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Jo Stuart
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These articles first were published Monday, Nov. 12, 2001
Television viewers are being tempted to come here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is being featured in a new Fox Network reality show, and the exposure probably is worth millions to the struggling tourism industry.

The show is Temptation Island 2, and the action (and you can bet Fox will have plenty of action) takes place on the Nicoya Peninsula at Tambor Tropical and Tango Mar resorts.

Both resorts are featuring the Temptation connection on their Web sites, as is the Costa Rican Tourism Institute.

The show debuted Wednesday and Thursday in the United States, but it looks like Costa Rica will not get the show until later. A Fox schedule for Costa Rica shows "Buffy the Vampire Killer" reruns, among others.

The premise of the Fox show is as simple as it is cold. Producers invite four couples to the resort and then try to break them up by pushing them into dates with bevies of handsome young men or beautiful women, all the while with the Fox film crews taking it all down.

The first espisode begins by introducing the couples as they pack, fly to Costa Rica and then have a day together at the resorts. Said a Fox summary, in part, of the couples’ first outdoor adventure:

"Each one of the couples struggles to reach out and touch their loved one, a physical sign of trying to hold on to their relationship. They finish their amazing ride up a trail that snakes along the side of a mango grove, which spills out in front of a local thatched hut overlooking the bay that reflects the sunset.

Temptation 1 really was on an island off Belize. 

The Costa Rican Tourism Institute is overjoyed. Said the institute:

"Fans of Costa Rica will be able to recognize the number of breathtaking and pristine locations that were used during the production of the show. After the success enjoyed by the show during the last season, the producers were challenged to ‘outdo’ themselves and, in order to achieve that, they decided that no ‘island’ would suffice. Instead they chose Costa Rica for its incredible diversity and variety of locations all existing within a short distance."

The show's Web site is http://www.fox.com/temptation2

Tango Mar is at

and Tambor is 

What the well-dressed
cave visitor wears

Up to his calves in water stands Carlos Mejias González, a resident of nearby Venado

A.M. Costa Rica photos
Spanish tourists climb wall in Venado caves under the direction of guide Yorlin Hidalgo
Untouched limestone cave a great tourist attraction
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The best part about the Venado Caves is that they are untouched. Unlike some similar tourist attractions, the heavy hand of man is not to be seen.

There are no concrete walkways. There are no railings. You feel that you are among the first to enter these amazing caverns in Arenal Volcano territory.

Although they are on many travel company menus, they are less well-known than less spectacular attractions.

The word "untouched" also applies to the approach. The little town of Venado (which means deer in Spanish) is in the hills north of Lake Arenal, but the route to it is not direct. The hard-surfaced road ends where the town starts, and visitors must follow an ever-narrowing rock and dirt road about two kilometers (1.2 miles) to the private farm where the principal entrance to the cave is located. Four-wheel drive or a good front-end alignment shop suggested.

Be prepared to get dirty. The keepers of the caves even have some rustic showers where you can change into dry, clean clothes after your cave visit.

For about five to seven million years Nature has been working on the limestone rocks to carve the caves. Once this land was under the sea, as was all of Costa Rica. The limestone is the last evidence of the tiny sea creatures who make up most of the sedimentary rock.

Water has a way of eating limestone, and it did here and carved a series of rooms and passages about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) in contorted length. Water still is doing its work, and sometimes the caves are closed because runoff from the mountains above has infiltrated in great quantities, turning the stream on the cave floor into a roaring river. Even in drier seasons, one cave room features a small waterfall.

The approach to the cave is just as it was in 1945 when the principal entrance was officially "found." A long walk down a steep farm field leads you to the underground stream that pours from the cave mouth. And that’s why the guides asked you to put on rubber boots at the farmhouse. The boots, hard hat and flashlight are included in the 2,000 colon (about $6) admission. 

The main entrance is 12 to 14 feet high, but the height quickly diminishes to four feet inside the 

cave. And here is where some tourist groups diminish, too, as some visitors decide that crawling under a chunk of limestone against a foot-deep stream current is not for them.

But once inside, the walls and ceilings open to 10 to 15 feet, and the main corridors are from four to six feet wide. All is not on the level, but the amount of climbing can be adjusted to individual tastes. The stream bed is cobble, and a turned ankle is a continuing possibility. The rubber boots seem to hug the rocks, although some professional guides wear rubber sandals.

The temperature is around 70 degrees, not the chilly 50s found in many caves. Chimneys with openings to the surface seem to regulate the temperature.

Carlos Mejias González, a professional guide who lives in the nearby town, said that workers periodically sweep the cave for dangerous snakes, at least in places casual visitors are likely to go. 

As caves go, these are young and the stone sculpture is not elaborate. The sculpture there seems to have been carved by the water, not built up by eons of steady dripping by mineral-laced water. 

Tarantulas, large crickets and, of course, bats, have made homes in the caves. There also are supposed to be frogs drained of pigmentation. 

Only about 600 meters (about four-tenths of a mile) is open to all tourists. The rest of the winding passages are explored by experts and hobbyists, and parts, including the 12th grand room, were not discovered until about 10 years ago.

The limestone is peppered with oceanic fossils. Curiously, there are no signs that the prehistoric Guatuzo Indians made any use of the caves, although there are signs of an Indian village in the nearby farm field. Elsewhere, caves have been meetings places, cemeteries and art galleries for the earliest settlers. 

Other caves in Costa Rica can be found in Barra Honda Park in Guanacaste where some 42 caverns have been catalogued.

The Venado Caves got some bad press in 1999 when some tourists returned to the United States and came down with histoplasmosis, a disease spread by dried bat dropping in the air. That’s why face masks also are supplied by the cave operators. Yet on a visit this weekend, there were few bats. And there were no obvious buildups of droppings.

Dig they must to put in a long pedestrian promenade at the courts
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Workmen really mess up the area between The Supreme Court building and the headquarters of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

They are in the last block of building a promenade from National Park to Avenida 8. Strollers will be able to go from the park, past the Legislative Assembly buildings, the Bella Vista Fortress that is now the National Museum down to the Tribunals of Justice

Cuban refugee to show
his pitching skills

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

SYRACUSE, New York — Arian Cruz, 23, one of Cuba's top young left-handed pitchers, has been declared a free agent by major league baseball and will hold a showcase Tuesday for baseball scouts in San José, Costa Rica, his agent said

The exhibition will be in Estadio Antonio Escarre, the agent said.

Nicknamed "El Zurdo" — "The Lefty" — Cruz is a 5-foot-11 left-handed pitcher with an 89- to 91-mph fastball and a repertoire of quality off-speed pitches, including a curveball, slider and changeup, a spokesman for the the agent, Joe Kehoskie Baseball, said in a press release.

"Arian Cruz was one of Cuba's top young lefties and I believe he has a very bright future in Major League Baseball," Kehoskie was quoted as saying.

The release gave this chronology:

A native of Florida, Camaguey, Cuba, Cruz joined his mother and older brother, prior Cuban emigrants, in Costa Rica in May after receiving a family reunification visa. Cruz was granted formal residency status by Costa Rica in late September.

Upon reviewing Cruz's residency documentation, the baseball commissioner's office determined Cruz was not subject to baseball's draft and was a free agent eligible to sign with any team.

After receiving his visa from Costa Rica, Cruz was suspended from the 2000-'01 Cuban season for his desire to leave Cuba. Before his suspension, Cruz was a top reliever for Camaguey, which boasts one of Cuba's best pitching staffs.

In 1999-2000, his final season, Cruz compiled a 1-0 win-loss record with a 3.42 ERA and .265 opponent batting average. In 26.1 innings spanning 15 appearances, Cruz struck out 23 and allowed 26 hits.

Cruz, who is single with no children, has been following a rigorous throwing and conditioning program in anticipation of next week's showcase.

"Arian left Cuba in the hopes of playing major league baseball," Kehoskie said. "Arian can't wait to complete his journey to the United States to begin his professional career."

Before Cruz, the last Cuban player to leave was Industriales LHP Rolando Viera in May. Viera, also a client of Joe Kehoskie Baseball, has a federal lawsuit pending against major league baseball for its treatment of Cuban players. 

After losing his request for a temporary restraining order keeping him out of the June draft, Viera was drafted, sight unseen, by the Boston Red Sox. After signing with the Red Sox in August and pitching just 12 innings in the 2001 season due to his late signing, Viera is currently the 7th-leading pitcher in the prospect-packed Arizona Fall League.

Joe Kehoskie Baseball represents baseball players from all over the world, including Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. President & CEO Joe Kehoskie, 28, has worked in professional baseball since 1984.

Freer trade hailed
as economic boost

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman say that the launching of new global trade negotiations would help the world economy recover from the shock of the Sept. 11 terrorist actions in New York and Washington.

"The launch of new global trade negotiations is important for economy recovery in the short run and economic growth in the long run," Zoellick told press Friday, the first day of the ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization. "By launching trade negotiations, we can seize a special opportunity to send a resounding message of hope, growth, opportunity and development."

Both Zoellick and Veneman, who also attended the press conference, expressed optimism that a new round of trade negotiations will be launched at the meeting being held in Doha, Qatar.

Veneman said that the Sept. 11 tragedies give new meaning to the term "food security," and that the best way to achieve such security is through open markets that will provide reliable supplies with assured quality.

Zoellick said that the developing countries have both the most to gain from a new round of negotiations and the most to lose if the meeting fails.

"If the WTO falters, the United States, the European Union, and other major economies would be handicapped, but ultimately we would have the means to take care of ourselves," Zoellick said. "For example, we would pursue liberalization through regional and bilateral agreements. The reality is that for developing countries, most of all, they need the global rules that are equal for all."

Court in Argentina
rejects amnesty for military

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A court in Argentina has declared unconstitutional two amnesty laws that protect a majority of the military from prosecution for human rights crimes committed during the country's military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. 

Friday's federal court ruling upheld a ruling from another court in March in a case against two former military officers accused of abducting a child born to a dissident. It paves the way for a flood of new law suits against former military officers accused of human rights violations. 

Thousands of people were killed or disappeared during Argentina's seven years of military rule. The government acknowledged 9,000 such cases, but human rights groups place the number at 30,000. 

The so-called "Full Stop" and "Due Obedience" amnesty laws were enacted in 1986 and 1987 during the administration of President Raul Alfonsin, Argentina's first democratic government after military rule.  The laws were seen as a way for the country to move past seven bitter years of dictatorship. But human rights groups accused the Alfonsin government of overstepping its authority. 


Chavez confident 

OPEC will cut 

oil production

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he is confident that OPEC will agree to cut oil production when it meets this week in an effort to shore up sagging world oil prices.

Chavez said he is confident that members of the oil cartel will decrease output by up to 1.5 million barrels a day. The move would be aimed at restoring crude oil prices to a range of $22 to $28 a barrel. Petroleum prices — especially in the United States — have dropped since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Venezuelan leader made his comments Saturday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. OPEC is scheduled to meet Wednesday in Vienna, Austria. 

Venezuela is a member of OPEC and the world's third largest exporter of oil. The South American nation is a major supplier to the United States.

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