A.M. Costa Rica

Your daily English-language news source
Monday through Friday

Place your free classified ad

Click Here
These stories were published Thursday, March 21, 2002
Jo Stuart
About us
The taxman is on the warpath with computers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican tax man has cracked down and nailed a number of citizens who understated their earnings to the tune of 830 million colons or $2.4 million. And he is using computers to do it.

Dr. Adrián Torrealba Navas announced this Wednesday. He is the director general of Tributación, the tax collecting arm of the Ministerio de Hacienda.

Costa Rica has been criticized by international agencies for its lax tax-collecting policies and results.

However, Torrealba said Wednesday that his department now was using software to crosscheck incomes that citizens report with third parties, including customs transactions.

Some 200 workers analyzed 17,954 tax returns and flagged those that had incorrect figures. Most taxpayers fixed their errors, he said. Tributación called its program El Plan de Declaraciones Sombra or "shadowy reports." 

Of the 830 million colons they found citizens failed to report, they were able to collect about 56 percent, some $1.34 million, said Torrealba.

Tributación gave some case studies, including that of a farmer who paid 19,033 colons in 

taxes (about $54.70). Tributación workers checked his figures against a computerized listing of Forms D-151. That’s the form on which companies report expenses, payments and purchases.

They found that the farmer actually owed 2.5 million colons (about $7,200) in back taxes, interest and penalties. The man had failed to report a substantial amount of income from the sale of milk.

Another taxpayer, a retailer, declared loses of 1.4 million colons (about $4,000). Investigators found that the man had not reported a number of sales and actually owed 1.1 million colons ($3,160).

Torrealba also said that another case involved six companies that did public works. Tax workers audited the companies back to 1997 in one case to find underpayments of 418.1 million colons ($1.2 million). He said that these six companies did not agree with the Tributación findings and were fighting the analysis. 

The other taxpayers in the three case studies paid up, he said.

The form D-151 is required for persons or companies that have income or payments in excess of 5 million colons in the fiscal year. That’s a little more than $14,000. Tax returns are due each Nov. 30.

New ambassador
seeks more visibility

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Great Britain has a new ambassador, and she hopes to raise the embassy’s visibility in the Costa Rican economic scene. The new ambassador is Georgina Butler, and she has experience promoting the European Union that she hopes to use here.

Ms. Butler, 56,  presented her credentials at the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry Monday. She will pay the traditional call on President Miguel Angel Rodríguez after Semana Santa.

Like others in the British Foreign Office, Ms. Butler is a professional. She has served in a number of international posts, some diplomatic, others not, since 1969.

Until a recent divorce, she said she put her husband’s diplomatic career and the raising of the couple’s two children before her own employment goals.

Ms. Butler worked for the European Forum and the European Commission in 1993 to 1997. Part of her job was to promote the European Union, a sometimes unpopular concept in Britain at the time. 

The experience promoting the European Union provided public relations experience, Ms. Butler said. It is this experience she said she hopes to put to work to raise the profile of the British Embassy and British corporations in Costa Rica.

Ambassador Georgina Butler

Ms. Butler was invited to rejoin the Foreign Office in 1998 and quickly became deputy head of the Latin Department. As such, she advised the foreign secretary and others on situations in Latin America and made trips there with delegations, she said.

She works from the embassy, a compact set of offices with  great view of the Central Valley from the 11th floor of Centro Colon.

Lima car bomb near embassy kills 9 in advance of Bush visit
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
(posted at 9:32 a.m.)
LIMA, Peru — Peruvian authorities say a car bomb explosion near the U.S. Embassy here has killed at least nine people, just days before a visit to the South American nation by President Bush. 

Just before he left Washington for a Latin American trip earlie today, Bush said he would not let what he termed "two-bit terrorists" stop him from going to Lima. He is due to arrive in Peru Saturday for talks with President Alejandro Toledo and other leaders on trade, terrorism and drug trafficking. 

Officials say security in the Peruvian capital has been tightened following the blast late Wednesday in front of a shopping center across the street from the U.S. embassy. 

One youth and two police officers are among the dead. The U.S. embassy building was not damaged. No one has claimed responsibility for the car bombing, but authorities suspect leftist rebels. 

The Peruvian president is cutting short a trip to Mexico, where he is attending a U.N.-sponsored summit, and will return to Lima Thursday. He has strongly condemned the bombing, telling Peruvian radio that he will not allow democracy to be undermined by terrorist acts. 

Peruvian authorities plan to deploy thousands of police officers to provide security for Bush's 18-hour stay in Lima. The government says it will ban all flights over the city and will shoot down any unauthorized air traffic during Bush's visit. 

Subscribe to
our daily 
Check out
Check out
our back
Send us

news story
Visit our
Visit our 
Visit our
real estate
See this Friday's Tico Times center pages for details on our exclusive 100% buy back guarantee on real estate purchases at Condo Kings, or phone 258-8383 for information.
How to live, invest or find romance in Costa Rica

Click above
Rip tides are continuing to take lives on coasts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The unexpected rip tides are taking a toll of swimmers. Three foreigners have died in the grasps of the undertows since Sunday.

But a water safety expert said that there are steps visitors can take to avoid becomiing a beach statistic.

The latest victim was Gregory Randal Schriever, 23, a U.S. citizen, who died about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean Coast, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. They had no more information about him except that he had been in Costa Rica for awhile.

A man identified as a German died at Playa Sierena in Puerto Jiménez about 8:45 a.m. Monday, said investigators. They identified him as Karl Heinz, 52, a visitor to nearby Parque Nacional Corcovado.

The death Sunday also happened near Puerto Viejo. Dead was a Tennessee tourist who had been in the country only four days. He was identified as mark Wiggins, 21.

Sandbars in front of a number of Costa Rican beaches direct the return flow of water into small, unseen currents that can trap the strongest athlete.

Anita Myketuk, president of the Fundacion de Salvavidas y Proteccion Costera de Costa Rica, said that there are a couple of clues that can tell bathers they should avoid a particular stretch of water.

These include unusual choppiness of the water, discoloration, sometimes brown and murky, and the signs of debris and foam moving seaward. These are tipoffs that the hidden danger lurks below the water.

Frequent deaths have been recorded even though the victim only was standing in water up to the waist. 

How to beat rip tides

Rip currents can kill, says Anita Myketuk. She gives these tips:

No. 1: Learn how to identify rip currents and avoid them. 

No. 2: If caught in a rip current, don’t panic. 

No. 3: Swim parallel to shore until current weakens. 

No. 4: Then swim back to shore.

Ms. Myketuk characterized rip currents as "the number one cause of drowning in Costa Rica as well as any place in the world that has ocean beaches. "

She said that her foundation hopes to have all the major beaches in Costa Rica staffed with professional lifeguards in the future. A 4-year-old pilot project in Manuel Antonio on the central Pacific coast has been successful in preventing all but one death in that period, she said.

The one death may have been a heart attack during a rescue instead of a drowning death, she said.

At Dominical a new corps of lifeguards also has had success. Last year 19 persons died in the surf in Dominical, also on the Central Pacific coast. This year, the lifeguards have saved 17 persons with no deaths, said the captain of the corps, Matt Haley. That story was published March 4.

Ms. Myketuk said that her group relies on donations and that any readers could make a contribution to a great cause and help save lives. She may be reached at (506) 777-1002 or FAX at (506)777-1946

U.S. will bankroll imports, visiting director says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A director of the U.S. Export-Import Bank has been in town drumming up business.

He is Dan Renberg, who met with reporters Wednesday and said he was surprised that Cost Rica does not use the bank’s services more often.

The Export-Import Bank provides insurance or loans to foreign persons or companies that wish to purchase goods from a U.S. manufacturer.

Renberg said Costa Rica only has deals worth $21 million on the bank’s books, but Nicaragua has $100 million.

Renberg said this might be because Costa Rica is a traditionally stable democracy that does not need special banking help. Or, he said, there could be a lack of awareness about how the Export-Import Bank can help a transaction.

The Princeton University grad and University of Virginia law school alumnus has been a consulting firm president, a congressional staffer and a practicing lawyer at a Washington firm. He has been on the board of the bank since his appointment by then-President Bill Clinton in 1999.

Renberg came armed with details about how the bank has helped here. In one deal, the bank 

provided export insurance to John Deere & Co., the 
Moline, Ill. heavy equipment manufacturer, to ship 
bulldozers, excavators and backhoes to Construtora Herman Solís in Heredia.

The bank also has helped with the sale of food packaging equipment from a St. Louis. Mo., company to Corporación Pipasa, S.A., the chicken processor in Heredia.

"Our hope is that we will stimulate additional trade when our presidents are talking about lowering trade 

Dan Renberg
barriers," said Renberg.

The Web site of the bank can be found at this location: http://www.exim.gov

Foreign aid benchmarks getting study in Mexico
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Dozens of world leaders will meet this week in Monterrey, Mexico, to discuss ways to increase the effectiveness of foreign assistance to the world's poorest countries. There is a new interest in establishing benchmarks to make aid programs more successful. 

The World Bank is suggesting that global aid be doubled to $100 billion a year, a goal almost certain not to be met. While there is a willingness to consider increasing aid, there is a new emphasis on assuring that the money is well spent. Statistics show that while $1 trillion has been spent on aid in the last 50 years, half of the world's population still lives on less than two dollars a day. Aid programs seldom popular in donor countries are judged to have been largely ineffective.

Mark Malloch Brown, the head of the U.N. Development Program, says certain countries are making good use of aid and more money is needed for these strong reformers.

"If we are to sustain the incentive system to maintain the momentum of reform we have to do much better in terms of the levels of development assistance," says Brown. "Trade, investment and debt relief won't do it alone. If you take countries like Uganda and Mozambique, which have been model reformers, the level of international foreign investment in their economies still remain disappointing. And is likely to pick up only after some years more of sustaining public investment."

President Bush, who will be attending the Monterrey conference, announced last week that he will seek a 15 percent or $5 billion increase in U.S. aid over the next three years. 

Sonal Shah is a researcher at the Center for Global Development in Washington who applauds the U.S. move towards bigger but more targeted aid programs.

"You want to be able to highlight countries that are doing well. And you want to be able to give them more money because they are doing well," explains Ms. Shah. "Right now, what you have is the same pot of money given to everybody across the board."

Ms. Shah believes  Bush is setting the U.S. aid program in a new, more positive direction.

Alan Larsen, the U.S. undersecretary of state for economic affairs, says President Bush wants to make aid programs more results oriented.

"His focus in going to Monterrey will be to see if 

other leaders share our sense of commitment, share our view of what the effective strategy is, and share our desire to have a very accountable approach to make sure that we really start to achieve the outcomes we all want," he explained. 

The Bush Administration wants the World Bank to shift its loans to the poorest countries into outright grants, a move opposed by most European countries. It is also demanding that future funding for aid be tied to results.

Britain and the United Nations have strongly endorsed the World Bank's call for a doubling of aid. Aid budgets peaked in 1992 with allocations of $61 billion. Aid levels have been decreasing ever since while the income gap between rich and poor countries has been steadily widening. 

Bush heads south
for conference

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush flies to Monterrey, Mexico, later today to attend a U.N. development summit on ways to reduce the gap between rich and poor countries. 

Bush will join 50 other heads of state at the gathering. Since Monday, scores of lower-level politicians and businessmen have been holding preparatory talks, discussing debt relief and ways to boost economic growth and strengthen programs to help poor nations. 

In advance of the summit, the Bush Administration announced it is boosting U.S. foreign aid. Administration officials now say U.S. assistance will increase by 50 percent in the coming years, raising development aid to $15 billion by 2006. President Bush says the increase is a sign of the U.S. commitment to worldwide development. 

He says the increased aid will go to nations that implement economic and political reforms. The European Union also has pledged to increase aid to developing countries. 

On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan cautioned that a boost of $50 billion a year in worldwide development aid is needed to have any real effect on global poverty. Annan also called on developing countries to fight corruption, uphold the rule of law and protect human rights. 

President Bush is scheduled to address the gathering Friday morning.

10 countries involved
in kiddie porn sweep

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Customs Service announced the execution of search warrants in the United States and 10 foreign countries Wednesday attempting to break a suspected Internet child pornography ring.

The multi-national investigation revealed evidence that members attempted to find, exchange and download child pornography. A Customs Service news release said that authorities suspect some members may have also been involved in the actual production of pornographic media products for distribution in DVD quality movie file format.

"Operation Artus" began when German authorities executed a search warrant on a German national suspected of distributing child pornography. From there the investigation expanded to the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Japan, Finland, Austria and Sweden.

The announcement from the Customs Service comes days after the U.S. Justice Department announced an investigation of another Internet child porn ring that resulted in 40 arrests and an ongoing investigation.

Zoellick defends
U.S. steel tariffs

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick is defending a recent decision by President Bush to impose tariffs as high as 30 percent on U.S. steel imports. 

Speaking Wednesday in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Zoellick said the higher tariffs fall within the rules of the World Trade Organization and will not affect 87 percent of Brazil's steel industry. 

The trade representative told the Sao Paulo American Chamber of Commerce the safeguards were being implemented to exempt Washington's partners in free trade deals and a vast majority of developing countries. 

President Bush announced the tariffs last week, saying they are temporary and aimed at helping struggling U.S. steelmakers recover from foreign competition. He also said the tariffs are legal under U.S. law and allowed by the WTO.  On Monday, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso voiced his disapproval of the pending tariffs, saying they amount to protectionism. He said nations that demand their neighbors open their markets cannot pursue policies that close their own. 

Brazil is the biggest steelmaker in Latin America. It says it has asked for consultations with the United States at the WTO. The European Union and Japan also have complained to the global trade body. 

6,000 Guatemalan kids
said to be endangered

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations' World Food Program has announced Tuesday that 6,000 Guatemalan children are in danger of dying of starvation as famine continues to affect the region. 

The World Food Program regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Francisco Roque, said many children could die in coming months unless they received urgent food aid.  Already 126 children are estimated to have died from malnutrition. 

Guatemala's food crisis began last year when drought stuck the region destroying many families' crops. Adding to the problem is the drop in coffee prices which has resulted in lay offs on many of Guatemala's coffee farms. 

Guatemalan program officials say, however, that the problem has only gotten worse since last year. The situation for those already affected is worsening and the famine is spreading to previously unaffected regions of the country.  The recent events have aggravated Guatemala's already dismal nutrition record. Nearly half of all children under 5 years of age in this Central American nation suffer from malnutrition. This is considered to be the highest malnutrition record in Latin America. 

Program officials say the six-month emergency program will attend a total of 155,000 people in various levels of malnutrition. 

U.S. investigators
to quiz more foreigners

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has announced that federal investigators will seek to interview an additional 3,000 foreign nationals as part of an effort to prevent future terrorist attacks. 

Ashcroft says the new round of voluntary interviews will focus on immigrants who hold passports from countries known to harbor members of the al-Qaida terrorist network.

"In large measure, these will be men who come from a variety of settings and whose passports reflect a variety of settings where there have been strong al-Qaida presences," he explained. 

Ashcroft says those being sought for interviews are not suspected of criminal activity. But he says they may have moved in the same social circles or community groups as those engaged in terrorist activities. The attorney general has directed federal law enforcement officials to complete the interviews within 60 days.

This second round of interviews follows an attempt to contact 5,000 men of Middle Eastern descent whom they have sought since November. Ashcroft says federal investigators were able to contact only about half of those on the initial list. But he says more than 90 percent of those who were contacted were helpful and that some of them provided valuable information to investigators.

"In fact," said Mr. Ashcroft, "many of those interviewed volunteered to provide information on an ongoing basis in the future and a significant number offered to serve as interpreters in our efforts against terrorism." The attorney general says the initial round of interviews actually fostered a new sense of trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.

But some civil rights and Arab-American groups have complained that the effort amounted to racial profiling by unfairly targeting innocent immigrants from the Middle East. ."

Venezuelan opponents
clash in streets

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BARQUISIMETO, Venezuela — Supporters and foes of President Hugo Chavez fought battles in the streets here Wednesday, pelting each other with rocks and other debris.

Followers of the president clashed with members of the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, the country's largest trade union. The group has spearheaded labor opposition to President Chavez.

Earlier this month, the confederation and a private business association in Venezuela created a 10-point plan for democratic change that urges President Chavez to step down.

The plan sets out strategic goals for government, such as fighting poverty, maintaining national unity and civilian democratic rule. It also has the backing of local Roman Catholic Church officials. 

Wednesday's uprising followed riots Tuesday in the Venezuelan city of Valera. Students demanding a change in administration at a local school went on a rampage, damaging banks, stores and offices. Police did not intervene because they were on strike. 

Those March checks 
are in the mail

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A pouch of U.S. Social Security checks has been shipped to the wrong U.S. location, thereby delaying payments for some recipients here.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the diplomatic pouch normally is shipped to a point in the United States where the contents are subject to disinfection. This procedure was instituted after the anthrax scare in September. At some point the pouch got sidetracked.

Social Security recipients in Costa Rica may register at the Federal Benefits Unit in order to get embassy handling for Social Security checks. After the pouch arrives at the embassy, employees put the checks in the Costa Rican system as registered mail to beneficiaries home addresses here. Other Social Security recipients get their checks deposited directly into Stateside bank accounts.

What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001 and 2002 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.