250 grams of crack. 

Agents also arrested the lawyer's 20-year-old son, identified by the last names Víquez Cortés, a 27-year-old woman identified by the last names Hernández Bonilla and a 42-year-old Nicaraguan identified by the last names Ojeda Meléndez.

Cortés terminated her membership in the Colegio de Abogados Nov. 24, 2003, but maintained an Internet site for practice, police said.   

Peace Corps volunteers
will be sworn in today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States embassy here is planning a morning ceremony today to welcome 31 new Peace Corps volunteers into Costa Rica, the embassy said.

Part of the volunteers are slated to work with the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia. These volunteers will teach “children, youths and families to fulfill a positive role in their family lives, their communities and the working world,” the embassy said. 

The other group of volunteers will work with small businesses and their owners to teach development and lasting sustainability, said the embassy.  This group has the support of the Programa Nacional de Apoyo a Micro y Pequeña Empresa and other government agencies. 

The volunteers are scheduled to work for two years in Puntarenas, Limón, Guanacaste, Pérez Zeledón, Puriscal, Caño Negro, Golfito, the area of Los Santos, and the island of Chira among others, said the embassy. 

The Peace Corps, founded by John F. Kennedy, is a two-year program organized by the United States government. 
Our reader's opinion
He says that people
are more important

Dear A. M. Costa Rica:

The continual preaching of neoliberal economics, most recently by Mr. Edward Thurston in the pages of A. M. Costa Rica, is becoming tiresome.  Apparently to Mr. Thurston, any economic model other than that espoused by the United States is unreasonable and irrational and sends Ayn Randian (sic) shivers down his spine. 

Never mind that the list of most competitive world economies compiled in the latest World Economic Forum report on Global Competitiveness is dominated by Northern European countries that are social democracies, combining the best elements of humanistic socialism and regulated capitalism. 

And frankly, I am offended by Mr. Thurston's misleading and ill-informed linkage of socialism and communism.  Socialism in the modern world has as much to do with communism as representative government in the U.S. has to do with the pure Democracy of the ancient Greeks.  The socialism practiced in the world's social democracies rejects the tyranny of communism just as representative government in the U.S. rejects the impracticality of pure democracy in a complex society.  The paranoia of the neoliberals is what is truly unreasonable and irrational.

I am especially amused by Mr. Thurston's bemoaning the redistribution of wealth in what he calls the "Socialist and Communist models."  Apparently redistributing wealth in a downward direction is sinister while redistributing wealth in an upward direction, as is done in the neoliberal model currently in vogue in America, is acceptable.  It reminds me of an American friend's definitive description of the U.S. as a place "where everybody wants your stuff."  The Bush administration is doing its best to make sure that its wealthy sponsors get it.

The problems with CAFTA [the free trade agreement] are not restricted to the mechanics of international trade.  They go much deeper.  It's supporters ignore the fact that free trade is not necessarily fair trade.  The largely negative Mexican experience with NAFTA is evidence of that.  In addition, there are profound issues of national sovereignty wherein the rights of foreign investors supersede the rights a country's own citizens. 

And perhaps most important in the context of Costa Rica is the potential Americanization of the society.  Although the vacant materialism of the U.S. may look appealing to some, there are those of us who left not to find a cheaper version of the U.S., but to escape its empty values and embrace a culture where people are more important than things.

Finally, one should always be wary of so-called negotiations in which one party completely dominates.  To believe that the interests of Central America are a major concern of the U.S. is naive at best and foolish at worst.  U.S. self-interest drives every aspect of its foreign and trade policy.  Because of its power, it simply buries the self-interests of its negotiating partners at will through bullying and threats. 

Is it any wonder that, according to Mr. Thurston, a "dark, subtle anti-American movement is rising in Costa Rica"?  For his information, it is neither dark nor subtle nor limited to Costa Rica.  The reaction to imperialist American policies is visibly spreading throughout the world.  Perhaps the U.S. should take note of the harsh lesson Karen Hughes is learning right now in the Middle East as she tries to change America's negative image among Muslims — not everyone wants to live like Americans.
Steven A. Roman, Ph.D.
San Antonio de Belén
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Time to explore the new neighborhood in Sabana
As I sit comfortably in my little pond of tranquility, all around me the world is swirling with activity – the aftermath of natural disasters that occur when wind and water join forces. In the United States those in charge and those who are supposed to oversee those in charge, are trying to find out what went wrong. In Costa Rica, with the help of both donated and governmental money, they are cleaning up the communities on the Pacific coast.   

Some friends are in Romania with Habitat for Humanity.  Although these homes are built for the poor, they say that where they are there does not seem to be much poverty. 

The pros and cons of the free trade agreement continue with strikes and protests

Meanwhile I am beginning to explore my new neighborhood.  Although we have had heavy rains in this area, there has been no flooding. There doesn’t seem to be any poverty around here, either.  It is a neighborhood of modern apartment buildings and lovely (and sometimes very large) homes.  There is a school nearby, and on my walk at 7 a.m. parents were already taking their children to school.  Not too many blocks away is a Chinese restaurant that is one of the best in the city, in my opinion.  And of course, there is the park.  I have yet to venture a walk around or across Parque la Sabana.  I am slowly working up to that because it will take more than a half an hour once I set out on a path.

 Early morning walking is very pleasant: the cars have not taken over, and the guards on the different streets always greet me.  One of them gives me a pep talk about the benefits of walking each morning.  The first morning I was out a guard on one of the streets said, “I see you are better.”  I guess the whole neighborhood took part in the arrival of the ambulance a couple of weeks ago.

This morning I took a quart container with me and bought orange juice from the girl who sells it to ICE
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

workers as they arrive for work.  We agreed on a price of 700 colons ($1.44) — a bit pricey but I love fresh orange juice and no longer can abide the stuff with preservatives.

I have in my home over a dozen books I bought at the Great Book Sale.  Among them “Is Sex Necessary” by James Thurber and E.B. White.  And I came home with two puzzles – one as a result of my mentioning my enjoyment of them in my column.

And meanwhile there was the peace demonstration in Washington and the counter demonstration in support of the war.  Both claim to support the troops:  the former group by bringing them home, the other by supporting the war and the President’s decisions.

And the debate over intelligent design vs. evolution continues.  It seems it is only in the U.S. that there is this conflict of what to teach in secular schools.   I was a guest at one of those interesting dinners where conversation was nonstop for three hours over delicious food.  One guest, Peter C. Reynolds, an anthropologist, just back from the States, had just given a talk there on the subject.  His thesis, which he shared with us, was that the debate is neither scientific nor religious – that it is political.  The theory of evolution is an equalizer – a democratic concept, if you will, he said, whereas intelligent design, or creationism suits those who are not comfortable with the idea that they are related to the entire family of man or have responsibilities to the animal world.  This led to a spirited discussion.

It is great being out in the world again 

With the marinated steaks you also get a horse show
The western end of Valle Central is horse country. On weekends denizens of equestrians fill the back roads with their exquisitely groomed high steppers.
Fore legs swing out laterally to initiate each stride, truly a beautiful gait to behold. Not surprising with the local love of horses, the proprietors of steakhouses adorn their establishments with bridles, saddles and all things vaquero-esque. My mental picture of the ideal has been tree lined pastures, a corral and stables at the end of a grassy road, with an open walled rancho and restaurant. Thanks to a tip from Amy of Ciudad Colón, my picture came to fruition.
El Establo, the stable, is a restaurant loaded with charm and a feeling of authenticity, despite its neon Marlboro sign and flat screen TV.  It sits at the end of a narrow unpaved and tree-lined road past grazing horses and stables. The parking area is in front of the veterinarian’s office. A canopied walkway leads into the dining room.
Next to the entrance, a display case exhibits steaks, chops and chicken breasts resting in marinades and the multiple salad ingredients that will accompany the meat from the grill to the table. The starch options are baked potato or rice. The meats remain in the marinade for five or six days. Rosemary, tarragon, garlic, onion, salt and pepper infuse the meats with mouthwatering flavor. Usually bland tenderloin becomes rich with taste, as do chicken breasts, pork, T-bones and imported black angus rib-eyes.
The baby-faced chef prepares all orders to perfection on a large grill that sears in the juices as it caramelizes the exteriors. Doneness is precise. “ Medium” is pink and juicy. “Medium-rare” is as red as it should be. All of the cuts are incredibly tender. The rib-eye is by far the most expensive cut (¢ 8,700), more than twice the price of the “tenderloin special” (¢ 4,350) or of the very nice “mixed platter” (¢ 3,850) which includes a smaller but equally tasty and tender steak, a plump and moist chicken breast and a nicely grilled tasty large sausage. The plate also includes a decent fresh salad served with olive oil and wine vinegar and an OK local thin-skinned baked potato in foil with sour cream and butter.

My wife and I went twice and loved the food, the ambiance and the friendliness of the proprietress, waiters and chef on both occasions. By our second visit we were treated like family. Even the fluffy grey and white house cat, Grace, came by to say hello. There were eight of us the second time, on a Sunday afternoon. The restaurant was busy. Three of the four women in the party had birthdays within 10 days of our meal. Not only did all eight of us have great, albeit simple, food, we had individual pieces of chocolate cake with a birthday candle flickering on each for dessert.

Wine by the glass is ¢ 1,100, soft drinks ¢ 570 and
Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


coffee ¢ 439. The chocolate cake, ¢ 850, was better
than average but not spectacular. The rate of exchange today is 486 colons to the U.S. dollar.

Our group of three Ticos, two Canadians and three former U.S. residents all loved their meals. The thick juicy rib-eye was as good a steak as any of us had tasted in Costa Rica. Two of us had had disappointing experiences with expensive imported black angus rib-eyes in local American style steakhouses in the past.
We had in common, not only friendship and birthdays, but all of us are horse lovers. The décor of cowpoke pictures, bridles and a three-headed bola on the walls was pleasurable. The frosting on the proverbial cake, however, came during a walk among the stables, the pasture and corral after the meal. Marvelous old fruit trees and giant decorative vines framed the picture perfect setting.

Unfortunately, El Establo is only open from Friday through the end of Sunday afternoon (6 p.m.). Just before lunch on Saturdays, there is a horse show in full regalia, weather permitting in the corral adjacent to the restaurant. The total experience of pastoral beauty, stables and horses, comfortable informality, friendly people, excellent steaks, efficient execution of a simple menu and a glimpse into our world away from metastasizing glitzy mall culture make this place very special
To get there, follow the highway that begins at Sabana Sur and passes Escazú and Santa Ana to Ciudad Colón. The road halts just east of town at the gas station with a “Do Not Enter” sign that forces you to turn. Turn and proceed as far as the bumpy little road goes, about 500 meters. Turn right again for about another hundred meters. The road forks. Just beyond the right fork is the entrance to El Establo. Inside the gate, follow the narrow road to the end and park alongside the corral. The canopy leads inside.
Three and a half *s, $$-$$$.
Phone: 249-2258

Residents of four towns told to relocate after flood
By Jesse Froehling
of  the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After a series of geological screenings and historical reviews of Sábalo, San Cristóbal, Silencio/Sapera and Portalón, the national emergency commission has recommended that the people in those four towns abandon them for good. 

The communities are at the heart of the storm damaged central Pacific coast south of Quepos and north of Dominical.

Authorities were specifically concerned about Portalón.  Of the 70 families that live there, 24 are still in temporary shelters, and although a bridge made of a tree trunk and rope railings allows residents to cross the nearby Río Portalón, the town is still extremely vulnerable to more flooding should the skies decide to open up again. 

Bob Klenz, a property owner there, said that his farm is still not reachable even by horseback.  The landslides have choked the road and left more than three feet of mud in some areas.  That much could trap a horse, Klenz said, and as a result, he has still not been able to check on his property.

Geologists with the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias recommended that the residents of the other three towns move to temporary shelters because of the extensive damage in their towns and the probability of more heavy rain, the commission said. 

The geologists concluded that the areas were unsafe through air analysis and confirmed their concerns once on the ground, the commission said. 

Thursday's report from the commission said that 1,744 people had been moved from their homes.  729 of them were with family and friends and 1,015 are in shelters – some of which are just large tents.  To monitor those persons' well-being, the emergency commission said it will send psychologists from the University of Costa Rica, the Ministerio de Salud, the Cruz Roja and Fuerza Pública to the shelters this weekend.

And more help is still coming.

Klenz returned to the area from San José Thursday, bringing with him sandals and boots for the displaced persons.  Mass e-mails to people living in and around Dominical and Quepos have resulted in truckloads, of clothes, Klenz said.

“People are cleaning out their closets for this,” he said.  And the need for food has been more or less

Cruz Roja photo
Makeshift bridge and a pile of trees provide an entry to Silencio and San Cristóbal.

taken care of through the efforts of the Cruz Roja, he added.  Though the emergency commission estimated that the stricken area received a little more than 20 inches of rain, Klenz said the number is more like 40 inches according to his measurements and those of persons nearby. 

However, a spokesperson with the Cruz Roja in San José said that the response to the crisis has been very low.  The majority of the donations – coming in the form of food and water – has been from private businesses, but there is no  mass mobilization by the people of San José. 

“We have distributed bottled water, food and personal hygiene products that were transferred Wednesday from San José to Quepos,” said Coronel Guillermo Arroyo of the Cruz Roja.

The Cruz Roja added that they used a helicopter to reach the communities of San Domingo de Aguirre and Río Blanco after the Century 21 real estate office rented it for them.

If people are to evacuate before the rain comes they will need to do so soon.  The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional forecasts more rain for today for the entire Pacific Coast.

Nation's money manager leaves for international job
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's top money man, Federico Carrillo Zürcher, quit his post Thursday to become executive vice president at the Central American Bank for Economic Integration.

That Carrillo was looking for an international job was no secret. He even was criticised by legislators for preparing a 2006 national budget designed to impress international bankers instead of filling the needs of Costa Rican citizens. He proposed big cuts in social services and state agencies.

He only held the job a year. Carrillo was appointed by President Abel Pacheco Sept. 13, 2004, after Alberto Dent jumped ship when the executive branch gave striking public employees a half a percent additional raise during August negotiations. That was done to end the blockade of the nation’s roads by truckers. Dent was supposed to be the administration’s front man for pushing through a proposed tax plan to raise $500 million more a year.

Carrillo picked up the challenge and lobbied heavily for the $500 million tax plan that is the administration's No. 1 legislative priority. However, the tax plan has run into trouble.

Carillo has been candid with the country's finances. It
is the Ministerio de Hacienda he headed that takes in money and spends it. He said the ministry spent two colons for every colon it received as income. The difference has been made up with borrowing.

David Fuentes, a vice minister in the same ministry, was named to the post held by Carrillo.

As the Pacheco administration enteres its final seven months other resignations are likely as officials work on their resumes and look to the future.

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 Zürcher, a member of the Asamblea Nacional and a Partido Liberación Nacional member.

The Central Americas Bank for Economic Integration is made up of the Central American states, Taiwan, Spain, Mexico and Argentina. It finances projects with integration of the region's economic sphere as a goal. For example, in July the bank gave Costa Rica and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad $24.4 million to install fiber optic communication cable all over the country.

Carrillo will serve a five-year term, the bank said. The bank is headquaartered in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Jo Stuart
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