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(506) 223-1327        Published Thursday, June 29, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 128        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Effective date put off more than a year
Immigation law to be shelved for more study

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new immigration law looks like a dead letter.

Fernando Berrocal, the security minister, said Wednesday that the executive branch would move to delay the effective date of the law until sometime in December 2007.

In the meantime, he said, Óscar Arias Sánchez, the president, would set up by decree a commission to study the human rights aspects of the law. Also to be studied would be the productive sectors of the country and the church. The commission would propose changes in the law as necessary, he said.

Arias has aired reservations about the law.

The net effect of the delay would be to cancel making human trafficking a criminal offense. A clause to punish so-called coyotes was in the new legislation.

Also delayed would be plans to penalize those who hire illegal workers. Berrocal estimated that perhaps 20 percent of the population of Costa Rica was illegal. Past administrations have said about 50,000 persons were here illegally. If Berrocal is correct, the number of illegals could be over 800,000. Most of these are Nicaraguans.

The delay also preempts plans to fine persons who harbor or even rent rooms to illegal immigrants. The Catholic Church runs shelters for aliens, and church leaders said they were worried that the weight of the new law would fall on them.

For expats, the delay means business as usual in applying for residency categories, primarily pensionado, rentista or inversionista. The new law sought to raise 
the financial capabilities required of those who want to move here.

Rentistas now have to show a monthly income of $1,000 for at least five years for a total of

Fernando Berrocal
$60,000. The new law would have retained this amount for a single applicant but would have required $1,000 a month more (or $60,000 more over the life of the permission) for a spouse and lesser amounts for minor children.

The new director of Migración, Mario Zamora,  said last week that the law
might be delayed.  But Berrocal spoke with the authority of the president and the president's cabinet shortly after their Tuesday meeting.

Although many business people had expressed concern about the penalties in the new law, Berrocal blamed a lack of money. He said that a new detention center would have to be built, new vehicles purchased and 671 new budget lines created in the Dirección General de Migración.

Some of those who were to be hired were to beef up a more professional Policía de Migración, which now does not have the same authority as regular policemen.

Berrocal said the estimate to enforce the new law was 7 billion colons, nearly $14 million, an amount that did not exist. The Arias administration and Berrocal have made securing the nation's borders a priority. A special frontier police force will be created.
Presumably some of this will find its way into the new draft of the immigration law.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 29, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 128

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

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Our readers opinions

Concern about crime
affects retirement plans

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

[in response to a reader who said most letter writers did not live in Costa Rica.]

What's your point? As the spouse of a Costa Rican citizen, this is our way of keeping updated of comings and goings in Costa Rica, as well as the other online newspapers, i.e.: La Nación, La Republica, etc. It's great we found this Web site, that really has the whole story, not "through rose colored glasses" as another writer states.

We visit CR frequently, and have family living there since 1865, so we are no "newcomers." My husband's family lives in Limón, San José, and up and down the Central Valley, so we have our eyes open.

My husband has wanted to move back home when we retire, but is turned off by what his country has failed to do in the last 30 years: basically, change for the better.  Crime is rampant and has affected his family in every aspect. My 85-year-old father-in-law was mugged for a few colons, at knife point, just blocks from his home.

Last fall, we were in a hotel in downtown San José, while prostitutes and thugs stood outside the front door of this establishment, oblivious to any law and order.  At the same time, my brother-in-law, a physician in CR, was  not allowed to go upstairs to our hotel room, and we had to visit with him in the hotel lobby!

We were told that this was to prevent any unsavory element from entering the casino on the top floor of the hotel! I could go on until hell freezes over with the negative experiences I have had with the Costa Rican lack of law and order in the last 30 years, but there isn't enough space available on your Web site! I'm just glad that your paper prints the real story, not camouflaging like the other tourist pages do.

Several posters have mentioned the fact that crime is rampant everywhere in the U.S. Sure, but at least we don't have to live behind caged windows, caged houses, and lock our doors and avoid the streets after 6 p.m.

There may a few "apples" in law enforcement here, but at least we have law enforcement, not a bunch of Keystone Cops! (i.e. any cop in CR, especially those supposed Fuerza officers at checkpoints from Manzinillo, Cahuita, Puerto Viejo — Need I say more?)

Our grown-up children will be visiting their grandparents next month, and I will be praying for them the whole time they are there. Our oldest son was stationed in Iraq for 9 months, and I don't think that I was as concerned for him then. At least we knew that wasn't going to be a vacation.

It's just pathetic that when you go away on vacation, you have to be looking over your shoulder continually from some hijo de puta out to ruin your good times!

Kathleen Mullins-Hall
Cincinnati, Ohio

This hotel operator
pays her fair share

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I think there is no doubt that there are plenty of tax cheaters in Costa Rica. Which is a real problem for the legitimate businesses in the country.
I own a hotel in Manuel Antonio that does comply and pay all required taxes, which is an amazing amount of money. The legitimate businesses that do comply, pay all their taxes and try to comply with all rules and regulations may be few and far between, but we do exist. And unfortunately when so many businesses do NOT pay taxes it increases the burden for us.

That is the reason why government wants to increase taxes, because they have easy targets in legitimate businesses and do not WANT to go looking to collect from those who aren't paying. In the end, it will be legitimate businesses who will pay the new taxes, and the ones who do not pay now, won't pay in the future either!
The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo tax is a waste, in my opinion. The ICT is not well managed, doesn't have much impact because the lion's share of marketing and publicity is paid for by private business. What the ICT spends in promotion of Costa Rica is a drop in the bucket compared to the budgets of businesses that operate here.
On another note, the ICT gutted the benefits it once had to offer the tourism industry.
Used to be that there were some attractive benefits to getting an ICT contract. I got one at great expense, and then they gutted all benefits immediately after I had spent a lot of years and a lot of money to get the contract.
Personally I believe the ICT should have an overseeing committee that is made up of owners and managers of tourism businesses, who would go broke if they were as ineffective as the ICT! The government needs to see business as a partner in the economy and the development of the country. 

I am hopeful that things will change, but I doubt that it will be overnight.
  On another note, regarding another letter, I recently read a report on tourism that Costa Rica was the 7th most popular tourist destination in the world and that it was a little behind London, Paris and a few other major destinations. Whoever seems to think that we are losing ground is reading something far different than I am. The difference is that there are now so many more hotels, tours, offerings, that the competition internally is making the occupancy rates and the tour sales lower for individual places, while the actual demand is increasing. When the ICT told everyone that there was a need for some huge amount of new rooms, they didn't take into account that the new rooms would lower occupancy for individual businesses.
Robbie Felix
Quepos/Manuel Antonio
Professional Directory
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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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 29, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 128

An A.M. Costa Rica editorial
Without real tax figures appraisers wear blindfolds

By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Our story June 19th raised a lot of hackles in the real estate industry because we said the Pacific market was getting softer.

Real estate brokers and investors have been replying since then with letters and essays either agreeing or disagreeing with us.

The sad fact is that we may never know.

One determines the strength of a market by the number of sales and the prices. These are statistics that are generally unavailable here.

One reason is the strange habit of some brokers, buyers and notaries of lying about the sales price.

We even have written a news story about the wife of San José Mayor Johnny Araya and her lawyer who said in court testimony that they understated the value of a property transaction "for fiscal reasons." Big time.

It is the fictitious figure that is reported to Tributación for purposes of paying a transfer tax. These numbers also define a property's value for municipal assessments.

Without solid figures about sales prices, the realities
of any market are unclear. Even the largest real estate firm has a distorted idea of prices if brokers do not have accurate information.

Although this publication has urged expats to report accurate numbers in sales transfer paperwork, many still do not. Others feel like fools for doing so and for paying a higher transfer tax.

Appraised value of a property is based on actual sales figures. As one letter writer pointed out, asking prices obtained off the World Wide Web are hype.

Without real numbers, buyers and sellers and even reporters are stumbling in the dark, because the presumption is that a piece of property is worth about what someone just paid for a similar piece of property nearby. Professional appraisers have ways of correcting these numbers for time, location, size and other attributes.

Costa Rican law also allows the sale of a property by a transfer of stock certificates if the property owner is a corporation. In that case, the sales price never is reported, and no taxes are paid.

The amazing fact is that cash-strapped Costa Rica has not moved to tighten up rules relating to property declarations and the 2.5 percent transfer tax.

Maybe too many of the politicians own too many pieces of property.

Visiting U.S. diplomat says that trade treaty sprung from the people
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The free trade treaty is not something to be imposed by Big Brother in the north.

Instead, the trade agreement is a natural outgrowth of an integration that comes from the peoples in both the United States and Latin America.

That was the populous view spelled out Tuesday by Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., the U.S. undersecretary of State for the Western Hemisphere.

He views are original as they relate to the free trade treaty that is being considered for ratification in the Asamblea Legislativa.

For him, he said, the free trade agreement is just a process, a tool, to achieve something that the peoples in the various countries started a long time ago.

Shannon, who holds a doctorate from Oxford university in political science, was talking to Costa Rican students of English at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano.

He linked the free trade treaty to immigration, which he said was changing cultures in a positive way. There is a growing integration with or without government, he said.

His view differs radically from that of treaty opponents here who see free trade as something to upset Costa Rican culture for the benefit of Americans.

Shannon was not challenged much by the students. Several posed questions in English as they read the words from their notebooks. They were predictable.

Why did the United States begin a war? and What about the orphans of war? Shannon handled those in both English and Spanish with a mix of empathy and history. He regretted the deaths and the orphans but thought that George Bush did the right thing in Iraq.

But he ducked the question Why do we have to pay $100 for a visa? He let Ambassador Mark Langdale answer that one. The $100 payment cuts down on

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Thomas Shannon with President Óscar Arias

the lines of applicants and insures that applicants are serious and probably meet qualifications, the ambassador said.

Earlier in the day when he met with deputies at the Asamblea Legislativa he said that the United States was disposed to link the free trade treaty with a social development plan so that the economic benefits of the treaty would be shared by all the people of Costa Rica.

Later he said that this plan has to be a Costa Rican plan but the United States would help. One of the criticisms of the treaty is that it would only help the rich.

Shannon also met with President Óscar Arias Sánchez. Although an embassy spokesperson said the visit was just a routine one, Shannon clearly was here to lobby for the free trade agreement. He told lawmakers and students that Costa Rica has no other option than to accept the treaty if it wants to retain its position of leadership in Central America. Arias backs the treaty that is in a committee in the legislature now. All the other countries involved have ratified it.

Lame-duck parliament in Perú approves free trade treaty with U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Peru's outgoing parliament has voted to approve a free trade agreement with the United States.

Panamá and Chile have pact

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Panama and Chile have signed a free trade agreement that will eliminate nearly all tariffs between the nations within 10 years.

Signed Tuesday, the deal aims to improve access to markets, cross-border services and conflict resolution. 
Six legislators chose not to participate in Wednesday's vote, which followed hours of debate and a brief protest by elected lawmakers who will take their seats later this year. The protesters interrupted debate by breaking into the room where the parliament was meeting.

Critics of the trade agreement say U.S. competition will damage business for Peruvian producers.

The United States and Peru settled terms for a free trade agreement late last year. The U.S. Congress is expected to debate the issue later this year. Annual trade between the United States and Peru is valued at nearly $6 billion.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 29, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 128

Canadian businessman shoots wife then kills himself
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 65-year-old Canadian shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself during a domestic disturbance about 3 a.m. Wednesday in Puerto Jiménez in southwest Costa Rica.

The man, who died, was identified as Gregory C. Barnes. His wife, Telma Pinzon Chavarria, suffered a bullet wound in the neck and chest, according to rescue workers. She was taken to Hospital Escalante Pradilla in Pérez Zeledón where her condition was reported as grave. She is 51.

The shooting took place on the grounds of a pizza restaurant in Puerto Jiménez. The business is called  Cabina Pizza Rock and is located adjacent to the  town's athletic field, neighbors said.

Barnes was a businessman and investor in the town and had property holdings, residents said. The
Judicial Investigating Organization said he shot himself in the head.

A U.S. citizen is facing court action for a family disturbance Tuesday evening that ended better. He is Michael Ludovich, 42, who was incorrectly identified as Michael Lewick by the Fuerza Pública Tuesday night.

Ludovich held his wife, daughter, a domestic employee and a guest hostage for more than 12 hours until a negotiating team from the Judicial Investigating Organization got him to release the hostages and then surrender himself late Tuesday, they said. The events unfolded in the couple's home in Bello Horizonte, Escazú.

The man had a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun, and shots were fired during the incident. But no one was injured, officials said. He suffered from a painful illness and could not get medication, police said.

México election is tight and will be decided Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's presidential candidates wrap up their campaigns Wednesday night, four days ahead of national elections.

Opinion polls show conservative candidate Felipe Calderón and former Mexico City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador locked in a tight race ahead of former ruling party candidate Roberto Madrazo.

A member of the ruling National Action Party, Calderón is scheduled to hold his final rally in Guadalajara, the country's second-largest city. He has
pledged to continue the economic policies of President Vicente Fox. who by law cannot seek a second term.

López Obrador, who represents the liberal Democratic Revolution Party, will speak in México City.

The former mayor of the capital, López Obrador has promised large public infrastructure projects as a way to create jobs, and hopes to fund the program by battling corruption and tax evasion.

Running third in the polls Madrazo is the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which governed Mexico from 1929 to 2000.

Rigoberta Menchu tells Guatemalan veterans group to cease threats
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu has called on a representative of a Guatemalan veterans' association to cease what she said were threats against witnesses in a trial against several former military officers.

Menchu, a Guatemalan Indian and a human rights activist who helped bring the lawsuit, said this week that she fears for the lives of those witnesses. They are testifying against former officers accused of
genocide, torture, and murder during Guatemala's decades-long civil war that ended in 1996.

A member of the Guatemalan Association of Military Veterans, Ret. Gen. Jose Luis Quilo Ayuso, has announced participation in the trial by witnesses could lead to tragedy.

A Spanish judge is in Guatemala to hear testimony.  Spanish law allows courts to try people for crimes against humanity outside the normal jurisdiction.

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Jo Stuart
About us

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