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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, March 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 44          E-mail us    
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Day of Ashes

Monsignor Hugo Barrantes anoints a parishioner with the sign of the cross in ashes, an indication of repentance. The scene at the Catedral Metropolitana was repeated all over the Catholic world Wednesday. Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the 40 days leading to Easter, Arpil 16.


A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas


Married rentistas hurry to make deadline
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those seeking rentista residency and the advisers who guide them are trying to get the application papers filed as soon as possible.

The problem is that the new immigration law contains a clause that doubles from $60,000 to $120,000 the money a married rentista must have. Although the clause is in conflict with another section, those who deal in helping foreigners with residency expect immigration officials to accept the most strict version.

The immigration law has been passed but does not go into effect until August. One company involved in residency applications, Residency in Costa Rica, said it strongly recommends that rentista applications be filed not later than the first week of July 2006.

Single persons who seek rentista status and those who seek pensionado status face no changes in financial capability in the new law. A single rentista must show that he or she has $60,000 in a bank and agree to change $1,000 a month into colons.

In addition to an extra $1,000 a month income for a spouse, rentistas have to show income of $500 a month for each minor child.

A pensionado or a pensionado and spouse must still show that he or they have a recognized pension generating at least $600 a month.

Ryan Piercy is executive director of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica. The
organization also helps foreigners gain residency. He said Wednesday that lawyers for his organization will be seeking easy ways for foreigners to meet the requirements. But because the regulations that implement the new law have not been written yet, there are no clear answers, he said.

He urged anyone who wants to gain rentista residency to do so before August. However, he also noted that many part-time residents may be able to visit here for up to six months simply by using tourist visas.

Piercy said that he sees the new law as providing an opportunity for more flexible treatment of the funds held by rentistas. In the past, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería accepted only a cash sum on deposit in a traditional bank.

Johnny Marín, the new director of immigration has said that he was open to changes in the way the rentista shows financial stability. He said a flow of monthly rents from real estate holdings might be acceptable.

The rentista category attracts persons who have money but no traditional pension or persons who are too young to receive pension money. Marín testified against the category at the Asamblea Legislativa, saying that money launderers use the category to live here.

As with other residency requests, applicants have to provide certified copies of birth, marriage and other certificates. This can be a lengthy process because the documents have to be validated by the Costa Rican consul in the area where the certificate was generated.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 44


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Our readers' opinion
Problem is corruption,
and no one notices
 
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In reply to Mr. Alonzo Guzman about the maritime zone law. It is not the expait that is the problem. It is Costa Rica CORRUPTION within itself. In most cases it is the local MUNI. Across the road from me an expait somehow put up a sign on what was a drain area for the roads and advertised it as TITTLED waterfront property to the 50 meter zone.

Down the street from me at the entrance to Playa Potrero, the hillside at one curve is being demolished and all the material is dropped across the street from me on this property?? Who hired the workers? I do not know, but this is BEING DONE under the watchful EYES of the local MUNI. That drives by every week.

He is selling the property for over $3 million and advertised as such in the local newsletters. HOW can this be done, and why are your presidents in questions walking the streets freely, and one refuses to come back to the country?

The police for MOPT are at it again. I was stopped for going 80 kms. The chief of police said that no more tickets for under 90 kms. Because of the corruption. When the officer took my license and checked the car, I reached in my pocket and pulled a 5,000-colon bill and held it up against my door. The officer gave me a talk and TOOK the money. No ticket!!. Maybe they need it as they are low paid and not getting their yearly raise as they should. My son on his way back to San José was doing 120 kms and was stopped. He asked the officer what it would take, and the reply was 5,000 colons. We should have video recorders in our cars like the police in the States and document these bribes.

I am leaving as the taxes are crazy now. The aduana wants all packages opened that come through a courier service, and you have to pay a tax PLUS the storage charge on anything that comes in. Just got that note from my mail service
Richard Vienneau
Playa Poterero
Guanacaste
Latin Americans blamed
from Latin poverty


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. Guzman’s national pride really swelled up in his letter to this paper when he assailed foreign critics of country’s new proposed tax package and the foreigners paying high prices for property. The trouble with a swollen national pride is that there is not much room left inside the brain for clear and pondered thinking.

Those “who do not like how we do business here should fly away,” says Mr. Guzman. The Costa Ricans know that the bad roads, the crime rate high, the widespread corruption, the “slimy business conducted,” and a lesser per capita income than the U.S. are their fault, for it is they, through their own choice of elected officials, who have allowed it to be, by not demanding that it be otherwise. As Carlos Alberto Montaner, Cuban writer, has pointed out in countless writings, Latin America’s poverty is due to the Latin Americans themselves, no one else. But to recognize that is to recognize a personal shortcoming. And that would only worsen the view of themselves. With defending the indefensible as impossible, nothing is left but to attack the flaws of their critics, as Mr. Guzman has done.

Rather than drive off the foreign investment goose, which is laying golden eggs for thousands of Costa Rican, Mr. Guzman should set the example for his fellow citizens on how to become golden geese, and then maybe land and labor wouldn’t be so cheap, making it possible for the foreigners to take advantage of Costa Rica’s poverty.

Walter Fila
Ciudad Colón
Those opposed to tax plan
put in three groupings


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

   
I have enjoyed reading the repartee between A.M. Costa Rica readers concerning the new value-added tax laws. Although I must admit some readers sound a bit
kindergardenish. Here is my two cent worth of observations. To our Costa Rican friend that read A.M. Costa Rica, I see three groups of North Americans opposed to the tax law changes:

1.    Those of us that don’t like taxation period. If taxation must be done, then the monies should be posted for all to see, divided up and sent back to the county (or state) to use as they see fit. I would count myself in this group.

2.    The second group are the people that fear change. I feel safe in saying this is a universal group. You should have no problem finding North Americans, Europeans and Latin American that fit this category.

3.    The third group that I see are the people that are trying to make a buck. They will moan and groan, threaten and holler. The truth is if they take their money and go home, you haven’t lost anything. They are interested in their bottom line not your country or for that matter not their country either.
 
To the North American reader of A.M. Costa Rica like myself I would say if the Costa Ricans implement this new VA tax plan like it appears they will, you should read and understand the new tax law to see how it will affect you, then adjust to the law or leave the country. If you really wanted to affect the law, you would have become a Tico citizen and used your influence to craft a better plan.
 
I have read Mr. Alonzo Guzman’s comments about the North American attitude on the new tax law and I find that he makes some good points even if I didn’t like the spirit with which they were given. Mr. Guzman, the point that struck me the most was the one about speculators driving up the land and housing cost to a level that middle-class Costa Ricans can’t afford to buy property in their own country.

On one of my recent visits to your country, I was checking out some land, and, frankly, I think the speculators, both North American and Costa Rican, are driving the cost beyond both middle-class Tico and American budgets and that is just wrong. If the new tax laws can remedy some of this, more power to it. Otherwise I fear a Socialist land reform, and I don’t think that is good for anybody.
 
Nobody asked, but if you did, I would suggest that a major tax change should be approved by the elected officials, then put before the citizens for a vote. Representative government should only go so far before the people have a say. By the way, I would like to see the same provisions implemented here in the States.
John Steward
Charlotte, N.C. U.S.A.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 44


 



A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas               
Tino Giebler and Arturo Carbo are two of the many soccer players
who participated in an international ice breaker Wednesday night.
Bilingual schools field soccer teams for international tournament
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Central America's American-style schools, including four in Costa Rica, are engaged in the Fourth Invitational Soccer Tournament in San José.

The teams of both young men and young women were gathering at the Hotel Best Western Irazú Wednesday night on the eve of the first matches.
The championships will be Saturday at Estadio Saprissa at 1:30 p.m. for the two contending female teams and at 3 p.m. for the male athletes.

The Costa Rican schools with teams in the tournament are American International School, Country Day School, Marian Baker School and Lincoln School. Other teams came from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.



Costa Rica continues to be labeled drug transit and transshipment point
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Mexico and Central America remain major transshipment points for sending illegal drugs from South America into the United States, says the U.S. Department of State in its 2006 International Narcotics Strategy Report, released Wednesday.

Costa Rica is one of the countries straddling the critical drug-transit corridor between South American drug suppliers and the U.S. market, and has become a major transshipment point for narcotics to the United States and Europe, said the report, echoing previous studies.

The report praised the government of Costa Rica for demonstrating professionalism and reliability as a hemispheric partner in combating the ever-changing and growing drug-trafficking trade.

The report — issued annually at the mandate of the U.S. Congress — says that 70 percent to 90 percent of the cocaine destined for the United States passes through the Mexican mainland or the country's periphery.

Mexico also served as the main foreign source of marijuana consumed in the United States, while also serving as a major supplier of heroin and methamphetamine, the report said.

During 2005, Mexican authorities arrested numerous drug traffickers in an attempt to dismantle major drug cartels operating in Mexico, the report said.

The principal U.S. counternarcotics goal in Central America, said the report, is to help the Central American nations develop a sustainable infrastructure to combat its drug problems effectively.

Belize, for example, is a significant transshipment point for illicit drugs between Colombia and Mexico.  The report said Belize's contiguous borders with Guatemala and Mexico, large tracts of unpopulated jungles and forested areas, a lengthy unprotected coastline, hundreds of small islands and numerous navigable inland waterways, combined with the country's undeveloped infrastructure, add to its vulnerability to drug trafficking.

El Salvador is described by the report as a transit country for shipping cocaine and heroin.  The report said that although El Salvador is not a major financial center, assets forfeited and seized as a result of drug-related crimes amounted to more than $521,000 in 2005.  The report said that in 2005, El Salvador's government -- in cooperation with other Central American countries — implemented "Operation Controlled" to interdict narcotics trafficking through Central America.  The operation established joint patrols by the counternarcotics police of each country along the unmonitored areas in Central American border regions.

Guatemala is described by the report as a major
drug-transit country for cocaine and heroin en route to the United States and Europe.  In spite of the Guatemalan government's substantial counternarcotics efforts in 2005, the report said, large shipments of cocaine continue to move through the country by air, road and sea.

Honduras is another transit country for shipments of cocaine, with recent reports indicating increased drug trafficking.  The report said the United States, in conjunction with Honduran government maritime efforts, has been successful in apprehensions and arrests of people and ships involved in drug trafficking.

Another significant transshipment point for South American cocaine and heroin destined for the United States is Nicaragua, said the report.  International criminal organizations move illicit drugs through Nicaragua by land, sea and air, with major trafficking routes on both coasts and along the Pan American Highway.

Despite the Nicaraguan government's determined effort to fight both domestic drug abuse and the international narcotics trade, the report said that "limited resources and an ineffectual, corrupt, and politicized judicial system hamper these efforts."

Panamá is described in the report as a major nexus for international crime and an important transshipment point for drugs destined for the United States and Europe.  On the positive side, the report said that U.S. counternarcotics and law enforcement cooperation with the Panamanian government continues to improve.  With U.S. assistance, Panama's law enforcement agencies are being restructured to enhance their ability to fulfill their missions to fight the illegal drug trade, said the report.

Canada, the report said, is primarily a drug-consuming country, but remains a significant producer of high-quality marijuana and a transit point for precursor chemicals and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals used to produce such synthetic drugs as methamphetamine.

St. Lucia, St. Maartin, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Jamaica and Antigua, in the Caribbean, are the most common transit points for cocaine en route to Canada, the report said.  It added that outlaw motorcycle groups, Italian and Caribbean crime groups and Canadian-based independent organized groups are the principal smugglers of large cocaine shipments into Canada.  Colombian brokers serve as intermediaries between Canadian drug organizations and Colombian drug producers.

The report added that opium and heroin seizures in Canada have risen steadily.  The report said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police indicated that the opium and heroin originated in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India and usually are routed to Canada through a European country or the United States, often by Asian traffickers.


Museos del Banco Central set Plaza de la Cutura concert for Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday is the first cultural festival of the year organized by the Museos del Banco Central. 

The activities begin at 10 a.m. in the Plaza de la Cultura with street performers, persons on stilts, music and acrobats. 

At 11 a.m., organizers have planned a watercolor
workshop for aspiring artists.  The activity is catered to festival goers of all ages. 

To top the event off, the musical group Los Rojas will play the fourth concert in the museum's series, "Conciertos en las gradas."  The live music starts at 1 p.m.  Los Rojas is made up of a father and his two children.  Their repertoire is varied including boleros, jazz, instrumental music and other Latin music, organizers said.  Entrance to all the events is free. 






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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 44




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Labor minister concerned about March job fair
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The labor ministry wants job seekers who participate in employment fairs to get a square deal.

Fernando Trejos, the minister of Trabajo y Seguridad Social, went so far Wednesday as to blacklist a job fair planned for March 9, 10 and 11 at the Hotel San José Palacio. The minister's major concern was that the organizers are charging admission to job seekers and there is no clear record of who may have actually gotten jobs from prior fairs run by the same outfit.
The fair is Expoempleo 2006, the ministry said. Trejos asked the organizers to outline exactly how many jobs are available, which companies are participating and what kind of occupations need to be filled. The minister also wanted to know exactly how many people got jobs at the 2005 fair.

Trejos directed a letter to organizers in mid-February listing his questions. This is the fourth edition of the annual fair. He urged the organizers to allow job seekers to participate without charge.

Employers pay to have booths at such events.


Students and workers in El Salvador protest trade treaty going into effect
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — The country entered into a free-trade agreement with the United States Wednesday after demonstrations against the treaty in this capital the day before.

Students and labor union members marched in the streets of San Salvador Tuesday and clashed with police who were trying to contain the crowds. At least five people were injured.
Critics of the trade pact say it will hurt small businesses and organized labor. It also requires participating countries to crack down on pirated merchandise, which has angered street vendors.

Guatemalans staged anti-CAFTA rallies in Guatemala City last week.

El Salvador is the first country to adjust its laws and regulations to conform to what was stipulated in the treaty.


Colombia's Uribe begins his campaign for re-election as violence flares
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has launched his re-election bid, as rebel forces step up attacks in rural areas.

Uribe opened his campaign Wednesday, promising to continue the fight against violence that has plagued Colombia for more than four decades. His pledge comes as violence surges in Colombia.

Officials blame the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia for recent attacks on a hotel and a bus in southern Colombia that killed at least 17 people.

President Uribe has negotiated the disarming of some paramilitary groups in the hopes of ending a 41-year civil war against the government.

In a recent interview, Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguaran said recent constitutional amendments allow Uribe to seek re-election in the May 28 election.
If successful, Uribe would become the first Colombian president to serve consecutive terms since the 1800s.






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