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(506) 223-1327            Published Friday, Nov. 2, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 218                  E-mail us
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City wants to fix up Paseo Colon next year as tourism corridor
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de San Jose's tourism board is seeking to transform Paseo Colón into an urban tourism corridor, and the plan has the support of Johnny Araya, the mayor and head of the group.

The board decided Thursday to use some 50 million colons, about $96,000, to improve this four-lane entrance into the central city. This is the section from Calle 42 to Calle 20 or from Parque La Sabana to Hospital San Juan de Dios.  A priority will be better sidewalks.

A news release said that Araya wants to hook up the main street with the pedestrian boulevard that now runs from Calle 9 on the east side of town to
the Mercado Central. Crews are extending the pedestrian walkway to the west.

The mayor's plan is to develop this area as a tourism center because there already are a number of restaurants, hotels and stores along the section that is now a regular city street with traffic.

In addition, the tourism board is considering a proposal to set up a convention center in the downtown and to organize the development of a Chinatown in the vicinity of the Paseo de los Estudiantes, which is Calle 9.

And the board is moving forward with a public private plan to set up an Internet Web page extolling the benefits of San José, said the release.



Rising crime damages image of chief prosecutor
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Supreme court magistrates will have to make a decision in the next two weeks if Francisco Dall'Anese Ruiz will continue to be fiscal general or chief prosecutor of the country.

The betting is that Dall'Anese will be reappointed for a new four-year term. The end of his first term  has brought into focus the rising incidents of crimes and the near paralysis of the court system.

Dall'Anese quickly became a hero when he took the job Dec. 1, 2003. He was considered the crusading prosecutor who could fix the sluggish criminal justice system.

Four years later there seems to be few victories.

Dall'Anese, in his first month, personally directed the detention of Eugenio Millot Christmas morning at Juan Santamaría airport. Millot was being held for investigation in the drive-by murder of newswoman Ivannia Mora Rodríguez. That murder happened the evening of Dec. 23, 2003.

Dall'Anese also flew to Liberia the same month to take the Rev. Mínor de Jesús Calvo Aguilar into custody at 3:15 a.m., and he flew back to San José with the priest. Calvo is a suspect in arranging the drive-by murder of radio commentator Parmenio Medina Pérez. That happened July 7, 2001.

But the cases did not play out the way the prosecutor hoped. Millot was acquitted, in part because the prosecutors in charge of the case made legal errors in interrogating a key witness, and the testimony was excluded.

The case against Calvo and others accused of the Parmenio Medina murder drags on. The trial is nearly a year old now.

Dall'Anese also was the man in charge of detaining Miguel Ángel Rodríguez when the former president stepped off the plane to answer allegations that he accepted bribes while he was in office. That case is still in the courts with no trial date set. Rodríguez has written a book that says he was treated badly. Dall'Anese had the former president handcuffed and driven to jail in one of those blue Fuerza Pública trucks.
Dall'Anese also orchestrated the detention of Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, another former president facing bribery charges. That case still is pending, too.

Ex-president José Maria Figueres Olsen never returned home from Europe to respond to informal allegations of similar crimes and now it appears he will not be the subject of a criminal investigation here due to lack of evidence. Some say Dall'Anese did not push hard enough.

Dall'Anese's private life also has been in the headlines. His contingent of guards rebelled because Dall'Anese was spending nights drinking until the early morning hours. The guards were replaced.

Dall'Anese is believed to be a master of politics, even though he keeps a low profile from the press. After he got the job four years ago he quickly named 78 prosecutors to tenured positions. Some of these now signed a letter supporting him.

The letter was made public Thursday.

Dall'Anese also can work a room like an elected politician, stopping for brief chats with everyone, shaking a multitude of hands and usually remembering the names of the individuals.

At the time Rodríguez was detained, many considered Dall'Anese as a possible presidential candidate. However, the popularity seems to have waned even as violent crime has risen.

Former security minister Juan Diego Castro Fernández fired the first public volley this week when he released a report at his law firm that claimed to show that most crimes were not punished.

The report finds backing from Jorge Rojas, the director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, who said in September that his 1,000 agents do not have the resources to do its job. The Judicial Investigation Organization is an agency of the courts and works closely with the Ministerio Público headed by Dall'Anese.

The question for expats and Costa Rican citizens is will a reappointment of Dall'Anese help or hinder the effort to fight crime.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 218

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March 20 is the date set
for phones to go to 8 digits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The plan to increase the number of digits in Costa Rican telephone numbers goes into effect March 20, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said.

As of that date, phone users will preface their calls to cellular phones with an 8. Calls to land lines will have a prefix of 2.

With the current seven numbers, the system can accommodate 10 million lines, about 2.3 for every Costa Rican. With the additional prefixes, the number of possible numerical combinations will be 20 million.

The country has but one area code, 506.

 
Stronger Noel will continue
to influence weather here


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Tropical Storm Noel, which has strengthened into a true hurricane, may be off the coast of Florida, but the indirect effects reach Costa Rica and will continue to influence the weather today.

The Pacific coast and the Central Valley probably will get rain again this afternoon, thanks to the storm. And that is even though the hurricane is moving north through the Atlantic off the coast of Florida.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Noel now has sustained winds near 120 kph (75 mph) as it moves northeast from the Bahamas toward Bermuda.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias is maintaining an alert mostly for the Pacific coast. The counterclockwise motion of the hurricane brings instability to Costa Rica from the west.

But it was not the coast the took a hit Wednesday night. The areas of Barva and San Rafael in Heredia were surprised by heavy flooding. The commission said that at least 40 homes were flooded and that 20 were a total loss. A bridge over the  Río Segundo de Barva was damaged heavily and a fiber optic telephone line to San José de la Montaña was severed.

The commisison also reported more bridges damaged and some landslides that were being cleared.

Some 50 persons still are living in shelters in Ciudad Neily, and some 40 more are living in other schools in the area in the south of Costa Rica.

The commission said that eight bridges were damaged in the cantons of Osa and Pérez Zeledón. Two dikes were damaged, one in Dominical and the other in Coronado de Ciudad Cortés, the commission said.

Before reaching hurricane strength, Noel killed more than 100 people across the Caribbean earlier. The tropical storm caused mudslides and flash floods across Haiti and the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola and soaked Cuba.

Sixty-six died in the Dominican Republic, where President Leonel Fernández declared a state of emergency. At least one entire village was swept away by floodwaters, and rescuers have been unable to reach several other villages.

Some 34 people were killed in Haiti, where hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands left homeless. One fatality was reported in Jamaica.

The United Nations mission in Haiti says peacekeeping troops helped evacuate thousands of people in the storm's path. The U.N. says soldiers assisted in food distribution and provided medical assistance to those affected.

Noel is the 14th named storm of this year's Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

Organic fair for San Carlos

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 50 organic agricultural producers in the San Carlos area will show their wares at the first Fiesta Agroecológica, that will be held next to the Barrio San Roque church in Ciudad Quesada Nov. 8. The sponsor is  the Movimiento de Agricultura Orgánica de Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 218





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José Sancho created abstracted animals atop totem poles taller than humans. Visitors can walk among the works.
totem poles
A.M. Costa Rica photos/Anne Clark

Banco Central exhibit brings out the animal in culture
By Anne Clark
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica is running La Animalística en el Arte Costarricense in its temporary exhibition space below the Plaza de la Cultura. The collection presents the varying uses and depictions of animals by Costa Rican artists throughout history.

The exhibition signage placed at the entrance said that the presented works depict animals from two perspectives: The representation of animals for their own qualities and the use of the animal figure as a metaphor for human behavior.

The exhibit contained works in virtually all media, from traditional painting and sculpture to a few installation pieces and a single piece with an electronic component.

There was a small collection of Indian art presented which, predictably utilized the various animal forms “as a symbol of the world vision of ancestral cultures, representing social or ideological aspects in pre-Hispanic myths.”  The animals were used decoratively on ritual items as well as items for daily use, such as bowls, plates and a small table.  More signs would have been especially helpful for these items to cite the known uses and meanings of each piece.

The 20th century sculptural work of Hérnan González was impressive.  He uses the natural qualities of his materials to dictate his form, turning smooth stones into hens, giant twisted driftwood into a swan and scrap metal into a fish.  However, the sculptures were placed uncomfortably close to the wall making it awkward and difficult to obtain a 360 degree view of the work.

Jorge Rojas presented a whimsical, colorful painting consisting of contour lines of animals hidden in the branches of a tree.

There were a few photography pieces exhibited, including work by Juan José Pucci, who shot a close-up nearing an abstraction of a butterfly's wings.  Cecilia Paredes presented two large-format photographs of a human figure painted and posed to imitate animal forms.

Installation sculptor José Sancho created abstracted animals atop tall totem poles, combining the finished surface with the rough, naturalistic qualities of the wood.  He occupies a large corner of the gallery, creating a mini-sculpture garden through which visitors can walk.

Two other installation artists featured were Joaquín Rodríguez del Paso and Marisel Jiménez. Rodríguez del Paso presented a piece entitled Guardianes de la cultura, consisting of five framed and named photographs of healthy looking German shapers hung on the wall.  On the floor directly in front was a coiled arrangement of chew toys crafted out of styrofoam.  The viewer can guess at the concept behind the piece (perhaps the toxicity of the toys or the abundance of sickly street dogs in Central America) but an artist's statement would have helped tremendously in deciphering the content from the form.

Ms. Jiménez displayed an attractive but puzzling sculptural installation of three small birds, each  positioned on a different wood carving, done to scale:
driftwood scupture
Hérnan González converted this piece of driftwood into something that resembles a swan or a goose.

one in a cage, one on a chair and one on a door with a broken glass window. 

The singular electronic piece in the exhibition was by Manual Zumbado.  His Espacio de meditacion consisted of roughly carved wooden sculptures suspended over televisions with the screens covered by red gels.  Video images of splashing water droplets flashed between static with a sound component of crashing water. 

The biggest drawback to the show was the lack of signs.  Individual tags for each piece were only in Spanish and cited only the title, medium and date of the work.  An artist's statement or brief conceptual analysis would have been helpful to the viewer.  General information signs were sparse.
 
There was a small, brief timeline of animal art in Costa Rica posted about halfway through the show that was not nearly promoted enough.  The brief descriptions of each era would have been better placed with their respective artworks for a direct visual comparison.  However, the timeline was informative, summarizing the appearance of animals in pre-Columbian and Colonial times as well as during the 20th century. 

The timeline said that pre-Columbian art was highly stylized with abstracted depictions and that the “abundant diversity of Costa Rican ecosystems allowed its inhabitants to relate themselves to countless species.”  Interestingly, what Costa Rica now uses as a main drawing point for tourism was once a source of artistic and spiritual inspiration for indiginous cultures.

The largest break in animal representation occurred during colonialization, when art work was dominated by religious themes and animals appeared mostly as companions to the represented saints. 

Signs aside, the show was well assembled.  The gallery occupies a significant amount of space, conducive to the installation works with its twisting stairwells, cavernous spaces, high ceilings and dramatic lighting.  The overall quality of the collection was strong but perhaps a chronological presentation of the 95 pieces would have let the viewer see the continuation and evolution of animals through the history of Costa Rican art.

The Museo is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.  Tickets are $7 for tourists and 1,000 colons for residents.  La Animalística en el Arte Costarricense runs until the end of January.


The trip to Costa Rica began by filling up a transport plane
Every month on the full moon, the Biesanz family has a Lunada to celebrate the grandeur of this celestial body.   Invitations are generous, and a happy treat if you love music because Barry and his group, Harmony Roads, have a jam session with special guests invited to perform.

Jane and Horace Kelton have been long-time attendees.  Jane always brought something delicious to the potluck and enjoyed the conversation.  She called on the Thursday before to say they were coming and that she was bringing a casserole and wine.

During the years I have known the Keltons, Jane was confined to a wheelchair because of a bone disease.  And because of this, she endured many operations.  This did not keep her homebound.  She gallantly accepted her hardships with a wave of her hand and a change of subject, and there were a lot of subjects she could talk about.

As is the way with expats, we often know little about each other’s past lives. Most of what I know about Jane I learned from Mavis, a long-time friend of both of the Keltons.

Jane and Horace came to Costa Rica from Texas in 1976.  Before coming to Costa Rica they had moved 28 times in 22 years.   They had had five children — four born in the in the first five years of marriage and a fifth by their 10th anniversary.  (We used to do things like that in the 50s.) Although he had a law degree, Horace went into the family custom furniture business.  Today he is a poet and author of western novels.

While her kids were growing up, Jane was a den mother, sports team manager, and chair of the local school board. She was an active crusader in liberal politics and the civil rights movement, as well as causes to help the needy,
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com


especially students.  She had many other interests.  They ranged from prize fighting to movies.  She promoted the former, including the fight between Joe Frazier and Mohammed Ali, and she produced movies and arranged film festivals. (Not so many of us did that back in the 50s.) Not surprisingly, there were banquets in her honor for her many contributions.  

Once they decided to move to Costa Rica, she loaded all of their belongings – furniture, memorabilia, rugs, paintings, and hundreds and hundreds of books — on a Hercules transport plane.  Jane flew along with the cargo, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat.  “If all my stuff goes down,” she said.  “I want to go with it.” 

A long-time member of the Women’s Club and the Book Club, Jane continued to bring food and conversation.  (I enjoyed a Christmas brunch at their home where I could happily indulge in my two favorite topics with her: politics and food.)

She loved bright colors, and she loved to read, especially the Bible.  Her favorite passage was in Ecclesiastes, the one that begins, “Eat, drink and be merry….”

The Keltons couldn’t make last Saturday’s Lunada because Jane died in her sleep on Thursday night.  They were missed.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 218

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Substitute sponsor sought for soccer-oriented Guapiles school due to cutbacks
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A school that encourages children to learn through playing soccer football has been left searching for a new sponsor after the British Embassy failed to renew its financial assistance.

Around 15 children from the school in San Martin, Guápiles, attended the opening of an exhibition of photographs in the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes this week, hoping to publicize their school and find a new source of financial support that will secure the future of their education.

The school is run by Fundacion Fútbol por la Vida, which provides education to more than 600 children through six schools situated in socially disadvantaged areas of Costa Rica.

After a year of sponsoring the school in San Martin, the British Embassy has ceased to provide support because the money that was obtained through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Sports Fund is no longer available.
Bruce Callow of the British Embassy said 'We chose to support the Fútbol por la Vida program in San Martin because of the lack of options the children have there and because of its high poverty rate. There are serious social problems in that community which Futbal por la Vida is helping to address.'

The embassy set up the exhibition at the ministry downtown in the hope that the images of life and learning at the school will attract a replacement donor.

Started four years ago by Costa Rica's Instituto Oikos, Fútbol por la Vida takes the philosophy that football coaching alongside educational workshops encourages teamwork, responsibility and perserverence.

The 120 students of the San Martin school, aged from 8 to 20, are not required to show any sort of sporting talent to gain entry to the school.

The foundation is supported by several international organizations, including Germany's Bread for the World and Ireland's Trocaire, and volunteers come from around the world to work with the children.


Venezuelan students again in the streets over constitutional reforms by Chávez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

Thousands of Venezuelan students have clashed with police during demonstrations in Caracas against constitutional reforms that would allow President Hugo Chávez to run for re-election repeatedly.

Venezuelan police used tear gas and water cannons Thursday to disperse crowds outside the headquarters of the country's electoral council, as students threw rocks, bottles and metal barricades. There were no reports of any major injuries.

Similar violence broke out Oct. 20 in the capital as
thousands protested in student-led demonstrations against the reforms that some critics say will turn the country into an authoritarian state.

The proposed amendments include ending presidential term limits, detaining citizens without charge during national emergencies and restricting the public's access to information during an emergency.

Opposition parties, human rights groups and leaders of Venezuela's Roman Catholic Church have condemned the changes.

A national vote on the proposals is expected in December.



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