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(506) 223-1327       Pubished Friday, April 28, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 84         E-mail us    
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New security minister will hear proposal for tourism police
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourism professionals are promoting the idea of a specialized police force adapted to the needs of visitors.

The concept of the tourism police will be presented to the new minister of security soon, according to Patricia Duar Ugalde, president of Costa Rica's leading association for those in tourism.

The plan dovetails with the proposal of the Arias administration to beef up security for tourists.

Mrs. Duar said she was favorably impressed by the tourism police of Ecuador when she was in that country recently.

The idea of a special police unit with multi-lingual officers in distinctive uniforms is not new. Honduras, Panamá and other Latin
countries have them. A number of Asian states and Turkey also have tourism police.

To some extent the tourism police are part guide as they converse with visitors in their own language. But they also are especially trained to safeguard tourists and are clustered in areas of high tourist concentrations.

Mrs. Duar said no decision has been made if such policemen will carry firearms. Her organization is called the Asociación Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo.

The new security minister designate, Fernando Berrocal, has said one of his goals will be to consolidate the existing police forces, so tourism police might not emerge as an independent unit but as a branch of an existing force, if the unit eventually is formed.
Mrs. Duar said she also has discussed the concept with the tourism minister designate, Carlos Benavides.

Jade museum gets
street-level location

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo de Jade will have an entrance directly from the city street when it reopens.

The museum with its outstanding collection of jade and pre-Columbian artifacts has been housed on the 11th floor of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros building on Avenida 7 opposite Parque España. It is a major tourist attraction.

However, access was only through the insurance monopoly's elevator system, and the building was open only during normal working hours. An elaborate plan to install a costly external elevator was vetoed by the central government.
The new location is on the first floor in the southwest corner of the insurance institute's tower.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 84

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Son of tax plan awaits
incoming lawmakers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 2002-2006 Asamblea Legislativa finished it work Thursday night and began the process for quick approval of a new tax measure.

The proposal, presented by Bernal Jiménez of Liberación Nacional, would put the income tax measure on the fast track to approval using Article 208 bis of the assembly's rules of procedure.

This means the incoming legislature will have 60 days to study the measure in committee and just 21 to vote on it the first time.  The proposal is very limited when compared to the massive $500 million tax plan that the Sala IV constitutional court threw out in March.

This proposal is simply for income tax, but it is believed to contain the proposal for global taxation that would require Costa Ricans and residents to report income received from anywhere in the world. It is progressive in that those who earn more would be taxed at a higher rate.

The Article 208 bis was one of the stumbling blocks when the original tax plan went to the constitutional court. The court basically ruled on procedures and not on the content of the tax plan.

The incoming government of Óscar Arias Sánchez is anxious to generate more income so it can execute its plan for government.  The country has fallen into a state of disrepair because, as President Able Pacheco says, there is not sufficient money to pay for what is needed. However, opponents of the plan say that the current government has not been aggressive in collecting the money that it is due under existing laws.

Monday is May Day
and legal holiday here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monday is May Day, a legal holiday and a day when workers will march through the center of San José to illustrate many demands including defeat of the free trade treaty with the United States.

The day is called the Día del Trabajo here.

The new Asamblea Legislativa is sworn in Monday morning and then votes on who will lead the body for the next year. President Abel Pacheco is scheduled to address the body in the afternoon.

U.S. Embassy personnel report that it will be closed Monday, in keeping with the tradition of being closed for every U.S. and Costa Rican holiday each year, some 21 or 22.

Eight held as members
of drug organization

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A drug trafficking suspect fired at and then led police on a car chase from Desamparados to San Sebastián Wednesday night.

As the 36-year-old man was being arrested, raids took place in San Juan de Dios de Desamparados, Naranjo and La Tigra de San Carlos.

Investigators said they had determined the function in the drug distribution organization of each of the suspects who were arrested.

The man involved in the police chase saw agents closing in as he was at a service station in Desamparados. The Judicial Investigating Organization identified him as the presumed leader of the band. They said he made three trips a week to Naranjo.

A woman was arrested at the man's home in Desamparados. In Naranjo five persons, identified as suspected dealers, were detained. Another man was detained after the La Tigra raid.

Agents confiscated a number of vehicles, about five pounds of marijuana and from 5,000 to 7,000 crack rocks, they said.

Cellist is guest artist
for Symphony orchestra

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica gives its second concert of the season Friday and again Sunday at the Teatro Nacional.

The concert is under the direction of British conductor  Michael Lankaster with Bernhard Naoki Hedenborg, an Austrian who will play the cello. The program includes works by Beethoven, Shostakovich, Debussy and Ravel.
The program begins at 8 p.m. Friday and at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at the Teatro Nacional, by phone at  221-5341 or at the theater Web page.

Guernsey will swap tax info

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. and the legislature of the Bailiwick of Guernsey have exchangd letters to acitivate an agreement for the exchange of tax information between the two entities.

Guernsey is a British crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy and makes more than 50 percent of its income from financial services.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 84


This weekend will be one of fairs and festivals
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourists and others looking for diversion this weekend have fairs and festivals, including two in San José.

A big event is at the Centro Agronómico de Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza near Turrialba Saturday and Sunday. It is the XX Feria Internacional with handiwork, food and music from 10 Latin countries.

Much of the cooking at this charity event is being done by the students and staff at the research institution, known as CATIE. Some 11 institutions, including a pain clinic for terminally ill patients will benefit from the proceeds, an announcement said.

More information is available here: 558-2000. The location is three kilometers from the center of Turrialba.

In Guayabo, the festival runs from Sunday through May 8 and is called the Semana Cultural en Guayabo de Bagaces. The program is heavy on music, including a folklore group from Tennessee. There is an orchid exhibition, too. More information is available at: 673-1848.

The Feria Internacional Centroamerica is organized by the Asociación de Artesanos Costa Rica Activa. It runs through Sunday at the historic Parque Morazán in San José. Featured are food, international and Costa Rican handicraft and music.

La Feria del Indigenas runs at the same time at the
Plaza de la Cultura north of the Teatro Nacional in the center of San José. Indian handiwork is being offered.

In Atenas the Expoferia del Clima 2006 begins today

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Mariana Carles Montoya did a belly dance Thursday at the Parque Morazán bandstand for those who went to the art fair.

and runs through Sunday. There will be the usual food products, products of the area, handicraft and education on the environment, including recycling.
Sunday will see the traditional ox cart parade with boyeros leading their giant ox in the center of town.

New president will find a different country now
I first came to Costa Rica not long after Óscar Arias had finished his tenure as President of the country and been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. He was awarded the prize for his work in convincing other Central American countries that being armed to the teeth and ready to fight was not the best way to lasting peace.  He has been working for peace ever since.  On May 8 he will once again be inaugurated as president.

For newly elected President Arias it may be déjà vu all over again.  But the past 14 years have seen many changes for this little country.   Not the catastrophic changes that have occurred in other countries during this time, but certainly changes that have affected the quality and pace of life for both Ticos and expats.

When I first arrived, the exchange rate was 138 colones to one dollar.  At this moment it is 505 and rising.  Because this devaluation is based upon the dollar, high inflation has affected Costa Ricans more than it has expats.  I have watched prices in the supermarkets increase by 50 percent.

In spite of that, according to recent statistics, the material life of most Ticos has improved, or at least increased, with more people having refrigerators, computers, telephones and indoor plumbing and more cars.  The poor, of course, are lagging behind.

There is more money in this country and with it more crime and violence.  More and more luxury hotels and homes are being built, as are more commercial development, and with them speculation in property and challenges to the infrastructure of this country. 

Costa Rica is finally, with some help from its friends, attempting to do something about the long threatening, impending and now present, clean water crisis.  It may be a losing fight in the presence of so much new development, but the country is still trying to live up to its environmental promise. Corruption and the pending free trade agreement with the U.S. are two subjects foremost in people’s minds.  Life has become more complicated for everyone.

And I am no exception.  I realize that there have been more changes in own life over the past 14 years than I would have expected.   In many ways my life has become more involved.  (But then, if you are alive, you might as well be involved in living.) 

The first year I was here I lived in furnished apartments.  My connection with the rest of the expat community was through a club or two. I knew
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

very few Ticos except those I dealt with in passing business transactions.

I smile when I remember that, not having much to do, I decided to take ballroom dancing. After the second lesson I quit.  This was after we spent the hour lying on our backs on the floor learning how to wiggle our hips, then doing movements that were more like aerobics than dancing in front a mirror. I thought I was going to learn the salsa and brush up on my other Latin dances.

For a short while Ann, a friend and former roommate, and I started a small catering business.  My life was filled with shopping, storing, cooking and packaging food.  That got old, quickly, for me.  I learned that although I enjoyed shopping and cooking, I really disliked putting all the stuff away. 
I now have moved five times and am in my third unfurnished apartment, which has meant buying everything, including a refrigerator and stove — an unfurnished apartment here is really unfurnished — and then moving my furniture twice.  The people who moved me the first time, a sort of two guys and a truck affair, did a far better job than the “professional” movers I hired for my last move. 

Over the years I have made more good friends than I ever hoped to and done more acting and writing than I ever expected to. My bouts of culture shock now are apt to occur more often when I return to the States than when I am here.

When I look back, I realize I never made any real plans for my retirement, but then I have never had the good sense to plan my life and the changes I carried myself through. The more changes that happen, the faster the pace of change.  And the more changes one experiences, the more one has a chance and need to learn (without change it is really hard to learn anything new). 

For Óscar Arias, his second term may be a repeat performance, but I am sure he has gone through many changes. I hope that what he has learned will benefit both Costa Rica and those of us who love this country.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 28, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 84

Costa Rica honors outgoing British Ambassador Georgina Butler
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Georgina Butler, the British ambassador, was praised Wednesday for her extraordinary labor in Costa Rica.

She was decorated by Costa Rica, and even her husband, Robert Kelly, got a plaque.

Roberto Tovar, the foreign minister, said that officially and personally she had carried out her job like no one has done before.

The event was in the Casa Amarilla at a gathering of other diplomats.  Ambassador Butler received the Order of Juan Mora Fernández. Such decorations are traditional for outgoing ambassadors, and the ambassador leaves her post shortly.

But the ambassador in her four years here has participated in a number of activities that are not typical of stuffy diplomats, whether it be burning a representation of Guy Fawkes on the Quepos beach, chopping up a gun with the Fuerza Pública or swimming to the bottom of Curú Bay in the Pacific to install a plaque on an artificial reef constructed by a British volunteer group.

The ambassador also met and married her husband while serving in Costa Rica. He was honored for his charity work, donations and efforts to build schools, mainly among the Cabécares in Talamanca.

He is a Canadian.

Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto photo
Ambassador Butler says a few words after being awarded her decoration.

U.N. predicts growth this year will equal that of 2005
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An economic commission of the United Nations is projecting that the gross domestic product of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean will grow 4.6 percent in 2006, up slightly from the 4.5 percent rate achieved in 2005.

In a new report called "Latin America and the Caribbean: Projections (2006-2007)," the commission said favorable international economic conditions are spurring growth in 2006.  Economic growth in the region is expected to slow slightly in 2007, to about 4 percent.

Strong world trade, led by the Asian economies, combined with active domestic demands, are the main "drivers" behind the region's growth, according to the report published April 18 by the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The principal factor of economic uncertainty in the region is the possible change in the evolution of the economy in the United States, given the importance of the U.S. market for exports from Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the commission.
The commission says the sending of money from the United States to the Latin American/Caribbean countries is another important factor helping the region's economies.

The commission said that implementation of the U.S. free-trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic will significantly increase the rate of investment in the Latin American region.

The commission estimates that growth in the United States in 2006 will be slightly below the 3.5 percent achieved in 2005, probably approaching 3 percent.

The organization also estimates that inflation in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2006 will remain similar to 2005 levels of 5 percent to 7 percent throughout the region.

In a breakdown by country, ECLAC predicts Argentina will lead the Southern Cone countries in growth.  In Brazil, growth will be about 3.5 percent.

As in previous years, overall economic growth in Mexico and Central America in 2006 will be below the norm for the rest of the region, at 3.6 percent.

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