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These stories were published Monday, April 4, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 65
Jo Stuart
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Media here rallies the faithful to pray for pope
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Unlike the death of any other pope, the passing of John Paul II is a media event.

International television has been supplemented in Costa Rica by extensive coverage from the major stations. 

The popular Diaro Extra, which is not published 
Sundays, anticipated the pope’s death by extensive coverage Saturday morning and a full front page photo of the pontiff with the simple headline: El Papa Muere. (The pope is dying.) La Nación, which  is published 
Sundays, headlined: Juan Pablo II emprendió su último peregrinaje. (John Paul II embarks on his final pilgrimage.) The newspaper also devoted nine pages to the pope, his biography, his 1983 visit to Costa Rica and the procedures for electing a new pope.

The pope died about 1:30 p.m. Saturday Costa Rican time. Church bells sounded all over the country as did an alert siren in San José. But it was the radio and television stations that told the majority of the faithful about religious services that same afternoon. A 5 p.m. service for the pope in the Catedral Metropolitana had every seat filled and standees at each door. The service, of course, was heavily covered by Teletica, Channel 7, and Repretel, Channel 6, whose vans with the towering microwave antennas were parked along the north side of the building.

Other churches all over the country had similar Saturday services and special moments of remembrances at Sunday Masses. At the cathedral, the San José orchestra played a funeral dirge, prompting tears from many parishioners.

Both television stations dedicated nearly their whole news broadcast Sunday night to the pope. Included was the announcement Sunday morning by President Abel Pacheco that he and his wife, Leyla Rodríguez, would represent the country at the pontiff’s funeral. Roberto Tovar, the foreign minister, will travel later to Rome for the official ceremony installing a new pope, he said.

Catholicism is the official religion of Costa Rica, so the death of a pope has strong diplomatic implications.

Channel 7 also aired a special evening tribute.


                               A.M. Costa Rica photo
A more than life-size statue of former president Daniel Oduber Quiros seems to be adding his comments as a nearby flag flies at half-staff at Parque Morazán.

Nation in mourning

The country is in a four-day period of mourning and flags are at half staff in tribute to John Paul II.

Meanwhile, the next pope could be from Latin America. At least that’s what officials here hope.

Our story: HERE!

La Nación editorialized Sunday morning, and 
called Juan Paul II "an athlete of God, gladiator of the faith."

"Similar to Leo I (440-461) and Gregory I (590-604) he deserves the characterization of Great for his incomparable personality and his immense labor, during 26 years and six months as supreme pontiff, the third longest pontificate in the 2000 year history of the Catholic Church." 

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Reader response
CPA takes exception 
to cultural tax concerns

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I'm not a regular reader of your publication, but a friend and client of mine (I'm a CPA),  who is a U.S. citizen living in CR, gave me a call and asked me to read Mr. Garland Baker's article on the Education and Culture Tax, since he was really alarmed with what this "expert" was saying about properties being liened and seized by CR government if this tax was not paid.  Well, I read the story and I immediately understood my client's panic, since the article is as misleading and full of inaccuracies as it can be. 

For starters, and applicable to any taxes payable in Costa Rica, the right of CR Tax Agency (Direccion General de Tributacion, not Tributacion Directa) to collect them prescribes after three years, five if the corporation is not registered before DGT.  Even in the case of a 50-year-old corporation that never registered and paid this particular tax, or any other one for the matter, DGT can only claim 5 years at the most, which would mean, for those at the higher end, a payment of $ 96.00 plus an interest of about 22 % yearly for each period and a fine of 1 % per month that in no case can exceed 20 % of the unpaid tax.  You do the math, but I can assure you that the worst-case scenario is far from what Mr. Baker depicts. For reference see Articles 51, 57 and 80 of Law 4755 (Codigo de Normas y Procedimientos Tributarios). 

Form D-110 referred to by Mr. Baker, is just a generic official tax payment form, good for any type of tax, like a money receipt, and is not mandatory for the Education and Culture Tax.  You can just show up at any DGT branch and they'll do the paperwork for you. 

As to putting liens on the properties of the delinquent corporations and "selling them in tax auctions" this could only happen in extreme cases as when property taxes, collected by municipalities, are not paid for several years, and only after an extensive and long legal procedure. I can assure you that DGT is not going to engage in such operation to collect $ 90.00. 

Mr. Baker adds that "In 1976 only, all the money collected went to the purchase of radio and television equipment to enable Costa Rica to catch up to the rest of the world."  What he's referring to is Transitory Article No. II of Law 5923, that states that, for that year only, all sums collected from this tax would be used for the purchase of TV, radio and recording devices (it's 1976, remember, no PC's or anything on the like) to be installed in public schools as per the Education Department instructions, for educational purposes only. 

Compare this with Mr. Baker's unfortunate (and profoundly disrespectful) (miss)interpretation.  Another unfortunate statement is that about DGT not having "enough storage space" to make a list of those owing the tax. The problem does not have anything to do with that, and only a very misinformed and simplistic mind could come up with such a conclusion.  Education and Culture is so small and insignificant a tax, that the Government simply, and with all reason, does not use its limited financial resources to chase it. 

Computer resources may not be the best at DGT, I agree, but they sure have enough disk space to keep their records. Finally, it worries me profoundly that this type of misinformation goes out to the world, causing confusion and fear in those not familiar with the subject.  Mr. Baker may have 33 years living in Costa Rica, but he doesn't seem to have enough knowledge on this matter so as to present himself as an "expert". I invite all your readers to consult with local and reputed local CPA firms so they don't get mislead as to their tax obligations and the way taxes operate in Costa Rica. 

Mario Valverde Brenes,  CPA CFE 
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Valverde is correct on the use of the term "Dirección General de Tributación." It is sloppy of us to call the agency by its older name.

Mr. Baker, too, is an accountant who has successfully carried tax cases to the Sala IV constitutional court. He and A.M. Costa Rica do not share Mr. Valverde’s generous opinion of Tributación, particuarly now that the officials there are being schooled by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. 

Tributación employees have told Mr. Baker that the agency does not have adequate computer storage. Key documents still are only available on paper. It may be that the problem is employees to input the data. Still Tributación is not following its legal mandate to crosscheck taxpayers with corporations on file at the Registro Nacional. 

We would advise our readers to pay the taxes they owe. We also note that Tributación placed an ad in La Nación Thursday reminding corporation owners that the educational and cultural tax was due that day.

U.S. citizen and neighbor
die in headon accident

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 31-year-old U.S. citizen and a companion died early Friday when their Daihatsun Terius collided headon with a tractor-trailer. A woman who also was in the vehicle suffered serious injuries.

The crash happened in La Platanera de Horquetas de Sarapiquí, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. 

The U.S. citizen was identified as Marc Andre Jacquette, who was believed to own land in the Sarapiquí area. The Costa Rican riding with him was a neighbor, Rafael Mauricio Arias Elizondo, 22. The woman, María Fernanda González Garcia, 20, was in the Hospital de Guápiles.

Professional Directory
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A dicho to make us take a long look at ourselves
El Comal le dice a la Olla: Quitate porque me atollas

"The skillet tells the pot to keep away because she’s too dirty." This dicho is usually used to refer to people who self-righteously criticize others. It’s very similar to the English expression "the pot calling the kettle black."

I have a relative — by marriage, I hasten to add — who, whenever she calls and begins her first sentence with "no one knows this, but . . . ." Half of San José undoubtedly knows whatever disreputable thing it is she’s about to tell you about someone. Of course she not only loves to spread gossip, she also is always hoping to hear some new juicy tidbit from you. Whatever she hears, no matter how benignly innocent, she’ll find a way to twist it into something not quite respectable, then turn round and repeat it to the rest of the family as though that’s exactly the way she heard it from you.

We call such masters of the art of gossip chepita, and we make a sign with our hand by putting together the thumb and the three middle fingers while pointing the little finger skyward. This indicates that we know that someone is telling a chisme.

This particular "relative" also always claims that she does not like chismes, but a true indication of how much she actually adores gossip is the following account: 

When this woman’s own daughter became pregnant — unfortunately, without the benefit of nuptials — she couldn’t wait to spread the delicious tattle even though in so doing she was deprecating her own flesh and blood! When she called my niece to tell her, as usual she began with "of course, no one knows this, but . . . . " and immediately my niece knew some nasty chisme was about to follow. 

But in the course of relating her slander this woman told how scandalized her brothers and sisters and even the neighbors were at the news of her daughter’s pregnancy. "But," my niece interjected. "I thought this was a big secret and nobody else was suppose to know about it." 

Somewhat surprised at this the woman said: "Well, 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

that’s because I don’t want you to tell so-and-so or them-and-such because you know what gossips they are." "Oh, I get it now," my niece replied. "You don’t want them to know because you want to be the only one to spread the chisme." 

This was a particularly outrageous case of el Comal le dice a la Olla: Quitate porque me atollas because it is very well known among the family that this woman was herself six months pregnant when she got married! Of such people we often say that they haven’t taken a very good look at themselves in the mirror lately.

Even countries indulge in el Comal le dice a la Olla: Quitate porque me atollas. Some nations criticize others for human rights abuses, for example, but don’t like it when it’s pointed out to them that their own use of torture, indefinite incarceration without charge, and denial of the writ of habeas corpus are themselves very serious abuses of human rights. 

Humans often love to criticize each other. It makes us feel good about ourselves, self-righteous and superior. But even the Bible cautions us that we had better concentrate on removing the beam from our own eye before we castigate our neighbor for not recognizing the mote that we can so easily see in his.

Pimping sentence sustained because no one files appeal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An eight-year prison sentence is final against Sinaí Monge Muñoz because neither the prosecution nor the defense appealed the Feb. 21 sentence.

Both sides in the criminal case had the option to carry the decision to the Salas III criminal appeals court for review. Ms. Monge was convicted of aggravated primping, which means pimping minors.

A spokesman for the judicial system said that the Oficina de Defensa Civil de la Víctimas has appealed on behalf of two minors who identify themselves as 

victims of Ms. Monge’s pimping operation. The two had dropped out of the criminal proceeding.

Investigators had Ms. Monge’s operation in San Sebastian under surveillance for months and they collected information via license plate data and from telephone intercepts. However, no other charges have followed her conviction.

Prosecutors have told legislators that a presumed list of Ms. Monge’s clients does not exist. Nevertheless, the Spanish-language press has identified several sports figures as clients. Testimony also implicated an employee of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

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Memorial Mass here for pope to be Thursday at 10 a.m.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

The principal Costa Rican religious event in memory of Pope John Paul II will be Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Catedral Metropolitana.

Public employees will be given time off from their jobs to attend the Mass if they choose, said President Abel Pacheco Sunday.

Pacheco also disclosed that he and his wife, Leyla Rodriguez, would be on their way to Rome this afternoon even though the date for the funeral of the pope has not been set. Pacheco said he was not sure he could book a flight if he waited any longer.

Casa Presidencial decreed four days of national mourning Saturday, and the nation’s flags were at half staff Sunday.

Pacheco recalled Sunday that he met the pope twice. The first time was in Guatemala at the beatification of Brother Pedro Betancour. The pope shared just two words with Pacheco, the president said: "Costa Rica." The second time was in the Vatican a year ago, he added.

John Paul II made his first visit to Latin America in early 1979, when he made stops in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. In later years, the pope traveled here and to countries such as Chile, Venezuela, Jamaica, Brazil, Guatemala and Nicaragua. 

Many Costa Ricans remember the pope’s three-day visit here in early March 1983 that included an outdoor Mass in Parque La Sabana.

Latin America, along with Africa, is one of the parts of the world where the Catholic church is experiencing significant growth.

This has led some analysts to speculate that Latin candidates might be prominent during the college of cardinals' meetings to choose the next pope. Brazil's Cardinal Claudio Hummes and Cardinal Oscar Andrews Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras have been mentioned as potential future leaders of the worldwide church.

Pacheco said "what a marvel it would be" to have a pope from Central America. The president praised Rodríguez for his language skills and other attributes: 

"This Honduran cardinal is a marvel, a great humanist, multilingual, a simple man, happy. He is not one of those persons who thinks that it is good to be angry all the time."

Latin America deserves a pope because it has the largest concentration of Catholics today, said Pacheco.

Throughout his 26-year papacy, John Paul has had a 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
This was the scene — a full house — just three hours after the death of Pope John Paul II at the Catedral Metropolitana Saturday afternooon.

profound impact on Latin America, which is home to 
nearly half of the world's more than 1 billion Catholics. During a Mass in Mexico in 1999, the pontiff described Latin America as the "continent of hope" for the future.

From Mexico this week, President Vicente Fox sent messages of love and support to Vatican City.
In Cuba, the archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, was allowed to appear on state-run television to advise the island's many Catholics that the pope was on his deathbed. 

For decades after Cuba's Communist revolution in 1959, Fidel Castro's government barred Cubans from celebrating Christmas, but the holiday was reinstated one month before John Paul's only visit to Cuba, in 1998.

Castro has ordered three days of official state mourning for the pope, an unusual move for the Communist nation.

The Cuban leader also suspended planned Communist youth festivities as well as the finals of the national baseball league.

Church bells tolled for over 30 minutes late Saturday, after the pope's death was announced at the Vatican.
John Paul was the only pope ever to visit Cuba, in 1998, and he has been praised by Havana for what members of the Castro government saw as the church leader's opposition to "neo-liberal capitalism."

Costa Rica did not cancel sporting events despite the period of national mourning. Professional soccer teams played a full slate Sunday.

Early morning police raid brings to end abduction of Cartago girl, 11
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police surprised and captured a man suspected of carrying off an 11-year-old girl. The girl was freed in the Saturday morning raid.

The girl, María Cristian Pérez Trejos, became a national figure after she vanished March 26. The principal suspect was Juan Rafael Alvarado, 48. 

The girl’s family lives in Cot de Cartago at a dwelling where there was no electricity. Alvarado became friendly with the family when he began to install electrical lines in the home.

When police became involved they quickly determined that a warrant existed for the man on an allegation of armed robbery.

The girl was featured on evening news broadcasts. As a result of one of the shows, the Fuerza Pública fielded an emergency call about 4:30 a.m. Saturday. The caller said he knew where the girl could be found.

The scene was on Calle Vargas de Tambor in Alajuela. Police set up a net around the dwelling after the owner, Ricardo Méndez, said he had rented a room to the suspect. The girl had been identified as the man’s daughter.

Officers finally rushed into the room when they surprised Alvarado. They said he tried to fight back and tried to throw objects.

The girl was reported to be in good condition. She was taken to a medical examination while Alvarado went to a cell in Alajuela.

Jo Stuart
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