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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Tuesday, May 8, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 91                           Email us
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If the food is in a can, it's probably going to be taxed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The list of untaxed items that went into effect Monday is heavy on fresh products. In most cases, canned products, except tuna, are subject to the 13 percent tax.

Many cuts of meat are not taxed but tenderloin, T-bone, delmonico and sirloin are. This followed the Chinchilla administration's goal of keeping tax-free those food items that the lower-income families might purchase.

The Cámara Costarricense de la Industria Alimentaria asked President Laura Chinchilla Friday to suspend the decree that she issued setting the new rules for taxing food items.

Monday the Cámara de Industrias also asked for the decree to be set aside. The chamber noted that some 90 products are now being taxed that were not taxed previously. The decree created uncertainty, the chamber said.

Some of the uncertainty, noted the chamber, is due to the vague language describing some of the products that should be taxed. The chamber also said that by favoring fresh products over processed foods, which are now being taxed, the president overlooks the health benefits of packaging.

The chamber also said that had the decree been published on the Casa Presidencial Web site before the effective date, there would have been an opportunity for those affected to comment.

The Ministerio de Hacienda published a press release on its Web site Monday which sought to clarify some aspects of the tax. It also reminded vendors that some of them now are obligated to collect sales tax and that they must register to do so. The tax for May should be reported and paid by June 15, the statement said.

Among some of the products that are being taxed now is olive oil, a staple of many types of food. Sunflower and corn oil are exempt, as is lard and vegetable oil.

A wide variety of meats are tax exempt, including bacon, ox tails, tripe, chicken breast, pork chops, whole chickens, ground meat and chicken wings.
Chorizo and hot dogs also are exempt, as well as sandwich meat.

All kinds of fresh fruit are exempt until they are canned or dehydrated.

Similar is true with vegetables. They are tax free if they are fresh, refrigerated or dried. Taxable vegetables are those that are in jars, packed in cans or sold in sealed plastic.

Of course, rice and beans, the national staple are tax free unless they are canned. So is oatmeal, corn flour and regular coffee but not decaffeinated.

Tamales are tax free, as well as most pastas and bread products.

Most fresh, refrigerated or frozen fish are tax free, but if the product is in a can there probably is a tax. Shell fish packaged in jars, cans or sealed plastic also are taxed.

Many milk products, fresh eggs and sour cream are tax free as well as fresh cheese that have no additional ingredients unless the cheese is canned. Vinegar also is tax-free.

Diapers, many school products, including texts, candles (unless they are decorative, aromatic or colored), mops, brooms and potable water are exempt from the tax, as is most soaps.

Toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hearing aides and wheelchairs also are in the exempt category.

Among the missing appear to be jellies and preserves. Several large manufacturers of these products exist in Costa Rica and each has a large work force.

Sardines also are listed as tax-free unless they are canned. Also missing from the tax-free list are a number of oriental products and specialty items, including matzoh, the Jewish unleavened bread.

The decree issued by the president followed a negative Sala IV constitutional court decision on her massive tax plan for a 14 percent value added tax that would cover many more transactions.


Electrical rate hike approved for Heredia provider
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Customers of Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia will be getting a rate hike averaging about 10.7 percent as soon as the new decree can be published. Residential service will go up about 13 percent.

The Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos said that the cost of power for the Heredia provider would go up eight colons per kilowatt hour.

A family that uses 200 kilowatts a month will be 11,000 colons or about $22 U.S. The current rate is 9,400 colons or about $18.80. That is an increase of
 about 6 percent. Those homeowners who use more power might see an increase as high as 13 percent, said the authoridad.

Industrial rates are increasing 14 percent, the agency said.

The good news is that rates will decrease slightly in 2013, said the price-fixing agency. It predicted a drop of about three colons per kilowatt hour or about 1.5 percent. But this does not apply to residential customers.

The agency said that the rate hike was needed to offset inflation and to improve infrastructure.

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A.M. Costa Rica's  Second news page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 8, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 91
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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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Neighbors mourn death
of Uvita restaurant owner

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of Uvita on the Pacific coast are mourning the death of  Anne Moisan, a resident and owner of a local restaurant. She died from complications after surgery last month.

Friends said she suffered from an aortic aneurysm. She is survived by her husband, Patrice, and a son, Lee-Arthur, 7.

Friends are planning a memorial at nearby Playa Ballena Wednesday at 10 a.m. and a fund-raiser starting at 5 p.m. to raise money to transport her body to her former home in Quebec.

“We will miss the lady that blessed us with her smiling presence as a wonderful and dear friend,” said a friend.  “The children and school will miss all the kind hearted things she always did for the children.  The community center for the children will miss her acts of support.”


Indignados group plans
protest against corruption


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The group IndignadosCR plans a gathering Saturday in the Plaza de la Cultura at noon, according to an emailed announcement. The group plans to mark the first anniversary of what is called the Occupy protest in the United States.

A press release said that the protest was against corruption. This is a citizen's initiative in response to grave cases of corruption that have been made public involving government functionaries: deputies, ministers, mayors, municipal workers, family members and associates, said the group.

The organization plans to collect signatures to improve the administration of the country.


Woman pedestrian dies
in Jacó hit-and-run mishap

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 45-year-old woman died early Monday when she was struck by a car while crossing the main street in Jacó. Investigators are seeking the driver, who fled.

The Judicial Investigating Organization identified the women by the last name of Fallas.

The woman sought to cross Avenida Pastora in downtown Jacó about 4 a.m. when she was hit, said agents. She died at the scene.


 
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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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 8, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 91
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northern zone
Dark red line is the national highway 1856 that borders the Río San Juan.
President promises to speed up highway along Río San Juan
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government promised to speed up and develop the frontier with Nicaragua. The principal project is the Ruta 1856 that appears to be stalled.

The statement issued under the name of President Laura Chinchilla followed a negative news story Monday in the Spanish-language newspaper La Nación where reporters wrote that the new highway was a mess with pavement already breaking up and many stretches covered only with a thin layer of gravel.

This is the same highway that is involved in a corruption investigation involving two highly placed members of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad. President Chinchilla pushed through the highway in response to the invasion of a small part of Costa Rica by Nicaraguan soldiers. The invasion and
the highway are topics of cases at the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Ms. Chinchilla called highway officials to a meeting in her office Monday in what appeared to be a response to the news story. Casa Presidencial said she gave instructions to reinforce oversight of public funds.  The three entities, the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes , the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad and the Comisión Nacional de Emergencias were given three days to present a plan of work to get the job done in the next months, said Casa Presidencial.

The president also renewed her commitment to the communities of Delta, Fátima and San Antonio for their development. The previously isolated communities now have electricity and potable water due to the government's efforts along Nicaragua's Río San Juan. The idea of the road was to provide trasnport other than the river.


Drug agents manage to find two stashes of cash in trucks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There may be cocaine on the way up, but the money comes back on the same route. That's why officers in the Policía de Control de Drogas were able to snag more than $2 million in U.S. currency in two separate incidents at the Peñas Blancas border crossing over the weekend.

Saturday they stopped a tractor trailer driven by a 73-year-old Guatemalan driver. They found 66 packages of bills of various denominations in a fuel tank of the tractor.
The Poder Judicial identified the man by the last names of Octaviano Martínez.  The agency said he was traveling from Mexico City to a supposed firm in Tibás.

Sunday they intercepted another truck and detained the driver, identified as a 48-year-old man from Honduras with the last names of Rodríguez Estrada. Agents said he had about 20 packages of U.S. currency in the roof of his cab. He was said to be headed to San Pedro.

Late Monday the Poder Judicial said that the total of both confiscations was $2,180,400. The amount confiscated Saturday was $1,980,400, and the amount confiscated Sunday was $200,000.


money counting
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Guillermo Solano
 An employee at the prosecutor's office in Liberia counts
 some of the money confiscated this weekend.


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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, May 8, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 91
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dancers
Dancers of the group Danza Brisé display their form.
Another dance marathon planned for this weekend in San José
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 32 dance groups and hundreds of dancers will conduct a dance marathon this weekend at the Central Nacional de la Cultura in San José.

The event, Danzatón 2012, celebrates the International Day of Dance.

The event is organized by the Asociación Nacional de Trabajadores de la Danza and the Compañía Nacional de Danza of the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. Among the dancers will be professionals and what are termed semi-professionals.
The international day of the dance, April 29, was marked with a dance event that day in the culture ministry's Teatro de la Danza.

An estimated 100 dancers will take the stage Friday at 8 p.m. for a program that includes flamenco, Middle Eastern and fusion, according to a program.

Saturday some 163 dancers are scheduled, also at 8 p.m. Sunday's 4 p.m. performance is expected to draw 142 dancers.

Dancers in Costa Rica have marked the international day for nine years. The day is a United Nations creation.

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Financial markets express
concern about elections


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Uncertainty is gripping world financial markets, after elections in Greece and France raised concerns about the future of austerity measures to help rescue Europe's debt-ridden governments and its ailing economies.

Key Asian markets fell sharply Monday, with Japan's Nikkei index closing down 2.8 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng off 2.6 percent.  The Athens stock exchange plunged nearly 7 percent after the vote in Greek national elections left immediate formation of a new government in doubt.

U.S. stocks traded in a narrow range, largely unchanged from Friday's close.  After initially falling, both the Paris and Frankfurt markets ended up for the day.  The value of the euro dipped below $1.30 before regaining some strength.

With Greek voters splitting their votes among a wide array of political parties, investors cut their holdings on the Athens market.  Financial analyst Platon Monokroussos said the political uncertainty weighed heavily on stock trading. "The local market is opening lower today with significant pressure on bank stocks.  This is apparently a reflection of the uncertainty related to the election outcome.  The eurozone is also trading lower today, and all eyes will be on the efforts by political parties to form a new coalition government in Greece," he said.

In France, voters elected Socialist Francois Hollande as president. He has pledged to push back against German-led austerity programs and called for higher taxes on the wealthy and measures to boost economic growth.

Europe has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on bailouts — twice for Greece, and once each for Ireland and Portugal — and has a new rescue fund slated to take effect in July.  But to get the money, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund insisted the countries make sharp, unpopular spending cuts.

The European concerns follow weaker-than-expected jobs data from the United States released Friday.


Petroleum prices present
another area of uncertainty

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Oil prices fell in recent days after soaring earlier this year.  Worries about adequate oil supplies are outweighed by news that European voters have spoken out against austerity measures, some economies have fallen back into recession and key emerging nations are growing more slowly.  But high energy costs have already brought drastic changes in one global industry, and could still push it from profit back into loss.

Jet fuel prices were about one-seventh of the expenses for a typical airline a decade ago, consuming less of the budget than pay for pilots and other workers. 

But International Air Transport Association spokesman Perry Flint says that has changed drastically and fuel costs now exceed salaries.

"Today, jet fuel is the largest expense.  On an industry-wide basis, we calculate that it represents about 34 percent of an airline’s operating expenses," Flint said.

Experts at the airline trade group say high fuel costs have already caused them to cut forecasts for the industry’s expected annual profit by $500 million to just $3 billion.

Profits could fall further if a political or military conflict causes crude oil prices to rise sharply and hit $150 a barrel.  Flint says that could push the whole industry into significant losses. 

So, what will happen to oil prices over the next few months?

"That is really difficult to know, and if I knew what it was going to do, I would be the wealthiest woman on the planet," said Rayola Dougher, a senior economic adviser for the American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil companies.

She says prices rose because of worries that unrest could hurt production in nations that export oil, cutting world supply. 

“We are into a great deal of uncertainty moving forward especially with instability in the Middle East, we don’t know how that is going to play out.  We don’t know what will happen with the sanctions with Iran,” Ms. Dougher said.

Recently, demand and prices are down because some major economies are growing more slowly or even shrinking.

Ms. Dougher says demand may be cut further as high U.S. gasoline prices prompt Americans to conserve fuel by getting smaller cars and driving less.  She says these changes are likely to happen should U.S. prices go above $1.05 a liter and stay there.

The nationwide average price was within a few cents of that level just weeks ago, but has fallen recently. 

She says lower oil prices can help economic growth, by freeing up money for business and consumers to spend, and driving up demand for goods and services.
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Latin America news
Hospital de Niños physician
links asthma and vitamin lack


By the A.M. Costa Rica Staff

A study by the staff of the Hospital Nacional de Niños has linked asthma with deficiencies of vitamin D.

Manuel Soto Quirós, a physician at the hospital, studied 616 youngsters who had asthma and reported that 28 percent had insufficient levels of vitamin D.

Humans obtain Vitamin D from sunlight, but Soto noted that many children are not allowed to play in the open air. He emphasized the need for children to be exposed to the sun as long as protective measures are taken.

In addition to sunlight, children can obtain the vitamin from eating the appropriate food products, he noted. He also pointed out that 31 percent of the children with asthma live in a home with a smoker.

Costa Rica has one of the highest percentages of children with asthma. The hospital noted that some 32 percent of the population between 6 and 7 years could be considered asthmatic.

Some of the food products rich in vitamin D, according to the hospital, are cheese, butter, cream, enriched milk, oily fish like tuna and salmon, oysters, certain cereals, and soy milk.

The hospital also noted that low levels of Vitamin D can cause calcium deposits in vital organs that could cause renal failure in youngsters.


U.S. changes regulations
for foreign student workers


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. State Department has announced what it says are some much-awaited changes to the Summer Work Travel Program, made after a review process stemming from revelations that some international students had been exploited during their participation.

“In recent years, the work component of the Summer Work Travel Program has too often overshadowed the core cultural component,” said the State Department’s announcement of the new rules.  ”In addition, there have been complaints regarding job placements, work conditions, and participant accommodations.”

The new rules are intended to reemphasize the cultural component of the program, and require job placements to “provide opportunities for participants to interact regularly with U.S. citizens and experience U.S. culture.”

The revised rules also prevent students from being placed in jobs that: are primarily overnight shifts, involve body piercing, tattooing or massage, involve gambling or are with traveling fairs, are in warehouses or distribution centers or are considered hazardous to youth.

As of Nov. 1, most factory jobs will be off-limits as well.

Problems with the Summer Work Travel Program came to light in a 2010 Associated Press investigation, which found that some participants were forced to work in strip clubs, and in 2011 when students at a Hershey plant walked out to protest their working conditions.








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