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These articles were published Friday, June 14, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 117
Jo Stuart
About us
Trial balloon goes up
on new U.S. tax system

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Bush Administration might be getting ready to change a system that taxes U.S. companies and individuals no matter where they earn money.

"There are many reasons to believe that the principles that guided tax policy adequately in the past should be reconsidered in today's highly competitive, knowledge-driven economy," said the U.S. Treasury Department's international tax counsel.

The counsel is Barbara Angus, and she was speaking Thursday before a U.S. congressional subcommittee.

The existing complex system distorts investment decisions and often disadvantages U.S. companies in international competition, she said.

Ms. Angus did not say so but the U.S. system has caused some large firms to reincorporate offshore, principally in the Bahamas, to avoid U.S. tax on earnings elsewhere in the world.

Unlike Canadians, U.S. citizens and companies are taxed on all income earned in the United States and anywhere else in the world. The United States allows a limited foreign tax credit to offset part of taxation on the same income in foreign countries.

Under the territorial tax system employed by other countries, residents and corporations pay taxes only on income earned domestically. Angus said that differences between the two systems could hurt a U.S.-based multinational corporation competing with a foreign-based multinational for sales in a foreign market.

U.S. citizens living abroad have an annual increasing exemption from income earned abroad. That exemption is about $76,000 this year. But they are supposed to pay taxes on earned income above that amount and on any unearned income, like interest and rents.

In addition to Canada, Germany, France, and the Netherlands do not tax their citizens’ foreign earnings. But Japan and the United Kingdom do, according to Ms. Angus.

But the Treasury Department is just not going to just give up on collecting tax money. ". . . some consideration might be given to alternative tax bases other than income, said Ms. Angus. She pointed to  other countries that typically use a value-added tax to raise nearly five times the amount of revenue as does the U.S. corporate income tax .

Escazú man's skull
fractured by robbers

By the A. M. Costa Rica staff

Robbers fractured the skull of an Escazú man, identified as Robert Semple, 72, according to investigators.

Not much is known about the incident because the man is reported in delicate condition at San Juan de Dios Hospital, and agents have not been able to interview him.

However, preliminary reports suggest that he was attacked by robbers when he arrived at his home sometime Tuesday. Agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization said that Semple was from Puerto Rica.

Meanwhile, agents are seeking four men who stuck up a liquor store in La Puebla de San Pablo de Heredia about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The owner of the store, Eduardo Mejía Salas, 48, pulled his own gun and engaged the men in a shootout, investigators said.

But Mejía took a bullet in the stomach and died a short time later. The bandits got 30,000 colons or about $84. 

In yet another murder, Juan Rafael Ruíz Solorzano, 34, died early Tuesday in La Tigra de Cuatro Bocas de Upala when he was involved in a fight with another man who had a knife.

And in Linda Vista de Patarrá workers found the body of a woman that had been hidden in a water tank that was used for fumigation. The body had been there for several months, investigators said. 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Going There vs. Getting There

Sunday morning is a favorite time of mine. I watch C-Span early in the morning and find out what Americans living in the States think. Later, there are some more interesting programs that I can watch while I do my ironing. American writers are being featured, and this week it has been Jack Kerouac, most famous of the Beat Generation writers. 

People were calling in to tell of their experiences involving Kerouac or other "Beat" writers of the time. I was tempted to call and tell them of my own experience.

I was living in Los Angeles in a large old house with my husband and daughter. We shared the house with my brother-in-law (who owned it), and two writer friends. The three of them were publishing "Coastlines", an avant-garde "little magazine." Meetings of interesting people were always happening. 

This particular evening a group of about 25 people had gathered downstairs in the living room, sitting on the floor and passing a jug of red wine. We were upstairs in our bedroom. A skinny young poet in blue jeans began to read his poem, and I wanted to hear it, so I went down and sat on the stairs where I couldn’t see but I could hear. I was absolutely blown away by his new poem which was entitled "Howl," and I ran upstairs to tell my husband to come listen because Allen Ginsberg had to be the Walt Whitman of our day.

When he finished his reading, someone acused Ginsberg of not being "sincere." He replied, "I’ll show you I’m sincere." And then proceeded to take off his clothes until, I suppose, he was naked before them. During this performance, most of the women ran out of the living room, and there was general mayhem. I went back upstairs wondering what the world was coming to. It was 1956.

Kerouac’s "On the Road" is classified as a "road’ book (no surprise there). Road books are different from travel or guide books in that they are more about the trip than they are about the destination. They include vignettes of the people one meets on the journey and observations of the customs, culture and idiosyncracies of the people in the different stops along the way. (A.M. Costa Rica’s Patricia Martin manages to combine some of both in her articles). 

Travelers have been writing road books since the Greek geographer Strabo. In the 14th century, Ibn Battutah wrote about his travels in Africa, Asia Minor, the Maldives and India. His observations have been an important source for historians writing about the social and cultural life of those places. Its wonderful title "The Gift of the Beholders on the Peculiarities of the Regions and the Marvels of Journeys." Sort of says it all. 

There seem to be two kinds of people in the world. Those who enjoy the journey and those who want to "get to" wherever they have decided to go. (Although I fall into the first category, some of my best friends are the destination types.) 

With today’s air travel in the States, it is understandable that people are just anxious to "get there." — especially if their destination is Costa Rica. It is really a pity that train and ship travel has become so limited.

One of my favorite memories when I first visited Costa Rica was the train trip from San Jose to Limon. We didn’t go all the way to Limon. I can’t even remember whether we got off in Guapiles or went all the way to Siquirres because we rushed to get the last bus back to San José. Whatever our destination, it was the ride that I remember. Even the ride on the packed bus back to San José was memorable for the people on it. The train took us through countrysides and mountains, over rivers and parts of the country where there are not even backroads. 

As we all know (and often forget) it is, after all, the journey in life not the destination that is important. It is the people we meet "on the road" and the experiences we have that make up the stories of our lives.

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Rumors and inaccuracies keep the public guessing on kidnapping
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is no truth to the rumor that two men held in the kidnapping of a boy June 4 said they accepted 1 million colons (about $2,800) to commit the crime.

This statement has been widely attributed to the two men, but a spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization said Thursday that such a disclosure never was made.

The men were arrested the same day the boy vanished. A man with the surname of Agüero is being investigated for having been seen with the child.  A second man, a taxi driver, with the surname Valverde also  was detained. Agents have said that Agüero took the boy and Valverde drove the pair to Pavas, which was the target of an extensive police search last week. But these conclusions are not based on confessions of the men.

Several electronic media outlets reported that the men had confessed to taking the boy and delivering him for money to a foreign couple who made the payment.

The rumor lends belief to the theory that a band of child-stealers are working in the country. That theory, usually accepted as fact, is the second major topic of conversation after discussion of Costa Rica’s loss to Brazil in World Cup action Thursday morning..

The rumors continue to fly as most of Costa Rica expresses sorrow for the death of the youngster, Osvaldo Faobricio Madrigal Bravo, who was taken from outside his home in Higuito de San Miguel de Desamparados.. He was found dead in water behind a dam in Santa Ana Tuesday.

Another recurring rumor is that the boy was missing the corneas of his eyes when found, suggesting that the ocular material was harvested by heartless kidnappers. The truth is that trash, branches, chunks of wood and gravel caused heavy damage to the child’s face, so much so that he had to be identified by his teeth.

His body also was found without clothes, but those experienced in such water deaths said that current can strip a body in much less time than the boy was in the water.

An autopsy report is awaited today as investigators continue to suspect death was caused by asphixiation. Whether that is the case and whether the asphixiation was on purpose or accidental will remain an open question.

Investigators also want to know if the boy was dead when he entered the water, something that an autopsy will show.

As the boy was buried Wednesday, even more cases of reports of kidnapped children came in to police. But no actual new case of kidnapping has been reported.

Two men on a finca in Linda Vista de Patarrá near Desamparadas found a body in a tank that holds water used for fumigation early Thursday. The victim, a woman, had been dead several months. But a spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization said that the body was that of an adult, not a child.

Jessica Valverde Pineda, 4, who lived in Los Guidos de Desamparados, vanished in late February. No trace of her has been found.

Quake hits near previous one

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 4.6 magnitude earthquake took place off the Pacific coast about 11:20 p.m. Wednesday in nearly the same spot as a quake June 7. The quake was about 33 kms. deep, some 20 miles, said the U.S. Earthquake Information Center, which placed the location at 80 miles or 125 kms. south southeast of San José.

 A 4.4 magnitude quake took place within 5 miles of the latest tremor about 11 a.m. June 7, according to news reports.

Pacheco decree sours
gold mining sale

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A gold mining project in southern Costa Rica has been thrown into limbo by a presidential decree banning open pit mining.

The Belavista project is near Miramar, Costa Rica, in southern Puntarenas province and near the Panamá border. The project is owned by Wheaton River Minerals Ltd., a Canadian firm.

Wheaton had announced earlier this month that another Canadian firm, Glencairn Explorations Ltd., was going to purchase the operation in a complex deal that involved stock.

But Glencairn said Wednesday that its board of directors has decided not to proceed with the purchase of the project. That decision came despite a company release on June 6 that said the decree signed by President Abel Pacheco the day before did not affect the company project.

"Bellavista received all necessary environmental approvals in February, 2001," the company said in a press statement. "Neither Glencairn nor Wheaton River has been officially informed of this action. The decree states directly that ‘all rights acquired before the present publication will be respected,’" the company said then.

The signals from the Costa Rican government are very conflicting because the country passed a new mining code only weeks ago, said Glencairn June 6.

Another open-pit gold mining project is in northern Costa Rica near the San Juan River. That is the Crucitas project operated by Vannessa Ventures Ltd. This project has not received its full approvals by the Costa Rican agencies.

However, Vannessa said shortly after the presidential decree was announced that its local management and legal advisers are confident that, while some of its exploration concessions in Costa Rica might be subject to review, the Crucitas project will not be affected by the presidential decree.

The world price of gold is increasing and making mining projects all over the world more feasible.

On another front, Vannessa announced that it will take Venezuela to international bodies in a dispute over the Las Cristinas gold mine project. VHeadline.com, an Internet daily news service, said this week that the company filed at the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry to start a process of resolving disputes set up in an investment protection agreement between Venezuela and Canada. 

Vannessa accuses Venezuela of expropriating the gold mine and claims that no investor should be subject to such acts unless there has been due legal process, the news service said.

Local fugitives star
on ‘Most Wanted’ show

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

"America’s Most Wanted," a Fox network television show, will feature several cases Saturday that involve Casa Allianza, the child welfare organization said.

"The America's Most Wanted series generally focuses on American fugitives who are being searched for by U.S. authorities," Casa Alianza said in a press release.  "This week's special program will have a 10-minute segment that focuses on Americans who are fugitives from Central American courts in cases brought by Casa Alianza. The goal is to find the fugitives and bring them to justice."

Casa Alianza has been involved in cases in which North Americans sexually abused children and then fled jurisdiction in Costa Rica and other Central American countries.

Gas cloud sickens
thousands in east

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A cloud of chlorine gas liberated in an industrial section Thursday sent about 100  persons to area hospitals for treatment, and about 10 were reported in serious condition Thursday night. Perhaps as many as 1,500 were affected by the gas. These included school children.

The gas rupture was at the IREX household products plant in Salitrillos de Concepción, in La Unión, east of the metropolitan area. It happened when a truck driver failed to disconnect a hose from his vehicle when he moved it away from  a large tank containing the gas, said unofficial reports.

The gas is highly corrosive and a variation was used in World War I as a battlefield weapon.

The large cloud spread the smell and sting to neighboring communities, even as far as Curridabat and Tres Rios, said several witnessees.

The accident happened about 1:30 p.m., and the effects of the gas lasted about four hours. All major hospitals have victims in for treatment. The most seriously injured were those working at the plant and involved in the accident, including the truck driver, said rescue workers.

The gas can cause serious damage to the lungs as well as eye and skin burns. In liquid form the gas can dissolve skin and human tissue.

The gas cloud may have stayed over La Unión and Tres Rios for an extended period because of the mountainous terrain to the south that locked the gas in a valley. The gas is heavier than air.

U.S. citizens facing
Venezuelan problems

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. citizens have been singled out for harassment in Venezuela, the U.S. State Department said Thursday.

A U.S. diplomat was threatened by officials at Marquetia International Airport, and two U.S. diplomats and a U.S. citizen teacher were mistreated by local Venezuelan authorities during a weekend fishing trip, said the State Department.

In addition to these cases, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas has protested the mistreatment of a U.S. citizen businessman on Margarita Island and the harassment of a U.S. citizen missionary in western Venezuela, the State Department said.

"Embassy officials continue to press senior officials of the Government of Venezuela to ensure protection and equitable treatment of U.S. citizens in the country," the State Department said.

The revelations were contained in the text of a press briefing that took place May 29 but was only released early Thursday.

Venezuelan officials were presumably reacting to the suspected complicity of the U.S. government in the April 11 coup that briefly unseated populist President Hugo Chavez Frias, although the State Department did not say this.

Later Thursday the state Department released a statement noting that Saturday is the day Venezuelans will commemorate the events of April 11 that produced a constitutional crisis and led to the deaths of 17 and over 100 wounded. 

"Those events two months ago should act as a sobering reminder to all of the importance of dialogue, peaceful resolution of conflict, and the rule of law," the State Department said.

IMF will discuss
an Argentine loan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A delegation from the International Monetary Fund is in Argentina for more talks on new loans the country is seeking to emerge from its ongoing economic crisis.

The mission, headed by IMF division chief John Thornton, arrived in Buenos Aires early Thursday for the latest discussions.

The government of President Eduardo Duhalde is hoping to negotiate $9 billion in immediate IMF funding to shore up the troubled economy. Argentina has been in recession the past four years and defaulted on $141 billion in public debt.

In recent weeks, the Argentine Senate has passed key reforms demanded by the IMF as a key condition for aid. They include the repeal of a controversial economic subversion law that criminalized bad business practices and capital flight.

President Duhalde was behind the repeal. He says Argentina needs to abide by international agreements to obtain fresh loans. Last December, the IMF withheld aid to Argentina, saying the government failed to control spending. 

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