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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, Dec. 4, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 240        E-mail us    
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Liberación dominates elections for municipal chiefs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday was election day, but there seemed to be more attraction in shopping for Christmas or fútbol than the mayoral elections.

The country racked up an unimpressive 75.5 no-show rate, with San José leading the pack with less than 20 percent of the eligible voters showing up at the polls.

Óscar Fonseca, president of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, expressed his dismay during a television appearance when the polls closed.

The well-lubricated Liberación Nacional machine corralled 50 percent of the vote nationwide. In Escazú the Liberation mayoral candidate, Marco Antonio Segura Seco, was in a horse race with Arnoldo Valentín Barahona Cortés of the Yunta Progresista Escazuceña. The Liberation candidate ended up with 3,581 votes to Barahona's 3,515 with all polling places counted.

In San José centro Johnny Araya, the incumbent mayor, got an impressive 17,450 votes of 25,198 cast. His nearest rival was Joaquín Arturo Robles Arias of the Partido Acción Ciudadana. He got 4,772 with just 11 of 335 polling places left to count.  Only 14 percent of the eligible voters went to the polls in the central district.

In all there were 81 separate races for mayor in the country.

In Montes de Oca, Unión para el Cambio candidate Fernando Trejos Ballestero appeared to have broken the Liberación winning streak with 32.8 percent of the vote.

Liberación is the ruling party of President Óscar Arias Sánchez and governs the legislature via a coalition. The party traces its roots to the founder of the modern Costa Rican state, José Figueres Ferrer, so it is well established throughout the country.

Partido Acción Ciudadana, Liberacion´s chief

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
Voter, after checking her name on the wall, nears the registration table at Escuela México in San José.


Only Liberación Nacional had an informational booth at this pollling place.


competitor in the Feb. 5 presidential elections, still is a young party without extensive local networks and mostly a vehicle for Ottón Solís, the party's charismatic leader. Solís campaigned for his party's candidate in San José. Partido Unidad Social Cristiana has been demoralized by the trouncing it took in February.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 240

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New York consulate,
embassy in Israel move

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican Consulate in New York is moving uptown.

The consul general there, Alejandra Solano, said that the consulate is leaving its 80 Wall St. location in Lower Manhattan for one at Office 1203 in 14 Penn Plaza. The building is at 225 West 34 St. with a postal ZIP code of  10122.

At the same time the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto said that the Costa Rican Embassy in Israel has moved after 24 years from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. It gave this contact information:

Abba Hillel Silver Street #14, Mail Box #38, Beit Oz, 15th Floor, Ramat Gan, 52506.  Telephone: (00972-2) 03-613-5061 Fax:  (00972-2) 03-613-4779 E-mail:        emcri@netmedia.net.il

President Óscar Arias Sánchez said Aug. 16 that the embassy in Israel would be moved to correct what he said was an historic error. Costa Rica was one of only two countries to have their embassy in Jerusalem, and this generated antagonisms with Arab states.

The New York move was not politically motivated. Officials said that the new location was located for bus and subway access. The new location is near Penn Station, the New York Port Authority bus station and Grand Central Station, the ministry here said.

Tico in Florida experiences
a $9 million pay day


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Feleciano Aragon, born in Costa Rica and now living in Melbourne, Florida, won the $9,000,000  jackpot in the Florida Lotto.

The 54-year-old landscaper grew up poor in Costa Rica and is now a millionaire, the Florida Lottery said. He was the only contestant to pick all six numbers of the Nov. 29 lottery.  The winning numbers were: 09-14 -25-37-42–52

Aragon decided on a one-time lump sum payment option for his winnings, which amounts  to $5,363,540.22, said the lottery.  "I didn't believe it," Aragon was quoted as saying. "I still don't believe it,"

Before winning the jackpot, Aragon said that he had only won $5 in seven years of playing.  "Keep playing and believe that you can win," Aragon said, according to the lottery.

The lottery, in a release, said Aragon plans to use the prize money to help his family, which includes 15 relatives living in Costa Rica. He also plans to purchase a new car and a boat to go fishing, the lottery said.

Aragon is the 31st Florida Lotto winner to purchase a winning ticket in Brevard County. He is the 864th Florida Lotto winner since 1988.

Our reader's opinion

He backs Riteve monopoly
as legal and productive


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This move by a few legislators to do away with the so-called monopoly of vehicle inspection is one of penny wise and pound foolish, and reeks of political pandering to certain sectors.

Does anyone argue against what ought to be the primary concern for all, which is that vehicles be in good condition and that the gas emissions given off be at minimum levels? Well, it seems that some do.

After decades of inspections farces by the transport ministry and authorized private gas emission inspection shops where for a few thousands of colons paid to the inspectors, defective vehicles magically get passed — the exact amount depended on how bad the defects were —  Abel Pacheco’s administration decided to do something about the importance of having safer and cleaner vehicles on the road.

Operating under the legality of government
monopolies, which are in abundance in Costa Rica, the government decided to turn over the management of the joke inspections to a private company, using the instrument of concession of services to a private concern through a bidding process. The most recent example is the docks operation in Caldera, producing extraordinarily positive results. The docks operation in Limón and the railroad are in line for future concessions.

Among the conditions for being awarded the inspection concession was the building of several costly inspection stations, installation of serious revision equipment (the bouncing around your car gets on the suspension testing machine is nothing compared to a ride to a Guanacaste beach, so don’t complain about that), training personnel, reminding them that immediate job loss is the result should they be caught in any hanky panky of phony OKs, not like unfireable government employees, as well as providing thoroughness, efficiency and client convenience, using a date and hour for the inspection, different from before when the poor vehicle owner had hours of waiting in line to look forward.

Riteve, a Spanish company, won the concession bid, accepted and complied with the multimillion-dollar commitment, commenced operation and Costa Rica began to have safer and cleaner vehicles on the roads. Isn’t that the idea?

So what’s the beef of the dissatisfied? One, it is a private monopoly. Two, Riteve’s inspection is too strict and too expensive, and Three, and it has taken away revenue of dozens of little shops. Only number Three is true.
Numbers One and Two are pure demagoguery. Riteve has a negotiated concession to run a government monopoly, it is not too strict, and 10,000 colons is a small price to pay to know your car and the taxi you are riding in is in good condition.

Putting the purely political interest arguments of the dissatisfied aside, the issue of most concern should be: What would be the consequences of rescinding the concession contract with Riteve?

To begin with, the assurance of thorough and honest inspections is weakened, plus it would signify a huge monetary settlement be given to Riteve (There are laws in this country about unjustified breaking of contracts). But the most damaging would be another black mark on Costa Rica’s already well known and blemished reputation among the international investment community for failing to respect official government contracts. Of course, the diputados can cave in to this political pressure by rescinding Riteve’s contract, but to do so would really be penny wise and pound foolish.
Robert Nahrgang S.
Escazú
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 240  




Six minibuses have been targets of robbers, Rojas confirms
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's top law enforcement official has confirmed that robbers are targeting minbuses carrying tourists but said the number of crimes is not as high as has been reported.

Tourists on six mini-buses have been held up this year, according to the official, Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

He released those statistics to contradict comments from tourism employees that as many as 12 minibuses had been robbed by gunmen.

Rojas also denied keeping the information secret to avoid hurting tourism. He said that was not his role. There had been no information volunteered about the cases until tourism workers expressed their concerns in e-mails.

Rojas said that three buses had been stopped by gunmen in San José. This would include one Nov. 11 that was stopped as it carried tourists from Juan Santamaría airport to a hotel in the city and one that was carrying tourists from a hotel to a beach location. Both stickups happened on the Autopista General Cañas  near its intersection with the Circumvalación.
Rojas said there were two stickups in Limón and one each in Heredia and Puntarenas. In the bulk of the cases the buses were pulled over by motorized bandits who threatened the driver.

A.M. Costa Rica reported Nov. 20 that tour agencies were reeling from a string of tourist bus holdups along the Autopista General Cañas. The latest, was Nov. 11, according to a tour agency that handled the arrangements for the minibus.

Masked robbers in a car forced over the tour bus containing three Germans by threatening the driver with guns. This bus was traveling from Juan Santamaría airport to San José, and the holdup took place on the autopista near the cloverleaf intersection with the circumvalación about 11 p.m.

The robbers, described as aggressive, stripped the tourists of their luggage and personal items and took valuables from the driver and a guide. The trip had a city hotel as a destination.

Then one of the robbers pistol whipped one of the German tourists, said the agency. After the bandits left, the driver borrowed a cell telephone from a passing taxi driver and called police, who never showed up, said the agency.


Costa Rican singer gave Robin Williams inside scoop for 'Happy Feet' rap
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For two weeks in a row, the animated film "Happy Feet" has dominated the box office, and Costa Rican recording artist Paco played an integral part in the creation of the film.

Paco teamed up with John Powell, a composer involved in Hollywood blockbusters like "X-men," "The Bourne Supremacy" and "Antz," and co-wrote the verses for “Boogie Wonderland,” one of the movie's defining songs, said relatives who live in Ciudad Colón.

The Latin American musician also worked closely with Robin Williams, who plays the voice of Ramón, coaching him to rap in Spanish and also how to properly represent
urban-Latino culture.  Paco said he was excited to be part of a film that represents urban Latinos and brings the music to mainstream audiences and the rest of the world, his relatives said.

The film brought in an astounding $37.9 million in box office sales this past holiday weekend and the film has now totaled $100.1 million in sales, beating even the new James Bond flick.

Paco, the founding member of Costa Rica's reggaeton/hip-hop group, Ragga by Roots, will be independently releasing his new album, Urbano, Latinoamericano.  The album features songs from a broad spectrum of urban and Latin sounds. 


For those with two or more faces, there is a special saying
A Dios rezando y con el mazo dando

“Praying to God while beating your neighbor.” This dicho usually refers to those who are hypocritical in their dealings with others. They are the ones who always act very self-righteous and are often heard sermonizing others but who are also well known to cheat or otherwise abuse their fellow humans whenever the opportunity to do so presents itself.

I won’t even bother talking much about politicians here. The recent election campaign in the United Sates should have provided sufficient evidence for anyone to figure out how to apply this dicho to the vast majority of politicos.
 
I had a wonderful teacher when I was in the fifth grade. Her name was Vilma and she had the ability to make learning fun, and all her students enjoyed school.
But she got married and moved to another school, and we ended up with a woman we called niña Lillian. As some of you probably know, teachers in elementary school in Costa Rica are referred to as niña, if they are women, or maestro if the teacher is male. In any case, niña Lillian was the complete polar opposite of our beloved niña Vilma.

Once, I remember, niña Lillian was upset about something that had happened before she came to class. I did not have any idea what her problem was, but I needed to leave class early because I was on the soccer team and we were having an important practice before a big game. But being totally unreasonable, as she often was, niña Lillian claimed a sort of moral high ground. She feigned righteous indignation at the very idea that anyone might even suggest departing class early thereby risking missing out on some fragment of vital information that she might be imparting at that moment. Needless to say, my going to something as totally frivolous as soccer practice was completely out of the question.

Still I begged, I pleaded, I cajoled, I argued but all this got me was punishment. In the end she declared that I would be prevented from attending soccer practice for the entire week! This meant, of course, that I would not be able to play in the game the following Saturday.

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto



Of course, I was very upset, and decided to find out what had happened to put such a malevolent bee in niña Lillian’s bonnet. After making some discrete inquiries, I discovered that niña Lillian had been firmly reprimanded that morning by the principal of our school for having arrived late to work three days in a row. Obviously, she was using me as a scapegoat for her frustrations and personal anger with her boss while covering up her own failing. It was a clear case of a dios rezando y con el mazo dando if ever there was one.

Though the prospect terrified me, I decided to take matters into my own hands and pay a visit to the principal myself.

In any event, to cut a lengthening story at least a bit short, I got permission to attend my soccer practices and play in the game that Saturday.

Of course, niña Lillian was furious with me for going over her head, but I brought my older brother Carlos to school to sweet talk her, and he so beguiled her that she was very nice to me the whole rest of the year.

You may remember my brother Carlos. He was quite the lady’s man and had a following of girlfriends as long as a freight train. Niña Lillian fell right into line. By the time she found out that Carlos was something of a gigolo I had passed on to the sixth grade.




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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 240





Scenes from the dry times surrounding the Sunday elections

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramirez Vindas
Young drinkers are put in the street early Saturday as a popular bar near the former Estación al Atlántico is forced to close.

A.M. Costa RicaNoel Dekking
Pair of shoppers at a downtown supermarket find that the alcohol section is covered in plastic to comply with the laws Sunday. Sales resume Tuesday.


Chávez easily sweeps presidential elections in Venezuela
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is celebrating victory, after being re-elected to another six-year term on an anti-American platform of socialist change. Chavez won re-election Sunday after his challenger, Zulia state Gov. Manuel Rosales, conceded defeat.

Preliminary voting results show Chavez winning by a landslide. The Consejo Nacional Electoral said that after 78 percent of the ballots had been counted, the incumbent president had 61 percent.

Consejo President Tibisay Lucena, said that Chavez had received  5,936,141 against  3,715,292 ballots cast for Rosales. There were  9.675.599 votes counted by that time, she said.

Hundreds of supporters cheered and waved Venezuelan
 flags outside the presidential palace Sunday as fireworks burst overhead. Speaking to supporters, Chavez said his victory was a defeat for U.S. President George Bush, who the Venezuelan leader called a "devil who wants to dominate the world."

The Venezuelan president dedicated his re-election to his political mentor, Cuba's ailing leader, Fidel Castro. The pair share a common distrust of the U.S. and have promoted socialist programs.

Chavez says in his next term, he will start a new phase of his so-called "Bolivarian Revolution." Named after the 19th century independence leader Simon Bolivar, it funnels much of Venezuela's oil wealth toward a pro-poor agenda.

Manuel Rosales led the opposition's most serious challenge to the president in years, accusing Chavez of turning Venezuela into a Communist dictatorship.


El Niño expected to stick around until at least March
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A moderate El Niño across the tropical Pacific is expected to persist until at least March, according to the latest United Nations forecast issued Sunday on the periodic weather pattern that can have repercussions around the world. These range from torrential rains and floods in the Americas to droughts and brush fires in Australia and Asia.

The UN World Meteorological Organization said eastern equatorial Africa, already suffering from flooding due to extremely heavy rainfall, as well as the tropical western Pacific and Indian Oceans and neighbouring lands, are expected to be affected by the phenomenon, caused by extensive warming of surface waters over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.
“Elsewhere, over the coming months, characteristic El Niño climate patterns are now more likely to occur across the Americas, the tropical Atlantic Basin, parts of Africa and South Asia,” it added. Typically, El Niño brings drought to Costa Rica.

The impact is already severe in the western equatorial Pacific. The islands there and surrounding land, including Australia and Indonesia are suffering severe drought.

El Niño conditions are expected to slightly intensify over the next three months, but experts agree that it is unlikely to exceed the ‘moderate’ category in this period. Developments in the Pacific between March and May will be critical in determining whether it persists for the rest of next year, the meteorological organization said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 240  


Mexico's Calderón faces challenge of consolidating power
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderón, begins his first full work week today with an ambitious agenda and many challenges. Opposition leaders continue to deride him as an illegitimate president and many of the nation's most powerful interests are opposed to some of his key reform plans.

The celebrations are over and so are most of the protests, at least for the moment, and now Calderón must begin his effort to pull the country together and advance programs that he believes will benefit all Mexicans.

In his inaugural address Friday, Calderón said that politics is all about cooperation between parties, powers and citizens to improve the life of the people. He also called for dialogue with his opponents, but they have not responded in kind.

Carlos Navarrette, leader of the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática, continues to call Mr. Calderon an illegitimate president.

He says Calderon's Partido Acción Nacional is a minority in congress, he was elected by a minority and his electoral win is still disputed by a significant part of the population.

Calderón won the July 2 election by a razor thin margin and Revolución Democrática candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador challenged the result as fraudulent. The federal electoral tribunal, however, found no evidence of fraud.

López Obrador drew hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to the streets of México City in the weeks after the election, but his most recent rallies have drawn only a few thousand. Public opinion polls show 85 percent of Mexicans accepting Calderón as the new president, but
that has not silenced López Obrador.

He continues to call on his supporters to, as he puts it, rescue México. But in a significant shift of strategy, he now says he will no longer concentrate on attacking what he sees as a fraudulent election. Saturday he told supporters they should now focus on advancing their cause, in congress and elsewhere.

The main cause the losing candidate has championed is that of alleviating the poverty in which more than 40 percent of the population is trapped. But President Calderón has also addressed that problem by proposing a review of social programs and greater investment to spur job growth.

Calderón has called for a reduction of his own salary and those of other high officials and at a meeting with military leaders on Saturday, he proposed an increase in salaries and benefits for the armed forces, whom he has called on to help fight drug traffickers and other criminals who threaten the nation's stability and public order.

An important test for President Calderon will be how he handles relations with the party that controlled Mexico for more than 70 years until the election of Vicente Fox in the year 2000 — the Partido Revolucionario Institutional, sometimes called the PRI.

Political analysts say the PRI sees an opportunity to regain some of the political ground it has lost by exploiting the bitter fight between the ruling party and the Revolución Democrática.

So far there is no indication that Revolución Democrática or other leftist parties will engage in dialogue with President Calderón or the Acción Nacional members of Congress. Revolución Democrática spokesmen say they will try to obstruct Calderón proposals and will not talk directly with the man they say gained power through fraud.


Veterans of Foreign Wars post planning Christmas party
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 11207 is hosting a Christmas Party and luncheon Saturday in San Jose's Hotel Europa at 12:30 p.m.  The event is free to post members in good standing and a guest, and the organization is inviting everyone else at $9 each.

The final 2006 business meeting of Post 11207 will be held
on the second floor of the Club Colonial in San Jose Tuesday at 11 a.m.

This meeting is also an opportunity for any veteran eligible for Veterans of Foreign Wars membership to affiliate with Post 11207, the organization said in a release.  Those members and guests planning to attend the Christmas party can contact Carlo Benedetto at Carlo1933@racsa.co.cr via e-mail or via telephone at 234-7018.  


Motorcycle club planning another poker run with prizes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Los de Xibalba Motor Cycle Club is holding a poker run Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The cost to enter is 5,000 colons ($10 U.S.) with the chance of winning $750, $300, or $100 prizes.

The last poker run brought out about 100 bikes, several cars and a few buses.  This years event is expected to draw more people, and there will again be a bus available for those not wanting to drive.  For those taking the bus, it leaves Motor
Pyschos Bar, Grill and Shop in Santa Ana at 10:30 a.m. Sunday .

The poker-run leaves from the Fiesta Casino near Juan Santamaría airport, to Garrita, to Belen, to Escazú and finishing back at Motor Psychos where entertainment and a barbecue are to follow.

Tickets are on sale at Motor Psychos and will also be available at the Fiesta Casino the morning of the run from 10:30 a.m. until noon.  More info is on a Web site at www.ldxmc.com






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