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(506) 223-1327       Published Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 33          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
About us

A.M. Costa Rica photo

St. Valentine's Day was a big day for flower vendors in the city. At this kiosk on the central boulevard customers were lined up three deep.

Pacheco expects that tax plan will be approved
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco said Tuesday he was confident that the proposed tax plan would be passed by legislators soon.

In fact, a preliminary vote is scheduled for Thursday, although it may not take place, depending on what else may happen in the Asamblea Legislativa.

For his part, Pacheco said his administration would not be sending other measures to lawmakers that might distract them from the so-called fiscal plan. The plan wold require a second legislative vote and the signature of the president to become law.

Pacheco has been lobbying for most of his four years in office to get the proposal passed. The measure means an estimated $500 million more in tax money for the government, proponents estimate.

The key points are global taxation that would levy a tax on any money earned anywhere by a citizen or resident and a value added tax instead of the current 13 percent sales tax. The measure is contained in a book nearly 500 pages long, so the actual impact of the plan is complex and not clearly understood.

Lawmakers have been cutting deals for favored supporters. Sportsbooks and other gambling call centers got a boost last week
when an amendment gave them a flat annual fee instead of a tax on income. Lawmakers said they were worried that the highly mobile computer and telephone operations would leave the country.

The government has been coached heavily by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which wants to be able to keep an eye on earnings of U.S. citizens here. They, too, are subject to global taxation from Washington.

The tax plan had been held up by thousands of amendments, most offered by the Movimiento Libertario. However, all those amendments have been aired and most have been rejected. Libertarians, a party that opposes the new taxes, says the country would be better off in enforcing and collecting the taxes already on the books.

Lawmakers who favor the new taxes appear to have the votes to pass it. If not, a new legislature that takes office in May is dominated by deputies from the Partido Liberación Nacional and Partido Acción Ciudadana. The presidential candidates of both those parties have come out strongly for the tax plan.

Otto Guevara, the presidential candidate of Movimiento Libertario, used his opposition to taxes as a major component of his campaign. But he only drew about 8.5 percent of the total vote, an indication that the average Costa Rican was not unhappy about taxes.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 33

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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Watch your step! This is a factured section of the downtown pedestrian mall. The rebar keeps passersby from breaking a leg.

Next forum speaker
to allege U.S. coverup

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sam Butler is the next scheduled speaker at the monthly speaker's forum at Big Mike's Place in Escazú.  Butler will be discussing what he says is the United States government cover-up of reverse-engineered alien technology that could solve the energy crisis. 

Butler said that he will show how top secret military and ex-military officials have been silenced by the CIA and other government agencies.  Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were refused access to the information while they were sitting as presidents, Butler said.  These are just some of the topics he plans to cover.

He has a 500-page document of evidence about these topics and will also show a DVD composed of clips by Steven Greer at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. That backs his claims, he said. 

Sam Butler is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley, with a major in economics.  He is also a former captain in the U. S. Air Force Reserve, after serving on active duty as a navigator.  He is a former chief appraiser of a large financial institution (now part of Washington Mutual), owner/founder of Butler Realty Group, headquartered in the Transamerica Pyramid, a commercial real estate broker for Merrill Lynch Commercial Real Estate and a past president of the Golden Gate Toastmasters, a public speaking group.

The talk will be Feb. 28 at 6:45 p.m.  Information is available at 289-6333, 821-4708 or 289-6087.

Former guard arrested
as burglary suspect

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officers with the Fuerza Pública in Pavas arrested a man in the early hours of Tuesday and said he was trying to burglarize the business from which he had been fired.

The 36-year-old suspect, identified by the last names Cortés Rodríguez was caught on the third floor of the business in Plaza Mayor from which he had once been a guard, officers said.  Although he had been fired, Cortés still had the keys to the business, officers said.

When they arrived, officers allege that Cortés was attempting to steal portable computers, 15 checks and a wallet with several credit cards.  With no way out, Cortés ran to a window and jumped from three stories up.  He had to be taken to the hospital, officers said.

Popular tango dancer
featured in 'Baccatango'

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Julio Bocca, the noted Argentine tango dancer, is planning to visit Costa Rica to perform “Baccatango,” a showcase of the popular dance.

“Baccatango” is a 90 minute performance by the company of the Argentine ballet star Cecilia Figaredo.  There will be two singers, five dancers and an eight-piece orchestra directed by Julián Vat.  María Stekelman choreographed the performance.  

The show appeared at Teatro Maipo in Buenos Aires during October and November 2001 and more than 20,000 people witnessed it.  It has also appeared in New York. 

The show will appear in Teatro Popular Melico Salazar March 18 at 8 p.m. and March 19 at 5 p.m. 

Tickets have been on sale since Feb. 1 and can be bought at www.mundoticket.com or by calling 207-2025.  They can also be purchased at Bansbach Multiplaza, Bansbach (centro) and the Haagen Dasz ice cream stores in Escazú and Curridabat.  Tickets bought before Feb. 25 cost between 9,000 colons and 29,000 colons.  After Feb. 25 prices go up to 11,000 colons through 33,000 colons.  Tickets bought the day of the show cost between 13,000 colons and 35,000 colons.  

Dance company performs
in multiple locations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía Nacional de Dance will perform for the first time this season Thursday when the troupe will dance “El rastro de la mariposa,” a four-scene performance directed by Marcela Aguilar. 

Unlike most performances, this one will change locations with scene changes.  The first scene starts on the east side of the Centro Nacional de la Cultura, moves to the seats and stage of the Teatro de la Danza, shifts to the old boiler room of the culture center and finishes in the foyer of the dance theater.  There will be a guide to make sure the audience can follow the production, organizers said.

"El rastro de la mariposa" will run from Thursday to Sunday at 8 p.m. each night.  Entrance costs 2,500 colons for the public and 2,000 colons for students and senior citizens.  The performance takes an hour and features six dancers: Ivonne Durán, Mimi González, Mario Blanco, Melisa Rivera, Wendy Chinchilla and Carlos Ovares. 
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 33

Modern BriBri women are among those featured in the exhibit even though these are life-size photos and not representations in clay.

A.M. Costa Rica photos/Jesse Froehling

Art forms past and present featured by Banco Central
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two temporary exhibits in the Museos del Banco Central showcase the talents of artists in Costa Rica.  One set of artists is contemporary.  The others died before Columbus showed up. 

“Agua, Color y Permanecia: Historia de la Acuarela en Costa Rica,” features the water-color paintings of 55 national artists between the beginning of the 20th century and the present.  The exhibit of 88 paintings is divided into five areas that show the themes that have inspired the country's artists since the beginning of the 20th century including landscapes, intimate representation and the human figure.  But the heart of the exhibit is Costa Rica's fascination with watercolor, said Ileana Alvarado, a curator at the museums.

“Watercolor is the most important painting medium in Costa Rica.  I think it has something to do with the amount of rain that falls here,” she said.  Watercolor is acuarela in Spanish.

The museums features the works of such well-known traditional artists as Margarita Bertheau and Fausto Pacheco but also displays the works of first timers.

“In Costa Rica, we have had huge watercolor displays.  This is one of the primary reasons that the medium has become so developed .  The humid conditions that prevail in our climate have also had an influence in our art,” Ms. Alvarado said. 

In addition, the museum has several displays that introduce the technique used by painters.  For those that want more, the museum has scheduled a four-day workshop for persons 13 years of age and older that will teach participants to paint with watercolors.  It costs 15,000 colons to enter and meets from Feb. 20 to 24 from 2 to 4:30 p.m.  Materials are included in the cost.

The watercolor exhibit is on display until June 4.

The museums also have the creations of some of the country's first artists on display.  The Museo de Oro Precolombino is showing “Mujeres de Arcilla,” an exhibition of ceramic female figurines found in tombs around the country dating to the year 500 A.D., said Gisela Sánchez, a spokeswoman for the museum.  The figurines have been excavated from all

Gisela Sánchez displays the book on watercolors that two of her colleagues have compiled.

archaeological regions of Costa Rica.  Some are realistic representations of women in everyday life – a figure with a child on its back — and others are more abstract.    

Women traditionally shaped the ceramics as well.  The figurines show the political and spiritual power that women held in their cultures, said Ms. Sánchez.  The exhibit shows the importance of the female representation in precolumbian ceramics and the diverse roles that women held in these societies, she said. 

As part of the watercolor exhibit Ms. Alvarado and a colleague, María Enriqueta Guardia, have compiled a book listing the details behind each of the works in the exhibit as well as a history of watercolor in Costa Rica.  It is on sale for 12,000 colons at the museum store.

Entrance to the museums is free for youths under 12 and every Wednesday and the first Sunday of every month for everyone else.

'Massive' campaign will target violence in families
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The office of the Primera Dama de la República and other institutions will launch what is being called a massive publicity campaign to raise public awareness about the damage and consequences of family abuse and violence.

The kickoff will be Thursday in Casa Presidencial when several 30-second television spots will be aired.

The campaign was outlined Tuesday by Georgina Vargas Pagán at the weekly presidential press conference. She is executive president of the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres.

The anti-violence campaign is being supported by Leila Rodríguez de Pacheco, the wife of the president, public institutions and private companies. The theme is "Todos somos uno, El cambio incia por vos," meaning we are all one and change begins with you.
During the last four years the agency for women has worked hard with different programs of preventions and has met situations of intrafamily violence with effective programs coordinated by several non-governmental and governmental agencies, including many of the various ministries, said Ms.  Vargas.

Training has been given to some 124 women professionals and 119 male professionals, such as educators and physicians, she said.

During these same years, there appears to have been an increase in family violence, and statistics show that more women have been murdered by the male partners and ex-partners.

The institute defines family violence as not only male on female but mother on child and child on parent.

The campaign kicks off less than three months before the end of the Pacheco government, which is May 8.

Fuel prices increased again and will be effective after publication
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gasoline will be going up about 6.8 percent.

The new per liter price for regular is going from 436 colons to 466, a difference of 30 colons. Super goes from 457 to 488 colons, an increase of 31 colons.

There are about 500 colons to a U.S. dollar, and there are 3.79 liters to a gallon. So the price of a gallon of
regular will be about $3.53. A gallon of super will cost about $3.70

Similar increases were authorized by diesel, kerosene and aviation gasoline and jet fuel.

The regulating agency, the  Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos, said it had sent the new rates to the Gaceta official newspaper for publication. The rates are effective after they are published.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 33

Cutting poverty called key to growth in Latin nations
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Bank said Tuesday the economies of Latin America would grow faster if they devoted more effort to poverty alleviation. World Bank economists say if Latin America waged a more successful campaign against poverty its economies would grow faster. Faster growth, says the bank, is needed if Latin America is to compete against East Asia, the world's fastest growing developing region.

"Economic growth in Latin America has been disappointing across the 1990s, especially in comparison to the dynamic East Asian economies. And part of this is due to the high degree of poverty in the region that is a drag on economic growth," said William Maloney,  a World Bank economist.

The World Bank says that while China reduced poverty by 42 percent in the 1980s and 1990s, per capita incomes in Latin America declined in the 1980s and rose only slightly in the 1990s.

Latin American economies have been growing briskly over the past two years. The region's economies grew by 5.5 percent in 2004 and by over 4 percent in 2005. Boosted by the rise in oil and other commodity prices, growth has been strongest in Venezuela and Argentina at more than 7.5 percent last year.

However, Joachim Bamrud, the editor of Latin
 Business Chronicle, says Chile has experienced the most balanced growth in recent years and has registered the biggest gains in poverty reduction. Speaking from Santo Domingo, Bamrud says rapid growth in Argentina and Venezuela has been accompanied by worrisome price rises.

"The end result from most economists point of view is bad for those two economies. The inflation in those two countries — Venezuela and Argentina — is spiraling out of control because neither country has solid macro-economic managers. Instead they are looking at the economies as tools for social goals," he said.

Bamrud says that it is ironic that while the leftist governments in both Venezuela and Argentina champion the poor, the poor are hardest hit by rising prices. Inflation is expected to reach 10 percent this year in Argentina and 18 percent in Venezuela.

For Latin America as a whole inflation this year is expected to decline to 5.5 percent, which would be the lowest rate in over 25 years.

Another optimist on the region's economies is Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno. He says that since mid-2003, economic growth in Latin America has averaged 4.9 percent annually, a figure he calls the region's best growth cycle in nearly three decades.

Our readers voice their opinions here
Reader likes Baker stories
as slices of local reality

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Kudos and thanks to your correspondent in "reality". Garland M. Baker.

Many newer readers/arrivals — especially expats —still enamored of the romance of living in "paradise" here in Costa, as was myself a few years ago, read his column, I'm sure, and say to themselves: this is just some grumpy old lawyer getting paid to write a column spouting legalese mumbo jumbo that won't effect me in the least.

Well if you live here long enough, some aspect of the so called "legal" system here, will eventually jump up and bite you. As the old adage holds true: there are two sides to every coin, so the euphoria of blind enchantment with the natural beauty of the country, the "pura vida" spirit of the friendly ticos, and such gives way to the reality of  living in a developing country, whose legal system, mores, biases, etc., are quite different from whence we came. The reality when it hits you is often enough to make one regret ever coming in the first place.

Keep up the good work. Garland, and thanks for your steady dose of reality.
Hari Khalsa
Mal Pais
How about the U.S. money
Latin autocrats received?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In your Monday edition, Phil Mattingly brings up the issue of former President Jose Figueres’ relationship with the Soviet KGB. Mattingly informs us that Figueres is alleged to have received more than $300,000 from the KGB according to a recent book “The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World,” written by KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin.

OK, now that we know that, is Mattingly going to acknowledge the millions of dollars that the CIA spent in efforts to overthrow governments in Latin America; millions more spent on training Latin American military officers through the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas; all of the efforts both fair and foul to influence public policy in governments throughout the region including Costa Rica; and of course, the overt aggression practiced by the United States in Panama and Grenada; the covert aggression in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Columbia, and elsewhere.

Volumes have been written about the long, sordid history of U.S. meddling in Latin America. The list is too long to go into here. However, Mattingly might be surprised to know that many leftists were wary of both sides in this conflict.

Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael, who spent extensive time in Africa in his later years, pointed out that CIA and KGB money was floating all over Africa during the Cold War, and that every government on the continent had to contend with it. According to Carmichael, there was a commonly held view among Africans that both organizations were dogmatic, racist, and opportunist. No doubt there was a similar situation in Latin America. Something tells me that Don Pepe knew exactly who he was dealing with.

Mike Fekula
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland
Signs not likely to help
solve child sex problem

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Perhaps I am in the minority with my opinion, but the ad campaign against the abuse of minors in Costa Rica actually sidetracks the problem, if such a thing is possible. First, I  think it is a parent's responsibility to protect their children. Too often people in some countries attempt to blame foreigners that might be a small part of the problem, if anything,  but not a cause.

Signs at the airport and other locations in English about sex with minors to me projects the wrong  impression of Costa Rica, and I am sure does little to reduce or prevent the problem.

I would like to see some studies on the problem in Costa Rica and how fatherless households fits into the overall picture. Perhaps money would be better spent by offering educational classes in schools informing victims about reporting procedures.

Your article did note that of the 61 fugitives arrested  were either Cost Ricans or residents. Thanks for pointing out this fact. In the hills of West Virginia, Kentucky and other places there has been child abuse  for years in places they never heard of tourists. Nothing infuriates me more than a parent knowingly allowing another to molest a child.

Even in the United States, there is a high level of incest (being defined as relatives or persons of power and trust abusing children).

Actually if signs at the border really worked to  prevent crime, they could just post them along the Mexican and United States borders stating” CAUTION ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IS A CRIME”.
Dave Gibson
Curridabat, Costa Rica
Sacramento, California

Weird, unsophisticated
pile of police reports

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am following the amcostarica.com with a smile. It doesn’t reflect CostaRica at all. It is more or less a weird ad-clustered pile of police reports. Maybe you have your reasons for doing so (hidden agenda ?), but this is a very bad representation of this lovely country. However, it makes a funny amendment to the more sophisticated news media like TicoTimes or nacion.com.

Recently I have laughed about quite some reader’s letters concerned about security, mourning about road conditions, even demanding death penalty. This is SO American ! You all seem to forget: this is CostaRica in Latin America, not Alabama or whatever U.S. state. Here other laws do apply, other living conditions do apply.

If you don’t like it, why are you here ? It is a total no-brainer to try and establish U.S. standards and culture in another country. Ask Mr. Bush who makes himself a fool every other week in trying this.

Yes, Costa Rica has bad roads. So what ? Buy a decent sturdy vehicle, that's it. Sure, you will need more funds for repair. And your point is what ? (say one who experienced a broken tie rod end yesterday but won’t complain as this is like it is). About security and crime: have you ever considered why so many U.S. people are affected ? It is the way some Gringos appear here.

Bags full of money, self-centered to the maximum, super-nationalistic, with this certain “in the U.S. everything is better, we are the world standard” attitude. Guess why Gringos pay nearly double the prices than Europeans? Because Ticos do fleece Gringos, as they do not really like them a lot. Been there, seen that.

We were offered a house for rent at 350 US$. After some chat (”oh, you are German ? Thats good”) without any talking about the price we were offered the very same house for 150 US$. Me and my girlfriend have encountered this phenomenom quite a few times by now, be it car sales, property sales etc.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. When I read complaints of a so-called land “developer,” I start to feel angry. This is nothing else than modern pirating. What does this guy develop ? Nothing. But his own bank account. So I really can understand my Tico friends when they express their dislike about U.S. people.

Some U.S. citizens do really no good at all to the picture Ticos have about ALL of you. The Tamagringo ghetto as well as Escazú and the other U.S. enclaves are first-stop crime points for the Tico youth, as they know that they can pick up the money over there.

So you might really be better off if you consider to integrate more into the Tico society, live as they live and start to accept that this is CostaRica and not just the 52nd state of the U.S. If you live here, you have to give something back – do some business which Ticos benefit from. Do not just hide behind high fences and drive a uber-fat U..S. SUV. You make yourself a target. Integration and modesty are the words.

Sure, your readers might be very controversial about this. But you really should start to face the truth. The anti-US sentiments are growing day by day. If you still wonder why, then please do not live in CostaRica as you do not get the point.

Just to re-iterate: this is not America.

Stefan Boehm
a non-gringo from
Germany living in Quepos

Real solution to crime
is eliminating poverty

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I would like to reply to Kris Winters' article. He offers seven steps to reduce crime in Costa Rica. All the steps include stiffer security instead of focusing in the real solution that would be better education, and that would cure the problem in its root.

You want to stop Nicaraguan immigrants, but hey, you are an immigrant yourself aren’t you?

Maybe Kris doesn’t know, but U.S.A. doesn’t have the lowest crime rates in the world or the most equal society.  Better look at Scandinavian countries as a model. You offer giving a gun to every person on the street?  That would propagate a let’s start shooting each other Wild West style. It didn’t work for the Middle East, why do you think it would work in Costa Rica?

You want to make death penalty legal, how many people in the States have been executed and after a few years they have been discovered to be innocent?  What if you were the innocent one in jail waiting to be executed?

Cash reward system would entice every citizen to claim false accusations against every person he dislikes like in Communist countries.

You are worried from the amount of thieves? U.S.A. has stolen from all South American countries for many years, do a search on Google for “Condor Plan”. My father was kidnapped, tortured and killed and his remains are not to be found to this day because of that “Condor Plan” of the CIA and U.S.A.

What upsets me the most is people that immigrate to other countries and try to enforce their way of life.   And Americans say the Muslims are fundamentalist. USA is not better than them, just with a shiny envelope.

Alfredo Kofman

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Jo Stuart
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