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These stories were published Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 202
Jo Stuart
About us

The needle guy creates a warm, fuzzy feeling
By Jesse Froehling
the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Aguja. That word just sounds bad.  It sounds like something a ghost or goblin would say and makes one think of the words gool and gruel, none of which have connotations any better than a word like, say, needle.  Actually, needle is exactly what that nasty little word means in Spanish and like 99.9 percent of the rest of the world, I hate needles. 

So, when an associate suggested that we go see an acupuncturist together here in San José, I 
ground my teeth and shoved my hands in my armpits and tried to think of an excuse not to.

For those who don't know, acupuncture is a 2,000-year-old healing method originally from China that involves shoving needles – without drugs – into different energy pathways throughout the

body.  A doctor here has a big following.

In the end, two factors convinced me to give it a whirl.  First, I'll try anything once for the experience alone.  Second, if people have been willingly shoving needles into themselves for the past 2,000 years, it must do something.  So off we went to a downtown office.

My first problem arose when we filled out the necessary forms and sat down in a row of chairs filled with patients.  The needle guy stopped at each person ahead of me, poking them in the head, the ear, the hand and the arm. Each time, I cringed.  It was like being 10 years old and waiting your turn for a spanking.  My second problem arose when the
guy with the needles asked me what was  wrong.  It turns out, that to pay someone to
make you look like a porcupine, you have to have something wrong with you.  Didn't see that one comin' didja? 

Anyway, the doctor must have noticed my hesitation. 

“Pain?” he asked.  Sure, why not, I thought.  “Where?” he asked.  Well, night after night poised over a keyboard can do a number on your shoulders so I decided shoulder pain would be sufficient to make him happy.  He leaned over me with his needle and gave me two quick jabs right at the base of my neck. 

Immediately, I felt a warm loosening sensation like that first gulp of coffee in the morning.  When he switched to the other side, I actually had to keep from drooling.  This isn't so bad, I thought. 

“Anything else?” he asked.  “Do you want to lose weight?”  I don't really need to, but I thought a speedier metabolism might offset a cerveza-drenched weekend, and maybe I wouldn't feel so guilty Sunday morning.  Sure, why not.  This involves one needle in the back of your head, one in your ear, and one in your hand.  Again, the sensation was immediate.  The left side of my face started to feel heavy — not unlike it does after a bucket of Pilsens, and I leaned back in my chair in glee. 

However, the problem came when I noticed my surroundings.  Everyone else with a needle in the back of the head, the ear and the hand really needed to lose weight, and I don't intend to make light of their situation.  They were actually seeking help, not playing at eastern medicine like me.  That's when I decided that whether or not the healing effects of acupuncture are genuine, people seriously believe in it.  And though I still hate needles enough to keep from going back, I think I now believe in it too.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 202

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Día de las Culturas
today is half holiday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the Día de las Culturas in Costa Rica, the name here for what is called Columbus Day elsewhere.

The day marks the fusion of the many cultures that make up the Costa Rican population, but this year the day is not an obligatory holiday, mostly because the day is Wednesday.

The Ministerio de Trabajo decreed that the day is not a time when employers must pay double for work. Instead, employers have the option of providing workers a day off within 15 days.

It is no surprise that most workers and employers have picked Monday, Oct. 17, as the day to celebrate the holiday. A new law makes three-day weekend obligatory for five holidays, including the Día de la Cultura. But the law does not go into effect until next year. So the three-day weekend may not be the law, but the spirit is being observed informally.

At the Museos del Banco Central under the aptly named Plaza de las Culturas in the downtown, Indian children will be guests. A spokesperson for the museums said the school children will be from Comunidad Huetar La Cangreja de Puriscal. and that Procter & Gamble was supporting the project. The event begins at 10 a.m.

At noon, Ismael González, an award winning carver of masks will demonstrate his technique. He was the 2002  Premio Nacional de Cultura winner and specializes in the traditional Boruca mask.

In Limón the day marks the midpoint of the city's famous carnival.

Winds uproot trees
and put power out

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

High winds knocked over trees near Guácimo, Pococi and Siquirres Monday afternoon. 

The trees crashed into at least 10 houses and knocked over 10 poles with electrical systems and several power lines, but no one was hurt.  Tuesday morning, crews were racing to return electricity to the more than 13,000 clients in the region who were going without. The crews were from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE.

Though 6,000 clients in Pococi and Guácimo and 7,442 in Siquirres lost power, ICE said its workers restrung the lines to other power systems and within an hour, the majority of those clients had power again.  Workers then began resetting the downed power poles, they said.   

Farmers get motivation
to switch to organic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A $17 million program created by the Inter-American Development Bank seeks to offer more than 40,000 small agricultural producers throughout the country an incentive to go organic, the agricultural ministry said.

The Programa de Fomento de la Producción Agropecuaria Sostenible will offer those producers donations and technicial assistance to offset the potential losses the producers would incure through the shift to organic goods. 

“The program will benefit more than 800 organizations of small and medium-sized producers including women producers, youths and indiginous communities,” said Olman Quirós Madriga, director of the program.

Though the Inter-American Development Bank created the program and appropriated the money, the Fundación para el Fomento de la Investigación y Transferencia de Tecnología Agropecuaria de Costa Rica, will distribute the money to local regional committees.  These committees will then pass the money on to some 800 organizations of small producers who will then distribute the money among themselves, said the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería. 

If the plan is approved by the Contraloría General de la República, the organic shift should be complete within four years, the ministry said.  The contraloría is the country's financial watchdog. 

Giant rice-palmito dish
planned for Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thursday is the start of the ninth Encuentro Cultural de Sarapiquí in which organizers plan, among other activities, to cook the largest batch of rice and palmito ever.

The festival, scheduled to take place in Horquetas de Sarapiquí, will run through Sunday, organizers said.   Besides the various palmito based food planned, organizers say there will also be pottery, athletic competitions, soccer, fireworks, a dance, a bike ride and a parade. 

In addition, artistic activities are planned, including poetry, live music, singing, theatrics, mimes and sculptures. 

The big batch of rice and palmito will be served Sunday afternoon, organizers said. 

Big Golfito cocaine haul

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Narcotics agents with the Fuerza Pública seized 353 kilos of suspected cocaine Tuesday afternoon from a man driving near Río Claro de Guaycará, Golfito, they said.

The 55-year-old suspect, identified by the last names Carmona Mora, was arrested as a result of a stakeout that the officers had been maintaining since the early hours of Tuesday morning, they said.   Officers had been investigating Carmona for several weeks, they said.  If convicted, Carmona could spend the next 20 years in prison.

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Now those who visit immigration have to line up for an appointment
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New immigration law will mean some changes in rules
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Foreign residents will see changes in immigration policy if a new law is passed.

Although bound by the paragraphs in the law, the new immigration director expects to redraft the internal regulations that turn the law into workable policies.

He is Johnny Marín Artavia, a lawyer with 11 years experience in the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. As chief of the legal department at immigration, he was one of four persons who actually wrote the new immigration law. The measure with some changes has passed the Asamblea Legislativa on first reading. Final approval depends on the legislative agenda, Marín said in an interview Tuesday.

Marín has testified against retaining the rentista category in the new law. He told a legislative committee in July that the category provides a loophole for dirty money. When the proposed law was
presented to lawmakers, the rentista category was absent.

This is a critical point for foreign residents here because absent family connections, most U.S. and Canadian citizens gain the legal right to live here as either a pensionado or a rentista. A pensionado receives a verifiable pension of at least $600 a month from sources outside the country. That amount

Johnny Marín
 remains the same in the proposed new law, thanks, in part, to a lobbying effort by the Association of Residents of Costa Rica.

A rentista must show an income of $1,000 a month from sources outside the country. That category was inserted in the proposed law by a legislative committee vote.

Marín said that the income requirement usually has meant having a rentista candidate place $60,000 in a bank. But if he gets a change to help draft regulations to enact the proposed law, he wants to see evidence that the money actually comes into Costa Rica. He said Tuesday that a bank-to-bank transfer would be one way of establishing the fulfillment of the law.

Although they may have $60,000 in a bank, rentistas only have to show that they changed $12,000 into colons each year. Some simply change the money and then change it back to dollars, thereby defeating the spirit of the law. And sometimes the $60,000 bank account has been emptied or never existed.

Marín also is critical of the inversionista category that allows someone to obtain residency by investing $200,000 in the country. The amount is too low and certainly should not be spent on simply buying a fancy home, Marín said. He wants to see investments that benefit the country, although he is bound by what the current law says and what the proposed law will say.

For Marín, the new law would mean more resources and a bigger budget for the immigration department. The organization is making the news now because a lack of staffers and equipment has caused substantial delays in issuing visas and passports to Costa Rican citizens.

The Extranjería section now handles all nationalites for a multitude of residency reasons.

A new photo in a Spanish language newspaper Tuesday showed people holding their place in a passport line by sleeping overnight at the La Uruca-based immigration headquarters.

Marín defends one controversial change made by his predecessor. What used to be a special rentista-
pensionado office providing services to North Americans has now been rolled into a single office for all foreigners. So wealthy North Americans mix with Colombian refugees, Nicaraguan coffee pickers and other foreigners seeking the right to live here. He said there should be no difference in the services offered to people of different nationalities.

Marín also said consolidating the various temporary residency departments generated some savings by reducing the staff needed to run the office.

The proposed new law generated some opposition from the Defensor de los Habitantes and the Roman Catholic Church. One aim of the new law is to punish trafficking in humans, something not now illegal in Costa Rica. The proposed law also would penalize those who harbor illegal aliens or give them jobs. But Marín said that the law only says that a penalty may be applied, not must be applied. That way those who harbor a few aliens for humanitarian purposes would not be jailed, he said, and certainly not if the individuals were simply trying to help the poor or the pregnant.

The Sala IV constitutional court found fault with a few sections of the proposed law, and these are being revised by a legislative committee.

Marín also said that procedures exist for temporary labor in conjunction with needs identified by the Ministerio de Trabajo. Sugar cane cutters and other seasonal farm help can obtain temporary work permits, he noted. But a Nicaraguan bus driver has to face the fact that there are already some 20,000 Costa Ricans who can drive a bus, he said.

The immigration department hopes to have installed modern equipment to generate passports and other documents next year. Still, it is suffering from limited resources. 

An example: During the interview Tuesday, the ceiling of Marín's second-floor office dribbled a small amount of water onto a reporter's arm.

Region's defense/security ministers seeing Rumsfeld
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MIAMI, Fla. — U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is hosting a meeting here of his counterparts from all seven Central American countries this week. It is the first such meeting, and U.S. officials say it reflects stronger regional identity and increased capabilities in the countries involved.

The Defense Department says the meeting will focus on such issues as regional security cooperation, fighting criminal gangs and narcotics traffickers and maritime security. In addition, the officials are to discuss the creation of two regional forces that would draw on the capabilities of all of the countries — a joint peacekeeping unit that could participate in operations around the world and a rapid response force for use in regional disasters.

Department spokesman Lawrence DiRita said Rumsfeld decided to hold this first-ever regional security meeting at the ministerial level to strengthen Central America's already growing identity and capability.

"These are countries that are starting, together,
themselves to identify as a region, as the Central American region," DiRita says. "The Central American Free Trade Agreement is one example. Countries in that region, for example, have contributed troops to Iraq, and they've contributed at least a commitment to work on maybe joint peacekeeping activities, things of that nature. So, it's developing an identity as a component of the inter-American system and I think the Secretary would very much like to strengthen that."

The meeting comes just a few days after torrential rains caused hundreds of deaths in Central America, some of them from massive mudslides in Guatemala. That is the kind of disaster that could be addressed by a regional rapid reaction force.

In addition, officials say the ministers will discuss the role improved security can play in promoting economic development.

Secretary Rumsfeld will be hosting defense ministers from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Belize, as well as security ministers from Costa Rica and Panama. Mexico, the Dominican Republic and several other countries are sending observers.

Desamparado readies zoning plan with multiple density areas spelled out
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Canton of Desamparados says its is about ready to present a comprehensive zoning plan to the public.

The project seeks to establish three density zones for the sprawling political division. As with a typical zoning plan designers seek to separate industrial and residential zones as well as commercial areas.

There are three basic zones, high, medium and low density, according to a summary released by the
office of the mayor of the Municipal de Desamparados. The summary said that condos and other forms of vertical construction would be permitted in high-density zones with maximum use of the land.

The Desamparados plan is unique among such efforts in Costa Rica because geological hazard areas have been considered as well as flood plains and other obstacles to construction, said the summary. The plan also envisions the creation of an historical center for the canton.

Welder wanted in underage sex case arrested in Cartago after stakeout
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers have arrested a 32-year-old welder to face an allegation of raping a minor, they said Tuesday.

The suspect, identified by the last names López

Man held as drug dealer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents with the Judicial Investigating Organization in Ciudad Neily arrested a 30-year-old Panamanian man who they think was the principal crack dealer along the Pacific side of the Panamanian border, they said. 

During a raid late Monday night on the man's home in Urbanización Villas Darizara de Paso Canoas, agents said they found 80 rocks of crack cocaine in the man's oven as well as a bag of cocaine behind the toilet-paper dispenser in the bathroom.  They also seized 200,000 colons ( $409) in cash, they said.  
Morales, had been hiding out in his grandparents house in Los Diques de Cartago, officers said.  To shake them off, he had not left the house in some time, said officers. 

However, Tuesday morning, López stepped outside to “have a look around,” and officers acted quickly, they said.

When López realized what was happening, he laid face-down on the ground and the officers were able to arrest him without firing a shot, they said. 

López is the 13th suspected sex-offender apprehended within the last 30 days, said Paúl Chávez, head of the Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

These 13 suspects are a part of the 20 suspected sex-offenders whom the Fuerza Pública has been seeking during the last 30 days, Chávez said.  Among those apprehended have been teachers, security guards and farmers, Chávez said.    

Jo Stuart
About us
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