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These stories were published Wednesday, June 9, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 113
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Treaty validates preference for Ticos
Free trade is not free access for foreigners
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Foreigners who see the proposed free trade treaty as a quick way to win the right to practice their profession here will be disappointed.

Costa Rica has negotiated exceptions to the treaty that retain elements of national law that are preferential to Ticos.

For example, tour guides, customs brokers and operators of solid waste treatment facilities must be Costa Rican nationals, and no less than 85 percent of the faculty, administrative faculty, and administrative staff of a private institute of higher education must be Costa Rican.

Physicians, accountants, pharmacists, geologists, agronomical engineers, veterinarians, dental surgeons, journalists, medical and surgical technicians, nurses and translators and interpreters must be Costa Rican residents for a varying number of years in order to join their professional associations and work.

An annex to the free trade treaty drawn up specifically for Costa Rica lists all the exemptions that are being created from the main document. The annex has drawn on diverse existing laws to protect national interests and jobs.

In short, foreigners here and foreign corporations are not given equal treatment, and they will not be given equal treatment under the proposed free trade agreement, if it is passed.

In assigning concessions for passenger transportation, for example, the Costa Rican bid shall be preferred over the foreign bid, if both are roughly equal, according to the agreement.

Here are some other stipulations in the free-trade agreement annex. These are listed using as close to the original words of the document’s English translation as possible:

Foreign truckers will find that no motor vehicle, trailer or tractor-trailer with foreign license plates may transport goods within the territory of Costa Rica. Vehicles from other Central American nations are exempted from this ban.

Only Costa Rican nationals and companies can register big commercial ships, and foreign nationals who wish to act as captain of a vessel with Costa Rican registry and flag must post a bond equivalent to at least half of the value of the vessel.

Commercial trawling for shrimp and fishing 

may only be allowed in Costa Rica with vessels built in the country with wood obtained in Costa Rica and made by Costa Rican nationals.

While in Costa Rica, foreign flag vessels and their crew cannot supply water transportation services or fishing, diving, or other sports or tourism- related activities, except tourism cruises.

Only Costa Rican nationals or enterprises may supply domestic air transport services, whether regular or non-regular. And only Costa Rican individuals and companies can register aircraft for commercial purposes. Foreign nationals who legally reside in the country may also register aircraft used exclusively for non-commercial purposes.

In the communications area, only a Costa Rican national or enterprise with at least 65 percent of its capital owned by Costa Rican nationals may establish or manage an enterprise that supplies wireless services.

The same is required to obtain a license to operate radio, ham radio, radio-television, and maritime, aeronautical, meteorological, and private broadcasting stations. Directors and administrators of enterprises supplying radio and television services must be Costa Rican by birth or must have been naturalized Costa Ricans for at least 10 years.

Despite the above, enterprises in Costa Rica may employ foreign professionals in accordance with Costa Rican law in order to carry out contracts.

In the tourism industry, A concession to development in the maritime-terrestrial zone shall not be granted to or held by: (a) foreign nationals that have not resided in the country for at least five years; (b) enterprises with bearer shares; (c) enterprises domiciled abroad; (d) enterprises incorporated in the country solely by foreign nationals; or (e) enterprises where more than 50 percent of the capital shares or stocks are owned by foreigners. The maritime-terrestrial zone is the 200 meters above the high tide line  and also all islands in Costa Rica. This is the area desirable for much tourist development. 

The free-trade agreement has been signed by Costa Rica, the United States and five other Central American nations. To take effect, the document must be approved by the legislatures or the congress of each participating country.

The measure is controversial and is opposed by union members, principally from the government monopolies that will face competition.


 
Tax can be 100% on foreign-made television commercials
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Advertising and production of commercials also is regulated to the advantage of Costa Ricans in the free-trade treaty. 

Costa Rica is not unique in stipulating national origin for media messages. What follows is taken directly from the final treaty draft:

Mass media and advertising services may only be provided by enterprises incorporated in Costa Rica with nominative stock or established as sociedades personales under Costa Rican law. Radio and television programs must observe the following rules:

• If the commercials consist of jingles recorded abroad, a lump sum must be paid every time the commercial is aired on domestically transmitted television. Only 30 percent of the commercials aired on each domestic television station or projected in each cinema may originate from abroad.

• Commercials imported in a physical medium from outside the Central American region and 

aired on domestically transmitted television must pay a tax equivalent to 100 percent of the declared value of the production of the commercial. Radio, movie, or television commercials are considered national when they are produced in any of the Central American countries with which there is reciprocity.

• The number of radio programs and radio soap operas recorded abroad may not exceed 50 percent of the total number aired per domestically transmitted radio station per day.

The number of programs filmed or videotaped abroad may be limited to 60 percent of the total number of programs aired on domestically transmitted television per day.

Radio, movie, or television commercials are considered national when at least 90 percent of the jingle has been composed or arranged by Costa Rican nationals, at least 90 percent of the image has been drawn, photographed, printed, filmed, or videotaped by Costa Rican nationals, and when at least 90 percent of the technical personnel participating in the overall production are Costa Rican nationals. 

 
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Extra money is earmarked for roads and projects in southwest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The development agency for southwestern Costa Rica has 2.5 billion colons more to distribute for projects in the five cantons in the area, according to Casa Presidencial. That’s nearly $6 million at the current rate of exchange.

The investment in the area is part of the Plan Vida Nueva by President Abel Pacheco. The five cantons are Corredores, Coto Brus, Golfito, Osa and Buenos Aires.

The agency is the Junta de Desarrollo del Sur. Some 100 million colons (about $235,000) will go to 

improving roads in each municipality, said the announcement.

Ricardo Toledo, minister of the Presidencia. said the idea is to increase production in the five cantons to reduce poverty.

Isabel Vega, president of the development agency, noted that the government wants to pay special attention to the region and that her agency is prepared to make investments to improve the quality of life of residents. The southern area, once a prosperous banana growing region, has had economic hard times for years due to its isolation and lack of jobs.


 
New Caja director
gets flak immediately

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco and his cabinet named a replacement board for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social Tuesday. 

A few hours later, one of the new directors was denounced on the floor of the Asamblea Nacional. José Miguel Corrales Bolaños, the deputy, said that César Jaramillo Gallego, the director, had close ties to a company that is behind in paying the Caja.

In a letter to Pacheco, Corrales identified the company as Empresa Productos Plasticos S.A. Corrales said that the company was behind in its social security payments for its employees by some hundreds of millions of colons. Costa Rican companies pay about 35 percent over and above salaries to the Caja to provide health and pension benefits to workers.

Jaramillo is one of nine persons picked to fill the chairs of the former board which has been suspended by a judge as the Ministerio Público investigates the possible use of public funds to pay for newspaper advertising.

The former board took out the ads as a show of support for the former executive president who quit amid a scandal in April. La Nación, the Spanish-language newspaper disclosed he was living in a house owned by a pharmaceutical company that was a major supplier to the Caja’s hospitals and clinics.

Alberto Sáenez, the deputy medical director of the Caja, was named executive president by Pacheco and the cabinet. He is one of the nine.

Two immigration fixes
rejected by commission

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The commission studying a new immigration law for the country approved 18 motions of technical changes Tuesday and rejected two.

The two rejected changes came from Carlos Salazar of Movimiento Libertario. He wanted to remove penalties for employers who hire illegal workers and penalties for those who give them lodging. He said the government ought not punish people for trying to offer help.

But Humberto Arce of the Bloque Patriótico said that many who employ illegal workers are large land owners who may have 100 to 200 such persons working and they frequently violate the norms of hygiene and health.

The action took place in the Comisión Permanente de Gobierno y Administración where the immigration rewrite remains for more discussion. 

.Police stop pickup
and confiscate coke

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers found what they are calling the biggest cocaine confiscation this year; some 600 kilos in a pickup truck near Golfito.

The discovery took place about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday in Río Claro de Golfito on the Interamerican Highway. The driver of the pickup, identified by the last names of Ugalde Jiménez, lives in the area.

The pickup had a double bed, and the packages confiscated by police were hidden between the layers. Agents of the Policía de Control de Drogas were called in to make chemical tests verifying the nature of the powder.

Rogelio Ramos, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, attributed the arrest to control points that have been erected along the main highway. In five months, police in the southern part of the country have confiscated 1,204 kilos of cocaine, the ministry said.

U.S. consulate open half day

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy in Pavas announced Tuesday that diplomatic offices will be closed Friday, a U.S. national day of mourning for former president Ronald Reagan, who will be buried that day.

However, the consulate will be open Friday morning for those who already have appointments to apply for U.S. visas. Also open in the morning will be the service window for U.S. citizens. The emergency number is 519-3127 at other times.

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A.M. Costa Rica
Consultantes Río Colorado S.A.
 

James J. Brodell......................................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas............ associate editor

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Who's that little guy on the shower door?
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

I have been taking showers these days with a lizard. Not Godzilla. A tiny house gecko who seems to get caught in the open when I switch on the bathroom light.

Life is good with geckos. They generally stay out of the way munching on small critters that you would rather not have around.

Our little geckos are about three inches long and move like the wind. Sometimes at night in the half light of the television, you will see one scurry up the wall in search of a meal. They say they make a clicking noise. But ours are quiet.

When we first came to Costa Rica we decided to spray insecticide at our small apartment, particularly under the baseboards and appliances where cockroaches might lurk. No sooner did we hit the kitchen floor with spray than a tiny gecko came running out, choking and gasping. Did you ever get told off by a gecko?

Since then we have let nature take is course, and what few cockroaches we see are usually about the same size as a gecko, much too big for dinner.

Just about any lizard seems to be good. Workmen in the attic last week found several big snake skins, shed by their owners. Although we are in the city, the adjacent field provides a smorgasbord for snakes.

The former resident told us she once made local television because a big snake dropped onto her door knob in the living room. Neither she nor her maid were big Animal Planet viewers, so they called the cops. TV crews were close behind, 


thinking the little boa was a python. A slow day.

Little creatures are the norm here, and geckos rate as companions much higher with us than, say, New York City rats. They are even kept as pets up north. 

Years ago I was on a U.S. bound plane flying from 
Matzatlan. The couple in the seats in front of me were honeymooners from Chicago. They were cutting short their week stay because, as the new bride told me: "They had lizards crawling up the wall in our hotel room." Hubby rolled his eyes.

We’ve seen worse than geckos. And felt them, too, I thought, giving the marriage about a 50-50 chance.


 
Air travel security is high on agenda for G8 leaders
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The world's major industrialized countries have agreed on plans to make international travel, especially air travel, more secure, senior Bush administration officials say.

Briefing reporters on the opening day of the Group of Eight summit in Sea Island, Ga, the officials said that the G8 leaders would announce this week during their meetings a series of specific actions that will improve their efforts to thwart terrorist threats against international transportation systems.

These actions will include sharing information on suspicious travelers, including real-time information on lost or stolen passports, and exchanging data on visa watch lists and terror watch lists, the officials said.

The G8 countries, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Russia, Japan, and the United Kingdom, have already created a 24-hour contact system for aviation security that is used in the event of specific threats against specific air carriers, an administration official said.

The leaders will also announce plans to move more aggressively to destroy excess and obsolete MANPADS, which are shoulder-fired missiles that could threaten civilian aircraft. G8 countries will 

strengthen controls on MANPADS transfers and have completed work on a methodology for assessing specific airports' vulnerability to MANPADS, the officials said.

One of the administration officials stressed that the negotiations on transportation security were "very collegial" given the widespread recognition that terrorism affects all countries and the understanding that G8 countries are prepared to help less developed countries meet higher security standards.

The United States will "push back its borders" by cooperating with all countries that send air passengers or sea freight to the United States, and "all of the other G8 countries are adopting this same philosophy," the official said. "That means that there is a premium on cooperating with countries that may have the will, but don't have the capacity, to work on this."

The action plan that will be announced by the G8 leaders will also include an initiative that aims to make air travel more efficient as well as more secure, the official said.

Possibilities in this area include cooperation on traveler screening methods that could help expedite the movements of frequent travelers who are well known to the air carriers and do not pose security problems.


 
Ministers agree to step up corruption fight
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

QUITO, Ecuador — Sporadic protests greeted the final day of meetings of the Organization of American States here as foreign ministers agreed on the need to fight corruption. 

Shortly before the meeting ended, U.S. Foreign Trade Secretary Robert Zoellick arrived in Quito for talks with Ecuador's president, Lucio Gutiérrez. 

Foreign ministers from the Americas declared war on corruption in the region on the final day of the meeting in the Andean capital. 

Corruption, the ministers declared in a final document, weakens economic growth and hurts fundamental interests of a country's most vulnerable social groups. 

The ministers promised to promote measure to enhance public access to public information and  to deny safe haven to corrupt officials, to those who corrupt them, and the proceeds of corruption. They agreed to cooperate in their extradition as well as in the recovery and return of those proceeds of corruption to their legitimate owners and enhance regional mechanisms for mutual legal assistance.

On Wednesday, Ecuador's president, Lucio Gutierrez, holds talks with Zoellick on the process of establishing a free trade deal between the countries. Ecuador, along with Colombia and Peru, recently began talks on a free trade pact with the United States covering such areas as agricultural products and intellectual property rights. 

The Andean countries are scheduled to agree on the free trade agreement with the United States by late 2005. But the proposed agreement has aroused opposition from, among others, rural workers and Indians in Ecuador who believe it will be detrimental to them. 

Monday, President Gutiérrez met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was in Quito for the first day of the Organization of American States meeting. When asked by reporters whether the organization would deal with issues regarding Iraq, Powell said a more important issue, for the organization, was discussing ways to fight corruption. 

Powell also voiced U.S. support for the democratic system in Ecuador, where rumors of instability have circulated recently and the Congress discussed ways to legally remove Gutiérrez from power.


 
Nations agree to work together to provide tax data
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Industrialized nations and most tax haven countries have agreed to work toward high standards of taxation transparency and tax information exchange to ensure fair tax competition between countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says.

In a news release Tuesday, the organization said that its member countries and 33 non-member nations and jurisdictions approved during a meeting last week in Berlin a process that involves modifying existing national laws and practices, reaching bilateral agreements and conducting a review of the transparency and information exchanges practices.

The organization said they also agreed to engage in a dialogue with significant financial centers that are not participating in the process, including the five uncooperative  countries: Andorra, Liberia, Liechtenstein, the Marshall Islands and Monaco.

The process agreed by the participants consists of three types of actions:

-- Individual actions. Some countries and jurisdictions may need to modify existing laws and practices to meet the high transparency and information exchange standards that the participants wish to see achieved. In addition, participants will explore what their governments can do to promote the adoption of transparency  and exchange of information by those not yet in the process. This would include pursuing these issues in

other groups or organisations of which they are members. 

-- Bilateral actions. Participants are encouraged to continue to strive to achieve effective exchange of information and transparency by 2006. Nevertheless, it is recognised that flexibility is required since many participants have not yet initiated negotiations of the bilateral agreements required. Further, countries may wish to depart from the 2006 date where it is in their mutual interest. 

-- Collective actions. The participants agreed to:

-- Carry out a review of the transparency and information exchange practices currently applied by financial centres. The reviews will be summarised in a factual report which will demonstrate the extent to which there is convergence on the implementation of the transparency and information exchange standards.

-- Engage in a dialogue with significant financial centres that are not currently participating in this work. Other financial centres, including the five jurisdictions currently on the List of Unco-operative tax havens, will be invited to participate in the work towards a level playing field. 

In a report published March 22, the organization said its member countries have made major progress in eliminating harmful preferential tax practices, moving closer to fair global tax competition. It also highlighted the importance of tax haven countries moving in the same direction.


 
México and Russia planning major projects to diversify trade
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México - Mexico and Russia are discussing major industrial initiatives during President Vladimir Putin's State visit, the first by a Russian premier to Latin America. The current bi-lateral trade balance stands at just over $300 million, and President Fox says diversification is key to increasing it.

Talks are already well advanced in a project to build a complex in the southern state of Veracruz to maintain Russian-built transportation helicopters, which are cheaper than U.S. models and are already dotted around Mexico, Central and South America. The Mexican armed forces already have more than 50.

There is also a plan to build a factory near here to produce heavy duty vehicles, which President Fox insists will not be for armaments, but rather for heavy transportation, the construction of freeways, and for coping with natural disasters.

President Putin said that Russian experts will help México in the exploration, extraction and transportation of natural gas and petroleum.

México still imports about one third of its natural gas yet possesses considerable untapped reserves. President Putin says that a joint Mexican and Russian project will build a natural gas plant by the year 2007. The most likely site for this will be on Mexico's Pacific coast.

Although the two countries have had diplomatic relations since 1891, Putin is the first Russian leader to set foot in Mexico on an official state visit. Accordingly he received the full pomp and circumstance of military bands and ceremonial regalia.

Talks between the two men also touched on the ongoing war in Iraq, which both countries vigorously oppose. President Fox said he hopes the Iraqi people can regain their sovereignty and a democratic government with tranquility. 

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