Weird, Wonderful News Made Headlines in ’07
Children No Longer Allowed to Wed
The Legislative Assembly passed a law in January prohibiting Costa Ricans younger than 15 years old from marrying.
Lawmakers reasoned that people under 15 who marry are often subject to violence or even slavery, and very young women often face high-risk pregnancies.
Costa Ricans Won Big At Special Olympics
Some 60 Costa Rican athletes with disabilities won a total of 67 medals in various spots at the Special Olympics in Shanghai, China in October.
The national media went wild over their success, and President Oscar Arias hosted a celebration for them upon their return.
Party Tried to Clean up Image
After a dismal showing in legislative and municipal elections in 2006, the once-powerful Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) sought to change its image in 2007 by changing its name to USC.
Party leader Luis Fishman said that PUSC sounded too much like the “pus” that oozes from an infected wound.
The name change didn’t stick, however.
Calderón Eyed Presidency Despite Corruption Trial
Former President Rafael Angel Calderón, Jr. (1990-1994) wants to run for President again, despite his pending corruption trial.
Calderón and seven others are expected to go to trial on corruption charges in early 2008. They’ll be tried for allegedly taking as much as $9.2 million in connection with a $32 million loan for purchasing medical equipment for Costa Rica’s national public health-care system.
Calderón announced early in 2007 that he is considering running for president again in 2010, an option made possible by twice-President Oscar Arias’ famous Supreme Court victory that allowed Costa Rican Presidents to run for a second term.
Reaching Out Program Garnered Recognition
The Tico Times’ Reaching Out program, an effort to put the newspaper into the hands of Costa Rican high school students learning English, was named a finalist for the Inter-American Press Association’s Newspaper in Education Award in July.
Germans Fined $50 For Insect Smuggling
Contraband insects got a group of German university students and their professor into some trouble in June.
The students tried to leave the country with hundreds of insect specimens hidden in their luggage.
The group was detained at Juan Santamaría International Airport, west of San José. Officials fined each of the five detainees $50, seized the dead insects and let the culprits fly out of the country.
President’s Achilles Heel Brought Him Down
Just as the referendum campaign was heating up in August, President Oscar Arias had to sit down.
An inflamed Achilles tendon sent the country’s top executive to bed in September, causing him to cancel more than a week’s worth of presidential activities, including a trip to Panama.
The following month, the tendon was still tender: During a visit to China, Arias declined to climb the Great Wall of China.
CAFTA Controversy: Be Still My Heart
Forget the details of Annex 3.3, item 3001910: The argument over the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) was largely symbolic.
At least it turned in that direction when the heart symbol invented by anti-CAFTA activists was stolen by the pro-CAFTA forces and used in their own publicity campaign.
Julia Ardón, one of the designers of the heart, said anti-CAFTA activists never copyrighted the flag-colored heart symbol because they didn’t think it was worth the cost.
Lincoln Students Settled into New School
The Lincoln School got new digs this year – and celebrated in style in late April.
The private, bilingual school, founded in 1945, packed up and moved from Moravia, the eastern suburb where Lincoln’s preschool and K-12 classed have been offered since 1953, to Barrio El Socorro in Heredia, north of San José.
On the new 7-hectare campus, up from 3.2 hectares in Moravia, the school’s 1,200 students have more room to learn and play, say school officials.
President Oscar Arias, members of the diplomatic corps and other dignitaries attended an inaugural event April 18.
Biofuel-Powered Rally Arrived in San José
Five cars powered with biofuel rallied from the United States all the way to Costa Rica in March in a 4,500-mile southbound journey in the name of alternative energy.
Participants in the Greaseball Challenge collected oil from restaurants and biodiesel producers along the way.
The rally came as the Arias administration put together a policy to promote biofuel production and use in Costa Rica.
Ticas Benefited from Grameen Bank Loans
Women in the Caribbean Limón province this year used micro-credits from the Bangladesh-based Grameen Bank to start small businesses such as pulperías.
The $200 loans came from the Grameen Association of Costa Rica through a partnership between the Grameen Trust and Whole Foods Market, a leading U.S. organic foods supermarket that buys bananas from the region.
Survey: Tico Teens Don’t Understand AIDS
A study carried out in July by the Social Security System (Caja) and children’s defense organizations found that only 35% of Tico teens understood that unprotected sex or the use of contaminated needles transmits the AIDS-causing HIV virus.
Painting Lifted from National Museum
A painting by a German artist was nipped from the National Museum in July, and the guard waited five days to report it missing.
His superiors then sent him to the police to file the report himself. His report didn’t include the name of the artist – Emilio Span – or the painting – “Casa de Campo.”
The artwork, worth an estimated $8,000, had not been recovered at year’s end.
Scorpion Boards Flight to Toronto
A Canadian man returned home with warm memories of his stay in Costa Rica and a scorpion.
The venomous insect apparently accompanied him onto the plane in his carry-on luggage, crawled out en-route, climbed up his leg and stung him on the back of the knee, according to press reports.
The Costa Rican government did not refund his exit tax.
Christian Unity Hiker Mugged in San José
Australian crusader Samuel Clear was on a mission to walk across the globe in the name of Christian unity when he arrived in San José in May and was mugged.
Clear and 12 of his supporters were robbed in broad daylight by a group of four armed with long-blade knives in western San José. Clear and the others were relieved of their luggage, wallets, cell phones and Clear’s passport.
Rocket Lab Took Off, Signed Int’l Agreements
Costa Rica’s homegrown rocket lab Ad Astra, launched by U.S.-Costa Rican astronaut Franklin Chang, celebrated its first year in May by successfully test-running a plasma engine.
In August, the British company Excalibur Exploration signed an agreement to use the plasma rocket to transport its lab materials into space sometime in the future.
And in December, the lab signed a joint work agreement with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
President Feuds With Cuban Press
President Oscar Arias has received his fair share of “zingers” from the Costa Rican press, but perhaps none so virulent as those launched from Cuba in 2007.
Some believe he deserved it. Early in the year, Arias compared Cuban President Fidel Castro to recently deceased Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
The Cuban government quickly returned fire with a barrage of insults in the official newspaper Granma, calling Arias “a servile parrot of Yankee imperialism,” a “vulgar mercenary,” an “egomaniac” and a “vain, mediocre person sick with prominence.”
Ailing Tica Teen Offered New Hope
Costa Rican teen Paulette Barrantes struggled since 2005 with a debilitating illness – staphylococcal purpura fulminans, a rare bacterial infection similar to toxic shock syndrome – before her luck changed this year.
On Jan. 4, she departed on a private jet for medical treatment in the United States – thanks to private sponsors who had read about her plight in the local media (including The Tico Times).
Barrantes was forced to sacrifice her feet – they were amputated in February as part of the surgery intended to stop the spread of the disease.
The good news is she began walking again in September, thanks to prosthetic feet, and was recovering well at year’s end.
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