A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Friday, Oct. 7, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 199
Jo Stuart
About us

Way up there?

A scalper explains to a potential customer exactly where the seats are located in Estadio Ricardo Saprissa.
A vehicle guard watches.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Bring the best Spanish to get a deal on tickets
By Jesse Froehling
and José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are plenty of tickets available from the scalpers on the streets surrounding the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa for those wishing to attend the United States – Costa Rica soccer match Saturday.

However, North American buyers are advised to bring their best Spanish skills or even better, a Tico to negotiate.  Quoted prices for thoroughly Gringo foreigners were four times the ticket's face value.

When two reporters – one Tico, the other North-American — wandered among the scalpers outside the stadium looking for tickets Thursday, the Tico was quoted a price of 13,000 colons ($26.64) for the tickets in the cheap seats.  Those tickets, with a face value of 5,000 colons ($10.25), are for the general admission, roofless stands where die hard fans sweat and live and die with the Sele, as the Costa Rican national team is called.  After a bit of negotiating, the Tico had talked the scalper down to 11,000 colons ($22.54). 

His North-American counterpart, through hand gestures and fake monosyllabic Spanglish, made it known that he wished to buy tickets as well.

“20,000 colons ($40.98),” the scalper said.  “Very cheap.”  After many more hand signals and frowns by the North American, the scalper eventually lowered his price to 15,000 colons ($30.73 per ticket).  “This is the best you will find,” he said. 

The North American thought for a bit and when he replied the gringo accent had diminished verbs were conjugated correctly and he could string entire paragraphs together.  The price quickly lowered to 12,000 colons ($24.59).  When the North-American shook his head and walked away, the scalper hollered a final offer of 11,000 colons ($22.54), the same price the Tico had been quoted after a few easy negotiations.  It didn't matter, the Tico had already bought the tickets.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
What a difference a U.S. passport or a cédula makes in the price of a ticket.
Saturday's match is largely unimportant.  With 19 points each, the United States and Mexico are tied for first place in the North/Central America and Caribbean group and both teams have already qualified for the World Cup finals in Germany next year.

In the North/Central America and Caribbean group, the first three teams are guaranteed a trip to the World Cup finals.  The fourth place team must play a one-game playoff against the fifth place team in Asia to see who goes to Germany.    

Costa Rica, with 13 points, is almost guaranteed the third place finish while Guatemala, with 8, and Trinidad and Tobago, with 7, elbow for the crucial fourth spot in the group. 

A win Saturday will make Costa Rica's third place finish official and Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago will fight for who gets to play a one-game playoff with either Bahrain or Uzbekistan to go to the World Cup finals. 

Meanwhile, police are putting together the usual soccer operation to prevent violence after the game — no matter which way it goes.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 7, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 199

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Fog at Alajuela airport curtails flight operations there
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For the second straight night, fog has caused traffic controllers at Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela to divert flights. At one point visibility was down to less than one-tenth of a mile, according to aircraft weather reports.

Among those flights diverted Thursday afternoon was a charter carrying the U.S. national soccer team for its Saturday game with Costa Rica.
Some 20 flights, about half of them carrying passenger had to land elsewhere Wednesday night when the fog rolled in. Some went to Liberia, others to Panamá or north to Managua.

Departures were up to three hours behind Thursday morning because of weather and lack of aircraft. Similar problems are likely for this morning. The airport is at 3,021 feet above mean sea level and vulnerable to cloudy conditions that might not affect airports at lower elevations.

Expat confrontation
escalates to gunplay

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A confrontation between two North Americans in Escazú escalated into gunfire Thursday and left one of them with two bullet wounds, said Fuerza Pública officers.

Officers said they detained Bruce Cohen for shooting a worker, David Trogholin.  Cohen, interviewed later, said Trogholin was a gardener at his hotel, and officers said that Trogholin lived there.   

Cohen, owner of the Hotel California in Escazú, said he was forced to shoot Trogholin, when Trogholin came at him with a machete at the hotel.  The confrontation took place in the morning at the hotel in San Antonio de Escazú.

Cohen sasid the shooting was necessary to get Trogholin to stop.  He said that the officers conducted an investigation and released him after they came to the same conclusion. 

Trogholin was taken to Hospital San Juan de Díos with bullet wounds to the leg and chest. 

Officers said the bullets were from a 22-caliber firearm which they seized.  Officers didn't find a machete at the scene, said Jaime Chavarría, regional director of the Fuerza Pública in Escazú.

Hospital workers said that Trogholin no longer was a patient when they were contacted Thursday evening.

Flooding shows need
for action, U.N. expert says

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The deadly flooding and huge mudslides caused by Hurricane Stan that have killed over 100 people in Central America and southern Mexico once again underscore the need for better preparation and more government investment in mitigating natural hazards, a senior United Nations disaster prevention official said Thursday.

“To reduce the number of people killed or affected by natural hazards, we have to integrate risk reduction, including risk mapping in land-use planning and urban management, in the priorities of every government in disaster-prone areas,” said Salvano Briceño.  He is the  director of the Secretariat of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Noting that flooding is the most destructive type of natural hazard in the world, accounting every year for over two-thirds of the people affected by natural disasters, he added that once again it was the most vulnerable who suffered most, since they often have no choice but to build houses in unsafe plots without recognizing the risks they face.

Briceño pointed to the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 adopted by the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Japan, in January, which called for a global commitment to speeding up disaster response times, as well as setting guidelines for disaster prevention and developing people-centred early warning systems that provide timely information easily understood by at-risk populations.

“This plan of action has to be implemented as soon as possible if we want to reverse the current rising trend of economic and social losses due to natural hazards. Governments have to invest more in disaster prevention,” he said.

Disaster prevention and mitigation gained a top place on the international agenda after December’s Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killed more than 200,000 people and affected up to 5 million others in a dozen countries, mostly due to huge flooding waves. Experts say an early warning system could have saved scores of thousands of people in the tsunami’s path by giving them time to flee to higher ground.
Hurricane Stan toll
is at least 160 dead

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Mexico and in several Central American countries say the death toll from Hurricane Stan has now surpassed 160.

Guatemalan President Oscar Berger has confirmed the death of 79 people in his country, while his Salvadoran counterpart, Tony Saca, said 65 people there lost their lives.

The hurricane has also claimed at least nine lives in Nicaragua and at least eight in Mexico. Two persons died in Costa Rica due to flood-related mishaps.

Stan made landfall on Mexico's eastern Gulf Coast on Tuesday, knocking down trees and ripping the roofs off houses with winds of 130 kph.

Rivers also burst their banks in southern Mexico, washing away bridges and ripping apart houses and buildings.

Forecasters say the storm is now a tropical depression and dissipating over the mountains of southeastern Mexico, but they warn it is still capable of producing additional heavy rains and flooding.

Pacific to get Marriott Hotel

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A 180-room Marriott hotel will be built on Playa Mansita in the Hacienda Pinilla project on the Pacific coast of Guanacaste, an agent of the hotel firm said Thursday.

The hotel will be a JW Marriott, the top level of the hotel's projects. There are only 34 JW Marriott hotels located in 15 countries throughout the world, and the JW Marriott resort at Hacienda Pinilla will be the first  resort of this brand, built in Central and South America, said the announcement.

Plans call for four restaurants and a 15,000-square-foot spa, said the announcement. The hotel will be developed by Grupo Roble and managed by Grupo Real. Both are  divisions of Grupo Poma, a Salvadorian group, the largest developer and privately owned company in the region. Grupo Real owns and operates 20 hotels in nine countries, positioning them as leaders in Latin America, said the announcement.
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Despite the threats, there's no place like home
A letter from my son contained an article by an unnamed author about Costa Rica.  The writer was talking about the changes that have occurred over the years in this country – none of them good.  Mainly he was concerned about the rising cost of living, the drop in popularity of President Pacheco, and the shrinking middle class. 

The rising the cost of everything, he said, was responsible for the middle class having to cut back on such essentials as cell phones and automobiles.  Inflation, he said was not taking into account such important items as oil and gas, but is based upon a “canasta” of household goods.  Economists have a way of doing that all over the world.

Of course, all of these comments could apply to the majority of countries in the world.  His purpose, actually, was to tout Argentina as the better place for disillusioned estadounidenses to choose as their escape abroad.  I have heard reports from people that Argentina currently is a good place to be if the main concern is cost of living.  Panamá, too, has become a popular alternative to Costa Rica.  Both countries, from what I have heard, are cheaper and have other attributes to recommend them, especially in their cities. 

Buenos Aires has a sophisticated populace, good transportation, not to mention tango bars and great beef.  Panama City is a modern high rise city with its own Chinatown and other interesting barrios, great restaurants and cheap condos. 

Of course, except for a few mountain communities, Panamá is uncomfortably hot and humid, demanding year around air conditioning.  Neither one can compete with Costa Rica for its weather. And neither country, unlike Costa Rica, has a history of peace and political stability for the past 50 years. 

It is certainly true that the whole world has changed.  Perhaps we all were living in a Fool’s Paradise in the 90’s, but I preferred that paradise. In the 90’s terrorists were viewed as criminals committing criminal acts and dealing with them in this manner seemed to put their threat into one that could be dealt with.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

With terrorism now elevated to a war status, terrorists have risen to the challenge and are a constant and global threat. Terrorist attacks have more than tripled, and very few people feel safer.  If terrorists don’t scare you, maybe the threat of a global pandemic of bird flu will. Or how about another natural disaster likes Katrina or Hurricane Stan?  Or a random attack on your person?  My nephew, Larry who lives in San Antonio, Texas, was just shot twice in the head by an unknown assailant.  Miraculously, he lived.   How long, I wonder, can people live with fear constantly pumping their adrenaline?

Gloomy thoughts keep assailing me.  And on top of it all is Mr. Bill Bennett’s really stupid remark that aborting all black babies would reduce the crime rate.  Being anti-choice, his comment was ostensibly made to show that abortion is wrong.  He was responding to a statement in the book “Freakonomics" asserting that the legalization of abortion in the 1970s was responsible for the drop in the crime rate in the U. S. in the 1990s. 

What the authors were doing was equating the reduction in the number of unwanted children with fewer adults who commit crimes.  For Mr. Bennett to say that to abort unwanted births (or abortion of babies born into crippling poverty) would decrease the crime rate would have undermined his argument against a woman’s choice to have an abortion.

Egregious remarks like his really bother me.  If one has a good argument in favor of whatever their stance is, fine.  Intellectual dishonesty destroys an argument.  I mean, since when have cell phones and automobiles become essentials in Costa Rica?  As far as I can tell, cell phones have simply caused more stress and the cars more deaths. The world has plenty of both at the moment. 

Dr. Lenny's guide to a gross Halloween party
Have you ever made a Halloween party for kids or grandkids? Involving them in the preparation can be more fun than the party itself. They will inflate their chests and regale their guests about which frightening bites they personally prepared. Tasteless humor gets paired with safe tasty kids’ food. All it takes is some patience and the ability to suspend adult sensitivities for a while.
Eyeballs: The usual eyeball preparation starts with hard boiled eggs. The top and bottom are shaved flat so they can stand on either end. They are halved through the middle, yolk gently removed, devilled with a little mayo and mustard, colored with a few drops of red food coloring and put back in the whites.

Most often, a green olive stuffed with a red pimento then goes in the center completing the effect. If the child helpers are a little older and blessed with more manual dexterity, you can substitute a can of already boiled and shelled quail eggs, available at an Asian market. In similar fashion, slice a small piece off the top and bottom to make the surfaces flat, halve across the short axis, make a deviled, colored mixture out of the yolks and dot the center with a caper.
Fingers: Each boiled hotdog yields four fingers. Cut them in half the long way and across the middle. Place each quarter flat side down. Put a small dollop of catsup on the flat end and a few drops of mustard on top of the rounded end. The mustard will act as an adhesive, keeping a sliced almond piece or shaped piece of cucumber in place as a finger nail. For those inclined to add more realism, use a very hot metal skewer to burn knuckle lines transversely across the center of each hotdog quarter.
Bugs/Spiders: Buy small round or oval crackers and thin straight pretzels. Have the kids spread a little creamy peanut butter on each cracker, place the pretzels on the peanut butter so each of eight pieces stick straight out like legs. Put on a cover cracker, spread side down. Attach two raisins with dots of peanut butter on the top front for eyes.
Wormy apples: Buy gummy worms and a bag of small apples. Core the otherwise intact apples and fill the center holes with a mixture of softened butter, raisins, cinnamon and sugar, leaving a little depression on top. Bake them standing upright on a cookie sheet until the apples are soft. Remove and cool. Place a gummy worm or two so they appear to be coming out of the top of the baked apples.
Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


Floating Hands: Fill a bowl with red or purple punch of your choosing. Color enough water yellow with food coloring to fill a pair of latex gloves. Close the open ends securely with rubber bands and freeze in the freezer. Remove the rubber bands, peel back the gloves and float the yellow ice hands in the punch bowl. If the punch is refrigerated first, the hands will melt more slowly.
Mice: Make a batch of fudge and buy a few red and black licorice sticks. With a larger and a smaller melon scoop, form a body and head. Small pieces of red licorice or red pepper work for the eyes. A strip of the black licorice makes a great tail. Four walnut halves, almonds or peanuts can do double duty as feet and ears. If you are so inclined, fine shreds of licorice can simulate whiskers and a small nubbin, the tip of the nose.
Cat Skat: Find a shallow cardboard or plastic box. Fill it with a thin layer of crispy rice cereal and place Mounds bars, chocolate candies or oddly shaped pieces of brownies on top. Surround with kitty toys, pictures of Fluffy or labels from pet products to identify the gross creation. Yes, I know how base the concept is, but believe me when I assure you that the youngsters will love scatological humor more than all else.
For the table: Dishes or orange colored corn puffs, candy corn, black dots, left over licorice pieces and gummy worms and spicy little red hots complete the picture. You might also want to provide festive little bags for the visiting urchins to take home all the transportable leftovers for the sake of your own family’s dental health.
*, $ Trick or treat.

The Dunn Inn
San José

Funeraria La Última Joya

Casa Ruiz Monge

Owners honored for maintaining private heritage sites
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Owners of 13 outstanding examples of architecture were honored Thursday by cultural officials, and the key element is that the owners of these structures maintained them without financial help from the government.

The awards were made by the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes. The 13 private heritage sites include churches,  hotels, a restaurant, dwellings, a bank and even a funeral parlor.

Two of the structures are in the historic Barrio Amón of San José. One, The Dunn Inn, is a former private home that was converted in 1989. It is owned by the Corporación Dunn S.A. The hotel is well-known to expat business people who frequently stay there on business trips to San José.

Also in Barrio Amón is the Bakea bistro at Avenida 11 and Calle 3, just two blocks east of the Dunn Inn. This structure was built in the 1930s by Francisco Jiménez, who also built the Gran Hotel Costa Rica.

The structure was restored in 2001 and 2002 with original woods and glass. It is owned by the Ratton Pérez Family and is used as a restaurant.

The third San José prize winner is the Hotel Fleur de Lys on Calle 13 just south of Avenida 2 in the center of the city. The converted 1917 luxury home is

Centro de Patrimonio Cultural photos
Casa Echandi Jiménez
owned by Bajos del Tigre Pacuare S.A. 
The churches include San Juan Bautista in Tibás, Nuestra Señora de la Merced in Palmares, Alajuela, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Zaragoza, Palmares, Alajuela and Nuestra Señora de El Carmen, Heredia. The structures belong to the Roman Catholic Church.

Other structures are the Banco BCT in Alajuela, the Casa Hidalgo Vega in Grecia, the Consultorio Médico Arrieta López in Cartago, the Funeraria La Última Joya, also Cartago, the Casa Ruiz Monge in Liberia and the Casa Echandi Jiménez in Puntarenas.

More photos and detailed histories of each structure (in Spanish) can be found on the ministry's Web site.

Nuestra Señora del Pilar 
Zaragoza, Palmares, Alajuela

Banco BCT

Bakea bistro
San José

Fujimori says he wants another shot at being president of Perú
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has announced he will run for president again in the upcoming election.

Fujimori made the announcement at a news conference Thursday in Japan. He has been living in self-imposed exile in Japan since fleeing Perú in November 2000 in the midst of a corruption scandal.
He was granted Japanese nationality due to his
ancestry, but last month received a new Peruvian passport.

Peruvian prosecutors have also petitioned Japan to extradite Fujimori so he can face criminal charges on allegations ranging from abuse of power and embezzlement to sanctioning a paramilitary death squad. He has denied all the charges.

Peru's congress has banned him from holding public office again until at least 2010.

Is Chávez just bluffing or a product of U.S. failures?
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

In a recent interview on U.S. television, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez claimed to possess evidence that the Bush administration is planning to invade his country, and repeated threats to cut off oil shipments to the United States. It was the latest volley in a war of words between Caracas and Washington that seems to reach new rhetorical heights almost daily, yet one that does not seem to be impeding commercial and energy ties between the two nations.

In downtown Caracas, a speaker takes to the podium at a rally organized by local political groups allied with President Hugo Chavez.

An analysis of the news

He says, "Unity with the revolution! The united people will never be defeated! But defeat will come to the empire!"

Everyone there knows the "empire" means the United States.

Standing in the crowd, Julia Martinez echoes the anti-American sentiment.

She said the United States invaded Iraq citing the threat of nuclear weapons, but none were found so "Who knows what reason the United States could find to attack Venezuela? All Venezuelans must be alert, and all Latin Americans united, because imperialism is on the march."

For several years, President Chávez has railed against the Untied States in general and the Bush administration in particular. Some of the strongest pronouncements have come during the president's weekly appearances on the state-run television program "Alo Presidente" ["Hello President'], where he recently blasted President Bush for, in his words, "having done absolutely nothing" as Hurricane Katrina approached the U.S. Gulf Coast.

"And Mr. Bush on vacation," said Hugo Chávez. "On vacation in Crawford. On a horse."

President Chávez has offered $5 million in aid to the hurricane victims, and offered to sell heating oil at a reduced price to America's poor. The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, says aid is welcome, but criticism is a two-way street.

"We [the U.S. and Venezuela] have some fundamental differences," said Brownfield. "We should not try to conceal these differences. Nor should we try to muzzle ourselves on these differences. As the government of Venezuela expresses its views, which it expresses with great regularity and at considerable volume — its views on the United States government, U.S. policies, U.S. activities throughout the world — we are going to express our views, as well."

While urging a continued close relationship in energy, the Bush administration has been critical of Venezuela's growing ties with Cuba, and voiced concerns about allegations of Venezuelan backing for leftist movements in the Americas. Most recently, President Bush declared Venezuela uncooperative in the war on illegal drugs, but waved most penalties proscribed by U.S. law.
In an interview, Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel says the only thing his nation demands is respect.

"The Bush administration believes Venezuela should follow the policies Washington lays out," Rangel said.  "And this cannot be. We will do as we feel is best. And that is all. There are no other points of contention. We have no desire to attack the United States. We have no phobia of the United States. But we want Washington to respect our sovereignty."

Allegations of U.S. interference and an undercurrent of anti-U.S. sentiment are not new in Venezuela. While visiting Caracas in 1958, then-U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon was met by mobs that attacked his motorcade and chanted for his death. But today, some Venezuelans, like computer technician Freddy Hernández, see President Chavez' anti-American stance as political opportunism.

He says, "Poorer people absolutely love this confrontation. 'Look, I am making a fool of this country.' It is just a game to keep him in power. It is like a soap opera. And, in the meantime, Chávez is making deals with the United States on oil. So this is all words, not actions."

Yet even some of Chávez' fiercest critics describe U.S. policy toward Latin America in general, and toward Venezuela in particular, as lacking.

One opposition leader expected to challenge Chávez in next year's presidential elections, newspaper publisher Teodoro Petkoff, said "President Chávez is eating the United States alive in Latin American affairs."

Another opposition leader who has already declared his candidacy, Julio Borges of the Primero Justicia (Justice First) Party, says U.S. engagement with the region must extend beyond free-trade accords.

"Chávez wants to cut the historic ties with the United States and make Venezuela into an island, like Cuba," Borges said. "And the way to do that is to portray the United States as the enemy. And I think the United States is inept in dealing with Latin America, and especially with Venezuela. It cannot be that the only proposal from Washington for the region is the Free Trade Area of the Americas — this is a poor and incomplete agenda. We want more profound proposals to strengthen human rights, institutions, and the civil society."

Political analysts say President Chávez has always harbored anti-American passions, but that they came to the forefront after the United States was perceived as being slow to condemn a failed coup that briefly removed Chávez from power in 2002. In fact, many suspect the United States authored the coup.

The president has also accused the United States of taking sides in the 2004 referendum in which Venezuelans were asked whether Chávez should remain in power. Most recently, American evangelist and one-time Republican presidential aspirant Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Chávez. U.S. officials deny any U.S. campaign to remove the Venezuelan leader from office in any fashion, and say that Robertson's comments in no way reflect U.S. policy.

Argentine bombs expode with pamphlets denouncing a visit by Bush
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Police in Argentina say there have been small bomb explosions and anti-United States leaflets scattered at two branches of a U.S.-based bank and a video store in the suburbs of Buenos Aires.

The explosions early Thursday started a fire at the video store, but officials said no injuries were reported. Pamphlets denouncing President George
Bush were found in the debris following the explosions. Police are investigating.

The White House announced Wednesday that Bush will visit Argentina, as well as Brazil and Panama, next month when he attends the Summit of the Americas in Argentina's Mar del Plata.

The summit brings together 34 leaders of democratic nations from North, Central and South America.

Jo Stuart
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