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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, April 27, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 83         E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Concern raised about visitor security
Arias administration favors tourism incentives

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Óscar Arias Sánchez and his allies in the Asamblea Legislativa will push for financial incentives for tourism operators as part of a plan to increase visitors here by 400,000 in four years.

The Arias government also will push for greater protection for individual tourists from violence and crimes.

Fiscal incentives are necessary for the development of tourism, even though a previous series of incentives were abused by some in the industry, according to an outline by the Partido Liberación Nacional. Eliminating incentives was a grave error and now Costa Rica is putting at risk all that it has achieved and the future capacity to compete with other tourist destinations, including neighbors whose tourist policies are more aggressive and efficient, said the outline.

The plan to boost tourism is part of the party platform that has been available since before the elections. Now that Arias has won, the plan becomes goals.

For the 2006 elections Liberación party members engaged in a detailed study of Costa Rica and outlined what was needed. Some concepts border on hyperbola, such as ending poverty.

However, those who drafted the plan now are in key positions in the Arias government. They include Francisco A. Pacheco Fernández, who is the likely new president of the assembly;  Kevin Casas, who will be second vice president after May 8, and  Fernando Berrocal, who is designated to be the security minister in the new government.

The outline related to tourism says the government must prevent acts of violence and thefts against tourists and cites a U.S. Embassy statistic that 1,000 U.S. tourists were victims of violent acts in 2004. This is the worse publicity for the country, said the document, adding that it is necessary to intensify the delivery of information to tourists to reduce the possibility of them being victims of an attack as well as stepping up the police presence in tourist areas.

The state goals of the new government for tourism are:

• increase the number of tourists by 400,000 to about 2 million in the next four years;

• increase the tourist income by some $400 million U.S.;

• generate 80,000 direct or indirect new jobs in the industry;

• construct 6,000 new rooms all over the country. and

• construct at least 1,000 new boat slips at marinas in Golfito, Papagayo and Quepos.

The plan also calls for seeking other types of tourism, such as conventions, what was called residential tourism, health tourism and tourism directed to the retired and those with handicaps.

The proposal also says that national parks, which attract 300,000 persons a year, must be supported and each park should become self sufficient from the fees it generates. The national infrastructure, like roads and bridges, must also be improved to promote tourism. The industry is greatly affected by the poor condition of the roads, lack of traffic signals and the limited capacity of ports, said the document.

The plan also calls for restructuring the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, but does not give details. Among other things the tourism institute assesses special taxes for tourism venues, awards tourism designations, maintains a Web page, does advertising and even has a role in awarding beach concessions for construction inside the 150-meter maritime zone.

The Liberación plan emphasizes ecotourism and tourism in harmony with nature. Nothing is said about sex tourism.

Arias is expected to kick off his administration with a flurry of actions the afternoon of May 8. He has called a cabinet meeting for late afternoon.

Certainly some decrees will address the state of the highways, but how much more may relate to tourism is not known outside government circles.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 27, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 83

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Woman and violence law
rejected by court again

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has knocked down as unconstitutional the proposed law to punish violence against women. The decision was mostly procedural.

The action came on a request to review the proposed law that was passed on first reading March 20.  This is the fifth time the measure or its handling in the legislature has been ruled unconsititutional.

The decision of the magistrates was announced Wednesday by the Poder Judicial press office.

Although the decision was mostly based on procedure, some lawmakers claim the thrust of the law is unconstitutional because it punishes men but not women. The measure also criminalizes the act of insulting or ridiculing a woman in public or private.

The measure also would allow pretrial detention of a man whose female companion or wife was an agressor.

The measure will remain on file for possible action by the new legislature that takes office Monday.

Río San Juan filing
is 37,000 pages long

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's filing with the International Court of Justice over travel rights on the Río San Juan contain 37,000 pages, according to a report from the foreign ministry.

The documents have been prepared early even though the deadline was not until August, according to Roberto Tovar, minister of Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.

Tovar gave the impression in a news conference that the incoming government of Óscar Arias Sánchez will follow through on the international law suit. The matter is one of the country, not a particular government, Tovar said.

The river is totally in the territory of Nicaragua. But international treaties give Costa Ricans travel rights on the river. Nicaraguan officials have stopped Costa Rican police officers from traveling on the river while carrying guns. Costa Rica maintains that the law officers need guns for self defense.

Tovar said that many persons here and in Europe contributed to the Costa Rican filing. The document will not actually go to the court until the deadline approaches, but Tovar wanted citizens to know that the job had been completed before he left office May 8.

Nicaraguan officials have been angry that Costa Rica filed last September at the international court. At the time they fortified their border with soldiers and began charging tourists and others more to travel on the river.

Shake, rattle and roll

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents on the Pacific coast and in the vicinity of Tarrazú were shaken three times Wednesday morning by mild eathquakes.

The first was at 7:07 a.m., the second at 9:05 and the third at 9:21 a.m.

All three were in the 3.5 magnitude range.

Our reader's opinion

Auto auctions are not
always a bad deal

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have enjoyed reading the articles on buying a used car you have been running because 1.) I, too, purchased a used car while in Desamparados and 2.) I am in the automobile business and have been involved with it in Florida since 1985! Before that I worked for and then managed and sold a family-owned and operated Chevrolet franchise in Wisconsin.
Please advise your readers that buying a car which was purchased in the States at the auto auction is not a bad thing at all. We often send our best cars to auction rather than keeping them because in a bidding environment dealers will often pay an amount equal to what a dealership can make on a car, especially when you factor in the salesman’s commission as well as reconditioning cost!

Also if it has run and sold at the auction, it has to be a U.S. spec car, which means it conforms to the safety and polution reguirments of the United States. And of course it will show up on or and then the prospective buyer can access the entire vehicle history from day 1.

BUT be aware. Even these services make mistakes. The Manhiem Auto Auctions of America, the largest auction group in the world actually checks the cars that run at their auctions with, as they too have standards of fair representation at sale.

My father taught me over 30 years ago when buying used cars for resale “it is best to judge the car for its merits and faults and not think of the source that is selling the car.”  In other words, buyer be aware you are ultimatly responsible for what you buy even if you are a dealer.
Patrick Mach
St Augustine, Florida
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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 27, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 83

Ready to work

New Fuerza Pública officers who will graduate today pose at the Teatro Nacional.

Their white epaulets show that they are police students. They exchange them at 11 a.m. today in a ceremony at the Plaza de la Cultura for rank insignas.
196 officers are scheduled to graduate from the  Curso Técnico Básico Policial.

Presiding today will be Rogelio Ramos Martínez, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública;  María Fullmen Salazar, vice minister, and Erick Lacayo,
Fuerza Pública director.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramirez Vindas

Another truck loaded with stolen metal objects found in La Uruca
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have halted another scheme to chop up stolen metal into pieces and sell it to foreign markets, they said.

Tuesday afternoon agents came upon a truck loaded with scrap metal in La Uruca. But not just ordinary scrap. The truck contained any number of items that clearly were stolen.

There was cable and pieces of vehicle license plates, manhole covers, traffic signs and other types of metal that no longer serve their original purpose.

One chopped up license plate came from a vehicle that had been taken from its owners at gunpoint a month ago in San Francisco de Dos Rios, agents said.

The investigators who broke this case are part of a 
special squad that tracked down the metal thieves and those buyers who would carry them out of the country for resale.

The governmental institutions that have material in the truck include the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, municipalities, the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, Acueductos y Alcantrillados, the water company, and even the railroad authority.

A similar truck was located in the same general area a week ago filled with electrical cables that had been ripped from utility poles. Agents speculate that the homeless and drug addicts steal the metal wherever they can find it and then turn it in for small amounts of money at the salvage businesses.

The special unit has been working 24 hours a day on the case, police said.

Printing engravings on display at Museo Nacional until middle of May
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fans of letterpress printing will be able to get a look at engravings that were used to print books here between the 1960s and the 1970s.

The engravings are on display at the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica as a special event to mark the Día del Libro.

The engravings, called  clisés in Spanish, are pieces of metal, usually zinc, copper and sometimes aluminum that have been etched by acid to contain mirror images of photographs, drawings and even entire book pages.

The display,  "De la imagen al papel, los clisés del
Museo Nacional," shows seven photographic negatives and the engravings they produced using this process.

Engraving, which came into use in the 19th century, replaced other forms of reproducing photographs and drawings in the printing process. Previously, woodcuts or lithography was used, the museum said.

The exhibition runs until May 15 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum, which is in the former Bella Vista fortress. General admission is 500 colons (about $1), but there are special rates for seniors, students. Foreigners, pay $4.

Engravings went out of favor with the introduction of offset printing, which also is a photographic process using thin, flexible aluminum plates.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Money launderies, terrorists are more sophisticated
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Money laundering and terrorist financing are global problems that transcend borders. Terrorist supporters funnel money through charities and international criminal gangs constantly adapt their techniques, while law enforcement agencies try to stay one step ahead.

Terror groups are often fed by a rhetoric of hatred. But like many organizations, they rely on money to keep their operations going. Terrorists are financed by smuggled funds, criminal activities or any other number of ways — even by governments themselves, according to U.S. officials.

Targeting that support is a key action for law enforcement, as top U.S. Treasury Department official Daniel Glaser explains: "By taking the steps that we're taking by disrupting, dismantling these financial networks that are supporting these activities, we are degrading the ability of these organizations to get to the stage where they only have a few more dollars to spend to complete a terrorist attack."

But it's impossible to say how much money goes into terrorism each year. And stopping that flow is extremely challenging, according to David Caruso, founder of the Virginia-based Dominion Advisory Group, an anti-money laundering consulting firm.

According to Caruso, "Governments and the private sector have really not been able to determine how much funds are used to finance terror. For example, the 9/11 tragedy did not take relatively a lot of money. So it's very difficult for governments and financial institutions to detect."

And terrorists are constantly looking for new methods to avoid detection and secure funding, says Jeffrey Breinholt, deputy counterterrorism chief at the U.S. Department of Justice.

"It's important to view terrorists as being organized criminals," says Breinholt. "Terrorists are nothing if not adaptable and opportunistic. And so if we accept that as a notion, that large terrorist groups that we are targeting — al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas — they will be ones that will pay very much attention to things that arise that are new opportunistic crimes."

Financial support for terrorism can also come from charities, front companies or couriers who smuggle money across international borders. Other avenues include diverted aid money or exploiting informal, cash-based money exchanging venues, which are popular in the Middle East and South Asia.

Treasury Under-Secretary Stuart Levey recently told a U.S. Senate committee that individual donors in Saudi Arabia are funding terrorists outside of that country.  In an exchange with committee Chairman Richard Shelby, Levey said, "Is money leaving Saudi Arabia to fund terrorism abroad? Yes." Sen. Shelby asked, "Some of that money going to Iraq?" Levey replied,
"Undoubtedly, some of that money is going to Iraq. And it's going to Southeast Asia and it's going to any other place where there are terrorists."

Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism officer explains the appeal to individuals. "The kinds of operations that are conducted mostly by al-Qaida but by similar groups, whether in Morocco, Algeria, whether they do it through affiliates in Europe, they are not terribly expensive operations to conduct. Where do they get the money? Contributions from people who believe in them. There is certainly a tendency for some wealthy Islamic businessmen to write checks," said Cannistraro.

But while many governments are working hard to fight terrorism and stop terror financing, Levey says some are doing just the opposite. He says, "State sponsors of terrorism, like Iran and Syria, present a difficult problem because they provide not only money and safe haven to terrorists, but also a financial infrastructure through which terrorists can move, store and launder their funds."

Treasury official Daniel Glaser says Iraq is one country where the United States is working to build a transparent system that is safe from exploitation. He says, "When you have a modern payment system, it decreases the reliance on cash. And cash, for obvious reasons, facilitates anonymous transactions."

Money laundering expert Caruso describes the enormous challenges in tracking the illicit flow of money. "Simply the size and complexity of the global financial system, just what occurs on a daily basis, legitimately, it's 24 hours a day, when you look at Asia, Europe, Latin America, the U.S. And to track all that, it's an impossibility," says Caruso.

Patrick O'Sullivan, a money laundering advisor at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, says money launderers have used new technologies to their benefit and have evolved their techniques. He says, "Over the last 10, 15 years, really, a lot has been done worldwide to put systems in place to prevent and detect money laundering. So that has made it more difficult to launder money in traditional ways. So methods have tended to become more sophisticated."

Though stopping those bent on terrorism and wrongdoing poses a huge challenge, Justice Department official Breinholt says law enforcement must evolve with the changes.  "The trick is not necessarily having laws in place to eliminate all of that, but being flexible enough to enact new laws in response to what we see from our experience," says Breinholt.

He also notes that as progress is made and officials close one channel, terrorists and other criminals open new ones in every corner of the globe. And success in closing those avenues depends on how quickly authorities adapt to the new challenges.

Chávez woos leftist Nicaraguan mayors with a deal for cheaper oil
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela President Hugo Chávez has signed a pact with a group of predominately leftist mayors in Nicaragua to provide their communities with cheap oil.

Under the accord, Venezuela will supply oil to the Nicaraguan towns at favorable terms.

While signing the agreement with the mayors at
Venezuela's presidential palace, Chávez also again threw his weight behind leftist candidate and Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega in the upcoming Nicaraguan presidential election.

The oil deal is similar to ones Chávez has signed with other Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Chávez said Tuesday that the Nicaraguan pact is part of a larger agenda to provide an alternative to trade agreements with the United States.

Jo Stuart
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