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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, Dec. 18, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 250        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Lottery vendors vent their anger at official drawing downtown
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The drawing for the gordo navideño had more excitement than planned Sunday because a dozen lottery vendors showed up to complain that officials were not accepting returns of unsold tickets.

Some vendors appeared to have as many as 50 full tickets in their hands. They waved and shouted over the heads of the Fuerza Pública officers who were called in to restore order at the Plaza de la Cultura event.

Luis Polinaris Vargas. general manager of the Junta de Protección Social de San José that runs the lottery, was not impressed. He told reporters that he was at the plaza Sunday evening to help pick winning lottery numbers and that he would discuss sales problems with the vendors today in his office.

The lottery allows vendors to return up to 3 percent of the amount they agreed to distribute. This year sales were slow, and some vendors jacked up the prices for the tickets and their fractions because of public interest. A full ticket of 40 pieces was supposed to sell for 28,000 colons (about $54), but the street price was in excess of 30,000 ($58)in some places.

Vendors encountered buyers unwilling to pay the inflated price.

Although there is a traditional lottery each week, the prizes for the gordo are larger.  Sunday five top prizes of 500 million ($965,000) colons were determined. The winning ticket was series 617 with number 40, and it was pulled at the fourth spinning of the lottery cages, thus reducing the suspense. In all,

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
One of three lottery baskets awaits start signal.

lottery workers turned the baskets for 145 winners, ranging from 400,000 colons  ($772) to the top prize.

Lottery officials said that parts of the five identical winning tickets were all over the country. They named Grecia, San José central, Cartago, Sarapiquí, Heredia and Puntarenas as places where lottery records showed the five winning tickets, each with the same series and same number, were distributed. In some cases they even had the name of the vendor who sold the ticket.

Winners will begin identifying themselves today.

Those who held tickets with the same number, 40, or the same series, 617, of the winning ticket also win money.

Second prize of 30 million colons (about $60,000) sent to ticket holders with series 282 and number 67. Third prize of 18 million colons ($34,750) went to holders of series 799, number 37.

Be careful, Pardner, that bottle's not your average long neck

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When thirsty Texans salute Christmas, two Austin businessmen hope they will do it with guaro, the Costa Rican sugar cane liquor.

The two men have ties to Costa Rica and have made a deal with the Fábrica Nacional de Liquores to produce an upscale version of the typical source of Tico hangovers. Their Austin-based firm is Tranquilo Imports LLC.

Although the product is for sale now only in the state of Texas, the men, Nelson H. Nease and Snapper L. Carr want to expand distribution with the help of established distributors.

The marketing emphasis in Texas is young professionals, and the firm has produced a couple of guaro parties in conjunction with local bars. They also have produced some pamphlets with mixed guaro drinks. Some are obvious like a substitute for gin in a guaro tonic. But both men also swear by cranberry juice. They also have a preference for guaro and apple schnapps. Their primary mission now is simply to let the Texas drinking public know that guaro exists, instructions no one here needs.

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Costa Rica
Second newspage

Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 18, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 250  

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Homosexual blood restriction
challenged in assembly, court

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The prohibition that prevents homosexuals from donating blood would be abolished by a proposal law making its way through the legislature.

However, the law may be eclipsed by a Sala IV decision. The constitutional court has given the public 15 days to comment in favor or against the prohibition of the Banco Nacional de Sangre that keeps homosexuals and bisexuals from donating blood.

A court appeal says that the prohibition is unconstitutional.

In the Asamblea Legislativa, it was Orlando Hernández of the Partido Acción Ciudadana who has presented the legal change. He said that there is no reason to discriminate against homosexuals because half the people with AIDS in Costa Rica are women.

"The reality in Costa Rica with respect to this disease is that AIDS inserts itself in the marriage bedroom and that things are changing drastically, affecting loyal wives and their children," he said.

He said a requirement for blood donors to list their sexual orientation is obsolete because it is clear that a heterosexual could be the transmitter of the disease. He also said that there is no valid test as to sexual orientation and there is a pressing need for blood.

There is no schedule for the constitutional court to make a decision after it receives public comment. The decision, if it comes at all, could be days, weeks or months in the future.

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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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 18, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 250  

A.M. Costa Rica photos by José Pablo Ramíez Vindas and Noel Dekking
Mascara demons and colonial ladies, and over-sized clowns and cheerleaders
Now it is really Christmas, thanks to Festival de la Luz!

Two families get in the spirit

Fireworks initiate the parade

Float of Municipalidad de San José with Grecian heroic figures

By the AM. Costa Rica staff

Officials estimated that a million people attended this year's Fesitval de la Luz in downtown San José.  The Christmas event features two separate parades, the first during the afternoon and the larger parade starting at 6 p.m.

Families gathered in roped off areas all the way from Parque la Sabana to the Iglesia La Soledad on Avenida Segundo.  The first parade finished marching down the street at around 5 p.m. which left a three-hour gap in some places between the two parades.
Even though police were heavily enforcing the street boundaries, a few kids managed to evade security and take advantage of the vacant street by starting up a small soccer-football scrimmage.  Other families used the extended break to organize family sidewalk dinners.

The second parade started with a grand fireworks display followed by a series of giant floats, marching bands, acrobats, clowns and more.

Police reported  no serious problems. There were 785 officers on the streets.

Air Madrid suspension is blow to European tourism hopes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The suspension of flights by Air Madrid Lineas Aereas S.A. is bound to reverberate through tourism circles here.

The economy airline was a welcome addition to the companies serving Costa Rica when it started flights here in 2005. Tourism officials and even President Abel Pacheco made note of it.

In the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration, eyes have been turned to Europe as a place where more tourism can be generated, and tourism providers were hopeful that the strong euro currency would make travel that much more available for Europeans.

The airline had been under intense pressure from Spain and México to maintain its fleet of Airbuses better. Rumors that
the Dirección General de Aviación Civil in Spain and the parent Ministerio de Fomento were about to pull the plug resulted in a sharp drop in ticket sales and demands by creditors for payment, said the company in a Web page release.

An estimated 100,000 travelers were stranded in Latin America and Europe when the company defaulted. They are not likely to get their money back anytime soon. The company said it had provided names of passengers to Spanish aviation officials so they could adopt whatever measures seemed convenient. Some stranded passengers spent time at Juan Santamaría airport over the weekend.

The company was founded only in 2003 and started flight operations the next year. It began having long flight delays this year because of maintenance problems. Flights were mainly from Spain to Latin America and European cities.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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fourth news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 18, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 250

Castro reported to have been talking by telephone to officials at regional confab
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro has spoken by telephone with Cuban officials, as U.S. officials speculate about the state of his health.

Cuban state media report that Castro participated by telephone Friday in a work session of provincial officials.  The newspaper Granma reported that after Castro heard a summary of the discussions, the officials gave him a round of applause.  There were no other details.

Friday, a U.S. newspaper quoted the director of U.S. national intelligence, John Negroponte, as saying Castro is very ill and could die within months rather than years.

Meanwhile, a group of U.S. lawmakers is in Havana,
 reportedly seeking a meeting with Fidel Castro's younger brother, Raul.  Raul Castro is running the country while Fidel Castro is ill.

Friday Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in a speech in Caracas that he had spoken with Castro by telephone twice the day before.  Chavez denied that Mr. Castro has cancer.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she thinks there will be pressure for change in Cuba after Castro's death.  She said the best way to handle that pressure is through a democratic process.

A senior official in the U.S. State Department said this week he does not foresee any change in U.S. policy toward Cuba until a leader there commits to change.

Calderón sends troops into his home state to curb trafficking in drugs
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Mexican government said it will broaden its crackdown on drug gangs, after sending thousands of troops to troubled Michoacan state earlier this week.

Attorney-General Eduardo Medina Mora announced Thursday that the same tactics will be taken in other states.  He did not identify which ones.

Government officials said at least one suspected drug trafficker was killed in Michoacan Wednesday after a gunbattle with soldiers.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón ordered the crackdown on the drug trade in Michoacan, his home state, saying his new strategy will return tranquility to the people there. Michoacan with its capital Morelia is on the Pacific coast north of Acapulco. Historicaly it has been a center of the fishing industry

Drug traffickers cultivate marijuana and opium in Michoacan and also use the area to smuggle illegal drugs from South America into the United States.  The trade is estimated to generate some $10 billion a year. At least 2,000 people have been killed across Mexico in recent drug cartel wars.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 18, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 250

Saprissa leads most of the way and keeps the crowd calm
By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Cost Rica staff

The famed fans of Deportivo Saprissa were out in full force at their home stadium on Sunday, a venue that an international soccer association has crowned as one of the most intimidating in the Americas. 

The team not only has 23 Costa Rican titles and three hemispheric cups, but also the largest and most aggressive following in the country.

Sunday Saprissa defeated Puntarenas, 2–0.  With the win the team advanced to the Torneo de Apertura finals where it will meet archrival Liga Deportiva Alajuelense.

Only a few skirmishes broke out during the game, mostly between Saprissa fans and security.  The crowd seemed to be in more of a celebratory mood than a violent one, perhaps thanks to the victory. 

Or maybe because Saprissa pulled ahead early with a goal on a free kick in the first five minutes of play.

But the advantage didn't stop the loyal following from chanting Saprissa songs, banging away on giant drums, climbing atop security fences, and taunting those sporting Puntarenas jerseys the entire match. 

Brujas F.C. fans from Escazú were not so lucky in their last departure from the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium.  After Brujas defeated Saprissa 2–0 Nov. 11, gangs of young men attacked, stoned and inflicted heavy damage on a bus carrying Bruja fans following the game.

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
Fans have fun leaping atop the fence that separates spectators from the playing field.

Current owner Jorge Vergara has boosted national pride for the team by instituting a policy of only employing native-born or naturalized Costa Rican players.  While the excitable fans may be an intimidating factor for those  wanting to attend a match, the stadium has sections of relative calm as well.  The rowdiest fans are easily located in the southern part of the stadium, lighting off fireworks and shaking the stands by jumping in unison to Saprissa anthems.

The next match, the one with Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, is this Wednesday in Saprissa stadium.  A sell out crowd is expected to be in attendance. 

Central Pacific surfer wins two categories in tournament at Tamarindo
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jairo Pérez, the young surfer from the Cantón de Garabito, won both the boys and junior categories at Playa Tamarindo last weekend.

This was the second time this year that Pérez took the top spot in the boys category, those under 16 years. Then he competed in and won the junior category, which is for
surfers younger than 18 years.

The Tamarindo surf tournament attracted 135 participants who showed their abilities in waves generally about two meters or 6.5 feet high.

Natalie Bernold, 13, of Villarreal de Santa Cruz won the women's junior category. She finished second to Lisbeth Vindas in the women's category.

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