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(506) 223-1327            Published Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 6             E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
City of Puntarenas from the air shows how closely associated the town is to the Gulf of Nicoya
$15 tax on air arrivals would catch condo owners
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A proposal for a $15 head tax on airport arrivals also will include elimination of the current 3 percent tourism tax on hotel stays, according to the minister of Turismo.

The Arias administration will draft a proposed law to do just that and submit it to the Asamblea Legislativa, he said. The minister is Carlos Benavides, and he is anxious to collect money from both foreigners and Costa Ricans who come to the nation's international airports.

Benavides made his comments to reporters Monday, although the idea of such a tax had been mentioned previously.

Ostensibly, the tax is designed to pay for promotion of Costa Rica to the outside world, but until a draft is prepared there is no way of knowing how strictly the funds would be allocated.

Benavides has complained in the past of hotels that fail to remit the 3 percent tax and evade payments. He has not given any particulars, and some hotel owners question his statements.

Monday he also singled out those foreigners who rent or own condominiums as avoiding the hotel tax. The $15 head tax would be applied as individuals enter the country, so even those coming here to stay in private homes, rented condos, or other non-hotel accommodations would pay, according to the minister's plan.

Tourism officials also have said that families who visit Costa Rica are not paying enough money in hotel taxes because they frequently just stay in one or two rooms. A family of four would pay $60 to enter the country under the plan. Now they would have to spend about $2,000 at hotels to generate $60 in tax at 3 percent.
Costa Ricans and foreigners already pay a tax to leave the country, and the idea of the new arrival tax probably will not be applauded universally.

Costa Rica seems to be experiencing a decline in the number of tourists, even though firm figures for the last half of 2006 are not yet available. Benavides has predicted a 4 percent decline over 2005.

The promotional efforts of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo have not been consistent. Last year the government lavished $4.5 million in promotions efforts during the World Cup Games in Germany. During the Christmas holidays the tourism institute ran two full pages several times in the daily La Nación. This was a period when Costa Ricans either already were on vacation or already had made plans.

Benavides also said that the tourism institute was talking to public relations firms in the United States and also negotiating with major airlines.

The tourism minister signed an agreement Monday that establishes a financial package supervised by Banco Nacional de Costa Rica. Income from the new private operator of the Caldera docks would be used to leverage bonds. The proceeds from the bonds would be used for public works that might also be considered of value to tourists.

For example, one project is to improve the breakwater and the levee at the tip of Puntarenas in the vicinity of the ferry terminal and the park there. Also mentioned would be a lookout on the Costanera Sur between Jacó and Playa Hermosa where motorists could stop to admire the view.  Also proposed was a plan to repair the docks where cruise ships tie up in Puntarenas.

The tourism institute will manage the projects along with the Instituto Costarricense de Puertos del Pacifico.

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Costa Rica
Second newspage

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 6

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Internet porno site uses
name of Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just when officials thought they had put a lid on sex tourism, Costa Rica is getting more exposure on the Internet as a place for sexual olympics.

CostaRicaFilms.com sounds like a Web site for the culture ministry or perhaps a production company. But it is a porno site featuring Costa Rican women.

The Web site also identifies itself as somehow being related to "Hotel Costa Rica." That name is ficticious, but the only similar real name is the historic Gran Hotel Costa Rica, which  has just spent several years improving its image and trying to make clear to visitors that it is a family hotel.

The porno firm, identified in Internet records as Demagogue Releasing, LLC., seems to be located at 13899 Biscayne Blvd. Miami Beach, Florida, and that address turns up repeatedly on Internet domain records associated with pornographic sites.

The sites are not specifically encouraging Costa Rican sex tourism. The Web pages are there for porn fans to purchase DVDs of young women and some men at "a place where everything is allowed." according to one description of a DVD.

A Costa Rican lawyer says that the DVDs may not comply with U.S. law, which says that producers must keep records of the ages of those who appear in the productions. They must be 18 or over. The records supposedly are in Costa Rica.

The DVD is believed to have been shot in Escazú.

Yale MBA students visit
for international experience

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

First-year master of business administration students from the Yale University's School of Management are studying in Costa Rica during the first two weeks of 2007.  

The students are here because of a new international experience component in their curriculum.  The New Haven, Connecticut, school announced that manditory component was added as part of the September 2006 curriculum change, a decision that was premised on the belief that today’s managerial careers cross political borders.

Costa Rica is one of eight destinations. Other groups of students will travel to either Argentina, China, India, Japan, Singapore, or in combined trips to England and Poland or South Africa and Tanzania.  The school said that students are expected to engage in intensive study, meet with business, government, and nonprofit leaders, complete a trip project, and take part in cultural activities.

David Fuentes Montero, who served as Costa Rica’s minister of Hacienda until May 2006, helped arrange the trip's meetings and is accompanying the group, Yale said. While in Costa Rica, the students are learning about doing business here and also studying the country’s focus on its natural resources and the environment.

Chocolate festival set
for Saturday in San José

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a chocolate celebration taking place at the Centro Nacional de Arte y Cultura Saturday, and events featuring music, movies, and many of the ways to eat one of the worlds favorite treats are to take place between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Chocola-ticos de bienvenida 2007 is to begin with music and videos about chocolate, accompanied by a big chocolate fondue with fruit and hot chocolate for a beverage.

At 7 p.m. there will be a showing of the French film “Merci pour le chocolat,” that came out in the year 2000 and was directed by Claude Chabrol.

The event was organized by Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo and more information is available on its Web site at www.madc.ac.cr

Air traveler brings along
a little Tico companion

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rica scorpion stung a man during a Miami, Florida, to Toronto, Canada, flight, and American Airlines officials delayed a return trip until the craft could be checked for more critters, said the Toronto Star.

The man who was stung on the back of his knee was treated at the Toronto airport, but the case was not being considered serious. The man was returning from Costa Rica and suggested that the scorpion had crawled into his backpack while he was in Costa Rica, said The Star.

Costa Rican scorpions are not lethal to humans unless there is an alergic reaction.

Water, power outages
planned in the west

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of Escazú, Santa Ana, parts of Desamparados and Alajuelita will be without water Wednesday from 8 a.m.to 6 p.m. because the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz will be doing electrical work that will darken the water pumping station operated by the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados.

Some sections of Escazú and Santa Ana also will be without power due to the work.
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Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 6       

Developer plans 110-unit villa and condo project for Nosara
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nosara is getting a 110-unit gated community that will include villas and condominiums, according to the developer, Viva Nosara, S.A., a company of the Kubera Venture Capital Group, LLC of Hoboken, New Jersey.

The 27-acre development is being called Jade Azul. Approximately 50 percent of the property will be reserved as green space with walking and hiking trails through tropical wildlife and environment, said the company in a release.

Pre-construction pricing for jungle- and mountain-view villas ranges from $180,000 to $225,000 for one-story villas and $195,000 to $240,000 for two-story villas, depending on the lot size. Condominium pre-sales are
expected to begin in early 2007, pricing beginning around $200,000 and their construction to be completed in early to mid-2008.

Construction on The Villas at Jade Azul is under way, with foundations for the first phase already laid, walls and roofs built for most of the units, and interior finishing work beginning, said the company, adding that delivery of the first 10 units is slated for fall. Some 15 more villas are being released for pre-sale, said the firm. Condo construction is expected to begin soon.

Nosara on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula is considered one of Costa Rica's crown jewels of tourism. The expat developments are to the south of the town and some 42 kms. (26 miles) from the paved highway. The area also has a local airport and daily passenger service.

Florida couple opens a tiny retreat near Arenal volcano
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new hillside cabin retreat that overlooks the Arenal volcano opened for business at the start of the new year. 

Steve and Debbie Legg began building the Leaves and Lizards retreat last February.  The retreat is now complete with three private cabins on a 26-acre property in the small town of Alto Monterrey.  The town is located about four miles from Arenal, and the secluded property provides an excellent northern view of the volcano, said Mrs. Legg. 

Leaves and Lizards has a number of tours that are available from the resort, including canopy zip line, fishing Lake Arenal, a nightime horseback ride, rafting, rappelling, and volcano viewing. 

There are packages available that include meals, lodging and tours, and the company is open to customizing guest packages such as honeymoons or business trips, said Mrs. Legg. The couple has been trying to promote local entrepreneurship by contracting some of the resort's work to residents of their community. 

The cabin was built with local labor and materials. The cooking, landscaping, floral arrangements, sewing and cleaning services are provided by local workers.

Steve and Debbie Legg

Before moving to Costa Rica, the couple were living in Sarasota, Florida, where Mrs. Legg worked as a nurse and her husband, who previously served in the Air Force for 12 years, was working as a mechanic for a grocery store chain.  Besides working at their retreat, the couple enjoy spending time with family and friends and take an interest in environment conservation.

Hilton Hotel logo will identify two properties in Guanacaste
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Beginning in December, Hilton Hotels Corp. will manage a 202-room property in Guanacaste and a 410-room property Puntarenas as the first Hilton and Doubletree-branded resorts in the country, the company said. Both resorts are to undergo extensive renovations to all areas including guestrooms, leisure facilities, lobby, meeting rooms, and restaurants, said a Hilton Corp. news release.

The management agreement is with Caribbean Real Estate Opportunity Fund 2005.

The Premier Fiesta Resort and Spa in Papagayo will be renamed Hilton Papagayo Resort. The resort has 202 rooms, including 71 private bungalows. The hotel, located on a private beach on the Bay of Papagayo in Guanacaste,
features two outdoor swimming pools, non-motorized
 water sports, spa, fitness center, tennis courts, kids club, three restaurants, two bars, a casino, and other  entertainment.

The second location is the Fiesta Resort in Puntarenas. The 410-room resort is on the Puntarenas peninsula.

The Caribbean Real Estate Opportunity Fund 2005, L.P., is a $500 million equity fund managed by Caribbean Property Group and co-sponsored by Goldman Sachs. Caribbean Property Group is the managing partner of the Fund and Enjoy Group is a minority partner in the venture.  The Enjoy Group is a hotel development and management company that currently owns three properties in Costa Rica, two in partnership with the fund.  Ruben Pacheco, Costa Rica's former minister of Turismo, founded Enjoy Group Hotels & Resorts and runs it together with his two sons, Ruben Alberto and Javier.

Legislature finally able to appoint a new magistrate to criminal appeals court
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Carlos Chinchilla Sandí finally got the 38 votes he needed Monday to become the newest magistrate on the Sala III of the Corte Suprema de Justicia. The court has the final say on criminal matters and Chinchilla is an expert in criminology.

Chinchilla, 43, had been a leading candidate since the Asamblea Legislativa began discussing the vacancy in October. He had the backing of the ruling coalition of the Partido Liberación Nacional, Unidad Social Cristiana and Movimiento Libertario.
But the coalition just could not get 38 votes, the two-thirds needed for appointment.

The big obstacle was Francisco Dall'Anesse, the nation's chief prosecutor, who also was a candidate. His candidacy was supported by the Partido Acción Ciudadana.

Dall'Anesse withdrew Monday afternoon, and the coalition was able to round up an independent legislator who made the vote 38. Dall'Anesse had been criticized for seeking the post while there still were some many major criminal cases pending, including those of the two ex-presidents he had put in jail for a time.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 6 

Bush chats with Ortega and expresses hope for relationship
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S, President George Bush spoke with Daniel Ortega, the president-elect of Nicaragua, Monday and said that the United States has a continued interest in a relationship with that country.

The gist of the conversation was relayed to reporters by Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, during his afternoon briefing. The Bush call also was to congratulate Ortega on his election victory and to express America's strong commitment to the well being of the Nicaraguan people, said Snow.

Bush also noted such areas of concern as the Central American Free Trade Treaty and the Millennium Challenge Account, said Snow, adding that the U.S. president also noted that reconciliation, unity, democracy and job creation — the centerpieces of president-elect Ortega's platform — are also possible areas for cooperation.
The Millennium Challenge Account is a fund that rewards developing countries for efforts toward democracy. Nicaragua has ratified the free trade agreement, although what a new legislature dominated by Ortega and his Sandinista party might do still is up in the air.

Ortega, who led Nicaragua during the war with U.S. sponsored Contra rebels takes office Wednesday.

In other news from Washington, the White House press office confirmed that Bush says he will nominate John Negroponte to be deputy secretary of State. He left his job as national intelligence director.

There was some doubt about the appointment late last week.

Negroponte, a career diplomat, was heavily involved in the Contra war when he was U.S. ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s.

Chávez begins to seek expanded control over telecommunications and power
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is asking the national assembly to grant him special powers over the country's electrical and telecommunications industries.

In a televised speech, Chávez said he would nationalize some electricial companies and the country's largest telecommunications company, CANTV.
The leftist leader promised to take a more radical turn toward socialism after he was re-elected by a wide margin.

He will begin a second six-year term as president on Wednesday.

Chávez has said he hopes to merge all the political parties supporting him into one party. He also wants to re-write the constitution.

Volcano on Montserrat throws out big cloud, and evacuation is ordered
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Officials on the Caribbean island of Montserrat have ordered some residents to evacuate their homes because of a threat from the Soufriere Hills volcano.

The volcano shot out a cloud of ash more than eight kilometers (five miles) high on Monday. Lava flows along the ground traveled between 1.5 and five kilometers (a mile and three miles) from the volcano.
Gov. Deborah Barnes Jones said people in the affected area should work urgently on packing and arranging another place to live.

She said police will prosecute those who remain in unsafe areas.

The Soufriere Hills volcano became active in 1995. An eruption in 1997 buried much of the southern part of Montserrat, including the capital of Plymouth.

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