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Costa Rican Mothers Honored on Special Day

With flowers, kisses and fanfare resembling that of Christmas, Costa Ricans gave their mothers extra doses of love Wednesday, even though it was work and school as usual for most families.

Because of a law that moves holidays that fall mid-week to the following Monday, Mother’s Day holiday will officially be observed Aug. 20 this year .

Two prisoners at the Buen Pastor Women’s Prison, south of San José, had what was likely the best Mother’s Day of their lives when President Oscar Arias pardoned them. Aida Jiménez, sentenced to jail until 2010, was allowed to go home because of serious health problems, while Elizabeth Calderón, sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing her husband, was released after it was determined that she acted out of self defense against his perpetual abuse.

Their fellow prisoners, done up in makeup and high heels for the President’s visit, listened to his speech, as well as discourses by First Vice-President and Justice Minister Laura Chinchilla and Housing Minister Fernando Zumbado, and watched a traditional dance performance by a group of their fellow inmates twirling long colorful skirts.

Since children under age 3 are allowed to stay at the prison with their sentenced mothers, several little ones sat on laps or scampered around during the speeches.

Arias announced that the children of prisoners will be eligible for the Avancemos program, though which families receive money each month to keep their kids in school, and promised to look into setting up a small computer center at the prison for the women to learn how to use them and hopefully apply this knowledge in future jobs.

Ruth Morán, 34, was among those who sat holding a blanket-wrapped baby, her son José Luis, just 22 days old.

“It’s difficult,” having him with her at prison, she said. “These aren’t the right conditions for a child.”

Across town at the Public Security Ministry, a ceremony honored the approximately 170 women who serve as police officers. Three new agreements have been signed to help their families, Arias announced. Children of National Police officers will have access to government day-care centers and will be eligible for the Avancemos program. Also, an agreement with Banco Popular will allow police access to special financing for their families’ needs.

Legislators recently passed a law changing the official Mother’s Day celebration back to the traditional Aug. 15, but not in time for this year’s celebration.

Government offices and embassies will be closed Monday, as will many businesses.

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