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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, March 31, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 64             E-mail us
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Hanna Gabriels relaxes after her weigh-in Wednesday. The women's world super welterweight champion defends her title tonight
at the new national stadium, Our story is

Hanna Gabrills
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More opposition surfaces against tax package
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More opponents to the administration's proposed tax package surfaced Wednesday.

Representatives of the dental profession warned lawmakers that assessing taxes on medical procedures would result in greater numbers of people seeking care at the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Meanwhile Luis Fishman, an opposition legislator, said that sufficient funds are available for the central government without a new tax. He said the money could be found in the decentralized institutions. Fishman is a former vice president.

The dental representatives were from the Colegio de Cirujanos Dentistas, the professional organization. They were speaking before the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios, which is studying the Chinchilla administration proposal for, among other measures, a 14 percent value-added tax.

Right now medical and other professional services are not taxed, but they would be under the administration proposal.

Fernando Montero, vice president of the dental colegio, said that the Caja now cares for 23 percent of the population, and has a limited capacity to care for more.

Also appearing were representatives from the
transportation industry who also said they were against the tax proposals. Javier Reina, vice president of the Cámera de Transportes said that the problem is a high rate of tax evasion. He said that 50 percent of the internal transportation in the country is informal and that those providing the service do not pay taxes. By assessing a higher tax on transport companies the legislature would increase the disadvantage that legitimate companies have, he said.

The proposals by President Laura Chinchilla seek to raise an additional $500 million in taxes, but the committee has been hearing from a procession of interest groups that oppose the measures. Included were the tourism chamber.

Fishman, a former presidential candidate, spoke at a forum set up at the legislature.  He said that there are 68 autonomous governmental institutions and many have budget surpluses. The autonomous institutions are rich and the central government is poor, he said.

He said that he and his Partido Social Cristiano have sent a list of 14 proposals to Ms. Chinchilla. They included evasion, fighting fraud and the reorganization of the government.

Even among legislators of Ms. Chinchilla's own party, Liberación Nacional, there is some hesitancy to embrace the tax package because some lawmakers do not think the proposals are sufficiently progressive in placing the major tax burden on the rich.
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President Chinchilla
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President Laura Chinchilla looks over a rifle and clips assigned to the new border police in company with Juan José Andrade Morales, director general of the Fuerza Pública.

Frontier police end studies
and are ready for borders

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla reviewed a force of 150 officers who now make up the Policía de Fronteras, a new unit of the Fuerza Pública that is charged with securing the national borders.

Ms. Chinchilla reviewed the officers during a ceremony in  Los Chiles Wednesday. The members of the force are all police officers who have received six weeks of special training in their border duties.

Casa Presidencial said that these duties include fighting drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, money laundering and other cross-border crimes. They also are supposed to guard the sovereignty of the nation.

The frontier police unit was announced in December after Costa Rica was invaded by Nicaraguan soldiers in the Isla Calerio. Fuerza Pública officers have been guarding the borders, but the central government said that more specialized troops are needed.

Included in the displays Wednesday were camouflage uniforms that some of the officers will wear. In addition, weapons  heavier than the regulation 9-mm pistol were on display.

Although the ceremony Wednesday was in the northern zone, the unit also will have responsibility for the border with Panamá. The officers will work on the Caribbean, at Sixaola on the southeastern border, at Los Chiles and also the northern zone communities of La Cruz and Upala.

In many areas the northern border is wide open now.

The new units are set up in military fashion with three platoons divided into squads. The border police will have one boat, radios, satellite telephones, microcomputers and vehicles.

The vehicles will be fewer for awhile than the 18 assigned to the units. A convoy of police vehicles were involved in a chain collision Tuesday that damaged five vehicles. They were in San José en route to Los Chiles and La Cruz when the lead vehicle stopped short.

U.S. expat found dead
in his Escazú condo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents are awaiting the forensic report on the death of a U.S. expat whose body was found in his Escazú condo.

The man was identified as Nathan Richard Noble, about 40 years old.  He is believed to have come to Costa Rica from Colorado.

Noble died from a bullet in the head, and agents are awaiting the results of tests for gunshot residue before determining the nature of the death. He lived in the Torre Altos condos.

Noble was last seen alive Sunday. He was well known because he traveled on a silver motorcycle.

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!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 31, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 64
Latigo K-9

Ms. Gabriels' boxing rematch tonight is an historic event
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tonight for the first time a Costa Rican woman will defend a world sports title on national soil.

Hanna Gabriels again meets the U.S.-Mexican boxer

two fighters
Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad photo
Ms. Gabriels and Ms. Pérez at weigh-in
Melisenda Pérez at the new national stadium tonight. The championship match is the final fight on the boxing card that begins at 7 p.m.

The weigh-in was Wednesday at the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, which is a sponsor of Ms. Gabriels. Both fighters were pronounced fit at the obligatory medical check.

There are a number of invited guests for tonight, including Francisco Valcárcel, president of the World Boxing Organization, and Daryl J. Peoples, president of the International Boxing Federation.

Ms. Gabriels is a two time World Boxing Champion at 147 pounds and now at 154 pounds.

Last May Ms. Gabriels defeated Gardy Pena in an 11-second fight in Puerto Rico to win her current title. Two years earlier she had defeated Wanda Pena, Gardy's sister, in seven seconds when she broke her opponent's jaw.

In January the 28-year-old fighter defended her title with a 10th round technical knockout over Ms. Pérez in Punta del Este.

Naranjo fire
Photo by Jason Darrow
Fires continue to plague area around Naranjo and Palmares
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Naranjo-Palmares area has been hit with a wave of fires, including some in structures.

More blazes broke out last night on Cerro Espiritu Santo in Naranjo. Reader Jason Darrow said he took photos of the blazes shortly before 6:30 p.m. from his home in Atenas.

He said he has seen blazes there nearly every night around 6 p.m. There have been no official reports from the Cuerpo
de Bomberos although there are many informal accounts.

An unrelated blaze destroyed homes Wednesday in San Miguel de Desamparados in the El Guazo subdivision.

Damage included four homes that housed 15 adults and 10 children in six families, firemen said. A report said that the blaze started in vegetation alongside a watercourse and then spread to the homes. Firemen said that three hydrants closest to the blaze were out of service. Firemen said they had to go two kilometers, about a mile and a quarter, to get water.

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Eight major studies show vines are strangling forests

By the National Science Foundation news service

Data from sites in eight studies show that tropical vines are overgrowing trees in every location.

If the trend continues, these stranglers of the tropics may suffocate equatorial forest ecosystems, said scientists.

Tropical forests contain more than half of earth's terrestrial species, and contribute more than a third of global terrestrial carbon and a third of terrestrial net primary productivity, says ecologist Stefan Schnitzer of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Schnitzer is co-author with Frans Bongers of Wageningen University in the Netherlands of a paper on lianas in the current issue of the journal Ecology Letters.

"Any alteration of tropical forests has important ramifications for species diversity, productivity — and ultimately the global carbon cycle," says Schnitzer.

Tropical forests are indeed experiencing large-scale structural changes, the most obvious of which may be the increase in lianas or vines, according to Robert Sanford, a National Science Foundation program director. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology.

Lianas are found in most tropical lowland forests. The woody vines are "non-self-supporting structural parasites that use the architecture of trees to ascend to the forest canopy," says Schnitzer.

In tropical forests, lianas can make up some 40 percent of the woody stems and more than 25 percent of the overall woody species.

Lianas usually have a high canopy-to-stem ratio, says Schnitzer, "which allows them to deploy a large canopy of leaves above those of the host tree, competing aggressively with their hosts for sunlight, water and nutrients."

Intense competition from lianas for above- and below-ground resources limits tropical tree growth and survival, he noted.

Increasing liana abundance and biomass may have far-reaching consequences for tropical forest community composition, says Sanford.

For example, in a tropical moist forest on Barro Colorado Island, Panamá, researchers found that the proportion of liana infestation in the crowns of trees changed from 32 percent in 1967-68 to 47 percent in 1979, to nearly 75 percent in 2007.

The number of trees with severe liana infestation (more than 75 percent of a tree's canopy covered by lianas) increased by 65 percent between 1996 and 2007.

In this forest, liana leaf litter and flower production, compared with that of host trees, increased substantially from 1986 to 2002, says Schnitzer.

Lianas have also overgrown other tropical forests.

In an old-growth forest surrounding the Nouragues Biological Research Station in French Guiana, scientists found that over the decade from 1992 to 2002, the number of lianas shot up while that of trees fell.

In a forest in the central Amazon, biologists discovered
National Science Foundation photo
Animals. such as this three-toed sloth, monkeys, lizards and others use vines as highways through the jungle.

study author
National Science Foundation/Stefan Schnitzer
Ecologist Stefan Schnitzer studies lianas, or woody vines, in Panamá.

that over the six-year-period from 1993 to 1999, new liana seedlings were 500 percent higher than estimates from previous periods whereas tree seedling decreased.

But a tree need not live in the tropics to fall victim to lianas. More than 80 non-native liana species have invaded North America. Kudzu is joined by English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet, to name a few. Oriental bittersweet is expanding in North American forests, where it has reduced native tree survival.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 31, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 64

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Carter fails to negotiate
release of jailed American

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has wrapped up a three-day, private visit to Cuba, his second to the Communist-led island since 2002, the year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The United States and Cuba do not have formal diplomatic relations, only interests sections that are technically part of the Swiss embassies in each other's capitals.

Throughout his visit, former President Jimmy Carter made an effort to diminish expectations about the possible release of jailed American Alan Gross.

Gross was recently sentenced to 15 years in jail for bringing communications equipment into Cuba. He maintains he was just trying to improve Internet access for the island's small Jewish community.

Carter told reporters before leaving Havana he met with Gross at an undisclosed location and repeated his belief that Gross is innocent. "He's been sentenced to a long term in prison, and my hope is that he might also soon be given his own freedom. So there are many things that can be done between our two countries to improve relationships and let us have normal relations in every possible way," he said.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman told reporters the U.S. is disappointed that Cuba did not release Gross. Just last August, Carter secured the release of an American jailed in North Korea.

The former president also said he did not try to win Gross's release by offering to facilitate an exchange for the so-called Cuban Five, five men convicted of espionage in the U.S. in 2001. Cuba says they were protecting the island from alleged terrorists. Carter says the two cases are not related, but he added:

"I think that Alan Gross should be released because he is innocent of any serious crime, and I believe that the Cuban Five should be released because they have served 12 years in prison now, and the original circumstances of their trial were considered to be doubtful," he said.

During his three-day visit, Carter met with Cuban President Raúl Castro and his brother, former president Fidel Castro. Carter also met with senior government officials and religious leaders, as well as 12 dissidents recently released from prison by the Cuban government. He said Cuba must begin to guarantee: 

"A complete freedom for all Cuban people for speech and assembly, for travel, that all the internationally adopted standards of human rights will be enforced in Cuba," he said.

Carter is the only former U.S. president to visit the Communist-led island since the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. Carter's foundation, the Carter Center, says the invitation to visit Cuba came from the government in Havana.

Two detained in coke case
linked to frozen sharks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators searched businesses and homes in Golfito Wednesday as part of a money laundering probe.

Detained was a man with the last names of Villalobos Picado and a woman with the last names of Villalobos Mora. Both are owners of a fish store in the Pacific coast town.

The pair are suspects in the drug smuggling case that involved frozen shark. Some 894 kilos of cocaine were found inside the frozen shark by Mexican police two years ago. The shipment was traced to Puntarenas

Rugby planned for Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Federación de Rugby de Costa Rica has scheduled its second championship for Sunday in the Estadio de Zapote which is adjacent to the Archivo Nacional. The organization said that there will be juvenile, female, beginner and seniors matches starting at 11:45 a.m.
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Press group applauds action
in journalist's murder case

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has welcomed the decision by the Colombian attorney general’s office to order the preventive detention of two politicians as alleged masterminds behind the murder of journalist Orlando Sierra, calling the action a strong move against impunity.

Bogotá’s ninth human rights special prosecutor, Luis Alberto Reyes, ordered the arrest without bail of Fernay Tapasco González and his son, Dixon Tapasco Triviño, politicians in Caldas province for their alleged involvement as masterminds in the murder of journalist Orlando Sierra committed Jan. 30, 2002, said the organization.

The suspects are currently being held at the La Picota prison in the Colombian capital. Tapasco Triviño is serving a seven-year term for his links with paramilitary groups, while the authorities are continuing to investigate his father on the same charge.

Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo XXI, declared, “This new act is a strong step by the judiciary and gives us hope that it will prevail over impunity.” He is president of the  Inter American Press Association

Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, chairman of the organization's Impunity Committee and president of the Mexico City, Mexico, newspaper El Universal, added, “This is an incentive for our hard work because orders such as this one strengthen our resolve to fight for solutions in the other murders than remain unpunished.”

Sierra, managing editor of the Manizales newspaper La Patria, was returning from lunch with his daughter and heading for the main door of the newspaper’s office when a hitman shot him three times in the head. The incident was caught on a security camera.

The attorney general’s order came six months after the two politicians were identified during official inquiries, something that the Inter American Press Association had been calling for since investigations in 2004 by its own rapid response unit in Colombia. The Inter American Press Association featured the impunity surrounding this case in its documentary “La Batalla del Silencio” (The Battle of Silence), broadcast by several television networks in the Americas, including during prime time in Colombia.

The two suspects’ defense lawyers said they would appeal the detention order.

Hired gunman Luis Fernando Soto Zapata was sentenced in May 2002 to 29 years in prison for commiting the murder of Sierra. After a series of sentence reductions he was released in 2007 and died in a clash with police in July 2008. Also convicted as co-perpetrators and sentenced to 28 years in prison were Luis Tabares Hernández, and Luis Arley Ortiz Orozco.

An additional two persons arrested, Henry Calle and Oscar Alonso López Escobar, are accused of involvement as intermediaries in the crime.

Since the Inter American Press Association launched its anti-impunity campaign in 1995 a total of 138 people have been convicted for murdering journalists in the Americas. 117 are still in prison and 21 have been released after serving their sentences. being granted parole or for other reasons.

The Inter American Press Association officers announced that during the organization’s midyear meeting, to be held in San Diego, California next week, they will present resolutions to be sent to government authorities concerning this case and other murders that have taken place recently in Mexico, Honduras and Paraguay.

According to figures compiled by the organization, since 1987 a total of 363 journalists have been killed and another 21 have gone missing.

The Inter American Press Association is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. The parent company of A.M. Costa Rica is a member.

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