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These stories were published Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 216
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A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

It's not Halloween. It's the national day of the masks in San Antonio de Desamparados.

The masked gang gets attention with a whack
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The screams of the crowd —most of them children — filled the small streets and echoed off the working-class homes Sunday in the town of San Antonio de Desamparados.

The agitation was not from a herd of bulls but from a parade of clowns or payasos in the traditional mascarada.

The spectators were running away from El Diablo or maybe La Giganta, characters who try to catch them and punish them with vergas or small pieces of flexible wood, leather or bamboo that act as whips.

As in the running of the bulls in the Fiesta of San Fermin, Spain, the bunches of people try to escape this lashing from the onslaught of clowns and other masked participants.
About 100 different characters showed up for the two-hour mascarada Sunday. The masks and costumes were made from papier-maché, plaster and other materials. They were creative enough to scare children and some adults as well. The costumes included many characters out of forklore:  La  llorona or La Segua or gnomes, among others.  Characters you would not want to meet in a dark place.

Clowns and other masked beings were accompanied by the cimarrona, or local pickup band, which provided the beat in the beautiful mountain town.

The celebration was for the  El Dia Nacional de las Mascaradas, an event that relives the nation's colonial heritage. Towns all over the country produced their own mascarada, including a major gathering Monday afternoon and night near Cartago where some 700 persons were expected.

Being chased
by the Devil

El Diablo wants to give
this runner
a few lashes
with the vergas.



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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 216


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Free trade protests
will begin Nov. 17


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Individuals and organizations who oppose the free trade treaty are trying to unify their forces.

The Magisterial Nacional has issued a call to begin the anti-trade treaty campaign Nov. 17, and the suggestion is being heeded by a number of organizations who held a press conference Monday. The Magisterial Nacional is the professional group for teachers and professors.

Agreeing to the date were the seven organizations that are included in the professional group's umbrella. they agreed to delay any protests until a march scheduled Nov. 17 that is designed to include all who oppose the treaty.

Because the bulk of the teacher organizations are participating, there is a good chance that public school students will not have a normal class day that date.

The representatives of the organizations present said they represented rural farm workers, environmentalists, the unions of workers in the governmental monopolies, including those at the Instituto Nacional de Electricidad.

The treaty would end the telecommunications monopoly, at least in so far as wireless communication was concerned, and the government workers are fearful of their jobs when their employers are faced with competition.

Organizers also said they were upset by other problems of modern life, including the national car inspection program.

The trade agreement with the United States and other Central American countries has been sent to the Asamblea Legislative by President Abel Pacheco for possible ratification.
  
 
Eurodeputy suggests
free trade agreement


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Representatives of the European Parliament suggested on a visit here Monday that some type of cooperation and trade accord should be forged between Europe and Costa Rica.

Raimon Obiols Germá, a Socialist eurodeputy from Cataluña who is heading the delegation, made the suggestion.

The delegation of deputies will visit operations financed by the European Union and also meet with the leading presidential candidates today. Wednesday they will visit with academics.
  
 
Promotional agency
sets bilingual job fair


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rica investment promotion agency is planning its first bilingual job fair for persons adept in computer knowledge, accounting, finance, administration, customer service, software development, collections, systems engineering or technical support. 

“Bilingual” is a bit misleading.  The job fair is catering only to people who speak Spanish and English.  Any other language is a bonus. 

Among the companies planning to participate are Dole, Intel, IBM, Chiquita, Western Union and Baxter among others, according to the promotion agency, the Coalición Costarricense de Iniciativas de Desarrollo. More information is available at the organization's Web page.
 
 
Hockey organization sets
north-south championship


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hockey in Costa Rica? You bet. And now there is another North-South All Star Game, according to Jack Caine, founder of the Asociacion Deportiva Hockey.

The north and south do not refer to Yankees and Southerners, as it does in U.S. football jargon.
The north is really north: Canadian players against the best Costa Rican and Colombian players (the south), said Caine.

The location will be at the inline hockey rink in Parque de la Paz on the San José south side. The face-off is at 9 a.m. Sunday. Caine said the rink is on the side of the park by Burger King. This is the third year for the event.

The trophy cup is being sponsored by nine.com, the online gambling company which is headquartered here. "It's a very fun event and highly competitive, said Caine."
 
 
Costa Rica concerned
by Iranian leader's views


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government has expressed concern over the "serious and unacceptable declarations" by  Mahmud Ahmadineyad, the president of Iran.

The Iranian leader said that the State of Israel should be wiped off the map.

Costa Rica, in a statement released in the name of Roberto Tovar Faja, said that this statement was contrary to the most elemental principals of international law and also contrary to the principals of the United Nations of which both Iran and Israel are members.

The statement by the Iranian president attacks the values, international security of sovereignty of a member state, the Tovar message said. He is minister of Relaciones Exteriores y Culto or foreign minister of Costa Rica.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 216




Coffee producers facing a danger from fungus disease
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With an ojo de gallo outbreak potentially ruining a good chunk of Costa Rica's coffee crop this year, several efforts are under way to figure how to best quell the threat. 

One byproduct of the rainier-than-average rainy season, is the abundance of fungi.  One species, the Mycena citricolo, presents an especially grave danger to Central American coffee harvests, coffee experts said.  The fungus causes Ojo de Gallo (eye of the rooster)  that diminishes the crop and lessens Costa Rica's ability to compete with such heavy hitter coffee exporters like Brazil, coffee producers said.

As a result, the Instituto del Café de Costa Rica, the Centro de Cooperación Internacional en Investigación Agronómica para el Desarrollo de Francia and el PROMECAFE are working with two goals in mind.

First, they hope to complete research to determine the topographical effects and the environment that favors the sickness.  The second part involves determining the weather effects that spark the development of the epidemic.

Ojo de gallo attacks the coffee leaves and causes them to drop and also causes the coffee berries to fall off. It is known by circular brown spots on leaves and fruits.

The thinking is that for a percentage of the coffee
batches, their orientation, the density of the plants, the shade and many other factors determine a large part of the risk of each crop of developing ojo de gallo.  Rain is not the only factor.

This issue is especially important now for Costa Rica since the country is gambling on the quality of its particular grain of coffee to carry it through the outbreak. 

The supply and demand of the grain has begun to level out from the drop in the world price of coffee that growers have been fighting against since 1998. 

“We are optimistic.  We think that the worst has passed and we could be in the process of recuperating slowly from the drop,” said Juan Bautista Moya.  “It's better to recuperate slowly than quickly.”  Bautista is the executive director of the Instituto del Café de Costa Rica.

The demand for Costa Rican coffee has been rising especially in the area of special grains, Bautista added. 

Another part of the recuperation process involves promoting the coffee.

More than 500 sellers, producers, consumers and national and international businesses are planning to meet Nov. 9 through the 13th at the Hotel Herradura for the XVI Semana Internacional del Café. 


The big problem now is a possible new slide in Orosi
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With Beta now a strong gust of wind somewhere over Nicaragua, the Caribbean is hurricane and tropical-storm free for the first time in months. 

Accordingly, the emergency commission said Monday that the country could gradually begin to let its guard down.  However, though no countries are issuing hurricane warnings and no shelters are being hastily erected for an incoming tide of storm refugees, the rainy season is still in full swing, and accidents could continue to happen accordingly. 

Stiff rains Monday caused another landslide in Jucó de Orosi but hotel owners there are downplaying its damaging affect.

“Now that the spill Oct. 24 occurred, we're going to have this type of landslide each time it rains,” said geologist Julio Madrigal, one of the workers on scene.  The mudslide Oct. 24 moved some 7,000,000 cubic feet of material.  Madrigal recommends that the emergency commission clear the slide slowly because the humidity in the air increases the chances of another spill.    

However, a local hotel is scolding the press for causing
a decrease in tourism as a result of the spill.  Walter Gomez Sanabria of the Hotel Barcelo Rancho Rìo Perlas said that the spill happened three kilometers outside of the center of Orosi and that the slide fell in a river and covered a bridge, but caused little other damage. 

The emergency commission maintains that eight families had their homes destroyed in the spill and are now taking refuge with friends and family.

Other than Orosi, the disasters seem to be abating.  

Now that Hurricane Beta is gone, the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias dropped the alerts they had established on the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts.  Aguirre, which had been under red alert for much of the past couple months, is now yellow.  Many families are still in temporary shelters near the Portalón and Savegre rivers but with no hurricanes, conditions seem to be stabilizing, the commission said.  Many have no place else to go since their homes and their towns were destoyed.

The emergency commission is also keeping a yellow alert for Orosi as a result of the instability in that area. 






What do you do if you can't find a pumpkin?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

All squash are not created equal, but in Costa Rica, a calabaza will do if there is no pumpkin handy.

The calabaza and the pumpkin are both highly underrated as food. Who ever eats pumpkin as anything except holiday pumpkin pie? Or maybe a daring pumpkin soup. Yet they are loaded with
Vitamin A.

The calabaza sometimes has a pale skin and is available here year round. Pumpkins are less well-known although a few markets that cater to foreigners had some on hand this week for the traditional carving of the jack-o-lantern.

The Jack here is a calabaza, Cucurbita moschata,


It cuts like a pumpkin, and it scrapes like a pumpkin, but it's a near relative.

More or less like the real thing


instead of the more traditional orange Cucurbita pepo. And the calabaza also can be turned into a Halloween face, although the skin and the flesh is tougher than the orange cousin.

Both easily surrender their seeds if you pop their top.

The squash family has been a staple of Indian groups in the Americas for at least 8,000 years, and even the blossoms are tasty fried in oil.

Some species of pumpkins are a bit more hardy and can stand cooler weather, yet the most traditional holiday scenes of pumpkins awaiting harvest in a northern corn field usually are presented after jack Frost has taken the plant's vines.


Two children in the care of older brother become victims of fatal fire
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization in Limón is looking into the circumstances that caused a fire that killed two children.

The brother and sister, Saúl and Nayeli Robinson Cajina, died in their Sixaóla home as it burned down Sunday night. The town is in southwest Costa Rica near the Panamá border.

According to reports, the mother of the two children
went to see a neighbor for a moment and left the two
 children, aged 1- and 4-years-old, under the care of their 9-year-old brother. 

At some point, the house caught on fire and the young boy ran to his neighbor's house to get his mother.  By the time the pair returned, the blaze was too advanced to rescue the children, agents said.  Another neighbor also tried to rescue the children but the flames forced him back as well, agents said. 

Agents explained further that the house had no electricity so the family used candles.  This was the presumed cause of the fire, agents said. 


Proposal to decentralize the Peruvian government is rejected by voters
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Perú — Initial results of a referendum in Perú indicate voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have decentralized power away from this national capital.

The rejection of the referendum Sunday is a major political defeat for President Alejandro Toledo, who campaigned vigorously for the measure.
The plan would have created five large regional governments (macroregions) out of 16 of the country's 25 departments.

Critics of Toledo say the plan failed because of the president's low approval ratings. He has been dragged down by a series of corruption scandals during much of his presidency. Many in the opposition say that Toledo failed to adequately inform voters about the measure, adding to the chance it would be defeated.

 
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