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(506) 2223-1327                         Published Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, in Vol. 13, No. 212                  Email us
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Cascata del Bosco

Events will highlight spooks and goblins a la Tica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Because Halloween is Thursday, the country has a bit more than a week of the spooks, goblins and things that go bump and grind in the night.

Aserrí is hosting the Costa Rican counter to Halloween Sunday with its parade of mascaradas, the topic of a news story Thursday. There are Halloween parties Saturday at many nightspots including the famous Hotel Del Rey and the adjacent Key Largo downtown. Other venues have their parties scheduled for next week.

Saturday in Heredia Centro there is another effort to promote Costa Rican spooks instead of those from the north. At the Cafetería de Nuestra Tierra at least 13 storytellers will talk about the tales and legends of this country and the unique spooks that are said to inhabit the land.

The restaurant is a great place for such an event, The organizers say the two-story adobe structure can contain 500 persons. The building itself dates from the 1860s, and who ever heard of an old house that was not considered a bit haunted? The building is reported to be the only one of its kind in the entire province. It is on the south side of the  Iglesia del Carmen.

Organizers Alban Azofeifa and Ruth Torres Montero are promising appearances by el Cadejos, la Llorona, la Segua, el Fantasma, la Bruja Zárate, la Tule Vieja, el Duende Malo, el Diablo, la Muerte, la Novia Muerta, el Poeta Muerto, el Sepulturero and el Spíritu de la Moja who distributed drinking water at Hospital San Juan de Dios.

The storytellers will be dressed as their characters, an announcement said. Also promised is a  cimarrona, a brass street band, and a mascarada. The event starts at 5 p.m.

There could have been more characters. Elías Zeledón in his authoritative "Leyendas Costarricense" list 49 spectres and apparitions, and many date from pre-Colombian times. The native inhabitants also were big on supernatural explanations of daily events or mishaps.

The Spanish put a Roman Catholic veneer on some, such as El Padre sin Cabeza and el Cadejos, the giant black dog that hunts down drunken pedestrians coming from a booze party. Dundes are the Costa Rican version of gnomes who carry off rebellious children. La Llorna is universal in every Latin American country. She discarded an unwanted baby and now searches the night to recover the tot.  An unexplained screech can be attributed to her.

A country like Costa Rica that is strongly Roman Catholic certainly has a strong sense of good and evil, and most of the spooks are clearly on the evil side.

Those who are not partial to spooks have other entertainment possibilities over the weekend.

Expo Foto

Expo Foto begins today at the Antigua Aduana on Calle 23. The exhibition runs through Sunday. The event is free from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

In addition to displays of photography, the expo features workshops, discussions, movies and 22 commercial stands.  This is the third annual edition, and the show has the support of the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud.

A focus of the show are 55 photos that have been selected from 945 entries by 213 persons with 17 nationalities. Some of the photographers, mostly Latin American or Spanish, will be present, organizers said.

Three projection areas will show Costa Rican shorts continuously. And there also are showings planned of the films “Gestación” by Esteban Ramírez, “El Regreso” by Hernán Jiménez and “Historia de un Oscar” by Dyrson Brown, organizers said.

A brief program is HERE!
La Llorona
Cafetería de Nuestra Tierra graphic
If she's screaming at night, it must be la Llorna

German unification concert

The Banda de Conciertos de San José will be celebrating German unification Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Museo Nacional in the downtown. The celebration marks the end of the division of East and West Germany and the sponsor is the German Embassy.

The event is part of the Música en el Museo program that brings the band to the museum once a month. Admission is free for residents.

Naturally the works will be those of German composers, including Ludwig Van Beethoven and Richard Wagner.

The embassy also will have an informational booth for those who might want to study, learn about scholarships or become conversant in the language, said an announcement.

United Nations Day

Saturday at Parque La Libertad, Fátima de Desamparados there is a festival marking United Nations Day from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The Festival de la Amistad y la Convivencia will have cooking contests, traditional games, a skating tournament and a concert.

The park is the metro area's newest.

Boruca annual festival

The Festival Cultural Indígena Curré / Yimba 2013 takes place Saturday in southwest Costa Rica. This is the 21st annual edition.

The goal of the Boruca residents is to expose the public to their culture and traditions, said the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud, which is a sponsor.

On display at the Rey Curré communal hall will be art, music, foods, traditional drinks and traditional medicine, said an announcement. Visitors will have a chance to tour a pre-Columbian cemetery and a Boruca archaeological site, it said. The event is from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the communal hall is 32 kilometers south of Buenos Aires de Puntarenas,
Saturday the Museo Nacional will be providing guided tours of local archaeological sites to Curré, Boruca and Térraba youngsters.

The location will be Finca 6 where Francisco Corrales and Silvia Lobo of the Museo Nacional will talk about the site. This is where many of the nation's giant stone balls have been found. Corrales, an archaeologist, is in charge of setting up a museum there.

The plan is to introduce the youngsters to the site and  build community projects for conservation and defending the national heritage.

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A.M. Costa Rica's  Second news page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday,  Oct. 25, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 212

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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News groups express fears
of British press controls

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A group of leading global press freedom and media organizations have written an open letter to Queen Elizabeth II asking her to reject a proposed Royal Charter that would impose repressive statutory controls on the British press.

“For more than three centuries since Britain abolished the last set of statutory controls on the press in 1695, the United Kingdom has been a consistent champion of the most crucial freedom of all - freedom of expression – and a beacon of liberty across the world,” said the letter, signed by seven international media organizations.

“Freedom of expression was central to the European Convention of Human Rights which Britain helped draft. It is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which the UK is a signatory. It is a core belief in the Commonwealth Charter which Britain inspired. Free speech and freedom of expression have throughout the 20th and 21st centuries therefore been at the core of Britain’s international commitments, of its leadership of the free world, and of its international reputation as a liberal democracy.

“Yet all that is now in danger. No one should be in any doubt that the proposed Royal Charter which politicians are forcing Your Majesty to sign is, despite the camouflage, in reality a set of repressive statutory controls being imposed on the press against its will. That should not be the function of a Royal Charter.”

The letter said the Charter would not only have an impact on press freedom in the United Kingdom, but would be used by repressive regimes worldwide to justify their own control of the press.

“The actions of Britain’s Parliament will be used as an excuse by those who want to muzzle the press in their own country and stifle the free flow of information – and there are many governments who would love to do so,” the letter said. “And it is your name, Your Majesty, that will regrettably be taken in vain. ‘If it is good enough for the Queen, it is good enough for us.’”

The letter was signed by the following members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organisations: Commonwealth Press Union Trust, The Worldwide Magazine Media Association, the Inter American Press Association, the International Association of Broadcasting, the International Press Institute, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and the World Press Freedom Committee.

The proposed Royal Charter on Self Regulation of the Press – a misnomer, since it is part of several proposals growing from the Leveson inquiry that would impose statutory regulation of the press – raises serious questions about the future direction of independent press regulation. The industry has described it as being neither voluntary nor independent with some fearing it gives politicians too much power.

Reports suggest that since Lord Justice Brian Leveson’s inquiry into press behavior, as many as 59 journalists have been arrested under three separate police investigations. None have been convicted and many have spent months on police bail.

The World Association of Newspapers, based in Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore and India, is the global organisation of the world’s newspapers and news publishers. It represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. Its core mission is to defend and promote press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.

Cardinals tie Series, 1-1,
for 4-3 victory over Red Sox

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the host Boston Red Sox 4-2 late Thursday to even Major League Baseball's World Series at one win apiece.

Trailing 2-1, the Cardinals scored three runs in the seventh inning to earn 22-year-old rookie pitcher Michael Wacha the victory. Boston's sloppy play on defense in that inning was partially responsible for the St. Louis runs.

The best-of-seven championship series now moves to St. Louis for three games starting Saturday night.

Rights organization opposes
amnesty for Ríos Montt

Special to A.M. Costa Rica
Reports that Guatemala may open the door to an amnesty for former President Effrain Ríos Montt would be a travesty of justice and send the country back more than a decade, said Amnesty International.
Ríos Montt is facing a re-trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.
“This is an alarming new development that, if confirmed, would set the country back decades. Amnesties can never be applied to genocide and crimes against humanity,” said Sebastian Elgueta, Guatemala researcher at Amnesty International.
“With such a decision, Guatemala’s authorities would destroy, with one signature, decades of progress when it comes to justice for the tens of thousands of people who died and were disappeared during the dark years of the conflict.”
According to media reports, Guatemala’s constitutional court has ordered that more details be provided as to why Ríos Montt’s request for amnesty was refused. This raises the possibility that amnesty is being seriously considered, closing the case against him and others facing similar charges.
“Awarding Rios Montt an amnesty would mean he could get away with genocide. This decision would also benefit others who are accused or convicted of enforced disappearances, systematic sexual violence, torture and killings. It would be a monumental disaster for the victims and their relatives and it must never happen,” said Elgueta.
“Amnesties are a tragedy for victims as they block truth, justice and reparation; and for society as a whole, as they prevent a full examination and acknowledgement of what occurs during periods of widespread human rights abuses.”
In May Ríos Montt was tried, convicted and sentenced to 80 years for his role in the killing of nearly 2,000 Ixil iindians between 1982 and 1983. The conviction was overturned 10 days later by the constitutional court on a technicality.
Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala was immersed in a bloody internal armed conflict that pitted the army against guerrilla groups. Across the country, more than 200,000 men, women and children were murdered or disappeared during this 36-year-long war, most of whom were natives.

Young teenager murdered
on a street in León XIII

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone gunned down a 14 year old late Wednesday in León XIII, a low income area in the Central Valley.

The boy died minutes after reaching Hospital México in La Uruca.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that he suffered six bullet wounds, three in the chest, one in the back, one in the neck and one in the face. The killing appears to have taken place on a public street.

Costa Rica is recognized
for abolishing the military

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The World Future Council has recognized Costa Rica for abolishing its military in 1948. The recognition was in conjunction with the U.N. Office of Disarmament.

The organization gave Costa Rica, one of seven finalists, an honorable mention. The top prize went to the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. Receiving the award was the former secretary general of the nuclear organization, Gioconda Ubeda, who now is a vice minister in the foreign ministry here.

Cancer awareness walk Nov. 3

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The fourth walk against breast cancer, the Ruta Rosa, will be Nov. 3 in Desamparado sponsored by the Fundación Reciclando Lágrimas en Amor.
The walk is designed to remind residents of Desamparados, Aserrí and Acosta of the need for examinations and the early detection of breast  cancer. The event will conclude with a gathering in the Parque de Desamparados and a dance.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday,  Oct. 25, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 212
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Newest grocery shopping survey is food for thought
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The economics ministry reported again Thursday on a survey of food stores that showed wide variations in prices.

But the ministry also reported that three entrepreneurs are developing an application called  Ahorre Más, "Save more," that will give shoppers information on food prices in various supermarkets in real time. The application, a winner of a  Gobierno Digital competition, still is in development. The application will do basically what the ministry surveyors did: Determine the prices in 42 chain and independent groceries.

The Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio had some additional goals with the survey that was conducted from Sept. 24 to Oct. 7.  Officials wanted to see how well stores were complying with a new rule that said they had to report a unit price for each product. The ministry said that 95 percent of the stores were in compliance.

The survey itself compared individual prices but also figured what a family averaging 3.5 persons would pay purchasing the same monthly shopping of 53 items in different stores. The survey was geared to basic purchase of food and some personal care items, such as diapers. The checkout price ranged from 93,147 to 126,745 colons, about $186 to $253.50. The ministry computed the difference to be 33,598 colons or about $67.

Automercado at Plaza del Sol in Curridabat had the highest prices. The lowest was at Palí in El Roble, said the ministry. Second highest was Automercado in Tres Ríos followed by Muños and Nanne in San Pedro, Super Facil Express in San José and Mas x Meno in Santo Domingo de Heredia. The products checked were both pre-packed and fresh.

A month's groceries cost the lowest in the province of Puntarenas while San José had the highest prices.
shopping cost
Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio /A.M. Costa Rica

As is usual in these surveys, researchers found wide variations among identical products and similar products. Some of the differences, such as 132 percent difference in a bottle of meat sauce, suggested that one product might have been marked incorrectly. For example, a pack of 2-percent milk cost 330 colons at one store and 610 colons at the store with the highest price. That is a difference of some 280 colons or 85 percent, said the ministry. But 550 colons to about 600 is the usual price for this product.

Still prices on the same and similar items ranged up to 500 percent. That difference was on a Gillette double-bladed men's razor and one made or imported by the Mexican firm called Dorusa de México S.A.. Smoked sausage differed by 211 percent between Zurquí brand at 710 colons in Super Moline in San Ramón and Zaragoza at a number of stores at 2,210 colons.

The survey also points out that a working class family will be paying about half of an average monthly salary for basic food products. The full survey can be found on the ministry Web site.

Helping others is a way to keep the aging mind sharp, too
After reading the article about the benefits to aging minds that retiring in Costa Rica brings, I decided to check my own mind-saving activities, if I had any. 

I just put the final piece in a 1,500 piece puzzle which was a collage of six different Van Gogh paintings, including his self portrait.  I prefer puzzles of paintings to photos. 

Because most of my Tico friends are bilingual, my Spanish conversation consists of talking with my empleada and taxistas.  I learn a lot about the caja and politics in Costa Rica from both of them, and they correct my Spanish.  I have to admit that my comprehension and fluency in Spanish was much greater in Spain and Mexico than in Costa Rica.  I have trouble with both the speed with which Costa Ricans speak and the slang or idioms used here. 

I keep up with the news of the world, concentrating on that in my home country of United States and Costa Rica via Internet and TV, neither of which, of course is dependent upon my living in Costa Rica. The fact that I can afford a maid and taxis in Costa Rica makes it possible to spend more time following world news, which may in part lead to depression, which I am told older people are prone. 

I also try to get to the feria each weekend.  Here I learn the Spanish names of vegetables and fruits I have never seen or tried before, and get exercise on the hills that are the Pavas feria.  And here I must acknowledge that I received two emails in strong defense of the Santa Ana feria.  Both writers get to the feria early in the morning where they tell me they mix with Ticos, not gringos and where the produce is fresh and lovely.  So I concede.

And finally, I have my column to write each week.  This involves my dictionary, Google, my Atlas, Roget’s thesaurus, and very often help from my friends.

In this case, Martha Rollins.  We both belong to the same book club, but that is not all Martha has been doing since she and her husband moved to Costa Rica.  It all started when she went to Namu to ask for a mask for a Women’s Club auction that would benefit books and scholarships for children.  She learned that the Cabécar children in a small school on Río Pacuare were in desperate need of books in Spanish.  That was in 2009 and The Cabécar Project was born.  Others joined and have been taking books and food, gardening tools and other help to the children and their families since then. 

There the trips to Alto Quetzal involve going to Turrialba, La Suiza, Tuis and Bajo Pacuare to begin with, first: by car, then horse and then on foot carrying supplies.  To my mind, it would challenge a triathlon contestant.  Once there, she often
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

stays overnight in a sleeping bag on the floor of the school and prepares breakfast on a propane stove in the school kitchen.

Out of this project began the Educational Project, supported by the Ministry of Educación Pública and local corporations and social and humanitarian groups.  The purpose of the pilot is to “develop future leaders who are proud of their own culture while respecting that of others.”  Partner schools help with this goal.  This October they celebrated the end of the first phase of the project, naturally, with music and singing, and food. Also in attendance were the students of the non-indigenous school in Orosi that was partnering with them.

Martha’s work is dependent upon the kindness of others, of course.  And she told me that contrary to what she had been warned, “There are no bad guys” in the ministries and corporations where she appealed for help.  When the top management is presented with a good idea and kept informed, they are happy to help.  Learning that Kolbi is a Cabécar word for a little frog that goes to the top of the tree and sings, she went to Insituto Costarricense de Electricidad that uses the frog and word as a trademark with a suggestion the firm might want to get involved.  They did.

Martha is still working with the original school, and last week the current director, Albin Mayora, asked if she could donate food for the activity they are planning  Nov. 13 and 14 with three schools along the river. All of them are extremely poor. (There is a hint in here somewhere.)

There is much planned for the future. Next year they will concentrate on science and technology using the NASA/Omar Dengo Globe program. 

I cannot possibly enumerate all Martha is doing.  I just know she and other volunteers are bringing education, understanding and good will to a small part of a world that sorely needs it. For anyone interested in more information or who would like to donate expertise or money to this project, please contact Martha or cell phone 8667-8623.

And that, my friends, is another way to keep your mind alert and working.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday,  Oct. 25, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 212
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Genetically modified crops are a major problem in EU-U.S. trade talks
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The European Union has some of the strictest regulations in the world for genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, requiring extensive testing, labeling and monitoring of all food products whose DNA has been manipulated in labs. The debate has intensified this year with the EU and United States negotiating a free-trade agreement that, many hope, will eventually allow American GMOs into the European Union.

Frederick Schmidt owns 170 hectares of farmland in Finten, a small agricultural community outside Frankfurt, Germany.

His farm is well known in the area not only for the delicious apples, peaches and pears but also for vegetables like asparagus. Most of Schmidt's customers are locals, people from neighboring villages and supermarkets in the Frankfurt area. He credits the quality of his fruit and vegetables to respecting and working with nature.

“On my farm we pay a lot of attention to sustainability, that means I have to keep this land," he explained, "what’s in it and its biodiversity for the next generations so they can be successful farmers, as well. The quality of the land is most important, what we have here has to be dealt with wisely and preserved for the future.”

Ever since GMO crops started expanding in the 1980s and 90s, German farmers remained opposed to genetically engineered fruit and vegetables for fear of health risks and environmental contamination.

Despite repeated efforts by the U.S. and Canada to export GMO crops to the EU, they have been met with strong opposition. And, the issue resurfaced this summer as the United States and the European Union started negotiations in Washington on a free trade agreement and possible GMO food imports like corn, soy and sugar beets from the United States.

“For the Europe side, this is a pretty sensitive issue because there are so many people in our countries who have an adverse opinion about genetically engineered crops and that of course is a political factor in this debate, no doubt about it,” explained Thomas Schmidt, a food and agriculture expert at the German Embassy in Washington, DC.
According to a European Union study, 75 percent of Germans are opposed to consuming or expanding genetically modified crops.

A type of maize engineered by chemical giant Monsanto was banned in 2009 and Amflora, a GMO potato developed by the company BASF was grown by one German farmer in 2010 and 2011 then abandoned.

Opposition has been so strong that last year chemical giant BASF moved its bio tech division from Germany to the United States.

For German resident Kristine Koster, 28, not eating genetically modified foods is a matter of principle.

“I would gladly pay a few more euros for food that is as natural as possible, organic, without pesticides, without GMOs," she admitted. "This is very important to me. I don’t want to eat any genetically modified anything.”

Critics inside the European Union, including Spain where GMO crops are currently grown, say that Europe has to embrace genetic engineering or lag behind economically. They also point out that while banning GMO crops in Europe, the EU depends on imports of genetically engineered corn from the US, soybean from South America and animal feed from Argentina.

When asked if he expects a breakthrough in the ongoing EU-U.S. free trade negotiations, Schmidt said a compromise will be difficult.

“I am cautiously optimistic. We should always keep in mind that trade and agriculture is only 4 percent of the overall trade of the United States with the European Union," he noted. "We should not let 4 percent of trade take over 96 percent of trade. We should be aware that we have differences and we should find ways to live with these differences by harming trade as little as possible.”

The European Union is currently the largest importer of goods from the United States and a possible deal between the two on GMO food imports from the U.S. would have a significant economic impact on both sides of the Atlantic. The free trade agreement negotiations are expected to be finalized by the end of 2014.

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Pacific Estates

Phone taps of world leaders
now put at 35 by newspaper

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Guardian newspaper reports that White House, Pentagon and State Department officials confirm the United States spied on the phone conversations of 35 world leaders.

The latest report comes as European leaders have united behind a furious Germany to denounce the United States for allegations it spied on its allies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she has made it clear to U.S. President Barack Obama that spying on allies is unacceptable.

Speaking Thursday as she arrived at a summit of the European Union's 28 leaders in Brussels, Ms. Merkel said she told Obama during a telephone call Wednesday that "spying on friends is not acceptable at all."

"We need to have trust in our allies and partners and this trust must now be established once again," she said.     

The two leaders spoke Wednesday after allegations emerged that the U.S. National Security Agency had monitored Ms. Merkel's cell phone calls. During Wednesday's telephone call, Obama told Ms. Merkel the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor her communications.

Ms. Merkel summoned U.S. Ambassador John Emerson to meet Thursday in Berlin with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who was expected to spell out the position of the German government.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama called Ms. Merkel on Wednesday to discuss the situation.

"All I can tell you is what the president told the chancellor. The United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor," said Carney.

German officials say that explanation is not good enough, because the U.S. is not saying that it has not tapped the chancellor's phone in the past.

The U.S. also was criticized in Brussels by the leaders of Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Austria.  Mexico and Brazil are investigating whether the NSA spied on their top officials.

French President Francois Hollande wanted the U.S. spying matter put on the EU agenda. His foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, pressed Secretary of State John Kerry on the issue this week.

"We, of course, agree to have cooperation in the fight against terrorism. This is essential. But this does not justify the act of listening to the personal data of millions of our compatriots," said Fabius.

James Andrew Lewis is the director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said European reaction to the alleged U.S. spying is politically motivated, but it could damage the alliances nonetheless.

"A lot of it is for public consumption, but it's for their public. Their publics are angry, and the big problem we're looking at is there's been a change in European public opinion about the United States for the worse because of these spying scandals," he said.

Lewis believes Washington should do a better job of addressing allies' anger about NSA activities.

"We need a different policy than not commenting on this publicly, and I know it's going to be difficult to come up with an explanation, but the U.S. needs to address the concerns of its European allies, and if we don't do that, we'll only see further harm to the Transatlantic relationship," said Lewis.

NSA Director Keith Alexander, who has announced plans to retire, recently said U.S. allies appreciate the data gathering because it also protects their countries from terror attacks.

"Many people have asked me, how has this impacted your relationship with allies? Here is what I get: 'Keep working with us. The intelligence you get us to defend our country is what we really need,'" said Alexander.

Many of the reports of NSA spying on allies came from leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Germany's defense minister said that if the alleged surveillance is confirmed, the U.S. and Germany could not simply return to business as usual.

Nigerian pirates capture
two U.S. sailors on boat

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Pirates attacked an oil supply vessel off the Nigerian coast and kidnapped the captain and chief engineer, both U.S. citizens, American officials said Thursday as the Nigerian military ordered its navy to rescue the men.

“We believe this was an act of piracy,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, adding that U.S. officials were closely monitoring the situation and seeking more information.

“At this point, we do not have information that would indicate this was an act of terrorism,” Harf told reporters in a briefing. “Obviously, our concern at this point is for the safe return of the two U.S. citizens.”

Pirate attacks off Nigeria's coast have jumped by a third this year as ships passing through West Africa's Gulf of Guinea, a major commodities route, have come under threat from gangs wanting to snatch cargoes and crews.

The U.S.-flagged "C-Retriever," a 222-foot (67 meter) vessel owned by U.S. marine transport group Edison Chouest Offshore, was attacked early Wednesday, the UK-based security firm AKE and two security sources said. The company was not immediately available for comment.

A U.S. defense official said the State Department and FBI were leading the American response to the incident. A second defense official said the U.S. Marine Corps has a small training unit in the region but it was not clear if it would get involved.

However, representatives for the Nigerian navy said they were aware of the incident and taking action. “We have directed the central naval command to see to their rescue. So our men are on top of the situation,” spokesman Kabiru Aliyu said.

U.S. Navy officials have grown increasingly concerned about piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea and are working with local authorities there to strengthen their ability to patrol the region and better share information.

The White House said Thursday it is increasingly concerned about the rise in piracy off the coast of West Africa.

“More broadly, we are concerned by the disturbing increase in the incidence of maritime crime, including incidents of piracy off the coast of West Africa, specifically in the Gulf of Guinea,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has called the region a potential hot spot after a visit to four countries surrounding the gulf in August. He told Defense News in September the Navy was working closely with Gabon, Senegal, Sao Tome and Ghana to help fight an increase in illegal trafficking of drugs, people and arms.

“The piracy threat is spreading even further through the waters of West Africa, and the attacks have been mounting, even as global rates of reported piracy are at their lowest since 2006,” said Michael Frodl of U.S.-based consultancy C-Level Maritime Risks.

Unlike the dangerous waters off Somalia and the Horn of Africa on the east coast of Africa, through which ships now speed with armed guards on board, many vessels have to anchor to do business off West African countries with little protection.

This makes them targets for criminals and raises insurance costs. Kidnapped sailors and oil workers taken in Nigerian waters are usually released after a ransom is paid.

Piracy has regained attention in the U.S. recently since the release of a movie earlier this month chronicling an April 2009 hijacking of a U.S. ship by Somali attackers. The incident involved a cargo ship seized off the Horn of Africa later rescued by the U.S. Navy, which sent two ships and Navy SEALS to intervene.

Bulgarian cops zeroing in
on abandoned child's mom

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Bulgarian police have identified a couple they suspect are the natural parents of a blonde girl found in a Roma camp in Greece, and prosecutors are investigating the woman for selling her child, officials said Thursday.
Last week's discovery of 4-year-old Maria sparked a global search for her real parents after DNA tests showed the Roma couple she was with were not her blood relatives.
Bulgarian police questioned Sashka Ruseva, 38, and her husband, Atanas Rusev, 36, Thursday in the southern town of Nikolaevo. The couple are also Roma, also known as Gypsies.
“The prosecutors' office has opened a pre-trial investigation against S.R. for agreeing to sell her child on an undisclosed date in 2009 in Greece,” the regional prosecutor's office in the southern town of Kazanlak said in a statement.
“The probe is opened following checks linked to the female child with the name Maria in Greece,” it said.
Ruseva told reporters she had given birth to a girl in Greece in 2009 and had left her there as her family needed to go back to Bulgaria and had no means to support the child.
“I do not know whether she is mine or not. We had a child. We left it in Greece as I had nothing to feed her,” she said. “I did not take any money.”
Prosecutors said they would check Ruseva's travel movements and carry out DNA tests to establish whether she was indeed the biological mother of Maria.
Dozens of journalists have flocked to the poor Roma camp in Nikolaevo, where the Roma couple, their 10 children and another relative live in extreme poverty in a shabby two-room house.
Police said in a statement the woman had told them she had recognized the Greek Roma couple with whom Maria was found as the people she had left her child with, after seeing them on TV on Wednesday.
If found guilty of selling her child, the woman faces up to 6 years in jail and a fine of up to 15,000 levs ($10,600).
The Roma couple in Greece have been detained pending trial on charges of abducting a minor. They deny the accusations, saying the girl's biological mother gave her up willingly because she could not raise her.
There are an estimated 10 million Roma living across Europe, and they are one of its oldest minorities. The Council of Europe, which monitors human rights, says they are also the most discriminated-against.

Private contractors blaming
officials for health web mess

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. technology contractors are blaming health care officials in the administration of President Obama for the widespread problems in the start-up of a new government Internet health insurance portal.

An official at one of the contractors, Andrew Slavitt of QSSI, told a congressional panel Thursday that his company shared its concerns with government officials about faults it saw in the development of the Web site before its Oct. 1 opening. The government, however, opened the site as planned, only to leave millions of uninsured Americans staring at computers showing error messages and blocking them from looking at health care policies they could buy.

Slavitt said it was particularly troublesome that government officials made a late decision to force people looking to buy insurance to register personal financial information before they could browse for policies. Some critics say the government officials wanted potential customers to register first so they would not be shocked at the cost of buying insurance, some of them for the first time.

Another technology official, Cheryl Campbell of CGI Federal, said the online site was overwhelmed at the start by the millions of people trying to access the insurance portal. She said the Web site was not a standard consumer portal that most people are accustomed to, making the enrollment process difficult for too many Americans.

But Campbell, whose firm is the main contractor on the project, said the system should not be scrapped. She said the Web site is now performing better, and that it would be fixed so that those hoping to buy insurance will be able to do so by Dec. 15, so policies can take effect on New Year's Day.

The hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee was highly politicized. Republicans opposed to the law, popularly known in the U.S. as Obamacare, called its launch a disaster.

Democrats on the committee said that many people are successfully buying insurance, but they, too, complained about the Web site problems.

Obama, who counts the law as his signature legislative achievement, said earlier this week that no one is more upset than he is about the shortcomings of the Web site. He has called in key private and government technology experts to try to fix the health insurance portal.

The government official overseeing the start of the insurance system, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, is set to testify next week about the website failures and efforts to correct them.

Under the new law, people without private health insurance can sign up for government subsidized insurance. But those who choose not to buy any insurance will have to pay a fine.

Teen used a box cutter
to murder his teacher

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Massachusetts teenager charged in the murder of a 24-year-old math teacher at his high school used a box cutter to stab the woman, then disposed of her body and went to the movies, local media reported Thursday.
Philip Chism, 14, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to the charge of murdering Colleen Ritzer, whose body was found in the woods behind his high school in Danvers, Massachusetts, some 20 miles (32 km) north of Boston.
Chism apparently used a box cutter to stab and cut Ms. Ritzer in a second-floor bathroom of the school, the Boston Globe reported, citing an unnamed law enforcement official.
After dumping the teacher's body, Chism went to buy a ticket for a 4:30 p.m. screening of the Woody Allen film “Blue Jasmine,” a law enforcement source told the Boston Herald.
A spokeswoman for Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett declined to comment on any details of the case.
Ms. Ritzer's family released a statement on Thursday thanking the public for its support, which included a moment of silence at the first game of the World Series in Boston's Fenway Park.
“The Ritzer Family is most grateful for the outpouring of support during this very difficult time,” the statement said, adding that funeral arrangements would be released in the coming days.
The attack marked the second killing of a U.S. teacher by a student this week, following an incident in Nevada in which a 12-year-old boy armed with a handgun shot dead a teacher and wounded two schoolmates before turning the gun on himself.
Police in Danvers began investigating the incident after neither Chism nor Ms. Ritzer returned to their homes after school Tuesday. They had initially issued a missing child report for Chism.
When a search for Ms. Ritzer turned up blood in the bathroom at Danvers High School late Tuesday, the police began a criminal investigation. Chism was found walking along a highway a few miles from the school shortly after midnight on Wednesday.
Prosecutors charged Chism as an adult, which allowed them to release his name and could mean he would potentially face a longer sentence in an adult prison rather than a juvenile facility if he is convicted.
Chism, who played on the junior varsity soccer team at Danvers High School, had recently moved to the New England town from Tennessee.

Sept. 11 suspect's lawyer
says guards made misstep

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An attorney for a man charged with plotting the Sept. 11 attacks accused U.S. military guards at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility Thursday of seizing his client's private legal documents.
The allegation from Navy Commander Walter Ruiz called into question whether five defendants undergoing a pretrial hearing in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal can expect a fair trial on charges of terrorism, hijacking and murdering nearly 3,000 people.
Ruiz represents Saudi defendant Mustafa al Hawsawi, who is accused of wiring money to the Sept. 11 airplane hijackers to fund their 2001 attack on the United States. Ruiz said Guantanamo guards seized documents from Hawsawi's cell that were marked under attorney-client privilege.
Under U.S. law, a criminal defendant's right to representation by counsel includes a right to confidential communications with an attorney and private legal documents.
“We have an issue of unlawful authority,” Ruiz said.
Under questioning from Ruiz, Navy Commander George Massucco admitted that a Guantanamo guard seized documents from Hawsawi's cell and put them in an envelope.
Massucco, a prison camp lawyer and liaison with high-value detainees like Hawsawi, said: “Some of the documents had attorney-client marks on them, yes.”
He said he did not read the documents after the guard showed them to him.
“I didn't go any further,” Massucco said. “I went to Mr. Hawsawi's cell and I gave it to him.”
Prosecutors did not dispute that guards seized documents from the cells of Hawsawi and other Guantanamo prisoners.
The document seizure drew a rebuke from the judge, Army Col. James Pohl. He said he has seen similar improper searches and seizures from Guantanamo guards on previous occasions as they looked for contraband. Frequently, commanding officers use the excuse, “We have new people and they didn't know,” Pohl said.
The document seizure is the latest allegation of wrongdoing the defendants' attorneys have lodged against the U.S. military. Other allegations have included physical abuse and harassment.

Kennedy memorabilia sale
includes Oswald's ring

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nearly 300 items related to U.S. President John F. Kennedy and to Kennedy's assassination, including a lock of the president's hair and Lee Harvey Oswald's wedding ring, were put up for auction in Massachusetts Thursday.
The sale at the Omni Parker House hotel in Boston, billed as the most extensive auction of Kennedy-related memorabilia this year, comes just weeks before the 50th anniversary of the president's assassination in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963.
Among the items offered for sale was a gold wedding band that belonged to Oswald, Kennedy's assassin, along with a letter written last year by Oswald's widow, said Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of RR Auction.
“She tells us she doesn't want the ring in her possession because it connects her to the worst day of her life,” he said of Marina Oswald Porter. “She wants nothing to do with Lee Harvey Oswald.”
The ring, purchased at a jewelry store in Minsk and left on a night table next to Marina's bed in Irving, Texas, on the day of Kennedy's assassination, was confiscated by the U.S. Secret Service and later returned.
It remained forgotten in a lawyer's files for 49 years and was returned to the family of Marina Oswald Porter last year, Livingston said.
The auction includes other items of Oswald's: a revolver, his U.S. Marine Corps knife, a raincoat, a rifle score book and a chess set.
Among the auction items linked to Kennedy was a lock of his hair collected in July 1963 by his barber and a gold ring given to him by his wife, Jacqueline, according to an auction catalog.
The 18-karat ring, bearing the presidential seal and engraved with J.B.K. to J.F.K., was among several engraved items that included a brass shaving kit, cigarette lighters and Kennedy's well-worn rosary, Livingston said.
Bidding for the 290 items in the auction, which began online a week ago, was expected to continue until about 5 p.m., with several pieces, including Oswald's wedding ring, expected to fetch six-figure amounts, he said.
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beach scenes
Established Hotel/Resort -Great Business Opportunity:
The owner/manager of a successful hotel on the Gold Coast of Costa Rica has listed their property with us. It is a successful and ongoing concern. The property and buildings are well built and maintained. The property has a history of repeat clients. To protect the business for the current and future owners, detailed information of the listing will only be shared after an expression of interest and a non-disclosure confidentiality agreement is executed. It is located about one hour of Liberia airport and less than 500 meters to beach. The land is over 1 hectare allowing room for expansion. There are 18 bedrooms in a variety of apartments, cabinas and houses, A/C, bar restaurant and shop. Near golf, horses, tennis, world class surf and more. Listing Price of $US2.4 million. Mary or Jerre West,, 8879-0235 or (303) 317-6603

San Mateo pool


Includes 4-bedroom, 2-bath, 2-story house built to American standards with a balcony overlooking full-sized swimming pool and rancho with a bathroom and a shower room, and landscaped tropical gardens.  There are two large storage buildings, a carport and electric-gate access to the enclosed property.  It is a short drive to the highways to San José and the beaches.  Owner financing available.  Please call: +506 2446-4901

For sale is a beautiful 50-acre property located in Los Alpes, just 15 minutes outside of San Ramon. At about 4,000 feet above sea level, this finca provides gorgeous views of the Central Valley as well as the Pacific Ocean in the distance while also offering a wonderful climate year around. The main house is two stories with three bedrooms and two full baths. High quality construction using exotic hardwoods such as almond, which covers the ceilings throughout the entire house. There are also two corrals and a small casita on the property. This location is perfect for a farm-style home or for beginning an agricultural business. This truly is a rare piece of property and is available for $399,999. Price is somewhat negotiable and we will be happy to work with the buyer to make it work! Please call 8816-2478 or e-mail for more information ¡y se habla español!

Pacific Estates

Pacific Estates is divided into three distinct sections called Pacific Landings, Pacific Hills and Pacific Acres. Pacific Landings includes unique 2 & 3 bedroom homes incorporating pole house construction, cathedral ceilings, balconies on both the front and back of the house and eco-friendly elements. The homes also include granite counter tops, state-of-the-art stainless steel kitchen appliances, washer & dryer hook ups, internet connectivity and zone controlled A/C. These homes feature 1,290 square feet under A/C space and 1,537 square feet under A/C space with an optional Loft. To learn more about Pacific Estates, schedule a No Obligation Free Virtual Tour today by clicking here!

Samara church and lot
Commercial lot with great visibility in heart of Playa Sámara commercial district. Located alongside town's largest church, bank, hardware store/lumber yard, mini shopping plaza, and Pali (Sámara's largest supermarket). This lot has a large elevated building platform shaded with mature treees. All this makes for many commercial options.  One block from stunning "blue flag" beach. This is a perfect location for a eco/boutique hotel, restaurant/catering, apartments, or condominium. All utilities to this property. Lot size 1,414m2. Price 325K. Email:

Maui, 50 years ago!
One acre with all services located on the Nicoya Peninsula at about 2,400 feet below cloud level with the most intriguing panoramic views to the picturesque gulf, mountains and valleys, as well as sunset over the Pacific. 60,000 USD,    Cell 8916-5550.

Five bedroom home
Five bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths plus guest house
Price reduced $100,000 for quick sale. Features include out door BBQ, swimming pool, plus on the beach. The home is completely furnished with U.S. products. Each room is individually air conditioned.  Hot water in bathrooms, kitchen and laundry room.  Fully furnished. Includes TV’s, refrigerator/freezer, dish washer, microwave, electric stove/oven, washer & dryer and many “as seen on TV” appliances.  To see more, go to YouTube
Asking  $250,000.    Call Gary 8784-2945 or email

humming bird nest

Bed & Breakfast for sale and personal home with 2 houses on property of 3/4 acre (3,030 m2) and buildings w/verandas & carport approximately 350 m2. One house at entrance is central to village w/gated parking lot and a 3-bedroom house for rental or employees/family w/carport/yard/gardens. A 50-meter sendero winds to the top among lush gardens where the main house is situated w/2 buildings attached by verandas & stairway to second floor.  There are 2 bedrooms, sala, 4 baths, large kitchen, laundry rooms, work bodega, storage bodega and hot tub on veranda w/tiled shower room.  Home is surrounded by tropical gardens, views of Arenal Volcano, panoramic views of Lake Arenal, private w/school owned property on one side, pasture land on back side and connecting entry gate on other side to Cabinas El Castillo & Fusion Restaurant.  A bird watcher's paradise w/hummingbirds, Montezuma, toucans, butterflies and visits from howler monkeys.  The B&B is listed four consecutive editions of Lonely Planet and the first established B&B in this area.  Photos can be viewed on the Web site:  Make your dream come true with a slice of paradise in a quiet, private setting. Call Ellen Neely at  8835-8711.  Email:

Naranjo views


4254 msq. 1.2 acres - $59,000.00
• 10 minutes to the autopista and Naranjo centro
• Tranquil and Quiet
• Landscaped with fruit trees and flowering plants, and coffee#
• Incredible views - The Central Valley and nature reserve
• Close to public transportation - paved main road
• Building pad prepared and soil tested
• Survey/topo
• All services in place and underground - water/electricity/phone

Guiones retreat
Approximately half acre on the beach with private path to the surf. Very private three-home complex with pool, spacious patios with two wet bars, barbeque and yoga area. Featuring a three-bedroom ranch style home plus a two story Mexican villa style home with two master suites, large kitchen and living area with ocean views and breezes upstairs and a garden apartment downstairs with separate entrance. A caretaker's or teenager's cottage and lots of space for expansion. PRICED FOR QUICK SALE: $899,000.  Call 506 8867-8883 or

Beautiful fully renovated house in Bello Horizonte, Escazu, 446 sq. meters. Four bedrooms; four baths. Price includes all furniture and fixtures - ready to move in! Light, bright and airy....$550,000 USD. Telephone 2288.6451. More details HERE!

Condo for sale in Flamingo

Ocean view 3-bedroom, 3 1/2-bathroom condo. Designer furnished 1,800 square feet, gated community. Only six units. Huge pool and balcony, pet friendly, parking, walking distance to Flamingo beach, banks, grocery store, farmacia, etc. New building. $349,000 asking. Ask for photos. 8705-0056. or 1-800-536-2322.

Guaancaate condos
Little Dreams La Colina Magnolias

Great Guanacaste Beach Condos Available

$28,500 - Little Dreams - Ocotal beach studio condo, furnished upper floor condo in great complex just 1 mile from Ocotal beach, 2 miles from Coco beach, great price for this complex.
$70,000 - La Colina - another Ocotal beach 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo, 80 m2 and fully furnished with upgraded kitchen, complex has Infinity pool, mountain views.

$75,000 Magnolias 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath townhome just 1 minute's walk from Coco beach and the 2 beach clubs in Coco. Nicely furnished, walk to town, 67 m2, perfect location.
Find out more information on these and other condos at my website All 3 of these condos are about 35 minutes away from Liberia Intl. airport, no need to drive a long way to get to your condo.  Call for more information, 1-415-670-9382 or 011-506-826-1211. Or email

Spectacular view property on a ridge near Alajuela.  Large home and 3 rental homes totaling 7,300 square feet (678 square meters) live-in construction.  Property area is 3,376 square meters (0.83 acres) including a vacant lot for expansion options.  In total there are 10 bedrooms, each with an ensuite bath.  Property has pool, rancho, mirador, courtyard and covered parking.  Homes have romantic fireplaces, built-ins, storage, other luxury features.  Turnkey sale includes all appliances, furniture, fixtures, equipment.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See property video here:

See virtual tour of accommodations here:

For more details go to:

Nicoya views
Property with ocean and gulf view for sale
Tranquil million dollar view, 5,000-sq.meter property with 3/2 home built to American standards, artistically designed and decorated, 16-foot ceilings of mango and tamarindo, appliances, plunge pool, rancho, caretaker apartment, workshop, covered parking, views of Gulf of Nicoya and ocean, in countryside near San José to Caldera highway. Near the lovely town of Esparza. Can provide extra income from bed and breakfast room rental and stellar Tripadvisor reviews. $180,000 506-8869-9274.

For Sale By Owner
1 lot (1.5 acres)  at SIBU (8 lots total) amongst 50 acres of protected jungle gardens with sunset ocean views of Playa Nosara. Underground electric and water.13 minutes from Playa Guiones. Gated. In house financing available. Home of SIBU Sanctuary.

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Business for sale or lease (paid category)71

beach scenes
Established Hotel/Resort -Great Business Opportunity:
The owner/manager of a successful hotel on the Gold Coast of Costa Rica has listed their property with us. It is a successful and ongoing concern. The property and buildings are well built and maintained. The property has a history of repeat clients. To protect the business for the current and future owners, detailed information of the listing will only be shared after an expression of interest and a non-disclosure confidentiality agreement is executed. It is located about one hour of Liberia airport and less than 500 meters to beach. The land is over 1 hectare allowing room for expansion. There are 18 bedrooms in a variety of apartments, cabinas and houses, A/C, bar restaurant and shop. Near golf, horses, tennis, world class surf and more. Listing Price of $US2.4 million. Mary or Jerre West,, 8879-0235 or (303) 317-6603

In the nine years of operation, DIGITS Resource Guide has grown to cover the entire Southern Pacific Zone, and opened the door to further penetration in San Jose, Jacó, Manuel Antonio, and Osa Peninsula areas.  DIGITS is the only one of its kind with no comparable competition. With the extensive groundwork that has already been achieved, the business is now poised to expand into an even greater level of success. Operating since 2005, the owner is retiring to another Latin American country. For a preview of the magazine, go to, or simply go to a local Distributor for a copy. Details on the business, its history, a strategic analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as a Pro-Forma Income Statement from 2008 through to 2013 are available upon request to aha_jm@yahoo.

Live the dream!
Several profitable businesses, including a regional radio station, are for sale in Costa Rica. Certain purchases can provide the new owner with residency as well as a great lifestyle. So live your dream while making a profit. Contact:

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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Friday,  Oct. 25, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 212
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News from the BBC up to the minute

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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute

Argentine elections Sunday
will test president's policies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Argentina's legislative elections Sunday will serve as a starting line for the race to succeed President Cristina Fernández in 2015, with her support in Congress too low for allies to push through constitutional changes to allow her to run again.
Recovering from surgery to remove blood from the surface of her brain this month after she fell and hit her head, Ms. Fernández, 60, has been unable to campaign for her candidates in the final stretch before the midterm vote.
Polls show her alliance could lose the majority it has had in both chambers of Congress since 2011, when Ms. Fernández won a second term on promises of increasing the government's role in Latin America's third biggest economy.
In play on Sunday and in 2015 is future policy in one of the world's top grains exporters at a time of booming world food demand. Growers and other investors have long feuded with Ms. Fernández over her interventionist policies.
Argentina also is emerging as a potential oil and natural gas exporter. Its Vaca Muerta shale formation in Patagonia is expected to be one of the biggest of its kind, and it needs billions of dollars of development investment.
Candidates backed by Ms. Fernández won just 26 percent of the vote in a midterm primary vote in August, half of what her alliance got in 2011, and her handpicked congressional candidate had a poor showing in the must-win province of Buenos Aires.
Some legislators had said they wanted a constitutional amendment to allow Ms. Fernández to run for a third term, but those hopes were dashed by the poor showing in the primary. To push through reform, they would need two-thirds support in both houses.
In Sunday's midterm, voters will choose half of the lower house of Congress and a third of the Senate.
Presidential hopeful Sergio Massa, the business-friendly mayor of Tigre, near the capital, could broaden his 5 percentage point advantage in opinion polls over rival Martin Insaurralde, Ms. Fernandez's handpicked candidate in the strategic province of Buenos Aires.
If he does so, Massa, who vows to fight crime, combat inflation and improve farm profits, may be well positioned to run for president. But Argentine history shows midterm victors are rarely able to sustain momentum and clinch the nomination.
A dark horse could appear over the two years ahead, as was the case with former President Carlos Menem, who burst onto the scene in 1989, and Kirchner in 2003.

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From Page 7:

Proposals for new taxes failing
to keep up with deficit surge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government doubts that it can get new taxes passed in this legislative session.

In the meantime, the expected government deficit appears to be growing larger than the 3.5 percent of gross internal product that is being suggested as a target for new taxes.

The current administration and Edgar Ayales, the minister of Hacienda, have stepped away from proposals after more than 60 meetings of technical staffers over the possibilities of new taxes. They face strong public opposition in an election year.

Instead, the ministry is holding roundtable discussions on technical topics with whoever comes. The first one was Thursday morning.

In an analysis of the government proposals, the Instituto Nacional de Seguros said that the plan is to cut expenses and reach the 3.5 percent target for five years. However, the state insurance company, in its periodic reports on the finances of the country, said that the Banco Central sees the budget deficit at 5 percent of gross internal product by the end of the year, but there is a chance it might be greater.

Officials discuss tax evasion and tax exonerations today. The agenda basically was strengthening the administration of the tax and customs agency.

Government agencies are beginning to float favorable comments on a value-added tax, which has been proposed continuously by the Laura Chinchilla administration.  That is a tax at every stage of the production process that tends to prevent evasion. Several Latin countries have such a tax, as do many European nations. Such levies raise much more money for government than a straight sales tax.

Some in the United States favor such a tax. Anni Podimata, a political leader from Greece and vice president of the European Parliament will speak at a special briefing for U.S. Congress members  next Wednesday, as activists from across the U.S. gather in Washington to urge Congress to shift the federal budget debate on how much more to cut in spending, and instead increase federal revenues with a tax on Wall Street trades.

Ms. Podimata is a leading advocate of a financial transaction tax, now being implemented in 11 European Union countries.