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These stories were published Monday, Feb. 23, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 37
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Can U.S. tax-filing time be far behind?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is sending a tax assistance specialist to meet with citizens who have questions March 2 to 4 at the U.S. Embassy in Pavas.

The visit is in advance of the normal April 15 tax filing deadline, although citizens living outside the United States are eligible for a two-month extension. Citizens living abroad also can deduct up to $80,000 of foreign earned income when they figure their taxes.

The Internal Revenue Service has an extensive series of Web pages with information, including here.
 

The IRS also announced that nearly $2.5 billion is awaiting nearly two million people who failed to file a 2000 tax return. Many of these persons had taxes withheld but did not earn enough to be required to file a tax return. The deadline for getting this money is April 15, too.

An embassy spokesperson said that brief 
consultations are available with the tax 

specialist by appointment on a first-come, first-serve basis. Appointments are available at 220-3050 Ext. 2294. 

The embassy said that those coming for appointments should arrive about 10 minutes early and bring photo identification to the receptionist in the embassy lobby.

A number of U.S.-trained accountants also provide tax service in Costa Rica, and a growing number of Internet-based tax filing programs are available.

The Internal Revenue Service has not announced any amnesties or special programs for defaulting taxpayers this year. Last year there was a special amnesty for taxpayers who failed to report income earned overseas. Some citizens here took advantage of that.


 
Fugitive who killed Canadian caught by police
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police have picked up a man convicted of killing a Canadian English teacher. The arrest came Saturday as officers zeroed in on persons who are suspects in multiple murders.

The man, Héiner Jiménez Salas, was picked up in Barrio Tournón, north San José, when police identified him. Jiménez was convicted of murder in the killing of Bradley Whipple in Heredia Oct. 21, 2002.

Whipple died when he was set upon by a gang of young robbers in the center of Heredia about 11 p.m.

The Fuerza Pública said that Jiménez has been connected to four other killings. He was sentenced even though he did not show up in court after his conviction. Why he was allowed to be at liberty at all after his conviction was unclear over the weekend. But police had him and another man on their most wanted list.

Jiménez now faces 40 years in prison, and he was taken into custody by police and later will be turned over to Adaptación Social, the governmental agency that runs the prisons. 

Whipple was from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, and had traveled the world teaching English and learning languages. 

Jiménez, who is 18, is known as "Picacho" in the underworld. He lived in Los Cuadros de 

Goicoechea. He is a suspect in the killing of a man at a supermarket in Heredia in 2003 and the murder of an Argentine music educator, Daniela Castro Morastiaga, in San Pedro de Montes de Oca nine days before the Whipple murder. The Argentine woman also died as the victim of a robbery.

Other members of the same gang got a similar sentence for the Whipple murder.

Rogelio Ramos, minister of Seguridad Pública announced the captures. Also caught was a man with the last names of Quesada Sabat, who held the title of the most wanted person in Costa Rica. He was grabbed in Barrio Amon in north San José, also Saturday night. 

Although Quesada tried to flee, he was surrounded by patrol cars and did not use the .38 pistol he was carrying. Then police found Jiménez.

Quesada was wanted for investigation in at least two murder cases, including the robbery of passengers on a Purral de Goicoechea in which a man, Guillermo Morazán Boder, was killed. He also is a suspect in the Christmas Eve murder of Cristian Rojas Salas in Los Cuadros last year.

Both men are believed to have been involved in a long string of crimes, mostly holdups.

The police who arrested them are part of a special operation designed to get multiple offenders off the streets.

 
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Lawmakers may renew
departure tax for sports

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Don’t count on a reduction of the exit tax that Costa Rican citizens and residents pay when they leave the country by air.

The tax for citizens was supposed to drop from $43 to $26, but legislators now have a proposal to spend the money. According to a proposal in the Asamblea Nacional, the $17 tax would continue for four more years and be used to pay for roads and to refurbish the Estadio Nacional. So the exit tax for citizens would stay at $43. The tax is higher for foreign residents.

The proposed law gives the Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación the option of rebuilding the La Sabana-based stadium or building a new one. The stadium involved is the same one where Luciano Pavarotti performed Jan. 31.

Legislators in favor of the proposal lauded sports as a way to build character, discipline and health.

The higher fee for citizens and residents was supposed to expire April 25. Officials a year ago hiked the departure tax for tourists from $17 to $26, and the idea was to create a uniform tax.  That was the same time that the country installed a computerized departure system for paying the tax at the international airports.

Fishing boat in Pacific
may be in trouble

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican coast guard is searching for a 25-foot fishing boat that may be adrift in the Pacific. Three crewmen are aboard.

The boat is the La S based in Quepos. The owner of the boat, identified as Róger Morales Martínez, told the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas last Thursday that the craft was overdue.

The La S radioed another fishing boat that it was having mechanical problems Friday, but the La S was not there when the other boat, the Samurai, arrived at the designated location, some 30 nautical miles due west of Cabo Blanco at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.

Coast guardsmen are not happy that the La S went to sea in the first place. That was Feb. 10, and the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública reported the craft slipped out of Quepos with an expired seaworthiness certificate.

The coast guard recommends that boats have emergency provisions, a lifeboat, flares and a backup radio. The La S had only eight days of provisions when it left, according to the owner.

The boat may be missing in the area of the Guardian Bank, which is associated with high seas and strong winds at the limit of the national territory near the Nicaraguan line, said the ministry.

Boy at bus stop
killed by cyclists

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two persons riding motorcycles fired on and killed a 13-year-old boy as he waiting at a bus stop Saturday night in Los Guido de Desamparados.

The boy, identified as Elíseo González Ortiz, was dead when a taxi driver brought him to the Clínica Marcial Fallas in Desamparados, said police. One bullet pierced his neck.

The shooting took place about 9 p.m. while the boy and a brother, Esteban González Ortiz, waited at a bus stop shelter. Police launched a search but they failed to find suspects.

The boy became one of a series of victims of drive-by killings or injuries over the last two months.

Turtle fans gather
at convention here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Are you a turtle? If so, you would be most interested in the 24th annual symposium on sea turtle biology and conservation that started Sunday at the Herradura Conference Center west of town.

This is a heavyweight session with some 1,200 visitors from 70 countries. The presentations are of the highly scientific variety.

Monday is the day when most of the research relating to Costa Rica is presented. Sebastian Troëng, Carmen Castro, and Eduardo Chamorro, all of Costa Rica, have researched the 1999 green turtle fishing ban here.  They conclude that the ban on hunting has increased the total value of green turtles, mainly by promoting continued growth of green turtle ecotourism.

Zoe A. Meletis and Lisa M. Campbell of Duke University, Durham, N.C., have surveyed tourist attitudes. They identified solid waste as a serious problem in areas like Tortuguero on the north Caribbean coast.

Rodrigo Morera of Ostional and Gerardo Chaves of the Universidad de Costa Rica will report on the Ostional community development association and the way the group protects the four turtle species that nest on the beaches there.

Noella Gray of Duke University and Ms. Campbell have prepared a presentation on the community-based sea turtle conservation in Gandoca.

The conference runs until Sunday with other areas of the world highlighted throughout the week.

Bus plunge kills 40

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian police say at least 40 people were killed Saturday when a bus plunged into a reservoir in the northeastern part of the country. 

The bus, filled with people heading for carnival celebrations, was traveling from the northeastern city of Fortaleza to Salvador, Bahia, site of a yearly carnival festival.  Police said they do not know what caused the accident. 
 
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Didn't anyone tell them about Wyoming winters?
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

DUBOIS, Wy.— Wyoming winters are cold. Not just chilly and not just frosty, but bone-chilling, wind-whipping, eyeball-freezing, blood-thickening cold.

But don't take our word for it. Instead, ask one of the 10 Heredia high school students, their two sponsors, and another student who packed a few sweaters and some jeans jackets and thought themselves prepared for their sojourn to Dubois, Wyo., a town about 80 miles southeast of the famous ski area, Jackson Hole.

Pronounce the town's name "DEW-boys," not "Dew-BWAH," no matter how much your Canadian friends cringe. Then tell them to take heart: The first white settlers wanted to call the town "Never Sweat," according to area reports, so things could have been much worse. And the name is only one of this town's many aspects that remind travelers that the Old West continues to reign here.

Somebody got it wrong. You are supposed to go south in the winter and north in the summer. But not these guys.

The 10 students arrived Jan. 7 in Dubois, which is only 30 miles from the Continental Divide and boasts a population of 962, an elevation of 6,917 feet, and an average winter temperature of about 20 degrees Farenheit, or -5 degrees Celsius, but the wind makes it colder.

Of course, people who are dressed for the weather don't seem to mind it. So, the students' hosts at Dubois High School held a coat-hat-and-boot drive before their guests arrived, according to Dubois Cultural Exchange co-sponsor Marylou Banks, who will travel with co-sponsor Mary Strieb and nine Dubois students in June to Heredia.

"The students this year . . .  just an outstanding group of kids," Banks said. "They were very well-versed in English."

Dubois High School has participated in a cultural exchange program for six years, and this summer will be the seventh year that students from the high school here go to Heredia. This year is the first since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that Costa Ricans have resumed their trip to Dubois.

The students stayed for a little more than two weeks. During that time, they took advantage of the many recreational and educational opportunities the town and surrounding area have to offer. They strolled the town's old-time boardwalks and shopped in the quaint, 

frontier-style shops. They skied and snowboarded in Teton Village, which is located at the base of Jackson Hole Ski Resort. 

The visitors explored the numerous hands-on exhibits at the Dubois National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center, which is dedicated to educating the public about the habitat and conservation needs of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. The area is home to the largest herd of bighorn sheep in the United States, so the students also participated in the Interpretive Center's Winter Wildlife Viewing Tours, where they were able to see the animals on their winter range.

They visited the world's largest mineral hot springs and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis and made a trip to Jackson to see the National Elk Refuge and National Wildlife Art Museum.

Plus, they attended class with their American guest brothers and sisters and joined in an assembly during which even the elementary students were able to practice their Spanish and entertain the visitors.

The visitors left Dubois Jan. 27.

"There were tears all around," Banks said of the departure.

For more information about visiting Dubois, see the Dubois Chamber of Commerce Web site: http://www.duboiswyoming.org.


 
U.S. promised to tighten mad cow testing program
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is strengthening its animal testing program as recommended by an international panel of experts convened by the department after a cow in Washington State tested positive in December for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

Briefing reporters Thursday after a speech here, Veneman said she expects soon to announce the "comprehensive nature" of the enhanced testing program.

Veneman said the expanded testing program likely would include the testing of older healthy cows for the illness, also known as mad-cow disease, as well as the younger, sick or injured animals that have been the focus of the department's testing program. Older cows are those over 30 months of age.

In addition, the department likely will test more than 40,000 cows for the disease in 2004, as recommended by the review panel, Veneman said. The department initially said it would test 40,000 cows in 2004, or twice the amount of animals tested in 2003.

Veneman said representatives of Japan and Mexico are currently in Washington to learn more about the United States' ongoing efforts to upgrade its animal testing and health protection programs. Those efforts include the accelerated development of a verifiable, permanent national animal 

Oh, No!  Dog gone!!

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s ban on U.S. beef has hit home at Pricemart where kosher all-beef hot dogs are a big attraction for North Americans.

Of course the hot dogs are subject to the ban and have been removed from the menu of the sales outlets that deal mainly in U.S. merchandise.

identification system and helping other countries understand the importance of basing international trade rules on sound science, she said. Veneman announced Dec. 30 that the Agriculture Department would begin immediate implementation of a national animal identification plan, which would aid efforts to track animals and their origins.

Japan and Mexico, which currently ban U.S. beef imports, are the two largest U.S. beef export markets. Costa Rica also bans U.S. beef.

The United States hopes its open approach to informing public about its efforts to strengthen its animal testing and surveillance programs will provide an example to other countries dealing with food safety and consumer confidence issues, said J.B. Penn, under secretary of agriculture for foreign affairs. Penn said U.S. officials continue to work to inform foreign officials and the public about the safety of North American beef.


 
Demonstrators want Uribe to negotiate for hostage
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Hundreds of supporters of kidnapped Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt demonstrated in Bogota Saturday to demand her release.

The crowd carried pictures of Ms. Betancourt, and called on the government of President Alvaro Uribe to negotiate her freedom.

The demonstration took place on the second 

anniversary of her kidnapping by leftist rebels.

Ms. Betancourt, a former presidential candidate, holds dual French-Colombian citizenship, and her case has attracted widespread attention in Europe. Among those present at Saturday's demonstration was the mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni.

Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are holding Ms. Betancourt and about a dozen other politicians hostage. The FARC wants to exchange them for jailed rebels.


 
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Nasca Lines in danger from change in climate
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Visible from the European Space Agency’s Proba spacecraft 600 kms. (360 miles) in space are the largest of the many Nasca Lines. 

These are ancient desert markings now at risk from human encroachment as well as floods feared to be increasing in frequency. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1994, the lines are a mixture of animal figures and long straight markings etched across an area of about 70 kms. by 30 kms. (some 42 by 18 miles) on the Nasca plain, between the Andes and Pacific Coast at the southern end of Peru. The oldest lines date from around 400 B.C. Their creation continued for  perhaps 1,000 years more. 

The lines were made simply enough by moving dark surface stones to expose pale sand beneath. However their intended purpose remains a mystery. It has variously been proposed they were created as pathways for religious processions and ceremonies, an astronomical observatory or a guide to underground water resources. 

The Nasca Lines have been preserved down the centuries by extreme local dryness and a lack of erosion mechanisms, but are now coming increasingly under threat. The last 30 years saw greater erosion and degradation of the site than the previous 1,000 years before them. 

Images from the Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (CHRIS) aboard Proba, the 18.6 metre resolution is too low to make out the animal figures although the straight Nasca Lines can be seen faintly. 

Clearest of the straight markings is actually the Pan-American Highway, built right through the region. Beside the Ingenio River, dirt track roads are also visible amidst the Nasca Lines. 

Clearly shown in the Proba image taken in September is another cause of damage to the lines: deposits left by mudslides after heavy rains in the Andean Mountains. These events are believed to 

European Space Agency photo
This image of the Nasca plain in southern Peru shows desert roads as well as faint traces of the largest of the ancient Nasca Lines etched by Peruvian Indians on the arid landscape. Water channels caused by flash flooding are also visible. 

be connected to the El Niño phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, first named by Peruvian fishermen hundreds of years ago. One concern is that rains are becoming more frequent due to climate change. 

A team from Edinburgh University and remote sensing company Vexcel UK has been using data from another European spacecraft to measure damage to the Nasca Lines, with their results due to be published in the May Issue of the "International Journal of Remote Sensing."


 
U.S. denies Castro's claim of imminent invasion
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States has taken the unusual step of affirming that it has no intention of invading Cuba.

James Cason, the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, said in a statement Friday the United States has no reason to attack Cuba and has no plan to do so. He added 

Cuban President Fidel Castro's repeated warnings to the contrary were a fabrication aimed at Cubans living in fear.

In the past few weeks, Castro has said State Department officials made what he called "direct threats at Cuba" that may include plans for an invasion or possibly plans to assassinate him.


 
Rebels in Haiti make strong inroads in the north
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Rebels took control of the country's largest city in the north Sunday. Government forces have now been ousted from all major municipalities in the northern part of the country, along with several in Haiti's central region.

Rebels bent on wrestling control of Haiti from President Jean-Bertrand Aristide overran Cap Haitien, taking the airport before barreling into the city itself. At least three people were killed in gun battles near the airport. 

Haiti has no army, and Cap Haitien's small police force did not resist the rebel's advance into the city center. Widespread looting was subsequently reported, along with some anti-Aristide celebrations.

The rebels, who describe themselves as disillusioned, one-time backers of President Aristide, have pledged to continue the insurgency until they take Port-Au-Prince.

In the capital, Aristide said he was sending police reinforcements to Cap Haitien. He did not elaborate.

The fall of Cap Haitien came one day before a deadline for Haiti's civilian opposition groups to accept or reject a U.S.-backed international plan designed to end years of political strife in Haiti. Saturday, Aristide accepted the proposal after meeting with envoys from the United States, 

Canada, the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community. The plan calls for establishing a government of unity and reconciliation that would serve through the end of Aristide's term in office in 2006.

But Haiti's political opposition continues to insist it will only participate in the initiative if Aristide leaves office.

Misha Gaillard, who belongs to an opposition umbrella group, said his position has not changed since Saturday, when a four-hour negotiating session between the opposition and the international envoys failed to yield an agreement.

Gaillard, who spoke to reporters by telephone, said "fundamentally, nothing has changed. The plan is 90 percent acceptable, but there are problems: it does not address the departure of President Aristide or how to deal with rebels in Haiti."

The opposition leader added that reconciliation in Haiti will only be possible if Aristide leaves office.

But that stipulation is not palatable to the authors of the proposal. Speaking with reporters after Saturday's fruitless meeting with Haiti's opposition, Canadian envoy Denis Caderre said the plan must be accepted in its entirety. "We are not asking for the resignation of Aristide. What we have said is that if there is to be the full participation of international aid, you have to link it to the acceptance of the plan," he said. Opposition leaders have promised to give a final verdict on the international proposal Monday.

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