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(506) 2223-1327               Published Friday, April 16, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 74        E-mail us
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Search for in-country visa renewal is a real chore
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourists are best advised to avoid the immigration offices if they seek to renew their 90-day visas.

A reporter accompanied a Swiss citizen there Wednesday and the best immigration officials could suggest was that the man marry the newswoman so he could have his visa renewed via a relationship with a Costa Rican.

The Swiss citizen appears to have been the victim of bad information even in his home country. It started when he sought information from the Costa Rican embassy there on what documents he would need to renew his tourist visa here. He wants to stay in Costa Rica for 11 months.

The consulate gave him a list of documents that are better suited for establishing residency here. He paid $240 to accumulate a new copy of his birth certificate, a police record report, proof of marital status and a certificate showing he is a Swiss citizen. Then he had to pay $40 each to have the documents graced with consular stamps.

Since the new immigration law went into effect March 1 confusion has reigned at the offices of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería and among expat tourists who want a cheaper way to renew their visas.

The new law says that a unexpired tourism visa can be renewed with the payment of $100.

Even the immigration director Mario Zamora has provided incorrect information to the press. Tuesday he said that his agency has opened a special window on the second floor to handle these problems. When necessary, foreigners can go directly to the legal department for information in regards to the process, he added. The Swiss citizen could not find the window.

But the problems the Swiss citizen encountered started upon entering the complex. Two workers, including one
manning the information desk, told him that renewing the visa was not possible. Both cited an apparent error in the law that said only visas issued less than 90 days can be renewed inside Costa Rica. Swiss like U.S. citizens and others usually get 90-day visas.

Those who drafted the law appear to have been trying to say that the visa must be renewed before the end of the 90-day period. The Swiss citizen has been here two months. Litigation or a legislative fix is likely on this point.

Finally the man encountered a person in the legal office who knew that the law had changed and that those who wish to renew a visa had to show financial capability, not the litany of documents the consulate in Switzerland had cited.

Finally the Swiss citizen was provided with an application for renewal and told to come back in six days. Curiously, the application also had a form attached so he can show a family relationship with a Costa Rican, a legal relationship he does not have.

During the pilgrimage through the immigration offices, he was told that renewal would be quicker if he had such a family relationship. One woman official suggested he marry the reporter. This was in an agency that is supposed to be cracking down on so-called marriages of convenience that many foreigners, including drug lords, have used to obtain residency.

So the renewal status still is up in the air. Zamora has said he is leaving the publication of the regulations that implement the law for the next immigration director. He is being promoted to vice minister to oversee, among other things, the immigration department.

Meanwhile, the Swiss citizen is considering the option of a trip outside the country to return with a renewed visa. He said he figured he should have done that in the first place because the money spent in Switzerland on incorrect documents would have gone a long way toward paying for a foreign trip.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 74

Costa Rica Expertise
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Real estate agents and services

MARGARET SOHN
with Great Estates of Costa Rica

20 years Costa Rican
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Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000

Member of
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info@burkecr.com 

The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the  General Superintendence of Financial Entities (SUGEF) is not an authorization  to operate. The supervision of SUGEF refers to compliance with the capital legitimization requirements of Law No. 8204. SUGEF does not supervise the
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Hearing consultant

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5950-4/15/10

Tax agency suspends law
for quarterly income filings

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's tax collecting agency has suspended a new law that required residents and businesses to report their major expenses and incomes four times a year instead of annually.

The tax agency, the Dirección General de Tributación, was not very communicative about the change, and some business people only heard about the change as they were preparing tax reports Thursday. Some learned of the change when they appeared at the Tributación office to file the report.

Francisco Fonseca Montero, the director general of the agency, signed a decree Feb. 15 suspending the reporting requirement. That decree was supposed to have been published in the La Gaceta sometime in early March.

Each year people doing business here have to file a report listing payments to professionals and various suppliers. In a two-part form business people must list all sales they have made in the year to a single customer that total more than 2.5 million colons, about $4,900.
They must also list their expenses for purchases or services for more than 2.5 million colons.

Rents, professional fees, commissions and interest are special cases. The form filler must report any transactions to a company or individual that total more than 50,000 colons during the fiscal year. So visits to a dentist for which the amount paid totals more than 50,000 must be reported.  That's about $97.50.

The quarterly reporting rule reduced the threshold amount to 25 percent.

The decree said the new law was suspended temporarily, in part, because the agency's computer updating is behind schedule. Unofficial reports say that the agency just could not handle the expected flood of paperwork. Tributación representatives were known to have met with lawmakers, but there were no announcements to the public. In fact, the last press release issued by the agency was last June. There was no explanation why the Asamblea Legislativa passed the law without considering these factors.

The agency did, however, notify the Colegio de Contedores Públicos de Costa Rica, which carries the decree on its Web site. But even accountant members of the trade organization were confused Thursday.


Students march to court
as officials seek normality


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Universidad de Costa Rica students marched from the campus to the downtown court complex Thursday, At the some time members of the Corte Suprema de Justicia met with university officials.

The results were predictable. Both Luis Paulino Mora Mora, court president, and Yamileth González, rector of the university, issued a statement in which they lamented the confrontation between police and university community members Monday.

Mora said the Poder Judicial recognized the university's autonomy as specified in Article 84 of the Costa Rican Constitution. Ms. González and the university recognized the jurisdiction of the Poder Judicial as specified in Article 153.

They said that a group would be named to provide better contact between the two institutions.

Later Mora said that the judicial inspection agency would look into the brawl that took place Monday. Of particular interest is what triggered the fighting. Police chased a university traffic officer who was suspected of demanding a bribe from a bus driver outside the university. Students and some professors attempted to impede the police.

Students who generally overestimate the scope autonomy were outraged at police intrusion. Section 84 of the Constitution only gives the university autonomy in its functioning, such as the voting that names the rector periodically. It does not place the campus off limits to outside officials.



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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

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A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

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Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
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Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 74


Annual search begins for that really exceptional tree
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The deadline for submissions to the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad’s 2010 exceptional tree competition is approaching. Contributors have a chance to document why their favorite oak tree should be considered.

This year’s featured tree is the encino or oak, the dominant and most impressive tree in some highland forests, especially on the upper parts of the Talamanca range.  The nicest forests are above 2,700 meters, in part because that’s the optimum habitat and in part because many lower areas have been deforested. Unfortunately, the wood makes an excellent charcoal.

Quercus costaricensis is the principal species in those forests. A good specimen can be more than 40 meters (more than 130 feet) tall and a meter (3.3 feet) in diameter. Old trees support a tremendous load of air plants, with vines stretching to the ground. An excellent place to see this habitat is the Providencia road through the newly designated Parque Nacional Los Quetzale near San Gerardo de Dota. As might be guessed, quetzals occupy these forests as does the acorn woodpecker, here at the southern extreme of its range.

Most of the other 10-plus oak species in Costa Rica are relatively inconspicuous members of mid- high-elevation forests. An exception is Quercus oleoides, which is found locally in Guanacaste. Its main population center is on the pumice soils around Liberia. While this species will have a hard time competing with the highland oaks, it has its own virtues as to the criteria of the competition.

The favored tree will be judged by its height, crown spread (average), circumference, historic and esthetic value, conservation status, as well as any other subjective merits the tree has for the describer.
Guanacaste tree
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
This guanacaste tree, 100-plus years old, in Santa Clara de San Carlos was a runnerup in 2005.

The nominator should describe why he/she finds this particular tree special, with a photograph. Preferably the photo should include a person or animal for scale.

A description of the location sufficiently accurate to allow the tree to be independently located, with information about its owner and local community standing, must be included, the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad said.

Nominators should Include the usual information about the person making the submission, with cédula and contact information. Entries go to Flor Flores at premioarbol@inbio.ac.cr. Submissions must be received by May 15.

The winner will be announced on June 15, national Arbor Day.


Usually there are no big snakes in the path of the bus
A member of my writers’ group, a young woman in her 20s, wrote a wonderfully descriptive story of a harrowing experience while she was a volunteer helping on a cocoa farm.

They had to cross a river to get to the cocoa trees, and on this day it was raining with increasing winds that were whipping up the river.  First she had to talk an inexperienced volunteer on a tired little horse across the ever-swirling river. Then she had to make the trip herself on the same horse (that had returned for her) as the danger increased.  Something I would be having nightmares about to this day.

Recently she told me, she was reading my book "Butterfly in the City" and it might even have given her the “courage to hop on an unfamiliar bus in San José.”  I still smile, if not chuckle out loud at the thought of what we choose to fear – or brave.

I do admit that every time I see a Periferica bus I get a little shiver of dread and a thirst for water.  I boarded one once when I first arrived in San José, as I often do in a new foreign city, figuring most buses make their rounds and then return to the original bus stop in the city. 

Admittedly I have had two unpleasant experiences, one in Cartagena, Colombia, and the other in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Both times I was left at what looked like bus graveyards with the driver getting out at the end of his shift.  Neither driver felt it necessary to tell me (nor would they) that this was their last run.  In Cartagena some people at a nearby bus stop gave me directions to get back to town.

 I don’t recall how I got out of my predicament in Guadalajara. Sometimes I tell myself I am still there and life is just a dream.

But back to the Periferica (if we can find it).  The word means outlying.  And that is where the bus goes – to all the neighborhoods that surround San José, some of which I have never seen since or don’t recognize.  It was my forever trip on a bus with the growing fear that I would be left thirsting for water in some bus yard so far away that no one would know the way back to San José. 

But none of that reaches the experience of crossing a rock-filled surging river on a horse, or coming upon a
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@racsa.co.cr


coiled fer-de-lance in your path at night, which also happened to Robin.

I said “choose to fear or dare,” but it is obvious, a lot of past experiences go into what we fear (or what we become used to) and what we love or hate.  I am growing to dislike the stadium, and I don’t want to grow to hate it because it is going to be there and I will have to live with it. 

Yesterday I walked past the park on my way to Fresh Market.  Now I know why all the Pavas buses that go downtown past the park were detoured to the street alongside my building.  They were cutting down all of the tall pine-like trees in front of the stadium.  Now the concrete hugeness is no longer hidden.  From my apartment I can see only the western part of the structure.

When they were building that, I watched the workers and thought of them as industrious red ants because from my distance all I could see were tiny figures in red overalls nimbly running around the anthill-shaped west end, the use of which I haven’t figured out yet.

I have to admit. I never cared for the trees. They obviously belonged in a much colder climate and their needle-shaped leaves were a dull green.  I do hope the powers that are do what they said and plant some indigenous trees that will bring back the birds and maybe even some butterflies.

Meanwhile, I hope Robin will get up the courage to hop on a bus, head for San José.  And then take a Sabana Cementerio bus and tour the city. It’s a piece of cake compared to what she has dared to do.

I, however, will stay away from horses, wherever they are going.  The last two times I was on a horse I was 1.) thrown into a rose bush and 2.) dangling from a stirrup while the horse tried to bite me.

I would rather be stranded overnight in a bus graveyard.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 74

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church


U.S. announces new initiatives in Latin energy plan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Energy ministers and officials from 32 Western Hemisphere countries are in Washington for a two-day meeting of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas.  U.S. President Barack Obama proposed this partnership as a forum for sharing ideas and solutions in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner fossil fuels, energy poverty and infrastructure. 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Western Hemisphere is at a point of great promise in terms of energy innovation.  In her keynote address at a ministerial meeting at the Inter-American Development Bank Thursday, she said more needs to be done, but innovation is happening across the hemisphere.  

"Millions of people in Brazil travel to work and school today in vehicles fueled by ethanol," said Mrs. Clinton. "In Costa Rica, a country working to become the world's first carbon-neutral country, shops, households, hospitals are running on electricity generated from renewable sources. In Mexico, a cement corporation is powered by Latin America's largest wind farm.  In Chile, the construction of a solar farm is under way in the desert."

People at the State Department have likened the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas to the "Facebook of international diplomacy," explaining that it provides a platform for countries to deliver initiatives and allow other countries to join in, if they choose.

Clinton praised one joint-initiative — a clean-energy technology network that is being developed across Latin America, that will link centers in Peru, El Salvador, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil.

She highlighted the benefits of embracing clean and green energy.
"And by decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels, governments, particularly in the Caribbean, that now depend on imported oil can spend that money on social and economic development, while decreasing their carbon emissions and protecting the natural environment that is one of the real treasures of our hemisphere," said U.S. secretary of State.

The secretary singled out the Caribbean, saying it is the area of the world most dependent on imported fossil fuels and also dealing with the world's highest electricity rates.  

Clinton announced that the U.S. will provide a grant to the Organization of American States to provide expertise to Caribbean countries that want help starting clean energy projects. 

She also said that the U.S. will offer scientists as consultants, and the U.S. will help Central American governments attain energy and environmental security.  The U.S. will also work to advance sustainable biomass energy, such as Brazil derives from crushing sugar cane stalks, and also promote the use of shale gas, as Canada does. 

The U.S. will also utilize hands on the ground throughout the western hemisphere.

"The United States will work through the Peace Corps to advance renewable-energy efforts," she said. "More than 2,000 Peace Corps volunteers serve in this hemisphere.  From now on, many of them will be trained in renewable energy and energy efficiency and will share their training with communities and help implement those practices."

The Secretary of State further proposed focusing on sustainable forestry and land use, and adaptation efforts to assist developing countries hardest hit by climate change.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 74

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Gates says Obama to push
for OK of Colombian treaty


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the Obama administration is looking to make a new push to gain ratification of the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia signed in 2006 by the Bush administration, but stalled due to opposition in the U.S. Senate.

Gates told a news conference that he discussed the ratification issue with one of President Obama's top advisers as he prepared for this visit.

"I discussed this earlier this week with National Security Advisor Jim Jones," he said.  "And I would hope that we would be in a position to make a renewed effort to get ratification of the free trade agreement.  It's a good deal for Colombia.  It's also a very good deal for the United States" said Gates.

Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva said his government is satisfied with the level of priority given to the issue in Washington.

Silva said the reasons to ratify the agreement go beyond trade.  He said it is a strategic issue, and that free trade with the United States would improve the living conditions of Colombians that would further consolidate security.

Gates also praised Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, whose eight years in office will end in August, calling his efforts heroic, and saying they helped transform Colombia from a country crippled by terrorism to what he called a "lynchpin" of regional security.  Gates said Colombia is now exporting what it has learned about how to fight an insurgency through military and civilian means to other countries in the region, and even elsewhere, including Afghanistan.

The secretary also pledged that the U.S. commitment to help Colombia through security assistance and other means will continue into the country's next administration.

"In our meetings today, I conveyed to President Uribe and Minister Silva, not only our appreciation for our partnership with them, but also our commitment to work just as closely with whoever succeeds them after the upcoming elections.  Our continued bi-lateral defense  cooperation is vital to both our nations," Gates said.

In an interview earlier this week, a former Colombian government minister Mauricio Cardenas, now at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said all the presidential candidates are likely to welcome such continued cooperation.

"There is not a big discussion in terms of the importance of continuing the support of the U.S. and strengthening the Colombian military forces and the security apparatus.  I think there is a consensus in Colombia that this has to be sustained," said Cardenas.

In addition, Roger Noriega, former U.S. assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs who is now at the American Enterprise Institute research organization in Washington, says this visit could help Gates push for the Free Trade Agreement when he returns to Washington.

"It's really important for the United States to be present, for the secretary to have an up-to-date view of what's happening in that country so that he is an asset in terms of the Obama administration's efforts to convince people on the Hill that this is still a fight that we need to be involved in, that we have a reliable partner in Colombia," said Noriega.

In a brief statement at Thursday's news conference, President Uribe said Colombia's success and its partnership with the United States offer reassurance to Colombians, Americans and people of other countries who value freedom.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 74


Latin American news
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Panamá plans to insure
tourists who come by air


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourism competitor Panamá plans to offer free insurance to visitors, according to the La Prensa newspaper.

The project has been advanced by the Consejo Nacional de Turismo, which authorized the Autoridad Nacional de Turismo to contract for such services, said the newspaper. A bidding process is planned to selected the insurance provider.

The idea is to cover visiting tourists for 30 days for crime, accidents and medical needs. The policy will be up to $1,000 a day, said the newspaper.

The initial phase of the plan will cover only those who enter the country through Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen.

México had a similar plan for tourists after the swine flu outbreak there.


Two prostitution raids
target downtown owner


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police raided what they called two hidden prostitution locations in the downtown and on Avenida 10. Both operations were run by the same owner, said unofficial reports. One operation was hidden behind a massage parlor front, a report said.

Usually prostitution raids result in the closing of a business for a day or two, but this owner may have plenty to worry about. Agents reported that they found a 16-year-old working as a prostitute in one of the locations. If true, that would be a major crime.


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