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(506) 2223-1327         Published Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011,  in Vol. 11, No. 8           E-mail us
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Government tightens belt to promote tax proposals
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government announced an austerity plan Tuesday and said it would increase collection of taxes.

Government spending and weak enforcement are two major arguments against the Chinchilla administration plan for a 15 percent value added tax and other increases. The plan for new taxes to be presented next Monday to lawmakers.

Casa Presidencial said that the 2011 budget would be cut across the board by 20 percent and that vacant positions would not be filled. In addition no new positions will be authorized except in education, security and other strategic programs.

The across-the-board cut would not include pensions and interest on the public debt. However, transportation, travel outside the country, unjustified advertising, food, beverages and social expenses would be cut.

The Ministerio de Hacienda also would seek to oversee purchases by the state so the best price would be paid, said Casa Presidencial.

The Ministerio de Hacienda also will increase by 20 percent oversight of existing funds and the collection of money by state agencies such as the aduana, customs. In addition, a 20 percent increase is being authorized in tax audits, investigations, verification of the origin of merchandise and other types of controls.

Hacienda also is supposed to come up with a plan to speed up the resolution of tax debts and to collect them. The Fiscal General is supposed to assemble a prosecutorial team to pursue tax evasion cases.

The government also will seek to stimulate the use of credit cards and debit transactions because such payments leave a clear trail tax police can follow. A decree is expected on this in April.

The aduana or customs agency is supposed to set up a system to establish value on imported items starting with the 40 top import categories.
budgtet tightening
The government outlined the entire plan in spreadsheet form. Among the steps is a review of real estate values. This, too, will be the subject of an April decree.

The government said it expected to save 15.5 billion colons by reducing the budget 20 percent.

That's about $30.6 million.  By not filling vacant positions the government expects to save 8.7 billion colons, about $17.6 million.

The government also plans to swap international debt by giving preference to lower interest borrowing.

The plan also calls for President Laura Chinchilla to veto legislative expenses that do not cite the source of the funds. The government also will go to court in an effort to have certain earmarked expenses declared unconstitutional.

The central government faces a hard sell in the legislature because it is proposing dramatic tax increases in a time of financial struggling. The Hacienda and its tax collecting Tributación Directa has been slow to collect all that the law allows.

For example, foreigners have been able to close out corporate accounts after selling expensive real estate without paying the obligatory 15 percent on distributions.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 8

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Costa Rican team
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto photo
Ambassadors Jorge Urbina and Edgar Ugalde sit with René Castro, the Costa Rican foreign minister, at the Hague court session.

Case presented by Costa Rica
considered to be strong one

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla described the country's showing in the World Court in the Hague as dramatically different than the case put up by Nicaragua. She said Costa Rica presented evidence with maps and fact, but Nicaragua simply tried to argue about the evidence.

It was as if the Nicaraguans were on another planet, she said.

Ms. Chinchilla spoke about the case in San José as the first day of hearings at the court wound down.

Nicaragua's main arguments were that the border area is not clearly defined so Costa Rica cannot say that Nicaraguans are on its territory. And, they said, Costa Rica always makes a big fuss whenever Nicaraguans try to do work in the river. They dismissed the case as arguing about a strip of swamp.

There seems to be more at stake than that. Nicaragua is rushing three more dredges to the site to continue working on creating a new mouth to the Río San Juan. In addition to environmental damage there, some Costa Rican experts are concerned that silt from the new river mouth and the San Juan might damage fisheries and ocean habitat as far south as Panamá.

That possibility is considered far graver than the destruction of trees and wetland on the controversial Isla Calero.

Nicaragua seems determined to finish the river mouth before the world court can take action, which may be a month away at the least.

Costa Rica is seeking a court order stopping work on the river and the new river mouth.

Costa Rica came armed with maps, charts and air photos taken by a United Nations agency. The maps and the written history of the border between the two countries shows clearly that Nicaragua has encroached on Tico soil. That may be why Nicaragua put up such a negative case.

There are at least two more days of presentations before the court.


Does this mean that Ticos
have no clocks in the home?


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This may be a case of unexpected consequences.

The nation's 911 service found itself inundated Tuesday with callers seeking to know the correct time.

That's because the number that until midnight was for time checks was given to the emergency services as part of a number of changes to prepare for other companies in the telephone business.

The 911 service said it got 28,000 unnecessary calls Tuesday.

The new number for the time is 1112, they noted.

The Superintendenica de Telecomunicaciones ordered the change.

The digits 911 also will continue being an emergency number.


Firemen keep mall fire
from doing major damage

 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fire broke out in a sixth-floor storage area in the Mall San Pedro office tower Tuesday morning.

The blaze was confined to a small area, and there was no smoke or water damage to other floors of the structure.

The fire was in the administrative offices of Grupo ARCOR, a call center, said the Cuerpo de Bomberos. The call came in just before 7 a.m.

Firemen said that the eight-floor mall tower has a fire protection system and that they were able to use the mall's hoses and water sources without bringing in their own.

The sixth floor contains 1,000 square meters or about 10,764 square feet. The area of the fire was confined to 17 square meters or a bit more than 180 square feet. There was smoke damage to an additional 120 square meters or about 1,292 square feet, firemen said.

The cause may have been an overloaded electrical device that had a computer, printer and other electronics plugged into it, firemen speculated.


Glacial melt water added
to sea level rise calculations


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new study says that melting mountain glaciers around the world will cause the oceans to rise about 12 centimeters by 2100. That's about 4.7 inches.

The study explains some disparities in the measurement of sea level rise. Part of the increase could not be attributed to any specific reason.

The work was done by Valentina Radic of the University of British Columbia and Regine Hock of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Professor Hock specializes in mountain glaciers and ice caps.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that from 1964 to 1970 there was a 1.7-millimeter rise in the sea levels, about .067 of an inch. About a millimeter was explainable.

The researchers article in Nature Geoscience seeks to add the anticipated melting of glaciers to estimates of the increases in the level of the world's oceans

Coastal residents of Costa Rica could face total sea level increase of between 75 and 190 centimeters by 2100, according to one study by European researchers.  But that study may not have taken glacial melt fully into account.

Converted to the U.S. measurement system, the rise would be between 29.5 and 74.8 inches. That would inundate much of the existing beach properties, at least those held in concessions in maritimes zones and drastically alter the country's geography. The spit that holds Puntarenas centro would vanish under water. The higher levels also would make even more land vulnerable to storm surges of the type that some Pacific coast residents now face because their properties are too close to the sea.

Helsinki University of Technology and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research reported the study jointly in 2009. The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The new report suggests that the increase would be somewhat higher.


 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary









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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 8
Latigo K-9

Immigration will let residents enter with just cédula ID
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The immigration department plans to install electronic readers at another ground border entry post after a successful trial with 2,516 residents who returned to Costa Rica from Nicaragua over the holidays.

The system allows those with valid cédulas of residency to enter the country simply by showing the pocket card and providing a scan of a fingerprint. Immigration officials will determine that the cédula belongs to the person presenting it and that the fingerprint matches the one on file.

The system will expedite the flow of legal residents particularly in the case of the thousands who travel back and forth for the holidays in Nicaragua.

The Dirección General de Migración said that the system would be put in place at Paso Canoas on the Panamá border by the end of the year and that the system would be tested
at international airport arrival posts.

As part of the application process for residency, foreigners have to register their fingerprint with immigration and the digital image is encoded on the cédula.

Those with valid residency cédulas will not have to present their passports, said immigration. The $42,000 project interfaces with the CARDEX system that immigration uses to keep records of foreigners. The Spanish Agencia de Cooperación Internacional de Desarrollo financed the new system with oversight from the International Organization for Migration.

Border crossings at holiday season always have been difficult because of the great number of Nicaraguans using the northern exit to return to families for the holidays. The return a few days later is equally taxing. There are about 600,000 legal Nicaraguans in Costa Rica, according to government figures.


Police search for armed gang in Osa amid other crimes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tactical police squads are trying to find a group of up to 20 individuals who have adopted military dress and are holed up in or around Parque Nacional Corcovado from where they raid local homes.

The police are responding to a series of home invasions in Drake and other population centers on the remote Osa Peninsula. The robbers are said to be heavily armed and perhaps a spinoff from a drug organization. There may be as many as 20 robberies.

That was not the only major police incident Monday and Tuesday.

In Liberia a 20-year-old mother died when her former companion shot her twice in the head. He then took his own life.

Bandits invaded a used car dealership in Barrio Cuba, San José, and abducted a woman employee. The woman is believed to be a hostage held for ransom. She works at Autos Leo.

In Sagrada Familia in south San José, a daytime home invader stole valuables and then abducted a 9-year-old girl. She was released several hours later.

Late Monday a 19-year-old pregnant woman died from gunshots that may have been a criminal act or an accident, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Also Monday night a 23-year-old man died when assailants shot him at least once in the head in his home in 15 de Setiembre, a community in Hatillo. Agents said at least 12 shots were fired from a vehicle outside.

In Guápiles, agents located the body of a missing 26-year-old teacher who vanished Jan. 3. She had been receiving threats and a co-worker has surrendered himself to investigators. The body had been burned.

Also in Hatillo a 17-year-old night school student died when robbers stabbed him in the chest.

Also Monday bandits burst into a home in Sabanilla de Montes de Oca north and east of San José and stabbed a 65-year-old man in an effort to steal his collection of banknotes. He survived.

The situation on the Osa peninsula was prompted by a series of home invasions. But some residents said they saw a group of up to 20 persons, including women, traveling the trails in military dress. The area is dense jungle.

Heavily armed police were making sweeps but there was no report of success by Tuesday night. Drake is on the extreme western edge of the peninsula but not all the home invasions were in that community.

The Judicial Investigating Organization identified the dead woman in Liberia by the last name of Blandón. The man agents believe shot her was identified by the last name of Trejos. The killing and suicide happened about 11 a.m.

The man had been ordered out of the house and the woman had a no-contact order. She lived in the home with their 3-year-old.

Agents said the man arrived and asked the child to go to a nearby store for an errand. A quarrel ensued and neighbors heard shots, agents said.

The Barrio Cuba abduction still is unresolved despite a large display of police. The auto dealership has been the site of holdups in the past.

In Sagrada Familia it was a 14-year-old sister who gave the alarm about her abducted sibling. Police were told a man came to the home and identified himself as a family friend. Then he took the younger girl by force. She was set free in another part of the community.

The 19-year-old pregnant woman was identified by the last name of Sánchez. The Judicial police said that there
victim and injuries
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Públic photo
Victim of Sunday attack displays his stiches

Motorcycle bandits hit
their victims with hammer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers have detained a 16 year old and an adult on an allegation that they stole motorcycles from their owners by hitting the victims on the head with a hammer.

The juvenile's mother turned her son in. He was identified by the last name of González. He lives in Alfaro Ruíz. She blamed drugs for his behavior, police said.

The crime happened Sunday when a motorcycle driver was beaten on the head by men who took his vehicle.

The adult, identified by the last names of Leiva García, was detained in La Tigra de San Carlos. Police said he had just sold a motorcycle.


was a chance she was manipulating a weapon when it
went off, but they were not sure. That happened Monday night in León XIII. Another version told to police was that an unknown individual entered the home and fired on the women.

The case is being handled as a murder.

The 23-year-old man who was gunned down in his home was identified by the last name of Salinas. He died Monday night at a local clinic. He suffered at least two bullets in the head and one in the body. Judicial police said that a man arrived and called to the man so he would step outside his home. That is when others in a vehicle opened up.

The Guápiles case was considered an abduction. The woman, identified by the last name of Rivera, was a teacher seeking an advanced degree. She had left her home to enroll in classes Jan. 3. Agents found the body in some woods after being notified by a neighbor. She had been the object of an extensive search. The principal suspect also is believed to be an employee of the Ministerio de Educación Pública.

The night school student in Hatillo who died of knife wounds was identified by the last name of Calderón. He was 17. The dispute that led to his death is believed to be over tennis shoes. The case is not entirely clear. Police heard that Calderón was confronted by persons who said he had robbed them.

The man attacked in his home in Sabanilla de Montes de Oca was León Zamora Villalta, 65. Two men broke in at 5 a.m. Monday and stole his belongings and his vehicle. They were described as very violent. The vehicle later was found in Purral de Guadalupe. The robbers used knives to attack the man. He went to Hospital Calderón Guardia.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 8

Keith's pot and statue
Brooklyn Museum photo
Examples of the pieces that will be sent back to Costa Rica

Insurance institute will pay to bring prehistoric pieces back

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros has agreed to pay the estimated $59,000 to bring back to Costa Rica an assortment of archaeological pieces that wound up in the Brooklyn Museum.

The museum is cleaning house, and the bulk of the pieces are not museum quality. Nor do they have discovery information and location.

The pieces were sent to the United States by Minor Keith, the man who built the Atlantic railroad and had vast banana holdings on the Caribbean coast. The pieces are presumed to have come from his land.

The first lot from the Brooklyn Museum is some 1,000 pieces, mainly ceramics and some stone carvings. In all, there is a group of 4,000 that the museum in Brooklyn  would like to send back. Many have not been catalogued fully.
Sandra Quirós, director of the Museo nacional, said that Keith shipped some 16,000 pieces to the United States. He was president of the United Fruit Co.

The Brooklyn Museum is returning the pieces voluntarily. The objects left the country long before there were laws against such activity.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros operates the Museum de Jade, which is in the southwest corner of the headquarters in northern San José.

The Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud and the insurance institute plans to build a major museum in San José the west side of the Plaza de la Cultura.

The new musuem would be opposite the new entrance to the Museo Nacional.

The museum would incorporate the extensive collection of the jade museum as well as other pieces.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 8

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Renault espionage scandal
may hurt France-China ties


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

China has denied involvement in industrial spying allegations swirling around French carmaker Renault.  Three Renault executives have been suspended and the affair may damage French-Chinese ties.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said suggestions implicating China in alleged corporate espionage involving France's Renault carmaker were groundless, irresponsible and unacceptable.

French media and some politicians have floated allegations that Renault executives were supplying information on the company's electric cars to China in a scandal that has shaken France.  A Chinese company that allegedly received the information reportedly deposited payments in foreign bank accounts.

The carmaker has suspended three top executives, and there are reports they may be fired. The company says it plans to take legal action. The executives deny any wrongdoing. The auto industry is a key sector in France, employing 10 percent of the workforce.

With China's denial and a French government investigation underway, the scandal now threatens to become a state affair. In an interview on Europe 1 radio Tuesday, French government spokesman Francois Baroin sought to downplay the concerns.

Baroin said France was investigating the Renault issue. He said the government had not officially accused China or any other country of industrial espionage. He said Renault, like other companies, was a victim of an economic war and France wanted to protect its firms.

The allegations come at a time when France like other European countries has been actively courting Chinese trade and investment. Paris and Beijing have had rocky relations over the years, with tensions flaring over human rights issues and Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Computer firms press on
despite fickle comsumers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

More than 80 tablet computers similar to Apple’s iPad have been introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, along with the latest 3D TV sets and other gadgets. The industry trade show generated excitement, but some consumers ask whether they want or need all the new gadgets.

More than 120,000 people came to see the new TV sets with brilliant, vibrant color, including some that offer three-dimensional viewing without special glasses.

They also got to play with the latest high tech toys, including Microsoft‘s motion-controlled gaming device Kinect, and miniature devices like a high definition camera worn on the wrist.

But handheld tablet computers created the most excitement, like one from Samsung - the Galaxy Tab - released two months ago.  One-and-a-half million have already been sold worldwide.

Samsung’s Trevor Lambert says the Galaxy Tab is an entertainment center that fits in your pocket. “The device is extremely portable.  It comes loaded with Samsung’s media hub, which grants you access to thousands of TV shows and movies on the go.  And once you download it, you can share that content with up to five Samsung Galaxy devices," he said.

The computer maker Lenovo introduced its own new tablet, and so did Toshiba and other computer makers. 

Consumers with money to spend can soon buy other gadgets and devices on display in Las Vegas, for example, a furry robot toy with artificial intelligence for just over $6,000, or an Audi automobile with the latest electronic systems and dashboard displays for many thousands more.

The worldwide economy is still sluggish, but industry analysts say that fickle, reluctant consumers can be persuaded to buy some of the new devices.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 8

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Latin American news
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Australian flooding
NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS,
and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer instrument on Terra spacecraft captured this image of extensive flooding in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, Friday.

Blame flooding in Australia
on La Niña Pacific influence

By the National Aeronautics and Space Administration/Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The current La Niña in the Pacific Ocean, one of the strongest in the past 50 years, continues to exert a powerful influence on weather around the world, affecting rainfall and temperatures in varying ways in different locations.

For Australia, La Niña typically means above-average rains, and the current La Niña is no exception. Heavy rains that began in late December led to the continent's worst flooding in nearly a half century, at its peak inundating an area the size of Germany and France combined. The Associated Press reports about 1,200 homes in 40 communities are underwater and about 11,000 others are damaged, resulting in thousands of evacuations and 10 deaths to date.

Friday the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer instrument on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Terra spacecraft captured this image of the inundated city of Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia. With a population of 75,000, Rockhampton is the largest city affected by the current flooding. Torrential rains in northeastern Australia caused the Fitzroy River to overflow its banks and flood much of the city and surrounding agricultural lands. Both the airport and major highways are underwater, isolating the city.

In this natural color rendition above, muddy water is brown, and shallow, clearer water is gray. Vegetation is depicted in various shades of green, and buildings and streets are white. The image is located at 23.3 degrees south latitude, 150.5 degrees east longitude, and covers an area of 22 by 28.1 kilometers (13.6 by 17.4 miles).







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