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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, Nov. 25, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 234          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Toys follow the fast pace of human progress
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Considering that one's interest in toys generally diminishes temporarily about the time one's interest in the opposite sex begins, it's probably fair to say that much time has passed since most expats stopped to examine the evolution of the industry.  But because today is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States, it may be worth the time to take a stroll through Universal or some other such toy store and

Death Star Lego
usher in the holiday season the traditional way — with large purchases.

One truth that becomes evident rather quickly is that a good toy is like a fine piece of literature: timeless.  Today's kids still drool over Mickey Mouse and the 
gang.  Barbie still rules the girl's section of the store and many toys in the boys section involve making a vrrrrrrrrrrrrrrm sound with your mouth to be played with properly.  Tonka still has a bright yellow metal dump truck and matching backhoe which looks exactly like the ones I let rust in my sandbox as a kid.  And every kid has to have a stuffed animal or two.   

However, two changes are immediately noticeable.  First, kids today have many more choices and their toys are much more complicated.  Second, toys, being make-believe, are often exaggerated models of real life.  In that vein, there are toys now like cell phones and laptops that simply didn't exist when many expats were small.  These high tech toys also come with USB cables and CD-rom support discs and Web sites and online communities to augment the real life experience.   

Universal has something called a Microscience 4 in 1 microscope.  It comes with a computer hookup so kids can analyze whatever critter they squish between two slides.  Microscience also makes a telescope that comes with the same sort of gadgets as well as a sturdy plastic wheeled case.  This electronic sophistication is not without a price though:  69,790 colons, some $142.  There's also the Slim & Chic Designer Notebook, which looks like a standard laptop.  It has pretend play fingerprint scans, drawing games, math, vocabulary, trivia and logic games.  Nothing makes you feel old like a toy of an invention that didn't even exist when you were a kid. 

For the toys that did exist 15 years ago, the complexity has made them almost unrecognizable.  Take Legos for example.  For those not in the know, Legos are plastic

A toy of something that didn't exist

building blocks with little nubbie things on them that allow the user to construct pretty much anything.  They were my favorite toys.  15 years ago, kids had only generic blocks to choose from.  When Lego started separating its products into Town Legos and Space Legos and Pirate Legos, it was a big deal.  A perusal of Lego's Web site reveals that kids now have Harry Potter Legos and dinosaur Legos and Star Wars Legos and something else called Knight's Kingdom, which looks way cooler than anything they had 15 years ago.

Another example of toy evolution is the standard shiny new bicycle on Christmas morning.  A fond memory is an ocean-blue Schwinn with a Santa-red bow woven through the handle bars.  It was a rigid frame, with one gear and was the standard form of transportation until I arrived at that magic age of 16. 

Universal has something called a Superbike Elite 2005.  It has shocks, suspension, mud flaps, shiny graphics and gear shifters and goes for 54,990 colons ($111.54) at Universal.

For girls, it seems that Barbie is still a hit but evidently, she ditched Ken and the standard evening dress and got herself a whole new modern wardrobe with accessories like cell phones and computers and added a plethora of new wavy-haired boyfriends.

Wandering out of Universal I felt old, ancient, more so than I ever have in all my 20-odd years.  But lo! There in a corner was something I hadn't seen nor ever expected in this age of electronics and abundance.  A Hula Hoop!  Only now it's called a Keep Fit Hog and goes for about five bucks.  I fished it out of the box, slipped it over my head and did the wiggle I haven't done in probably 10 years.  It spun around once, twice and fell to the floor.  I picked it up and tried again. 

A few minutes later I shoved it back in the box still unsuccessful.  The things may be old, but they're still too complicated for me.  But, I will admit, they're a lot of fun.  

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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Some of the woodworking done by prisoners

Art work from behind bars
 on display this weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A current exhibition at the Ministerio de Cultura Juventud y Deportes shows the work prisoners have created as they wait out their time behind bars. 

The four-day exhibition, Un Encuentro Por La Libertad, started Thursday and features paintings and artisan work for sale and show as well several activities pertaining to incarcerated life. 

Discussion forums take place in the mornings and afternoons over such themes as: “Time is the worst punishment in jail,” and “Adolescents, Women and Senior Citizens in the penal system.”  There will also be dance and theatrical performances. 

The activity also has plenty of fliers from prisoner's rights groups that also relate the history of the penal system of Costa Rica. 

For example, the first woman to receive a jail sentence in Costa Rica, Juana Josefa Bonilla, had to serve her time in Hospital San Juan de Díos since no jail existed for women then. 

One out of five tourists
come to surf, group says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Though many tourists come to Costa Rica for its volcanoes, rain forests and beaches, a full 20 percent of all the tourists who come to Costa Rica, do so to ride its waves, said the Federación de Surf. 

Costa Rica is becoming such a popular surf destination that the number of surfer's who visit here annually to surf has doubled in the past three years, the federation said. 

Antonio Pilurzu, the president of the federation, cited information from the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. 

Pilurzu said that 222,659 visitors came to surf at Costa  Rica’s beaches in 2004, exceeding the 101,014 in 2001, which at that time was equivalent to 12.4 percent of the total amount of vacationing arrivals to the country. For 2004, these numbers increased more than 100 percent, Pilurzu said. 

That year, surfers who visited Costa Rica represented 20.5 percent of the 1,087,890 people that came into  Costa Rica, Pilurzu said. 

In addition, the tourism board estimates that those 222,659 surfing tourists in 2004, generated $273.3 million in income for Costa Rica as they went in search of good waves. They stayed an average of 10.3 nights in the  country, with a daily cost of $119.2. The total cost for the year was comprised of car rentals, lodging, food, souvenirs, tours, and related aspects of the sport.

With the recent political instability in Indonesia — a favored area for surf travelers — Pilurzu is hopeful that surfers will come here even more as they seek an alternative international vacation destination this year.

“All this information shows us the importance that surfing has for the national tourism industry here in Costa Rica.  Certainly, Indonesia has been first in the hearts of surfers around the world, but now, it’s clear with the political situation there, that more surfers
will be looking to Costa Rica, which is a non-military country, its very safe, and has lots of beautiful waves,” Pilurzu said.     
Costa Rican living illegally
in Canada coming home

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican national who had been living in Toronto under a false name was to be deported back here Thursday to stand trial for robbery and other crimes.

According to Canadian authorities, William Gurdian Angulo had been living under the name Manuel Montoya Otarola near Toronto as an immmigrant.  Based on information from INTERPOL, the international police data base, Costa Rican authorities were able to confirm that Montoya was in fact Gurdian from fingerprints and digital photographs. 

The order for his arrest was issued to the Judicial Investigating Organization Sección de Capturas Oct. 3, 2004 after he stood trial here for aggravated robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. 

The captures section obtained another order for his arrest Dec. 5, 2004, for an allegation of counterfeiting money.  Canadian authorities informed the Tribunal Penal del Primer Circuito de San José that they had apprehended Gurdian for living in Canada illegally.  That arrest happened June 15 this year.    

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 25, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 234

Special sex crimes unit downgraded to just prevention
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A turf war has delivered a setback to an innovative investigation unit specializing in the sex trade, car theft rings, copyright infringement and juvenile gangs.

Paul Cháves confirmed the situation Thursday. He is the head of the Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Since April 2003 the unit has nabbed some 46 individuals, including some sexual abusers who have been fugitives from justice for years.

The unit now has been barred from doing investigations because Costa Rican law appears to give the Judicial Investigating Organization a monopoly on that kind of work. Cháves said he would continue to attempt to prevent the crimes of the type that were handled by his unit. And the unit would continue working on cases already opened if the OIJ cannot take them over, he said.

Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization or the OIJ from its name in Spanish, had objected just as the unit run by Cháves was earning more and more headlines.

The fiscal general, the nation's chief prosecutor made the decision to downgrade the special investigative unit even as Cháves was talking to reporters. Chaves spoke about his plans to seek changes in the law to confiscate brothels and other places where sex is sold in Costa Rica. That was Monday but the decision did not become public until Thursday.

Francisco Dall'Anese is the chief prosecutor. He heads the Ministerio Público, which is an independent  prosecutorial agency supervised by the courts. In the Costa Rican justice system, which follows the Frenchmodel, the OIJ also is part of the judiciary.
The decision was taken above the head of Cháves by Dall'Anesee after discussions with Rojas and Rogelio Ramos, minister of the security ministry.

The special investigative unit has 40 officers, including four involved in tracking down cybercrimes. The U.S. government supported the unit with an initial grant of $250,000, and the British government made donations for the purchase of computers and video cameras.

Cháves said he would retain the members of his team, although other press reports said they would be disbursed to other parts of the security ministry and the Fuerza Pública.

Cháves and his unit were involved in a change in philosophy involving sex crimes. Until about 2003 underage prostitution was characterized as something done to the country by North American tourists. But, the majority of sex arrests made by the Cháves unit involved Costa Ricans as both suspect and victim.

Cháves himself said that the government engaged in a policy of denial sbout sex crimes against minors at least until 2002.

Tuesday the Sección de Capturas of the OIJ made public a list of 15 persons who were being sought. Each already has been convicted but for some reason is not in jail. All but two of the persons on the list were convicted of sex-related crimes, including sexual abuse of minors, rape and corruption of minors. This is the first time that such an extensive list and photos were distributed to the press. The list raises the question how so many could be convicted of such major crimes and not be in jail.

Jo is taking a break

Jo Stuart is taking a well-deserved Thansgiving weekend break this week. Look for her column to resume next Friday.

All you ever wanted to know about fish . . . and more
“Please demystify Costa Rican fish the way you did local lobster,” a friend asked. OK.

Ahumado = smoked

Al ajillo = in a sauce of butter and garlic

A la plancha = grilled or broiled

Al horno = baked

Al vapor = steamed

Budin de pescado = fish baked in a pudding of sour cream, tomato sauce and grated cheese, usually layered with tortillas

Ceviche = small cubes of fish marinated raw (pickled) in lime juice with cilantro and diced red onion and red pepper

Colombiano = baked in coconut milk

Croquetas de pescado or buñuelos = fish croquettes or fritters made with bread crumbs, flour and/or mashed potatoes plus onions, garlic, salt and pepper, fried crispy.

Empanizada = breaded and fried

En papillote = inside a packet made of parchment or aluminum foil

Entero = the whole fish, scaled and gutted, and fried with the head, tail and fins intact

Entero sin espinas = the same as entero without the backbone

Escabeche = cooked in a vinegar and pickling spice-like sauce

Frito = fried

Rollo de pescado =  fish sausage made with bread crumbs or potatoes, diced hard boiled eggs, cream and spices mashed together and boiled or steamed in cheese cloth, chilled and sliced

Salsa crema or salsa blanca = in a white cream sauce

Salsa mariscos = in a seafood sauce, usually white with small shrimp, octopus, squid, baby crabs or clams in any combination

Salsa negro = served in or with a sauce of pureed black beans, often thinned with white wine and/or cream

Sopa de mariscos = pieces of filleted fish in clear broth, often served with white rice on the side.

Veracruzana  =  a sauce for fish of tomato, onion, capers and olives
Fish :

Atun, tuna. The four kinds of tuna caught or bought here are, by size, 1) black tuna (atun negro), smaller than 15 pounds, 2) skipjack tuna (barrilete) about twice as large, 3) Yellowfin tuna (atun aleta amarillo) up to 300 pounds and 4) the even larger big eye tuna (atun oro grande). Steaks, crusted in herbs and cracked pepper and seared with the inside rare are the most fashionable and tasty.

Bobo, mullet. Every fisherman has seen mullet jump clear out of the water in coastal rivers, bays and along beaches. They hardly ever bite on lures or bait, presumably because they are vegetarians. They are quite good smoked.

Bonito, bonita. Bonita are smaller, less prized cousins of both tuna and mackerel. They have dark oily flesh, suitable for canning. Dried and shaved bonita flakes are the essence of Japanese broth and sauces.

Congrio, conger eel. In all likelihood, conger eel is not a single beast, but one of as many as 150 related species that inhabit all the world’s warm and temperate oceans where there are lots of food fish and rocks. What they have in common is that they are long, large, devoid of scales, look more like a sleek fish than an eel, have sharp teeth and an upper overbite. I include them because you should buy
Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


some if they ever appear in a local market or on a restaurant menu. They are among the sweetest and tastiest of all fish. If you visit Santiago, Chile, try congrio in one of the seafood restaurants in the Mercado Central.

Corvina, sea bass. Far and away the most common fish in Costa Rica, it is a bargain and virtually identical to the very pricey Chilean sea bass that is featured in fine restaurants in the States.

Dorado, mahi-mahi or dolphin fish. Lean, firm, white, moist and versatile, it runs close behind congrio on my hit parade. It is beautiful in the water and a good fighting fish.

Guaho, wahoo. A gamefish from the south coast of the Pacific, it is good eating.

Guapote, rainbow bass. The prize catch in Lake Arenal. Catch and release.

Halibut. Not commercially fished here but just as good as its Canadian cousins.

Jurel, amberjack and big eye trevally. Edible, but not valued.

Marlin. Most commonly found in fish counters in markets, marlin ceviche and fillets are quite tasty and cheap.

Mero, jewfish. A monster of the deep, not a common food fish.

Muchaca. A common river fish with too many bones.

Pargo, snapper. We have several varieties of this very good eating red or yellow fish.

Pescaito, tiny fish or whitebait. Eaten whole, floured and fried or in omelets worldwide.

Pejerreyes, sardine or anchovy sized fish. A little bigger, therefore usually stripped of backbone and head before frying.

Pez espada, swordfish. Firm steaks are tasty, but dry out quickly if overcooked.

Pez gallo, rooster fish. Catch and release.

Pez vela, sailfish. Catch and release.

Picuda, barracuda. Good smoked and decent grilled.

Robolo, snook. More fun to catch than to eat

Salmon.  Not local.

Sierra, mackerel. Oily and dark fleshed, it is best prepared Japanese style, fillets with skin intact, covered with sea salt on skin side and crisped close to hot flames or grill.

Tarpon. Catch and release

Tiburon, shark. If bled when caught and washed well, many types are good eating, prepared like swordfish.

Tilapia. Fillets in the markets are from this farm-raised delicate fish used for ceviche, grilling and frying

Trucha, trout. Introduced to mountain streams 50-plus years ago in southern Costa Rica and farm-raised at higher altitudes, they are usually pan fried with the skin on.

Vieja, red perch. A freshwater river croppy type good for frying or grilling

A.M. Costa Rica

Fourth news page

Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
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You need to fill this space ASAP!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 25, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 234

A.M. Costa Rica/Selleny 
Sanabria Soto 
Alajuela women with babies

A.M. Costa Rica/Selleny    
Sanabria Soto    
Melva Cordoba Quiros has her
own version of free trade:

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
 The crowd of marchers stretched out about five blocks along Avenida 2   west from the Plaza de la Democracia.

Thursday was the turn of those who support treaty
By Selleny Sanabria Soto
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thousands of persons rallied in favor of the free trade treaty with the United States Thursday. The short march down Avenida 2 and speeches at the Plaza de la Democracia were a show of strength to counter a larger march by anti-treaty demonstrators a week ago.

Many workers were bused to the march, and opponents of the treaty said the workers were forced to participate. Albino Vargas, secretary general of the Asociación de Empleados Públicos, who opposes the treaty, said later he would complain formally to the International Labor Organization.

Some of the participants Thursday did not know the specifics of why they were there.

Luisa Diaz Sanchez said that she supports the treaty because she is looking for the future. “TLC means better opportunities to my family. Costa Rica does not have to be afraid to the changes.” All the members of her treaty support group were dressed in red  T-shirts. TLC is the acronym based on the Spanish words for free trade treaty.

At  9:30 a.m. the musical group “Los Hicsos” started the concert and people danced in the streets.

According to Carlos Navarro, the youngest members of the “Los Hicsos,” he was in the march because of his work, but he said he thinks that to approve the Treaty is important because the pact is necessary to end corruption in Costa Rica.

Some 12 persons came from HDP- Orchinex Costa Rica, riding from Puntarenas since 5:30 a.m, to support the treaty. Randall Arrollo, coordinator, said that if the treaty is not approved his firm will have to pay more taxes to export their products.

All the employees from Azucarera El Viejo, came from  Guanacaste, leaving there at 3 a.m, in four buses. “We came here to support our future here. There are not any political colors, TLC and Oscar Arias, are different things,” said Abel Canales Ruiz, he has eight years working in the sugar company.
Alonso Porras, an employee of DOLE  who has 9 years working in the fruit marketer, said that his boss told the employees that they had to come to the march. If not, they will not have jobs in the future, because the United States is the principal importer country.

Melva Cordoba Quiros sold food like pupusas and chuzos de pollo in the middle of the street. She has her own little food company, and she supports the march because she said more jobs are needed. “Actually I don't know a lot of the treaty, just that Costa Rica needs to approve it,” she said.

Some young mothers who brought babies have an organization to support the treaty in Alajuela. They live in the Urbanización el Tropico II. They said they think that if the treaty is not approved the Costa Rica economic situation will become worse. Maria Eugenia Alfaro Rodriguez, president of the group, said, speaking economically, that “if Costa Rica gets better, my husband will be better and of course I will be better too.”

Efrain Ramírez is an elderly man who came from Desamparados to support the treaty. He is living on a pension and said his principal reason to support the pact is to seek a better pension.

Two young people, Jose Alberto Espinoza Perez and Hanzel Gomez Perez, came from Pavas. They said they had no idea why they were there. Many others  did not have a clear reason to participate, except that their employers encouraged them to do so.
The treaty is before the Asamblea Legislativa, which is expected to begin committee hearings on the document next month. The treaty is a political football in this, the runup to the February presidential and legislative elections.

The treaty would exempt from U.S. import duties the bulk of Costa Rican exports. Costa Rica is the last holdout in signing the treaty. Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic all have ratified the document, as has the U.S. Congress. With or without Costa Rica the treaty goes into effect Jan. 1.

Botched beer truck heist leaves two stickup suspects wounded
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A failed attempt to rob a beer truck left one of the presumed bandits with a gunshot wound and the other behind bars, said officers with the Fuerza Pública.

Officers said someone made a 911 call Wednesday evening saying that two persons with firearms were carjacking a Nissan Frontier, the officers said.  The driver, Mario Ramírez, was an employee with Cerveceria de Costa Rica.

When the two robbers tried to hijack the truck, a guard on the truck defended it with a shotgun, officers said.  He shot one of the presumed bandits in the throat. A Nicaraguan suspect was later identified by the last names Silva Hurtado, officers said.  They
found a 12-gauge shotgun nearby, they added.

The second suspect, identified by the last names Ulloa Mora, was found soon after with wounds to the chest, stomach and legs.  He hid in a tecal tree some 800 meters from where the attempted robbery took place, officers said.

Afterwards, officers, with the help of the canine unit, found a a rifle nearby, possibly an AK-47 which they think was linked to the crime, they said.

According to Alex Arce Quesada, commander of the Fuerza Pública on Pococí, both subjects have a long rap list but none of their past crimes involved firearms.  For this reason, Arce is hopeful the subjects can be convicted and sentenced to hefty stays in prison.

Jo Stuart
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