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(506) 223-1327      Published Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 256          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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The bulls are getting Internet television time
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

People all over the world can watch the strange custom of bull fights a la Tico, thanks to a streaming video set up by the nation's communications monopoly.

Tope fills the streets HERE!

Grupo ICE is broadcasting Sinart Canal 13 on the Internet. But not only are the bullfights being presented but also the entire Channel 13 feed. That included the Tope horse parade Monday. Today the Christmas carnival will be broadcast starting at 5 p.m., as well as related Christmas and New Year's programming.

The hookup was not announced by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad or by the Comisión de Festejos Populares de San José. The two parades are part of a larger celebration that includes the commission's Christmas festival in Zapote in eastern San José.

The streaming video actually comes via a Grupo ICE Web page that can be reached HERE or via the commission Web site linked above.

The bull fights are from 9 p.m. to midnight Costa Rican time through Jan. 1 and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight Jan. 7 and 8.

The transmission uses a Windows Media
player, which is available for any number of computer platforms.

The festival commission originally wanted both the horse riders in the Tope and the participants in the carnival to march all the way to Zapote using one of the main four-lane highways in the southern part of the city. But the Policía de Tránsito vetoed that idea because of the traffic congestion the project would entail.

The Costa Rican bullfights are not very much like the traditional Spanish variety. In fact they border more on comedy than the realism chronicled by Ernest Hemingway in his famous 1932 work "Death in the Afternoon."

Basically a hundred or so  toreros improvisados enter the bull ring and await the release of a fighting bull. The bull sometimes catches one of these informal toreros and sometimes does serious damage.  The Zapote bull ring has a built-in emergency clinic. So far this year only six persons have required first aid, the Cruz Roja said.

However rain at a similar event in Guápiles Monday resulted in slippery grass and several would-be bull fighters slipped, fell and felt the horns of bulls. But most of the time the confused bull turns his attention from one running figure to another and fails to connect with any of the crowd. More than 200 bulls will be used this year to delight the local crowd and the television audience.

Corcovado reported open, but no word on animal deaths
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hotel operators in the vicinity of Parque Nacional Corcovado on the Osa Peninsula in southwest Costa Rica report that the facility has reopened.

However, the nature of the ailment that resulted in the deaths of many birds and mammals there still is unknown.

Officials associated with the research, ministry
workers and even ministers have fled for Christmas holiday without reporting the outcome of medical tests done in the United States and elsewhere.

Public offices in Costa Rica are closed until Jan. 2, and telephone calls to the offices have come unanswered. This includes the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, the environmental ministry, and the Ministerio de Salud, the health ministry. Even the park office has not responded to repeated calls. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 256

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If its near New Year's,
it's marchamo time again

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The time to pay the obligatory road tax and insurance without penalty is coming to an end. Although the last day is Dec. 31, few locations will be open that day, a Saturday.

However, the various supermarkets and their Servimas collection centers can accept payments and hand out window stickers.

Banks also accept payments, and at least one, Promerica, has run raffles to encourage payments at their offices.

Motorists can check how much they owe at the Web site of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros.

The insurance part of the marchamo payment covers both occupants in the vehicle and pedestrians. It is required by law.

To pay the marchamo and obligatory insurance this year, motorists need to show their vehicle has passed the obligatory safety inspection or revisión tecnica.

Some 28 percent of the marchamo payment goes to insurance. Some 61.5 is road tax. The rest is for a series of other smaller payments.

The obligatory insurance covers each person up to 1.3 million colons, which is about $2,620. This is supposed to cover hospitalization, surgery, rehabilitation and even death. Although the amount seems small, many Costa Ricans are covered by the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social for their health needs. The amount of coverage is double for children under 13 and the elderly who do not have Caja coverage.

Most expats carry additional insurance for possible accidents. This is sold separately by the Institute.

Holiday vacations can
be great time for crooks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

That "Ho, Ho, Ho" you hear might be uttered by the local burglar.

Christmas vacation is one of the two times a year that the burglars take advantage of vacant homes. Semana Santa, Easter week, is the other time. Costa Ricans and many expats go to the beach during those periods when most businesses and schools are on vacation.

There is a special incentive for thieves after Christmas  Their principal source of loot, the careless shopper or the drunk with pockets bulging with alguinaldo payments, are gone with the holiday season. So the only alternatives are household goods and whatever valuables they can find.

Each year police report a spike in burglaries after the holidays when vacationers return home to a looted dwelling. Costa Rican homes are no match for a determined thief. Many times entry is made through the plastic sheets of roofing or the bad guys just take a car jack to whatever bars block their route.

One of the best preventive measures, police said, is marking placed on goods by homeowners. Each month officers bemoan the difficulty of finding the true owner of goods seized in the raid of a burglary suspect's home. Crooks tend to avoid goods that have an obvious mark. Costa Ricans use their cédula number or phone number to mark items.

Relying on a guard, police note, can be a double-edged sword. A guard in contact with thieves can keep track of a homeowner's travels.

Wealthy Costa Ricans always have one or more persons living at their homes, be the individual a trusted employee or a relative.

For expats, one of the several alarm services might be appropriate, although the systems can be a pain.  Some expats, particularly those who have constructed their own homes, have safe rooms or areas that can be sealed completely when they leave. Computers and other valuables are put in the safe rooms, which usually are concrete with steel doors and no windows. A criminal would need cutting torches and plenty of time to penetrate these rooms.

Cold front brings a chill,
but it is mostly welcomed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rain Sunday and Monday was generated by a weak cold front that moved south along the Caribbean coast. Rain of various intensities were generated, and some areas experienced heavy downpours, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

In San José the overnight temperature got down to 17 Celsius (about 63 Fahrenheit). That was chilly enough for spectators at the Zapote bull fights to wear heavy jackets and for a television announcer to wrap his neck with a wool scarf.  Daytime temperatures got as high as 24 degrees (75  Fahrenheit) and a real break for horses in the Tope Nacional who frequently have to endure blistering afternoons.  The Pacific beaches saw highs in the 30s (86-90  Fahrenheit), although they, too, might get a little rain today.

N.Y. body parts snatchers
are under investigation

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Authorities here are investigating whether area funeral homes have illegally plundered corpses, including the body of veteran British broadcaster and author Alistair Cooke.

Officials confirm media reports that they have been conducting a year-long investigation into the removal of body parts without the prior consent of the deceased or their relatives. One firm under suspicion is Biomedical Tissue Services, a broker that sells body parts to firms that process them for transplants, therapy and research.

The family of Cooke, who was 95 when he died two years ago, says it never agreed to donate his bones for such use. His relatives have expressed horror that his body could have been so violated.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 256

Fuerza Pública horse patrol leads off the line of march

Every horse has its day, and it was this Monday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was a big traffic jam on Paseo Colón Monday but hardly a motor vehicle was in motion.

The crush came from thousands of horses and riders who made the trek from La Sabana, through the downtown to Plaza Víquez.

The parade of horse and riders, jinetes in Spanish, stepped off at 1:30 p.m. Riders still were moving slowly up Avenida 2 when a gentle rain began about 4:30 p.m.

Official estimates said that more than 3,000 horses were involved, as well as floats, carriages and other traditional vehicles.

Today is the day for the traditional Christmas carnival, although the actual starting time in in doubt.  The Comisión de Festejos Populares has said the carnival will step off at 4 p.m., but its Web site says 5 p.m., and television stations will begin to broadcast the event at 6 p.m.

In any event, the late afternoon or evening starting time will be a first for the carnival.

Unlike the Tope, which formed up near La Sabana, carnival participants will assemble around Parque La Merced at the western end of Avenida 2. This is a good place for visitors to see and talk with the participants as well as take photos.

This year, a great number of bleachers have been put up along  Avenida 2.

A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
This is just the start of this year's Tope along Paseo Colón

The downside is that the commission is charging 2,000 colons (about $4 for each seat. In the past most viewers were on the sidewalks.

Just like Monday, the Instituto Meterológico Nacional predicts cloudy skies with a chance of rain. That should be a benefit for carnival marchers, although many of the women are not hampered by much clothing.  Some of the headdresses are heavy, however.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 256

Mexicans hope that U.S. Senate undermines the wall
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MÉXICO CITY, México — Foreign Minister Luis Derbez is visiting Washington to raise objections to a proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure would need U.S. Senate approval to take effect and, even though that is unlikely, many Mexicans fear a coming crackdown on undocumented workers in the United States.

For the past week newspaper headlines in México have described the proposed wall as an atrocity, a xenophobic and racist measure and worse. President Vicente Fox and other members of his government have condemned the proposal in strong terms.

But some political analysts have taken a calmer approach, noting that the wall idea is likely to be dropped when the U.S. Senate meets early next year to consider a more general immigration reform package that would include the guest worker program proposed by President George Bush.

In an interview, former foreign secretary and finance minister, José Ángel Gurria, says he believes U.S. lawmakers will recognize the need for immigrant labor and try to develop a proposal that meets that need as well as the need for border security.

"In fact President Bush's initiative had some elements of putting some order in the process and then the lower house really went to a very hostile version, which I very strongly hope and actually believe is not going to pass and is going to be modified by the Senate and produce something more reasonable and more balanced that takes into account the realities. Walls are not the solution, walls are not the answer. It is not going to work," he said.

Gurria, who next June takes over as secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, says México must shoulder much of the blame for the friction with the United States.
"We in México, obviously, should do a better job of providing jobs within Mexico so that we do not have this escape valve, if you will, that is migration," he said.

Political consultant Pedro Javier González says México would need to create at least one million jobs a year to keep up with its growing population, but that political leaders have failed to make that happen.

"The economy has not been able to grow at the rate it could grow and it needs to grow. The problem with the Mexican economy is that we are losing a lot of competitive capacity, competitive ability. México has not been able to respond in an adequate way to its political challenges in terms of making the reforms the Mexican economy needs badly," he said.

González says México would have benefited from fiscal, labor and energy reform proposals presented to congress by President Fox five years ago. Opposition parties blocked the proposals and, with a new presidential election coming in July, there is no hope of reviving them now.

Still, González says, the tough approach to immigration passed by the U.S. House of Representatives will not solve the problem and could, in fact, make it worse.

"The United States, as a sovereign state, has the right to legislate about immigration, but the very idea of building a wall is an expression of xenophobia in the American society, which in the long run will be useless in terms of stopping illegal immigration into the United States," he said.

González argues that as long as there are jobs for them in the United States, Mexican migrants will find a way around, over or even under any wall that is built.

He expressed the hope that political leaders in Washington will find a better approach.

Bolivia's Morales irked at loss of hand-held missiles
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States denied Thursday that it removed anti-aircraft missiles from Bolivia without the knowledge of top officials in La Paz. The State Department says the operation was at the request of Bolivian authorities and in line with an Organization of American States resolution.

Officials here acknowledge that the United States removed a small number of MANPADS, man-portable air defense system, from Bolivia earlier this year as part of a broader effort to keep the shoulder launch missiles out of the hands of terrorists.

But they are denying charges from Bolivia, which figured in that country's presidential election campaign, that the operation was conducted without the knowledge of senior Bolivian officials.

Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales, the victor in last Sunday's election, has alleged that the 28 Chinese-made missiles were spirited out of the country in June in an operation he described as international intervention.

He says he will press for an investigation of the affair and is quoted as saying he would punish those responsible and evict U.S. military advisers.

Questioned about the issue in Washington, D.C., State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said U.S. officials had worked with the Bolivian government on the removal of a small quantity of missiles he said were in a deteriorating condition.

He said the removal came at the request of the Bolivian government consistent with an O.A.S. resolution last June and said suggestions to the contrary are untrue:

"As for who was told in Bolivia about the action, you'll have to talk to the Bolivian government about that. As for these other allegations, it's just not true. This was done at the request of the Bolivian
government, and it was done in partnership and consistent I would note with an Organization of American States resolution on the matter," he said.

The O.A.S. resolution, approved at the regional grouping's meeting in Ft. Lauderdale Florida in June, called for strict security for MANPADS, and the destruction of surplus weapons.

It urged member countries in a position to do so to provide aid and technical assistance to other states in collecting, securing and destroying stockpiles.

The United States has worked with a number of countries around the world to reduce MANPADS arsenals, especially in nations where the missiles are kept under poor security and could find their way onto the black market and into the hands of terrorists.

U.S. officials have been seeking to persuade Nicaragua to dispose of hundreds of Russian-made MANPADs acquired in the 1980's by the leftwing Sandinista government.

That effort, too, has become ensnared by domestic politics with the leftist-dominated Nicaraguan Congress opposing the disposal effort.

During his campaign for the Bolivian presidency, Morales filed a lawsuit against government officials for allegedly putting the country's national defense at risk by disposing of the missiles.

The missile issue is another potential problem in the U.S. relationship with Morales, who has sparked concern in Washington with campaign promises to legalize coca production in Bolivia and oppose hemispheric free trade.

The Bush administration last week congratulated Morales on his election win, but said the quality of the relationship will depend on the kind of policies his administration pursues and whether it respects democratic institutions.

Jo Stuart
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