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(506) 2223-1327               Published Friday, Dec. 11, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 245            E-mail us
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Giant holiday parade takes over town Saturday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tomorrow is the second Saturday in December, and that means the city will be taken over by the Festival de la Luz. The gigantic parade might be scaled down a bit from previous years, but at least eight floats and 10 bands and many other groups will participate, according to the advanced program.

This is the event that brings nearly a million Costa Ricans to the sidewalks from early afternoon until about 10 p.m. The parade is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. from Parque la Sabana and go east on Paseo Colón and then on Avenida 2. It stops just short of Plaza de la Democracia. Many of the participants will wear strings of tiny lights. This is the 11th edition.

For those not willing to brave the crowds, local
television also will carry the parade with commentary. Police officers have been told to crack down on drinkers who have marred the event in the past. Health officials asked that those sick with flu symptoms stay away.

The parade marshal this year will be the Selección Sub 20 soccer team that was a semi-finalist in the World Cup in Egypt.

The floats, carrozas in Spanish, are elaborate. Five will be from governmental agencies three will be from major companies like Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and Florida Bebidas, the beer and fruit drinks company. Several usual private participants so far appear to be missing on this year's roster. The floats are elaborate, colorful and expensive.  The Municipalidad de San José awards prizes in various categories.


Tico singer falls short in his quest to be Latin idol
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country took it on the musical chin again Thursday night when a female singer from the Dominican Republic won the title of Latin American Idol.

In No. 2 place was Eduardo Aguirre of Esparza.

The decision purportedly was based on the total of votes based on telephone calls from viewers. A call from Costa Rica cost a fan 550 colons or about 97 U.S. cents. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the phone company, placed ads urging call-in votes for Aguirre.

This was the second year in a row that a Costa Rican made it to the finals only to be bested by another singer.

The vote totals of the Sony Entertainment show are a secret, and producers are forbidden to disclose the data. So no one ever really knows about voting trends. The show premiered in September, and two shows each week resulted in cutting the finalist down to the remaining pair.

Costa Ricans were hopeful. Aguirre even had his photo at the top of the Web Page for Casa Presidencial until he was replaced by the late president Rodridgo Carazo Odio, who died Wednesday. Laura Chinchilla, the Partido Liberación Nacional presidential candidate circulated an e-mail in which she said she supported the young singer. The e-mail was linked to a You-Tube film sequence of the candidate with the singer's mother.

Both Aguirre and the winning singer, Martha Heredia, were considered to be exceptional.
Latin American Idol not
Eduardo Aguirre

Last year, María José Castillo, also Costa Rican,  ended up in second place to a Panamanian contestant. She was given a royal welcome in Costa Rica and was a feature of the Festival de la Luz Christmas parade.

In Esparza community members gathered once again in the municipal park Thursday night. That has been traditional since Aguirre began moving up in the rankings. Thursday night saw the largest and most animated crowd. Those who attended saw the 8 p.m. show, now ending its fourth season, on a large-screen television.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 245

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Court forbids employers
from firing sick employees

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV has struck down a law that allows an employer to fire a worker if the individual has been on sick leave for more than three months.

The case involved two workers at the Asamblea Legislativa, which has a similar rule in its internal regulations, according to a summary provided by the Poder Judicial.

The constitutional court found it would be discriminatory to discharge such workers, and doing so would take them off the rolls of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and prevent them from further medical treatment.

Employees who are sick for more than three days can be put on half pay with the rest paid for by the Caja. However, Article 80 of the Código de Trabajo allowed an employer to discharge workers who appear to be permanently incapacitated.

The cases involved a man with the last names of Jiménez Morales and a woman with the last names of Monge Montealegre.  If they were discharged, the court said, they would not be able to provide necessities for their families. Or, the court said, the rule might force them back to work when they were physically or mentally unable to perform.

World peace march comes
to Liberia and San José


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A team for the The World March for Peace and Nonviolence is coming to Liberia and to San José Saturday.

In Liberia a march is planned from the Estadio Edgardo Baltodano to the Parque Central starting at 8 a.m.

The team will then travel to San José to meet with President Óscar Arias Sánchez.

Sunday there is a 10 a.m. exchange of war toys for non-violent toys in the Plaza de las Garantias Socials just south of the headquarters of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.  Then there is a noon concert with the likes of Evolution and Editus and some 18 more musical groups.

The world march is touring 80 countries and has support here from a number of social organizations. The organization seeks the end of wars, the dismantling of nuclear weapons and for an end to all forms of violence (physical, economic, racial, religious, cultural, sexual and psychological), according to its Web site.

Explosions of fireworks
put serious stress on pets


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fido does not like firecrackers, according to an animal protection organization. Such activities can instill terror in family pets and may cause them to run off, the organization warns.

Animals in the street might be distracted by fireworks and put themselves in harms way and be hit by vehicles, it added.

The organization is the Asociación Nacional Protectora de Animales, which said that fireworks are only one of the problems during the holiday season. Some families, caught up with celebration, abandon their pets, travel away from home and otherwise put the pet at risk, the organization said.

The organization also is not high on giving animals as gifts. A lot of pets go to families who are not ready to care for them or really have no interest in them, it said. So the animal suffers from neglect, it added.

Fireworks displays, both official and private are frequent in the holiday season in heavily populated areas.

Quepos man, 75, murdered,
Girl, 14, is main suspect


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 75-year-old Quepos man who befriended a young teen on the street and took her into his home became a murder victim Monday.

The man had the last name of Banquero and lived in Vista del Bosque de la Inmaculada de Quepos, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. He died of suffocation, agents said.

The 14-year-old girl became a principal suspect early in the investigation when agents determined that money and articles were missing from the home, they said. She was detained Wednesday. Agents are looking for other suspects.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 245



This is a scene in 1892 taken looking west and down the Cuesta de Mora in what is now Barrio Museo Nacional. The individuals are unidentified, but the museum is now to the left of the photo, and at the base of the hill on the right one finds today the Más x Menos supermarket.

cuesta de mora
From the collectino of the Museo Nacional

New museum exhibit features four of city's barrios
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional inaugurates a new exhibit tonight that features four of the cities neighborhoods, called barrios in Spanish.

This is the part of a museum effort to capture the history, architecture and intangible culture of neighborhoods all over the country. Plans are in the works to do the same kind of historical detective work in the rest of the country's provinces.

This first exhibit concentrates on Barrio Otoya, Barrio Lujan, Barrio México and Barrio Museo Nacional.

The barrios of San José central are not marked, and even taxi drivers sometimes are confused by the geography. The names frequently are used as references. Many sections, like Barrio Museo Nacional, get their names from a major structure or early resident. Barrio Museo Nacional could easily have been name Barrio Castillo Azul or Barrio Legislativa because the Asamblea Legislativa is across the street.

Most barrios have their own small business district, and that role fell to the Pulpería el Barrio on Avenida 2, which served as a neighborhood gathering place, according to the museum historian Gabriela Villalobos. The museum did not take over the former army headquarters until 1948, so the pulpería or general store had plenty of customers before that.

Barrio Otoya is the smallest in the city, and is between avenidas 7 and 11 and calles 11 and 15. The area where homes started to be built in the early part of the 20th century used to be called Puerto Escondido. The muesum historians said that Vilma Loría in her essay "Otoya, mi puerto escondido" said the name came from the lake that was situated where parques España and Morazán are now. The barrio is dominated by neoclasical, Victorian and Victorian classical architecture.

Barrio México in the northwest part of town appears to have received a number of refugees from the 1910 Cartago earthquake. The area originally was farmland, but the owners quickly divided the properties into lots. One property owner whom historian Virginia Vargas identified by the name of Lutz built a number of art deco homes for middle-and upper-income families. Today most are not in good condition.

Many of the homes there now were constructed by their owners. They are small and what the museum experts call architecture without architects. One type of home is what is called puerta-ventana, a narrow home with just room in front for a single window and a door.

Barrio Lujan is in the southeast of the capital and begins east of Plaza González Víquez. Originally it was called
Painting of house in barrio Otoya
Artist Ana Griselda Hine made this painting of a home in Barrio Otoya, the city's smallest.

Pulperia el Barrio
From the collection of the Museo Nacional
The aptly named Pulpería el Barrio was just south of the Museo Nacional in 1970 when this photo was taken. The location is on Avenida 2 where youngsters of the period used to play soccer, according to historians.

Calle de Turrujal, taken from the native word turrú which refers to a type of fruit tree now nearly extinct. At the beginning of the 20th century the area was a fenced field connected by dirt paths, the historians said. Much was
owned by Pánfilo Valverde, said the historians. A developer named Arturo Wolf purchased the land and began to divide it into building lots. There are art deco, neocolonial and Victorian structures here, but most are what the musuem calls obrero artesanal, or creations of workers.

The exhibit in the basement of the museum will run until June. Integrated into the exposition are paintings of historical homes that were part of a Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes competition.


Amid the Christmas crowding there still is time for kindness
The Christmas season and the pre-season are different in different countries.  But the people in big cities almost everywhere probably behave the same.  In San José, after two ventures downtown, I think of it as the crazy season.  I’d been warned that it is aguinaldo time, but I had to take care of November’s bills, which I pay at the bank (Please don’t tell me how much easier it is to do online.  I know it is, but I do as little as possible online when money is involved — and I like the exercise.)  Besides, the banks are very kind to white-haired ciudadanas de oro.

Getting around the city is a different matter.  You’re on your own at Christmastime.  I remember when I first arrived and walked downtown.  “The crowds are as big as New York City but without the hostility,” I thought.  I still feel the crowds are amiable, even though street crime has increased.  At this time of the year most people seem hell-bent upon spending — buying gifts and stocking up for the beach or for the long vacation (when a lot of businesses and stores will be closed).  Everything seems urgent. 

I managed to get a front seat on the Sabana Cementerio bus that goes across town.  This was because I waited for the second bus to come along.  The first was so crowded.  Soon my bus began to fill up as more people got on — and more — and more. I looked back at the standees and thought of sardines in an upended can.  Sardines have no choice, but these people were packing themselves in as if this were the last bus to safety. ”Enough, enough,” I tried to mentally signal to the driver as the standees were just a foot from the stairs, but he only said “Move back.”  When  he finally closed the door, a man waiting outside waved angrily at him.  That is when I thought, “This is a crazy time of the year.”

But now that we all were nicely packed in, I opened the book I had brought.  What I was reading made me think about emotions that are contagious.  (I guess, when it comes to a bus or an elevator, it is the fear of not fitting in.  But I should not treat fear lightly.
 
Fear is contagious and dangerous.  The writer Ryszard Kapuscinski, was writing about the last days of the last Shah of Iran. He did not mention crowded buses, just the
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forlorn and silent people waiting for a bus, afraid to start a conversation in case the person next in line was a member of the Shah´s secret police.

Fear, he said, is a predatory and hungry animal living inside of us.  Fear is fed by ¨dismal gossip, bad news, panicky thoughts, nightmare images.¨ And if we have nothing to feed it with, we make something up with dire speculations and predictions then believe the worst scenarios.  Fear can cause an inability to act, or on the other hand, panic.  Panic is also contagious. When people free themselves of the paralysis of fear, change takes place. Kapuscinski maintains that that’s when revolutions occur. Iran, today, seems to be going through a déjà vu right now.  Only the oppressor is different.

A group of people got off at a stop, leaving some breathing space and a young man with a basket got on.  He began his spiel about some worthy cause, but I didn’t listen.  However, as he was collecting from others and handing out mints, I remembered that I had resolved to give to everyone who asked.  It was Christmas, after all.  But instead of the 300 colones I meant to give him, it was 700.  I shrugged and opened my book.  As the bus took off my bookmark, a cloth souvenir one from Turkey, given to me by a traveling friend, blew out of the book and down to the first step of the bus.  I gasped and started to rise.

The hand of the lady sitting behind me restrained me and the bus driver shook his head.  Sadly I wished the marker well.  After just a couple of yards the bus stopped and the driver opened the door; the young man I had over tipped appeared, picked up the bookmark and handed it to me. 

I smiled and thanked him.  The season is not so crazy that kindness is forgotten.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 245

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Three U.S. senators in accord on climate and jobs plan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A bipartisan group of senators have agreed on a framework for climate change legislation and sent a proposal to President Barack Obama ahead of his trip to the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark.  The senators say they want to send a message to the world leaders meeting there that the U.S. Senate is committed to reducing pollution and creating new jobs.

Sens. John Kerry, a Democrat, Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, an Independent Democrat, have been working for weeks to craft a compromise climate bill that could win the 60 votes needed to pass in the U.S. Senate. Thursday, senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry said they had agreed to merge separate bills on climate change, creating jobs and energy independence.

"This framework should send a strong and clear message to Americans: we can create millions of jobs and increase our economic and national security by setting a target to reduce pollution and make ourselves more energy independent," said Kerry.

The framework backs a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 emission levels by the year 2020.  It also includes plans for wider domestic offshore oil-and-gas-drilling and expanded federal support for clean coal and nuclear power.

Lieberman said the framework is also meant to send a
message to world leaders gathered at the climate conference in Copenhagen.

"We send a message to the delegates gathered in Copenhagen that the movement for climate change legislation in the United Senate is alive and well and moving forward," said Senator Lieberman.

Lieberman said the three senators have been in talks with the chairmen of several committees, and with other members of both parties.  He said they do not have the 60 votes needed to move a climate change bill forward yet, but there are more than 60 votes that are in play.

Many Republican lawmakers have voiced skepticism about climate change legislation, fearing it could mean short-term job losses at a time when unemployment is already high.  But Graham said other countries, such as China, India and a number of European countries already know that so-called green energy is the way of the future.

"I believe the green economy is coming," said Graham. "It is not a question if it is going to happen, it is just when it is going to happen, and the sooner the better for me."

Asked why he was not joined in the compromise-legislation effort by any other Republicans, Graham said for him, being for a clean environment is not a partisan issue.

"Why can't America have the cleanest air and the purest water?  And why would any Republican or Democrat not want that to be so?," asked Graham.



Copenhagen agreement would create oversight board

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Negotiators at the U. N. climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, are making good progress in the area of technology, a senior official with the world body said Thursday.

“I sense there is a real seriousness now to negotiate,” Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

He told reporters that he sees an emerging agreement with countries wanting to see a new technical mechanism, including an executive body overseeing technological development and transfer, result from the conference.

Further, de Boer noted there is a growing consensus to set up a consultative network for climate technologies which would support developing nations’ efforts to take action on both adaptation and mitigation.

He also stressed that the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period expires in 2012, must remain in force.

It took eight years from the time the instrument was
ratified to when it entered into force. Even if an agreement is reached in Copenhagen, “you can’t guarantee how quickly it will enter into force and I think it’s important to avoid a gap,” the official said.  Also, as many developing nations have pointed out, he said, the protocol is the only legally binding instrument currently in force on climate change.

“There is no good reason at this moment to abandon it,” he said. “What there is good reason for is to come to a new process under the convention that engages the United States and allows for broader participation of developing countries and that really stimulates action now up to 2012 and beyond.”

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call on nations to “seize the moment” to reach a deal in Copenhagen. “Never have so many different nations of all sizes and economic status made so many firm pledges together,” Ban said, exhorting countries to “continue pushing higher for still higher ambition.”

He warned that if the world continues on its present course, climate change will roll back years of successes in development and poverty reduction, among other areas.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 245

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Mexicans ready to take
Zelaya from Honduras


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Officials with the Honduran interim government have confirmed reports that it will allow ousted president José Manuel Zelaya to leave the country after spending three months confined at the Brazilian Embassy.

Zelaya is seeking safe passage to leave the embassy and travel to another country without being arrested on corruption charges brought by the interim government.

The Mexican government has sent a plane to the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa to pick up Zelaya and fly him to Mexico.

But the ousted president says he wants to leave Honduras with the recognition that he is the lawfully elected president.  Zelaya also says he is not seeking political asylum in any country.

Zelaya was overthrown June 28 and forced into exile.  The interim government says it ousted the president because he was trying to illegally change the constitution to extend his time in office.

Zelaya made a surprise return to Honduras nearly three months later and took refuge at the Brazilian embassy.  The army surrounded the diplomatic outpost and threatened to seize the ousted leader if he left the embassy.

Conservative politician Porfirio Lobo was elected last month as the country's new president.  Zelaya denounced the election as illegitimate, and many countries have yet to recognize the vote.

Last week, Honduran lawmakers voted against reinstating Zelaya to complete his term, which ends Jan. 27.

Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington is encouraged by initial moves from president-elect Lobo to heal rifts caused by the coup.  Lobo has said he will work to restore the international ties that have been broken following the military-backed coup.

But Secretary Clinton says more work needs to be done on national reconciliation before the crisis can be considered over.

Mrs. Clinton noted that the United States had condemned Zelaya's expulsion and taken significant steps, among them, aid cuts, to signal its determination that democratic order in Honduras be restored.

She also said the United States stands with the Honduran people and will continue to work closely with others in the region who seek to determine the democratic way forward for Honduras.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 245


Latin American news
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The worst is now over,
U.N. says of economy


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Latin America and the Caribbean will bounce back faster than expected from the global financial crisis, with growth projected at over 4 per cent next year, a regional United Nations agency for economic development said Thursday.

In its annual report, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean expects positive growth rates for most countries in the region, but notes there are still doubts about whether the recovery will be sustainable, since external scenarios remain uncertain and could impact the area.

“The worst of the crisis is behind us,” said Alicia Bárcena, commisison executive secretary. “The motors of growth have been turned on again, but we don’t know how long the fuel will last.”

South America will see a 4.7 growth rate and Central America, excepting Mexico, will see 3 per cent while the Caribbean is expected to experience just under 2 per cent the commission predicted.

The country set to see the largest gains will be Brazil, the report said, followed by Perú, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile.

Counter-cyclical policies – including slashing interest rates and increasing public expenditures – that help countries address external turbulence swiftly are to thank for the region overcoming the crisis swiftly, it added.

The new publication, entitled "Preliminary Overview of the Economies of Latin America and the Caribbean 2009," also looked into how the crisis ended six years of consecutive growth in the region. Unemployment rates also rose to 8.3 per cent this year, which is lower than that 9 per cent predicted earlier this year.

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