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(506) 223-1327            Published Monday, May 28, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 104             E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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New rule allows fast shuffle with company books
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

What is Tributación Directa doing?  One does not know whether to get drunk, curse or cry.

Tributación is the tax collecting agency.

Last year taking company books to be legalized was a long process in San José.  A registrant had to fill out a form, play musical chairs, and then leave the five or six books for over a month.

In February, the tax department decided to become efficient. The first thing officials did was make a new rule that made all unused, printed legal books currently in existence obsolete.  They wanted the first page of any book they legalized to have imprinted on it a special form.

Thousands upon thousands of legal books printed over the years that were sitting in warehouses all over Costa Rica instantly became nothing more than trash.  This fact meant thousands of trees had been chopped down, made into paper for use in these books needlessly.  Complaints to the workers at Tributación Directa met with blank faces.  It was their way or no way — meaning they would not certify any books without the form.   Registration and certification of books is required in Costa Rica for any company. One reason is to avoid fraud.

Tributación won the battle. Everyone had to rush to buy the new books with the preprinted form. Printers took a hit.

Last week Tributación had a new surprise — a new effort at efficiency.  Tributación Directa employees told an accountant getting books legalized they will no longer legalize accounting books for inactive companies. Only a few books in each company set will have firm identification stamped in them.

Tributación workers state it is a waste of time because inactive companies are not in business to make money. 

This author believes Tributación Directa needs a little help. Here is a short note to them:


To clue you in, most property transactions in Costa Rica are done though these inactive companies amounting to billions upon billions of dollars every year.  Furthermore, almost every attorney understates the value of the transactions to save their clients money on the property transfer taxes while at the same time they line their pockets with full fees on the same transactions.  Look around you. The attorneys are
Scream painting
Norwegian artist Edvard Munch could have been thinking of bureaucracy as inspiration for his famous 1893 painting "Scream."

driving fancy — and expensive — new cars and you do not have the money for new computers.

Tributación, this means you are not getting the taxes that are legally due the country.

By not requiring legalized books for inactive companies, you are just helping the tax evaders to evade taxes.

By the way, your own normative No. 2, printed in your tax bulletin of September 2004 states that when people request a full set of legalized books, you are required to legalize them.

Your normative states the extra work it entails is no excuse not to legalize all books upon request.

New laws to curb the rampant property fraud in Costa Rica end in legislative bog and mire. 

New tax laws and enforcement are in the works, but the legislation is moving like a turtle through the legislature. Why?  Perhaps there are too many pressures to maintain the old, faulty traditions.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info.  Copyright 2004-2007, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 28, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 104

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Three coast guardsmen
to keep eye on environment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men have been certified as environmental officers to crack down on illegalities along the coast and waterways.

The three are members of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, and they will work in a department charged with the protection of natural resources along the coast and in the sea, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The three are Juan Carlos Vargas Guerrero, Edwin Lezama Fernández and Mauricio Vargas Barquero, who concluded their training last week.

They also will seek out illegal fishing, said the ministry.

Burglary and robbery
are reported in Escazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A robbery and a burglary resulted in significant losses for a homeowner and a bank customer in Escazú.

In Urbanización Loma Real in Guachipelín de Escazú, a man identified as David Denc said that someone burglarized his home when he was not there, said the Fuerza Pública. This happened about 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Missing was a portable computer, a plasma television, a DVD player, a cell phone and $5,000 in cash, police said.

The subdivision is protected by private guards who saw nothing, police said.

Friday about 2:45 p.m. a man and a woman on a motorcycle arrived at an automatic teller machine adjacent to the Municipalidad de Escazú and the woman pulled a gun on a customer. Police reported that the victim, Rose Mary Muñoz Obando, lost 600,000 colons, some $1,150.

Our readers' opinion

Nicoya getting the sludge
from Central Valley now

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I'm still not sure how Mal Pais originally got its name, but at this time of year, its more and more living up to it.

The beginning of the rainy season means the annual "big flush" when all the crap that seeps and is dumped into the rivers starting high up in the burgeoning Central Valley washes down, and gets flushed out to sea by the storms and heavy rains that have now started.

Each year it gets worse and worse "downstream" here as the southern swells push all the doo doo from basins along the central coast and the Gulf of Nicoya northward, much of it settling on the beaches of Nicoya, and Guanacaste.

The color and smell of the water, and all the trash washed up on the shore are sobering to witness, especially if you're surfing in it.

With the poignant backdrop of the steady drum of construction that is ongoing along the coast here, bringing more and more localized pollution, word gets out among surfers — one of, if not THE largest force driving the R.E. investment boom here.
With the rate that the government moves on major infrastructure projects here, one shudders to think how long it will be before waste treatment and recycling happen.

Is it because it's unthinkable that the open ocean can degrade to the point that the Gulf of Nicoya has, and that the Pacific coast of Guanacaste can't possibly end up like Puntarenas? Costa Rica, wake up and smell the shoreline!

Hari Singh Khalsa
Mal Pais

Villalobos economics
gets some support here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Regarding Editor's Note to Ken Brown's letter May 21 — Espinoza saved would-be investors millions.   This could have been done simply by preventing Villalobos from taking new deposits.  Without new money to pay old investors a Ponzi scheme would collapse and everyone would know that it was a fraud.   Now we will probably never know because by freezing the accounts the government destroyed the business whether it was legitimate or a fraud.
With reference to Marc Lustig's letter May 22 : What legal business enabled them to pay 36 percent?   For those like Marc Lustig who can't understand how 36 percent a year is possible, here is a local example.  

Just check La Nación 5 days a week. Casa de Cambio Global Exchange (operating at airports and hotels in five countries - probably a legal business).

May 25, 2007  Buy dollars for 468.34 colons, sell dollars for 534.32 colons.   That is buy $1,000 from arriving passenger for 468,340 colons, sell the dollars to departing passenger for 534,320 colons. Difference: 65,980 colons or 14 percent on just one turnover.   How many turnovers per day, per week, per year?   Just one per week produces 728% per year, very slim margin according to Marc Lustig. 

Of course they have expenses: rent, staff, working capital, maybe a percentage to Alterra, etc.  But they are not selling fish or flowers.   What they have left over doesn't spoil before morning and because they paid so little they can take it to the bank any day and sell it for a profit. 

The large buy/sell difference and possibility of unlimited turnovers makes huge profits possible.   Tourists are milked almost everywhere.   Just try the exchange booths at railway stations in Europe for unpleasant surprises.  

Maybe the Villalobos operate a chain of exchange booths.   Banks which want to borrow money cheap condition people to believe that 5 -10 percent is good interest and that 36 percent is impossible. 
Ron Boyd
Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 28, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 104

An A.M. Costa Rica editorial
Caracas television decision by Chávez lacked due process

By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Radio Caracas Television appears to have shut down at midnight just as the Venezuelan authorities demanded.

The station, the oldest in the country, has been fighting for its life and lost. Today it is being replaced by something called Venezuelan Social Television, and President Hugo Chávez guarantees the freedom of expression.

Honorable individuals can disagree on what should have happened to RCTV. A colleague, Eric Jackson, editor of the Panamá News, figures that the station got what it deserved for treason and fomenting rebellion in 2002 when opponents tried to oust Chávez.

His editorial this week will say that RCTV might be moving to Panamá to continue broadcasting, but Jackson said the station is simply a propagandist.

Jackson is a highly qualified newsman and observer of the social scene, but we must take the opposite side. We think that there has been no due process in the refusal by Venezuela to renew the station's license. There have been no hearings. There have been no convictions for treason. There has been no due process whatsoever. Venezuelan officials scurried to build a case after Chávez said in December that the station license would not be renewed.

Our evidence comes from the mouth of Hugo Chávez, who said Sunday that CRTV was a menace to the country and to the children. That was a reference to the claim that the station aired pornography, otherwise known as soap operas. Speaking in Spanish, Chávez once again let the cat out of the bag and said "I decided." In a modern democracy, the president does not decide on the status of television station licenses. There are agencies and systems for that. Imagine if George Bush said he decided to cancel the license of a major television station. He would be impeached.

Radio Caracas Television would be just a painful footnote if the left-wing regimes in other countries were not also taking aim at the press. No need to talk of Cuba where independent journalists languish in prison.

In Bolivia, Evo Morales, another Chávez sidekick, said that "The first adversary that my government, my
presidency has are some media of communication." He declared that capitalism was the worse enemy of man, according to news reports from that country.

A guest, the Cuban culture minister, Abel Prieto, suggested that owners of news outlets who lie should face prison without possibility of parole. The meeting of left-wing intellectuals decided to form a committee to keep watch on the media and punish those who misinform the public.

In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa, expelled the opinion editor of the daily El Universal from his live radio show because the man contradicted him.

In Nicaragua, where another Chávez friend is president, news people are concerned about a new law that demands they tell the truth.

And in Venezuela, some 5,000 media workers are said to have joined under the banner  "Periodistas por la verdad" to back the Chávez government.

The problem is that truth is in the eye of the beholder. Latin news outlets are more political than those in North America, but most newspeople would agree that they seek to convey information. Truth is for the philosophers. And left-wing authoritarian press monitors.

The administration's version of the truth can be used against a news person the way it is being used against Cuban journalists.

Thousands marched in Caracas Sunday, but the protests had no effect on the Chávez decision.

A key element of authoritarianism, left or right, is monopoly of the media. A predecessor of Chávez, Marcos Pérez Jiménez, once ruled that each daily newspaper had to publish a front page photo of him every day. Now Chávez can air whatever he likes.

Costa Rica has been silent on this controversy. The center of humanitarian thought has been muzzled because Chávez happens to own an aluminum fabrication plant in Esparza. Chávez threatened to close the plant after the last criticism from President Óscar Arias Sánchez. The 400 employees there now have become hostages to ensure good behavior by Costa Rican officials.

In Caracas, others hail decision to replace broadcaster with new, social model
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan officials are launching a new television station that will replace the nation's oldest private broadcaster. Officials have ordered the private channel off the air over allegations of backing a 2002 coup.

Pro-government supporters and community groups began erecting stages and audiovisual equipment Sunday across Caracas to celebrate the launch of the new state-backed TV channel. Organizers hung banners that hailed the creation of Venezuelan Social Television, and said President Hugo Chavez guarantees the freedom of expression.

Officials say Venezuelan Social Television is to begin broadcasting at midnight, using the same frequency occupied by Radio Caracas Television, the nation's oldest private station.

Saturday, tens of thousands of RCTV supporters marched to the private station's headquarters to condemn what they see as a government attempt to silence opposition views.
Government officials say the decision not to renew RCTV's license is fully backed by the constitution and laws on social responsibility for media outlets in the country. They also say the new channel will help democratize the media and enhance the freedom of speech.
The director of social responsibility laws for the Communications Ministry, Maria Alejandra Diaz, chastised some unnamed media outlets for suggesting the decision against RCTV was unlawful. Diaz says journalists and broadcasters have a social responsibility to avoid calls to crime, hate, and discrimination.

Scores of police and military troops were stationed across the Venezuelan capital to guard against possible disturbances.

A delegation from the U.S.-based Inter-American Press Association traveled to Caracas this weekend to express the group's concerns about the decision against RCTV. The chair of the group's press freedom committee, Gonzalo Marroquin, said many voices in Venezuela are being excluded.

Marroquin says the media environment should embrace diversity and different opinions in order to strengthen democracy. He also expressed disappointment that President Chávez has refused to listen to appeals in the case.

RCTV has rejected government allegations that it backed a 2002 coup against President Chávez. Executives for the station have filed legal challenges to the government's decision and have vowed to continue fighting the shutdown.

They are talking about a hopeless disaster, not your aunt
No hay tu tia

This phrase finds its origins in the Arabic term atutia, which was the name given by the Moors to a special medicinal unguent said to have miraculous healing powers. The Moors were Muslim people of mixed Arabic and Berber descent who ruled the Iberian peninsula for 800 years until they were driven out by the Catholic King and Queen of Castile, Ferdinand and Isabella, at the end of the 15th century. Many words in modern Spanish have Arabic roots.

In any case, when a disease could not be cured, people would say the malady had no atutia. In other words no medicine could prevail against it. Over the thousands of miles and many centuries that separate Renaissance Spain from modern-day Costa Rica, the word atutia got modified to simply tu tia and the phrase became no hay tu tia. It has now come to refer to any calamitous situation that has no solution.

However, the word tia in Spanish means "aunt." So literally translated the phrase says, "There is no aunt." When I was a small child and heard my father use this expression, I imagined he was referring to his sister, my aunt of course, whom we all dearly loved and would certainly have despaired should she suddenly disappear, especially since she had a special knack for solving thorny problems and fixing things that got broken.

It wasn't until I went to Spain as an adolescent to visit my father's family that I learned the real meaning of the saying, and it was not until just a few days ago, while doing some research, that I discovered the Arabic origin of the word atutia.

So, no hay tu tia refers to misfortune akin to being abandoned by one's family, cast adrift in the middle of a stormy sea, or losing everything in a stock market crash, a desperate situation to be sure.

The other day I was interviewed by a group of high school kids who are studying Spanish. All the questions had to be put to me in Spanish. The focus of the discussion was the family, and they asked me some very

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

good questions about Latino family life and about my family in particular.

One question that interested me very much was: What did I consider constituted a family?  I had to think that one over carefully, but I answered that to me a family is two or more people living together who love and care for one another and do everything possible to make each other comfortable, safe, and happy.

The students all seemed to like this answer. I did, too, of course, because in reality there are some among my most cherished friends whom I actually feel much closer to than any member of my biological family.

The other day I saw a bumper sticker that read, "Be kind to your children: They will choose your nursing home.” Now, I did not like this because to me nursing homes are terrible places where seniors are all too often left abandoned by their families.

But, of course, I also know that such places can sometimes provide far better care for a disabled or seriously ill elderly person than they would be likely to receive from family members at home. But, I think the real reason this bumper sticker got my goat was that I'm going to be turning another year older this week. Ah well, no hay tu tia. I guess there's nothing to be done about that. (sigh)

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 28, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 104

Study links frequency of strong hurricanes to weak El Niño
By Woods Hole media relations

The frequency of intense hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean appears to be closely connected to long-term trends in the El Niño/Southern Oscillation and the West African monsoon, according to new research from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Geologists Jeff Donnelly and Jonathan Woodruff made that discovery while assembling the longest-ever record of hurricane strikes in the Atlantic basin.

Donnelly and Woodruff began reconstructing the history of land-falling hurricanes in the Caribbean in 2003 by gathering sediment-core samples from Laguna Playa Grande on Vieques, Puerto Rico, an island extremely vulnerable to hurricane strikes. They examined the cores for evidence of storm surges — distinctive layers of coarse-grained sands and bits of shell interspersed between the organic-rich silt usually found in lagoon sediments. From these, they pieced together a 5,000-year chronology of hurricanes in the region.

In examining the record, they found large and dramatic fluctuations in hurricane activity, with long stretches of frequent strikes punctuated by lulls that lasted many centuries. The team then compared their new hurricane record with existing paleoclimate data on El Niño, the West African monsoon, and other global and regional climate influences. They found the number of intense hurricanes typically increased when El Niño was relatively weak and the West African monsoon was strong.

“The processes that govern the formation, intensity, and track of Atlantic hurricanes are still poorly understood,” said Donnelly, an associate scientist in the institute's Department of Geology and Geophysics. “Based on this work, we now think that there may be some sort of basin-wide ‘on-off switch’ for intense hurricanes.”

Donnelly and Woodruff published their latest results in the May 24 issue of the journal Nature.

Donnelly and his colleagues have pioneered efforts to extend the chronology of hurricane strikes beyond what can be found in historical texts and modern meteorological records and previously applied their methods to the New England and the Mid-Atlantic coasts of the United States.

Their research area, Laguna Playa Grande, is protected and separated from the ocean during all but the most severe tropical storms. However, when an intense hurricane strikes the region, storm surges carry sand from the ocean beach over the dunes and into Laguna Playa Grande. Such events leave markers in the geological record that can be examined by researchers in sediment core samples.

The geological record from Vieques showed that there were periods of more frequent intense hurricanes from 5,000 to 3,600 years ago, from 2,500 to 1,000 years ago, and from 1700 AD to the present. By contrast, the island was hit less often from 3,600 to 2,500 years ago and from 1,000 to 300 years ago.

To ensure that what they were seeing was not just a change in the direction of hurricanes away from Vieques — that is, different storm tracks across the Atlantic and
Caribbean — the scientists compared their new records with previous studies from New York and the Gulf Coast.
They saw that the Vieques record matched the frequency 
Woods Hole investigation
Photo by Jeff Donnelly, Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution

Jonathan Woodruff works to sink a coring tube into the sediments beneath Laguna Playa Grande in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

of land-falling hurricanes in New York and Louisiana, indicating that some Atlantic-wide changes took place.

Donnelly and Woodruff, a doctoral student, then decided to test some other hypotheses about what controls the strength and frequency of hurricanes. They found that periods of frequent El Niño in the past corresponded with times of less hurricane intensity. Other researchers have established that, within individual years, El Niño can stunt hurricane activity by causing strong winds at high altitudes that shear the tops off hurricanes or tip them over as they form. When El Niño was less active in the past, Donnelly and Woodruff found, hurricane cycles picked up.

The researchers also examined precipitation records from Lake Ossa, Cameroon, and discovered that when there were increased monsoon rains, there were more frequent intense hurricanes on the other side of the Atlantic. Researchers have theorized that frequent and stronger storms over western Africa lead to easterly atmospheric waves moving into the Atlantic to provide the “seedlings” for hurricane development.

Much media attention has been focused recently on the importance of warmer ocean waters as the dominant factor controlling the frequency and intensity of hurricanes. And indeed, warmer sea surface temperatures provide more fuel for the formation of tropical cyclones. But the work by Donnelly and Woodruff suggests that El Niño and the West African monsoon appear to be critical factors for determining long-term cycles of hurricane intensity in the Atlantic.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education.

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