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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Thursday, April 26, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 83                            Email us
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Burned cars
Cuerpo de Bomberos de Costa Rica
These are some of the vehicles that were torched in what appears to be an arson attack.
Arson blamed in fire at Tránsito impound yard
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In what appears to be arson, a fire destroyed 25 impounded vehicles and damaged five others in Parrita midday Wednesday.

The blaze was at the impound yard operated by the Policía de Tránsito. The Cuerpo de Bomberos said that the lot contained 220 vehicles and 500 motorcycles.

The alarm came in just a few minutes before noon. Fire fighters from Parrita, Quepos and Garabito responded and had the blaze under control within an hour.
The fire agency said that subsequent investigation showed that the blaze started in a car that was parked near a fence along a public road. The car did not have a battery, so fire fighters concluded that someone caused the blaze.

They have turned the case over to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Last Feb. 26 fire fighters quenched a grass fire in the same location, they said.

The Policía de Tránsito impounds a vehicle for a number of reasons, including drunken driving, expired plates and serious traffic violations.



New budget plan shows there was still plenty to cut
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the government of President Laura Chinchilla Miranda contended for months that the only solution to the country's financial crisis was a value-added tax, subsequent developments show that this was not the case.

When the Sala IV constitutional court ruled that the legislative procedure used in obtaining initial passage of the tax package was faulty, the president had to adopt other methods. The result was belt-tightening that is expected to produce $200 billion colons or about $400 million. That's $100 million short of the optimistic predictions of income from the original tax plan.

The president is relying on a proposed law for the efficient management of public finances to produce 60 billion colons or about  $120 million. Some 30 billion colons more (about $60 million) is expected because what Casa Presidencial calls luxury foods like kiwi fruit and T-bone steak will be subject to sales tax for the first time.

In addition, the central government is preparing to sell excess property, including real estate, estimated at 2.5 billion colons or about $5 million. A.M. Costa Rica in an editorial called for the sale of excess government property as long ago as Nov. 7

The government also plans to make a bookkeeping change in what entity pays the salaries of workers in the Registro Nacional and the Imprenta Nacional, the national printing facility, for a savings of 7.9 billion colons or about $15.8 million.

By transferring surpluses in other institutions, the government expects to get 5 billion colons or about $10 million.

Perhaps most telling of all is what the government expects to save by freezing the salaries of employees making 3 million colons or more a month. That is about $6,000. Casa Presidencial said that the Ministerio de Hacienda estimates that there are 430 persons in the central government affected by that decision, which was mandated in a presidential decree. That means they will not get raises this year or next. The ministry also said that there were 3,450 persons earning that much or more each month in 
autonomous institutions. These include agencies like the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the water company, the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A. and the telecommunications giant, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Just by freezing these higher salaries, the government estimates it will save 9 billion colons or about $4.5 million. Of course, that does not include the salaries of those in the judiciary, the legislature or the employ of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, which are independent of the central government.

The government also plans to charge for what it calls non-essential public services, including the rental of the Antigua Aduana and other state-owned cultural facilities like museums. Also planned are increases in licenses for foreign and Costa Rican tour and sports fishing boats, charges for certain medical and pharmaceutical exports that require lab testing and payments from entities that are supervised by some government facilities.

The political battle over the president's tax plan was illuminating in that it shows that many autonomous institutions have large surpluses. It also showed that money was being spent for reasons not well known to the public. For example, Ms. Chinchilla ruffled feathers when she rejected a raise for lawmakers and said that new cars for Corte Supreme magistrates would not be purchased this year.

There still are some projects that have evaded being cut. The Instituto Nacional de Seguros still plans to build a $7 million facility for the Museo de Jade near two other similar facilities, the Museos del Banco Central at Plaza de la Cultura and the Museo Nacional east of Plaza de la Democracia. A report issued by the national insurance company said that the museum in the current location on Avenida 7 in the corner of its headquarters brought in just $160,000 in admissions last year. Ms. Chinchilla was present recently to give her blessing to the project.

The estimates put forth by the Ministerio de Hacienda are just that. The results also depend on favorable legislative action consistent with the intent of the executive branch. That is not guaranteed. The government has a tradition of overestimating the income from new taxes and fees as well as other financial manipulations.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 26, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 83
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Our reader's opinion
Balanced lifestyle is now
replacing older machismo


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

RE: Desmond McReynolds  An opinion.

Work degrades people?  A man must support his family on one income or be degraded?  You’d better lay off the cane juice buster, and get with the 21st century.  

Some people have dual income families, yes: some out of necessity and some to achieve or improve a personal sense of fulfillment or for a whole host of other reasons.  But none of this even remotely exemplifies degradation unless one finds work demeaning. 

Perhaps some find labor humiliating. Of this I have no personal knowledge.  I, like you, make a supposition regarding these things. Many people work, believe it or not, out of choice.  Many husbands stay home and care for the home while the wife works out of the home, and that is because attitudes have changed over the years.

While I believe you are correct that in some cases one income cannot support a family, in the days when a family could be supported by one income, life was much simpler.  Families did not have large-screened televisions and PlayStation games.  They had to “make do” with what the single income could provide them, and there were not so many pressures to “have” things.

What satisfied families in the 20th century, no longer suffices for families of the 21st.  In the modern family when women work side by side with their partners outside the home, considerate and loving partners pitch in and work similarly in the home to balance the burden of child rearing and home care.  From your letter, it appears as if you do not even consider this an option or a viable choice.

The machismo attitude about relationships is fading, and the perception of a healthier more balanced lifestyle for both partners is replacing it.  Marriage, for those who choose it, has nearly come to equilibrium as an equal partnership: two people, with similar goals who work together along their chosen path.

Darlene Mokrychi
Turrucares

 
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!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 26, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 83
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Colorful cocoa pods have to be harvested gently and handled with care before they are opened to expose the bean.

cocoa beens being harvested
Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería photo

Cocoa growers seeking international certification of their trees
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Cocoa growers in Costa Rica want the nation to join the  International Cocoa Council. Some 300 growers, technicians and other interested parties are meeting today and tomorrow in Upala to discuss that and other items of importance to the industry.

The Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería said that joining the international organization would help growers here and would permit growers to label their product as fine or flavored cocoa. The international organization, which is related to the United Nations, is in the process of considering proposal for a project aimed at improving the marketing competitiveness for this type of cocoa.

Other countries also produce this type of cocoa, including Colombia, Dominica, Ecuador, Granada, Indonesia, Jamaica, Madagascar, New Guinea, Perú, the Dominican Republic, Santa Lucía, Santo Tome and Príncipe, as well as Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.

The Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia grow about 74 percent of the world production, which was about 3.4 million tons in 2008, said the ministry.

The cocoa council also is a research source and can provide genetic help to establish Costa Rican cocoa as the fine variety. Such a designation would mean a better price.

The council at its 85th regular meeting in Guayaquil, Ecuador, earlier this month also considered the problem of  cadmium in cocoa and authorized a workshop in London.

The European Union has passed a stringent law on cadmium content, and cocoa growers are seeking to find out more about the problem.
cocoa on tree
Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería photo
 Unlike other fruits, the cocoa pod grows directly on the
 truck of the tree, and must be harvested with care to avoid
 damaging the plant.

The council not only represents growers but also consuming nations.

Costa Rican growers in March submitted legislation to the Asamblea Legislative so that the country could join the council. The meeting today and tomorrow is in Rancho Santa Fe.

Cocoa, of course, is the source for chocolate.  Cocoa trees produce pods that contain the beans,which, when dry, are roasted. To get one kilo of chocolate requires hundreds of beans.

The United States is the world's biggest importer using about 32 percent of the world's harvest every year, said the ministry.


Taxi fares going up again, but the increase is less than 2 percent
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If there is anything as equally certain as death and taxes, it is that taxi fares will continue to increase along with the price of petroleum.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, as expected, announced higher fares Wednesday based on salaries, the rate of exchange with the dollar and the cost of fuel as reported March 28.

The increase is 1.92 percent for regular taxis and 1.95 percent for orange airport vehicles at Juan Santamaría airport.

For customers, this means an increase of 15 colons, about 3 U.S. cents, for the first kilometer, from the current 570 to 585, about $1.15. Subsequent kilometers or a part thereof will be  billed at 580 colons, 10 colons or 2 U.S. cents more.
The airport rate is going from 835 for the first kilometers to 850, about  $1.70.

Taxi passengers are responsible for any tolls, in addition to the amount shown on the taximeter, the Authoridad noted. The agency also reminded users that there is no difference in the rate based on the time of day, condition of the road or the origin or destination.

Frequently there are taxis without meters or with hidden meters at hotels. Drivers justify their higher rates because they say they have to share part of the money collected with the hotel. Although the Authoridad routinely discounts these claims, there hardly ever are any crackdowns, and hotel taxis continue to overcharge users, in particular foreigners.

The rates go into effect the day after they are published in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 26, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 83
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President challenges Intel to invest more millions in Costa Rica
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Intel celebrated its 15 years of business in Costa Rica at the Museos del Banco Central underneath the Plaza de la Cultura in downtown San José Wednesday. President Laura Chinchilla joined the festivities. During her speech she challenged the company to invest $500 million into the country within the next five years.

The firm brings in $180 million, that is approximately 9 percent of all exports in the country. For the past four years the company has made up 6 percent of the country's gross domestic product. That is approximately $2 billion a year.

Intel also celebrated the company as the No. 1 exporter.

Ms. Chinchilla was accompanied by members of her cabinet
 and the U. S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, Anne Slaughter Andrew.

The president was awarded a plaque from Intel to show the firm's gratitude for her constant support of the company.

Intel has 2,850 employees in the country. According to a study, Intel hires more women than any other business in the country's labor market.

The firm provides approximately $25 million to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social as social security payments on worker's salaries. The firm has paid nearly $900 million since starting operations here in 1997.

In its Ribera de Belén, Heredia, plant Intel makes microprocessors and handles Intel's finances.  In Aurora de Heredia the company is involved in information technology.


U.N. chief calls for more effort and money in fighting malaria
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday called on countries to intensify their efforts to combat malaria, stressing that despite remarkable progress in recent years, much more needs to be done to end the “monumental tragedy” of one child dying every minute from the disease.

In his World Malaria Day talk, Ban highlighted the role international partnerships between governments, international agencies, donors, corporations and civil society organizations, among other actors, which have saved millions of lives through their work.

“A global coalition has boosted proven strategies, including long-lasting insecticidal nets, indoor spraying, rapid diagnostic tests and anti-malaria medicines for populations at risk,” Ban said. “More children are sleeping safely under nets, more families are gathering in rooms protected from mosquitoes, more communities have access to testing, and more patients get the medicines they need to recover.”

Malaria, which is caused by a parasite transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes, infects 216 million people and kills nearly 650,000 people around the world every year, with most of the deaths occurring in Africa.

Ban called for countries to collectively pledge to close the $3.2 billion funding gap to achieve universal coverage in Africa up to 2015, and ultimately eliminate the disease.

“Now is the time to push for much greater progress,” Ban said, emphasizing that there should be no excuses about making “smart and affordable” investments in malaria interventions as
the costs are relatively low. A rapid diagnostic test costs 50 cents, while a course of an anti-malaria drug costs only about $1. A bed net that lasts three years and can protect several children costs approximately $5.

In the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization and others launched his year’s search for the 2012 Malaria Champions of the Americas. Currently in their fourth year, the annual awards honor innovative efforts that have significantly contributed to overcoming the challenges of malaria in communities, countries, or the region of the Americas as a whole.

Previous winners have been:

• The Municipality of Wampusirpi in the Department of Gracias a Dios, Honduras, honored in 2011 for outstanding achievements in reducing the burden of malaria and establishing an effective model to combat malaria in a challenging socio-economic environment, particularly in indigenous communities.

• The National Malaria Board of Suriname, recognized in 2010 for outstanding achievement in reducing Suriname’s malaria burden through strengthened partnerships, community mobilization, and implementing a comprehensive program of surveillance, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment that extends to border areas and mobile populations.

• The National Service for Control of Arthropod-Transmitted Diseases in Ecuador's Ministry of Health and the Project for Malaria Control in Andean Border Areas of the Andean Health Organization, honored in 2009 for outstanding contributions to the prevention and control of malaria through an innovative partnership targeting vulnerable populations.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 26, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 83
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Panette faces old scandal
over prostitutes in Brazil


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is dealing with another controversy involving U.S. servicemen and prostitutes in South America. This time the country was Brazil.

Tuesday Panetta arrived in the capital, Brasilia, aiming to discuss defense cooperation, trade, cybersecurity and other issues with his counterparts. But much of the attention was diverted from those topics when Brazilian reporters confronted him with questions about at least three U.S. Embassy Marine guards who were involved in a physical altercation with a prostitute in December.

An unidentified U.S. defense official said the Marines and a U.S. Embassy employee picked up two prostitutes at a nightclub in Brasilia and had a dispute over payment while in a car. Another official said one of the women was pushed out of the car and suffered a broken collar bone.

Secretary Panetta said the Marines have been penalized.

“This incident was fully investigated, and those that were involved have been punished and held accountable," he declared at a briefing. "They are no longer in this country. They were reduced in rank and they were severely punished for that behavior. I have no tolerance for that kind of conduct. Not here, or any place in the world. And where it takes place, you can be assured that we will act and make sure they are punished and that kind of behavior is not acceptable.”

Panetta traveled to Brazil from Colombia, where he faced questions about several U.S military personnel allegedly involved in the hiring of prostitutes this month while helping with security preparations ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Cartagena. Monday, Panetta said the security clearances of the U.S. military personnel involved have been suspended pending investigation.

The Brasilia prostitute incident has been in the Brazilian media for months, but it received new attention after the events in Cartagena. Upon hearing coverage of that incident, the prostitute in Brazil hired an attorney to initiate a lawsuit against the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia.

U.S. officials say the American Embassy has paid the woman's medical expenses. The embassy staffer who took part in the incident was reassigned.


U.S. Supreme Court hears
arguments on immigration


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The issue of illegal immigration took center stage Wednesday in Washington as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for and against a controversial immigration law in the state of Arizona.

Whichever way the high court rules in the Arizona case is likely to have sweeping legal and political implications.

Outside the Supreme Court, demonstrators on both sides of Arizona’s illegal immigration law made their feelings known not only through song, but prayer.

Inside, the justices heard oral arguments both for and against the Arizona statute aimed at cracking down on the estimated 400,000 immigrants who have entered the state illegally.

One of the key provisions of the Arizona law requires police to check on the immigration status of people they stop or detain if they suspect that person is in the country illegally.  Another part of the law makes it a state crime for illegals to hold a job or seek work.

But during oral arguments, several of the justices seemed to suggest they might uphold Arizona’s right to check the immigration status of those stopped by police.


Marine being discharged
for criticizing Obama


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Marine Corps is discharging a nine-year veteran for criticizing President Barack Obama on the Facebook social network. The sergeant, Gary Stein, will get an other-than-honorable discharge for violating Marine Corps policy, meaning he will lose benefits.

Stein wrote on Facebook that he would refuse to follow the president's orders. Stein later amended his comment to say that he would not obey unlawful orders. Stein persisted in criticizing the president even after his superiors told him that he was breaking the rules. Stein says he was exercising his constitutional right to free speech.

But the Marines say that when recruits take an oath to the Corps to obey their commander-in-chief, some of their rights are limited.


Britain in recession,
based on new decline


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Britain has slipped back into recession. The Office for National Statistics on Wednesday said the country's economy shrank by two-tenths of a percent for the first three months of the year. That drop follows a three-tenths-of-a-percent decline over the last three months of 2011.

A recession is defined as two consecutive three-month periods of negative growth.

Most economists had forecast slight growth for the British economy to start 2012.

The news that Britain has slipped back into recession comes a day after Greece's central bank said that country's troubled economy is shrinking even faster than first thought.

The bank's governor, George Provopoulos, said Tuesday the Greek economy will contract as much as 5 percent this year, the country's fifth straight year of recession. Just a month ago, the bank had predicted the economy would shrink only 4.5 percent.

Provopoulos said that as soon as Greek voters pick a new government in the May 6 elections, the debt-ridden country needs to return quickly to imposing more austerity measures to keep its deficit spending in check.

But the austerity measures have proven unpopular in Greece and other European countries seeking to cut their deficits. Workers have staged frequent public protests in Athens and other capitals.

Now, with European economic growth stagnant at best and voters balking at more spending cuts, some officials are calling for policies to boost the continent's economic fortunes.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 26, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 83
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Latin America news
Costa Rica ranked high
in U.N. connectivity index


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is in 34th place among 132 countries in a new index of connectivity, according to a report released Wednesday at the Expo PYME 2012 exposition in the Antigua Aduana in San José.

The ranking was praised by the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio.

The report establishes a new connectedness index, the first attempt to measure knowledge networks for private sector policy, said the originator, the U.N. Industrial Development Organization.

Switzerland topped the global ranking, followed by Sweden, Denmark, the United States, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Austria, Singapore, Norway, Canada, Ireland, Germany, the UK, France, Australia, Iceland, Japan, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Israel, Slovenia, the Republic of Korea, and Thailand.

The Spanish MDG Achievement Fund financed the program, Networks for Prosperity, as part of a project that aims to establish a global knowledge system for private sector development. The report lays the basis for policy recommendations that will help developing countries acquire and adapt private sector development know-how, the U.N. agency said.

The report said that the connectedness of a country has a strong positive relationship with various measures for its economic performance, justifying the growing interest of policy-makers in knowledge networks. Specific issues related to the governance of international, inter-organizational and intra-organizational networks are discussed in separate chapters. These are illustrated with detailed examples from Costa Rica and 11 other countries: Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Panama, Peru, Serbia, Turkey and Vietnam.

Costa Rica was cited for work that the economics ministry did in the Brunca region in southwest Costa Rica to use public and private contacts to promote local development projects.

The U.N. agency said that while not a new phenomenon, knowledge networking and network governance have gained importance with the rapid globalization in all spheres of societies: economic success, social cohesion and environmental sustainability in a country depends more than ever on the performance and behavior of its neighbors, regional leaders and global economic powers. Knowledge about these, with a focus on the driver of development, private enterprise, has therefore become of crucial importance, and knowledge management and knowledge networking are important topics for change agents and policymakers, the agency added.


Sala IV throws out
two traffic penalties


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court threw out two more stiff traffic penalties in a decision announced Wednesday.

In both cases the penalty was a fine of 277,500 colons or about $555. The court found the fines to be unconstitutionally disproportional. Due to the court action, the fines revert to the amount previous to passage of the new traffic law, abut 10,000 colons or $20.

The illegal actions were going through a red light or ignoring a sign that permitted only a right turn.


Mad cow no problem here,
animal health agency say

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Animal health officials here said Wednesday that a case of mad cow disease at a California dairy farm has no effect here.

The Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal said that U.S. officials reported that meat from the animal did not enter the food supply.  The statement was in contrast with actions the country took when mad cow disease first was reported. Meat from the United States was banned for a time.






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