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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 246        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Afternoon parade is an extra attraction for Festival de la Luz fans
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Organizers expect that up to a million persons will watch the 2006 Festival de la Luz Saturday night in San José. Although the parade is supposed to step off at 6 p.m., an earlier event is being staged in the daytime in the La Sabana area with bands and other performers.

The afternoon also provides the opportunity for spectators to get a closeup look at the elaborate floats. Many will be parked along the south side of the Parque la Sabana.

Although the floats will not be in operation until the parade starts, Santa Claus and other float patricipants usually are around for photos.

The afternoon is sometimes preferred by expats and those with children because the evening parade has been populated by drunk teens who behaved badly, particularly in the vicinity of the Plaza de la Cultura.

Police patrols have been limited in past years and mostly confined to the line of march. So the teens have had few checks on their rowdy and unsanitary conduct.

The parade route from la Sabana to Calle 11 and Avenida 2 will be packed, and those who want a front row seat should arrive early. Lucky ones
have friends with second-floor apartments or businesses along the route.

This is the 10th year for the parade. The parade marshal will be Humberto Vargas, a  Costa Rican

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Santa in 2003 parade
singer who has been successful all over Latin America.

The parade of lights is the big draw for the Christmas season which has been hit with some reverses.

The end of year festival in Zapote has been canceled due to safety considerations, and it looks like the traditional Dec. 27 carnival parade also will not take place.

The Municipalidad de San José is trying to save the Dec. 26 tope or horse encounter but
there still are some hangups. The tope usually draws thousands of horses and their riders to the downtown each day after Christmas. The carnival actually draws many more spectators, but each rider pays a fee to be in the tope, so the event is self-supporting.

Family covered in Tico-style snow relaxes during the evening avenidazo,
A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking

Snow here is not the kind that melts in the sun
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Persons walking down the pedestrian boulevard in San Jose have been getting a face full of Tico-style snow over the last few days.  More than 20 degrees Celsius is too hot for water to freeze here. But thanks to the help of street vendors selling bags of white confetti, the tradition of throwing a handful of snow is alive and well.

A bag of paper snow sells for around 30 colons, about 6 U.S. cents.  Those without ammunition are helpless to defend themselves, as it is seemingly acceptable to take aim at any and all comers. 
Because of the festival tradition, the main boulevard is being covered in white, giving the area around the Plaza de la Cultura a northern Christmas feel to it.

The fake snow accompanies a series of Christmas cultural events on the main avenue, which includes a series of musical and artistic presentations organized by the municipality.  Officially entitled Noches Culturales Navideñas, the event more commonly known as avenidazo, runs to Dec. 22.  Because of the swell of shoppers to the area, the police force presence has been increased in an attempt to discourage criminal activity.

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Costa Rica
Second newspage

Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 246

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Our reader's opinion

Article about his death
was too soft on Pinochet

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I thought the Pinochet “lite” article was a bit sanitized, including your headline. Some independent media observers have described him as one of the most diabolically evil and clever politicians of modern time, installed in his 17-year reign of terror by a U.S. orchestrated and financed coup.

A bit of description of what the dictator actually did to people would help: thousands shoved in a stadium to await their fate (including some Americans who were a bit too too left wing to be spared by the CIA), government torture methods straight out the Middle Ages with the added improvement of electricity, being “disappeared” out of helicopters over the sea while still alive, assassinations abroad including in Washington, and much more.

All this done under his direct control  — he was famously quoted as saying: “Not a leaf moves in Chile without me knowing.”

He was also a supremely successful criminal, amassing millions from embezzlement of public funds, money laundering and cocaine trafficking.

Even when all this was known and he was out of power, the Chileans had little international support or pressure for prosecution. He had backed Britain in the Falklands, and, of course, he was the American’s anti -Communist baby.

His final victory was feigning illness to avoid charges and rob the Chilean people of any justice. Your article only hinted at what a monster he was — sometimes I suspect you use too much CNN copy.

R. Martin

EDITOR'S NOTE: A.M. Costa Rica does not use CNN copy. And CNN does not use A.M. Costa Rica copy.

A.M. Costa Rica file photo                         
A production line in Aserrí
Christmas tamales from years past

It is nearing Christmas once again, which in Costa Rica means that traditional foods like tamales will be in high demand.  Over the years, the A.M. Costa Rica staff has written about tamale events, production, customs, sayings and more. For all that you need to know, follow the links below.

The top Christmas treat requires a production line

By Saray Ramírez Vindas

No Christmas is complete in Costa Rica without tamales, and the tradition includes small home factories that turn out the delicious banana-wrapped parcels.

In Aserrí, in the mountains south of San José, the Valverde family and the Tamalera Val-verde has been producing tamales for 52 years...Continue

Tamal time for the whole family or neighborhood

By Daniel Soto

One Latin American tradition that brings all the aspects of the meaning of Christmas charmingly together is the Costa Rican custom of making tamales.

The preparation of tamales usually involves the participation of the whole family or sometimes an entire neighborhood, with folks getting together to prepare the ingredients and assemble the tamales for cooking. It is a lot of fun and one of those marvelous old traditions that brings everyone together in congenial holiday fellowship...Continue

A good batch of tamales starts with a load of banana leaves

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not only does the green banana leaf protect the corn dough, meat and other goodies inside, it imparts a unique flavor to the cooked finished product...Continue

If you wondered where all the pigs go at Christmas . . .

Dr. Lenny Karpman

Every December the aroma and squeals from rural Alajuela pig farms desist.

The winds of Christmas arrive as if to freshen the air, and a local flock of guinea fowl vanishes about a week before Christmas. All over South America, but especially in Columbia, a 10- to 15- pound whole roast suckling pig is the centerpiece of the Christmas dinner table. Glazed hams are also becoming more popular south of the Rio Grande.

There is no doubt in my mind that more pork goes for tamale filling in Costa Rica in December than for anything else...Continue

The cat in the bag meets the unwraped tamale

By Daniel Soto

“To unwrap the tamale.” This dicho corresponds fairly well to the English expressions “to let the cat out of the bag,” or “to spill the beans.” We can say destaparse el tamal whenever some secret is revealed about someone or some group. But you can also use it when you discover something that has been hidden specifically from you...Continue

Destiny plays role in Costa Rica saying about tamales

By Daniel Soto

No Christmas is complete in Costa Rica without tamales, and the tradition includes small home factories that turn out the delicious banana-wrapped parcels.

In Aserrí, in the mountains south of San José, the Valverde family and the Tamalera Val-verde has been producing tamales for 52 years...Continue

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Costa Rica
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Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 246  

The project has been called a tunnel, but the San Sebastián traffic circle on the Circumvalación in south San José is really getting a change in grade for north and southbound traffic.

New structures that really are bridges will carry traffic over the east-west Circumvalacion. The job is for $3.5 million. The intersecton will be the second to have the traffic-slowing circles removed. There are two more to go.

Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes graphic

10 of the nation's bridges are on a list for repairs in 2007
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's highways are in urgent need of repair. But what about the bridges?

Of the 1,300 bridges in the country, most are 30 years or more old, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. The Japanese Agency for International Cooperation has sponsored a study of bridge conditions here that will be finished early next year. The study will have an impact on a proposed program of rehabilitation of major bridges.
A vice minister, Pedro Castro, talked about the study and the condition of bridges at the opening of a seminar on bridge maintenance in Central America.

He said that 10 bridges were part of a proposed bidding schedule. The work will be done next year.

The bridges are on the Grecia-Peñas Blancas stretch of Route 1, on the San José-Paso Canoas Route 2, over the Rio Chirripó in Sarapiquí on Route 4, over the rios Chirripó and Sucio on the San José-Limón Route 32 and over the Río Torres in the metropolitan area.

Opponents to free trade treaty gather again at legislature
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative commission studying the free trade treaty with the United States will spend a day longer than scheduled in its deliberations.

The Comisión Permanente Especial de Relaciones Internacionales y Comercio Exterior was supposed to finish later today. But legislative sources said that the committee would continue through Wednesday morning.

That means the full legislature might get the document Wednesday afternoon.

Monday treaty opponents on the committee sought to link passage here with the situation in the Dominican Republic, which has ratified the treaty but the agreement has not entered into force.

Members of the Partido Acción Ciudadana want to know why. There were two motions Monday from committee members who are from this political party. Both motions sought to have either the Costa Rican ambassador or someone from the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior determine why the treaty is not in force in the Dominican Republic.

Both motions were rejected by the full committee.

After ratifying the treaty nations have to make changes in their existing laws so that the legal codes agree with what is said in the treaty. The Dominican Republic is doing this. Costa Rica has a series of bills called the complementary agenda that will be considered by the legislature if the free trade treaty passes.

In anticipation of some kind of legislative action, about a hundred people of all ages, some wearing suits and others in ripped jeans, joined forces Monday night to demonstrate against the trade agreement, known here as the Trato de Libre Comercio or, simply, TLC.

Gathered outside the legislative complex on Avenida

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
Demonstrators maintain their vigil outside the legislative chambers even though the free trade treaty did not advance Monday.

Central, the crowd showed disapproval by blasting music, waving flags, and tapping protest signs on the police barrier that surrounded the building.  Some of the organizers spoke through a loudspeaker to insure that the message was heard by fellow protesters and politicians inside. The torch-lit event did not last much later than around 8:30 p.m., with a final announcement that the protest is to start back up at 3 p.m. today outside the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, better known as the INS building. 

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fourth news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 246

Judicial system seems to have misplaced a murder suspect
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In April a man died when robbers tried to steal his vehicle in Rohrmoser.  The bandits also took about 500,000 colons, nearly $1,000.

Eventually police caught up with a suspect who turned out to be under investigation for a similar armed robbery. A prosecutor took the man, Fabio Nicolás Brenes Carmona, before a judge who felt sorry for him because he had sustained bullet wounds to his legs.

No preventative detention for this man, the judge in Pavas concluded. So Brenes was placed under house arrest.

For awhile.

But when officials went to check Thursday at his home near Hospital Blanco Cervantes in San José, Brenes, his legs presumably repaired, was not home. And he has not been home since.

Officials said that citizens could call in tips to these numbers:  295-3372, 295-3373 o 295-3639.

Brenes Carmona

The murdered man, who had the last names of Calderón Lee, was an administrator at Universidad Latina.

Light quake hits in hills near Jacó today in early morning
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An earthquake estimated to be about 4.6 magnitude took place in the hills north and east of Jacó at 2:35 a.m. today.

The quake was considered light by the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center. Scientists placed the location at about 45 kilometers deep in the earth, some 28 miles. The location was 40 kilometers (25 miles) west southwest of San José and 50 kilometers
(30 miles) east southeast of Puntarenas.

The quake was felt in all of the Central Valley. A smaller quake of undetermined location took place about 11:31 p.m. Monday, just about three hours earlier.

The quake was the strongest since Nov. 30 when a 4.8 tremor rattled Santa María de Dota, according to statistics provided by the Red Sismológica Nacional of the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Ironically, Pinochet is seen as advancing human rights law
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Reaction to the death Sunday of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has been decidedly mixed, both in and outside of Chile. Human rights workers are expressing regret that the onetime coup leader was never held to account for atrocities committed during his 17-year rule, but they believe his case ultimately strengthened the application of human rights law.

Within hours of his death, pro- and anti-Pinochet demonstrators took to the streets of Santiago, and security forces were dispatched to restore order.

To his supporters, Gen. Augusto Pinochet was a national savior who prevented Chile from succumbing to communism.

Other Chileans are expressing conflicting emotions over Pinochet's death: satisfaction that a man they regard as a murderer has perished, yet sadness that a wave of lawsuits brought against him are now moot.

Isabel Allende is the daughter of the late Salvador Allende, the socialist president Pinochet overthrew in 1973 with the covert backing of the United States. She spoke in Madrid:

"It pains me that none of the accusations against him [Pinochet] could be pursued to the end," she said. "I would have preferred for my country, for its dignity, for the rule of law — that the trials against him would have gone forward. Obviously this was a despicable person with many questions surrounding him, including the inexplicable fortune he amassed."

Pinochet ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, during which time thousands of suspected leftists are believed to have disappeared in the country. Thousands of others fled into exile. At the same time, Chile embarked on a free-market reform initiative and emerged as one of the strongest economies in Latin America.

In 1988, the general lost a vote on whether to remain in power. Chile returned to elected government two years later, but Pinochet remained the head of the country's armed forces as well as a senator-for-life.

In 1998, while in London recovering from back surgery, Pinochet was arrested on an extradition warrant from Spain for alleged torture and murder. The director of the
Americas Program at Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco, notes that Pinochet was traveling on a diplomatic passport, and describes the general's detention as a landmark event.

"The precedent that was established when he was in detention in London is a turning point for the history of human rights," he said. "It was a monumental precedent
that helped going after the perpetrators of gross violations of human rights all over the world by applying international treaties that were considered for many years as 'soft law' but that could be invoked in many similar cases. And, indeed, that is what is happening now."

After months of detention in Britain, Pinochet was eventually sent home to Chile due to his deteriorating health. But lawsuits continued to hound him, and not just for alleged human rights violations. Allegations also surfaced that he had pocketed millions of dollars during his rule and funneled the money to foreign bank accounts.

In the end, Pinochet was never formally convicted of any crime and never served a day in prison. But the lawyer who initiated Spain's case against Pinochet in the late 1990s, Juan Garces, says Pinochet has made it harder for future dictators to act with impunity.

"The Pinochet case shows that international laws originating in Nuremberg in 1946 are still alive and relevant," he said. "With these laws and others that have been formulated, a person who comes to power in a country — if he uses his authority to commit crimes, he may terrorize and control society, but he must know that his impunity can be terminated by the application of international law."

Pinochet had some admirers among Western leaders, most notably former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who labeled legal proceedings against the general as a "political vendetta." Pinochet was one of the few Latin American leaders to ally his country with Britain during the 1982 conflict with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

Much that has come to light about Pinochet's rule was uncovered by truth commissions and other investigations in Chile and elsewhere, along with the declassification of U.S. government documents pertaining to Chile in the 1970s.

Pinochet, who was 91 at the time of his death, will be given a military, not a state funeral on Tuesday.

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