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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Tuesday, July 17, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 141                          Email us
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This 1910 banknote in the princely sum of 20 colons came from the private Banco Comercial de Costa Rica.

Graphic courtesy of the Museos del Banco Central
New money exhibit features people and buildings
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Dig in your pocket, take out the local currency, and you will find in the palm of your hand history of important Costa Rican reformers and politicians who were declared Beneméritos de la Patria by the Costa Rican legislative Assembly, as well as Costa Rican landmarks, national plants and national animals.

From 1860 to now, coins and banknotes have featured not only important figures but architectural works that include churches, banks, and other public institutions.

The Museos del Banco Central will open an exhibition July 28, that allows patrons to learn more about Costa Rican history through the architecture depicted on the country's money.

“The exhibition allows us to know those
architectural elements that have been important in different time periods and that are part of the material and cultural heritage of our society,” said Manuel Chacón, curator of numismatics at the Museos del Banco Central.

Named A+N, Architectura en la numismática costarricense, the interactive exhibit will allow visitors to learn about different languages, identify the 29 buildings that are represented, and determine the location and current status of each building. 

Some of the architectural structures will be central bank, the national library and the Universidad de Costa Rica.  Also included will be the city of Barva, the ruins of Cartago and churches in Orosi and Heredia.

All parts of the exhibition will be in the temporary showroom on the first level. The museums are under the Plaza de la Cultura in the center of San José.

Presidencia calls hurry-up meeting on new info law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Presidencial has called a meeting this afternoon of politicians and journalists in the wake of criticism that a new law represents censorship.

President Laura Chinchilla put her name to the measure last week, but some newspeople actually read the law and came upon a penalty for revealing secret political information. That penalty appears to have been added in a legislative committee and without the knowledge of many lawmakers.

The thrust of the law is to specify Internet crimes, which have not been stipulated clearly in the current penal code. The penalty for what the law calls espionage is four years in jail. And espionage is defined as obtaining political secrets.

Lawyers who have looked at the law conclude that the phrase secret political information is imprecise and contrary to the Costa Rican Constitution that protects state secrets.

The disputed section of the law appears to have come from the nation's legal agency. So being invited to the meeting tomorrow is Francisco Salas, procurador of the Procuraduría de Derecho Informático e Informática Jurídica.
The minister of the Presidencia,  Carlos Ricardo Benavides, also has invited members of the  Colegio de Periodistas and lawmakers from the  Comisión de Seguridad y Narcotráfico, which studied the bill in the legislature.

Also invited, according to Casa Presidencial, are Fernando Ferraro, minister of Justicia y Paz, and  Fancisco Chacón, minister of  Comunicación,.

The Costa Rica law is being discussed internationally in journalism and academic circles.

Some journalists are suspicious because the Chinchilla administration has been getting pounded by release of information regarding tax problems of her ministers and construction projects, such as the Ruta 1856 that appears to have been a black hole for government money.

Other journalists are less suspicious and see the section of the law as just another example of the unintended consequences of the legislative system.

They point out that lawmakers have been trying to revise the new traffic code for two years because the prior legislature imposed draconian penalties that the Sala IV constitutional court has been voiding as disproportionate.

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Our reader's opinion
Ex-tuna boat captain says
dolphin are treated carefully

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am writing in response to Ms. Sierra Goodman´s claim of a tuna seiner possibly killing innocent spinner dolphin.  I worked on tuna seiners most of my life, and besides captain and helicopter pilot I have held almost every position and responsibility. 

The claim that this seiner only began to remove dolphins from the net because Ms. Goodman was watching them is ridiculous.  Every seiner has a specially trained team that observes the net being drawn in. Yes, there are usually dolphins swimming in the tuna schools along with mako, tiger, blackfin and hammerhead sharks as well.  The divers wait until the optimal time to enter the net as to remove all the dolphins as quickly and as stress free as possible at the risk of being attacked by the sharks that also are swimming close by. 

It is actually one of the most respected positions on the vessel and is taken very seriously. Captains who fail to meet basic protocol regarding the handling of dolphins are punished harshly.  The dolphins were not "crying out."  They were communicating between each other using those sounds probably looking for an escape. 

Unlike whale hunting, tuna seining is providing millions of people with a healthy, economic seafood source.  They are not poaching for furs, ivory or cosmetic items.  There are strict guidelines in place and they are followed.  It might be politically popular these days to bash the commercial fishing industry at large, however the tuna seiners do not deserve it. 

I doubt Ms. Goodman has ever had to work on a seiner or understood the commitment to regulation and marine conservation that it entails.
Donaldo Vega

Find out what the papers
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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
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 17, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 141
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Tax collector throws up electronic hurdles for filing
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monday was not a good day for payers of sales tax.

Tributación updated the computerized tax reporting system, but the update had some flaws. Meanwhile, the older version 1.0.01 is displayed prominently on the agency's Web site, but taxpayers cannot use that now.

Tributación is in the second month of requiring taxpayers to use the computer system and file the monthly return electronically. Large retailers like keep their own computer software in-house. But Tributación requires Costa Rican businesses to download a version of its software into every company PC. And technicians at Tributación periodically change the version.

That was the warning Friday when individuals sought to file the obligatory June monthly sales tax report. The deadline was Monday because the 15th of the month, the usual deadline, was Sunday.

A.M. Costa Rica's parent company prevailed even though no sales tax is collected on advertising sales. The firm still has to file a report. But it took a company executive all day to create and file electronically the one-page report. And that was with help from employees at Tributación.

The agency's offices were crowded with taxpayers trying to use the updated system, and telephone lines were swamped. Many calls went unanswered when two persons in charge of certain aspects of the software went to lunch at the same time.

Tributación has its customer service office downtown near the pedestrian mall. But technical support has been moved to the Outlet Mall in San Pedro.

After struggling with downloading and trying to make the new version 1.3.0 operational all morning, the  company executive sought help at the downtown office. Workers there were perplexed and facing a line of confused taxpayers, but one,  Marianella León, discovered what was wrong in a telephone call to a technician.

“By the way,” he said, “you have to dump all of the previous
tax problems

program before installing the new one.”

With that advice taken, the system appeared to function well. That is until it was time to file the sales tax report electronically. The computer responded that passwords were incorrect.

That puzzle required a trip to the ministry building itself where there was another crowd of puzzled taxpayers. The new version  appears to have eaten all the passwords and rearranged them arbitrarily with user names. That took two hours to resolve.
But by 3:42 p.m. this company's sales tax report was dispatched into the Internet for filing.

The filing situation was so messed up that Tributación employes were thinking the unthinkable. They suggested that the agency might waive fines this month for late filing. The problem appears to have affected taxpayers all over the country. Many are some distance from Tributación offices and in-person help.

Meanwhile, faced with a computer program with flaws, other Tributación workers said that the agency would update the system to another version in time for sales tax deadline next month.

La Uruca woman has a simple wish: She wants to be beautiful
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One La Uruca resident has one dream in life: To be beautiful.

The resident, Yorlenny Azofeifa, 35, was born with a cleft lip.  Since she was 9 months old she has been in and out of public hospitals, receiving a total of 10 surgeries on her face.

Ten years ago she went to get her lip reconstructed but ended up with sunken scars that run from the crevices of her eyes to the bridge of her nose. 

“I tell you that even the operations rooms are not with all the medical equipment to operate on the children and the people,” she said.

The result has caused Ms. Azofeifa to have a low self-esteem, and even contemplate suicide, she said.  
“To be serious, I need help.  For years I tried to kill myself not wanting to go, but God stayed with me and has given me all the strength to move forward,” she said.

Ms. Azofeifa's faith has paid off as she said her prayers have been answered, through Victor Urzola, a surgeon, who she refers to as an angel of God.  Urzola has agreed to operate on Ms. Azofeifa's face, not charging her for the surgery or the anesthesia.

He will put fat into her face and operate on her eyes to try and remove the scars.

The operation is scheduled for Aug. 7 and will happen in a private facility.  Ms. Azofeifa will need to raise approximately $2,000 for her stay in the clinic after the surgery and her medications. 

The young woman received her high school degree in  Hondonada de Acosta.  There she studied to be a tourist guide.  

She was laid off from her job at Gray Line, after the company had to cut staff.  Since her job ended, Ms. Azofeifa has been unable to find work.

“I have suffered too much discrimination.  People do not give me work because of my face. I have wept for years.  This is a response from God. My family is very humble,” she said. "To clarify, in my work as a guide, I have never had discrimination by tourists."
Ms Azofeifa
Yorlenny Azofeifa

According to Ms. Azofeifa, the reconstruction of her face is not just her desire but the wish of her mother who is dying of lung cancer. 

“She dreams to see me pretty.  I believe that she blames herself for my face, and I want that she sees me pretty and that I don't cry anymore and her neither.”

This dream is something she shares with her mother. 

"I dream to see my beautiful face and to speak perfect English, so that no one teases about my face and my English," she said.

Three Guanacaste hotels face long-running water shortage
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hotels at Playa Langosta in Tamarindo, Guanacaste, are dealing with a water shortage that has forced establishments to use their own water supply for the last two weeks, according to staff at Hotel y Villas Cala Luna. 

The staff members also said that they are still waiting on a response from the national water company to know how long this temporary solution will have to continue. 

Three managers from hotels Cala Luna, Capitán Suizo, and Barceló Langosta Beach sent a note July 12 to the Dirección Regional de Guanacaste of the Instituto Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados explaining how since July 9 the decrease in the water supply had caused a major effect on their business.

Hotels operators said they learned that the lack of water came
from the reduction in the flow of two wells that supply the system in the area.    This reduction caused the hotels to have periods of no water throughout the days, they said in the letter.

"The situation for us is more alarming when, according to information received from the local office, the little volume that is supplying us is the result of a bypass of the wells that supply Tamarindo of which there is already one that is dry and only one left to rely on," the directors wrote.

Hotel operators are concern that if the problem is not solved, there will be a negative effect on tourism and the reputation of their businesses will be damaged. 

For this reason,  hotel owners are requesting both a short- and long-term solution to ensure that their daily operations are not further affected.

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June saw 163 quakes, but only 15 were felt by humans
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The  Red Sismológica Nacional reports that there were 15 earthquakes in the month of June that were reported by person living in Costa Rica. That is a bit above the average of 12, said the Red Nacional.

Among these were earthquakes of a magnitude of 6.0 and 5.7 that took place to the south in Panamá but still were felt by persons living in the national territory.

In all there were 163 quakes registered in Costa Rica during the month, said the Red Nacional. That was 22 fewer than in May, the agency noted.

No particular region has a lock on earthquakes. The Red Nacional said that there were quakes west of the Nicoya peninsula, in the central volcanic mountains, near the volcanoes of Irazú and Turrialba, the Talamanca mountains in the south  and the Caribbean coast in the east.

There also were quakes in the Guanacaste mountains and near Lake Arenal.

There were 11 quakes with a magnitude of from 4.0 to 4.8.

The Red Nacional keeps daily statistics, so quake experts there can report that June 9 was the most active day with 12 quakes.

The Red Nacional's statistics are not the same as other earthquake reporting agencies because each uses different technology.

Even the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica that also is based
June quakes
Red Sismológica Nacional/A.M. Costa Rica
Location of felt earthquakes in June.

at the Universidad de Costa Rica sometimes registers quakes that are not reported by the Red Nacional. For example, for Monday, the Laboratorio reported four quakes, but only one had a magnitude of 3.1. Others had magnitudes that ranged from 2.5 to 2.6.

The strongest quake had an estimated epicenter 11 kilometers northeast of  Guacamaya de Carrillo in Guanacaste. Others had epicenters in Santa Cruz, Tilarán and on the canton of Osa in the central Pacific.

Forest rodent seems to have taken on the job of moving seeds
By the  North Carolina State University news service

There’s no honor among thieves when it comes to rodent robbers — which turns out to be a good thing for tropical trees that depend on animals to spread their seeds.

Results of a year-long study in Panamá, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week, suggest that thieving rodents helped the black palm tree survive by taking over the seed-spreading role of the mighty mastodon and other extinct elephant-like creatures that are thought to have eaten these large seeds.

“The question is how this tree managed to survive for 10,000 years if its seed dispersers are extinct,” says Roland Kays, a zoologist with North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “There’s always been this mystery of how does this tree survive, and now we have a possible answer for it.”

The study showed that agoutis, rainforest rodents that hoard seeds like squirrels, repeatedly stole from their neighbors’ underground seed caches. All that pilfering moved some black palm seeds far enough from the mother tree to create favorable conditions for germination.

“We knew that these rodents would bury the seeds but we had no idea that there would be this constant digging up of the seed, moving it and  burying it, over and over again,” says Kays, a member of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute team. “As rodents steal the same seed many, many times, it adds up to a long-distance movement of the seed that one animal by itself could have never done.”

One seed was buried 36 times before an agouti dug it up and ate it. About 14 percent of the seeds survived until the following year.

The study, funded with a National Science Foundation grant, caught the furry thieves in the act via individual tags on
little rodent
North Carolina State University photo
 An agouti with the black palm tree's orange fruit, which
 contains large seeds.

agoutis, video surveillance of seed caches and tiny motion-activated transmitters attached to more than 400 seeds.

Applying such sophisticated animal tracking techniques to the plant world has the potential to improve scientists’ understanding of forest ecology and regeneration, Kays says.

“When you think about global climate change and habitats shifting, for a forest to move into new areas, trees need to have their seeds moved into new areas. This opens up a route to study how animals can help trees adjust to climate change through seed dispersal.”

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U.N. crime agency campaigns
against transnational threats

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The annual turnover of transnational organized criminal activities such as drug trafficking, counterfeiting, illegal arms trade and the smuggling of immigrants is estimated at around $870 billion per year, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime  said Monday, as part of a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the issue’s financial and social costs.
“Transnational organized crime reaches into every region, and every country across the world. Stopping this transnational threat represents one of the international community’s greatest global challenges,” said Yury Fedotov, the U.N. agency's executive director, in a news release. “Crucial to our success is our ability to raise public awareness and generate understanding among key decision and policymakers.”

The $870 billion turnover from transnational organized crime is six times the amount of official development assistance, and is comparable to 1.5 per cent of the global domestic product, or 7 per cent of the world’s exports of merchandise, according to the  Office for Drugs and Crime

Drug trafficking is the most lucrative form of business for criminals, with an estimated value of $320 billion a year. Human trafficking brings in about $32 billion annually, while some estimates place the global value of smuggling of migrants at $7 billion per year, according to the agency.

The environment is also exploited: trafficking in timber generates revenues of $3.5 billion a year in Southeast Asia alone, while elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts from Africa and Asia produces $75 million annually in criminal turnover, the Office for Drugs and Crime notes. At $250 billion a year, counterfeiting is also a high earner for organized crime groups.

In addition to the financial costs involved, the agency’s awareness-raising campaign seeks to highlight the human costs of these criminal activities to societies. Each year, countless lives are lost to drug-related health problems and violence and firearm deaths, among other causes, it said. In addition, some 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking, it added.
The campaign, which is being rolled-out through online channels and international broadcasters, consists of 30 and 60-second public service announcements in multiple languages, a set of posters, a series of fact sheets and various online banners that illustrate that despite being a global threat, the effects of transnational organized crime are felt locally. The campaign is also being promoted through various social media channels.

Olympic athletes starting
to trickle in to London

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thousands of athletes began arriving in London Monday ahead of the Olympic Games. But security problems continue to be an issue.

A sailing squad from the United States touched down in London Monday morning, among the early arrivals ahead of the Olympic Games.

Dean Brenner, the team’s leader, spoke to journalists at the airport. He said, “We’re feeling great, it’s great to be in London. You know, obviously, we’ve been working for a while for this and now it’s time for the big test.”

Around 350 athletes are due to fly into Heathrow Monday. In total, the airport is set to handle almost 240,000 passengers, 50,000 more than on an average day, and a sign of what lies ahead for the coming weeks.

From the airport in southwest London, athletes were heading to the Olympic Village in Stratford, northeast London. A special games lane has been created to help the athletes beat London’s notoriously slow traffic.

The players’ arrival comes as a debacle over Olympic security dominates Britain’s news agenda.  Last week it emerged that the private security firm hired to handle the games had failed to recruit and train enough guards. As a result, 3,500 army troops have been brought in to fill the gaps.

Shares in the security firm G4S fell sharply Monday and British politicians were having to answer questions about why the right provisions had not been put in place.

Meanwhile,  six U.S. senators say they will introduce legislation requiring the ceremonial uniforms worn by American Olympic athletes to be made in the United States.
The move follows media reports that highlighted the made in China labels on the red, white and blue patriotic clothing that will be worn by U.S. athletes at the games later this month in London.
The U.S. Olympic Committee said late Friday that it is too late to change this year's uniforms, but stressed that apparel for the 2014 Winter Games in Russia will be made in America.

Report on HSBC cites
years of illegal behavior

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. Senate investigation has found poor controls at the global bank HSBC allowed Mexican drug traffickers and other criminals to launder billions of dollars into the United States.

A report released before a Senate hearing on the matter today said the London-based bank also did business with firms linked to terrorism and bypassed U.S. financial sanctions against rogue states such as Iran.

It said HSBC executives and U.S. regulators routinely ignored warning signs and failed to stop illegal behavior between 2002 and 2010, effectively giving criminals and terrorists a portal into the U.S. financial system.

HSBC, Europe's largest bank, has released a statement saying its executives will apologize at the Washington hearing, during which lawmakers will question bank officials and U.S. regulators.

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Most expats won't profit
from immigration amnesty

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The immigration agency is embarking on an amnesty plan that will make legal thousands of foreigners living in Costa Rica, but the proposal has little to offer U.S. and Canadian expats.

Special deals are being offered to those who let their residency expire before 2003. And foreigners with children born in Costa Rica also can obtain legal residency. So can what the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería is calling special cases. These are persons who are handicapped, physically or mentally.

Immigration also is offering residency to persons 25 years and younger who came to Costa Rica as a child. Although some U.S. and Canadian expats might fit in some of these categories, the bulk are expected to be Nicaraguans and other Latin Americans who hare living here illegally.

A.M. Costa Rica reported before the new immigration law received final approval in 2009 that the text contained provisions for amnesties. However, there were no specifics.

In the past Costa Rica has offered amnesties to those who have lived here a certain amount of time, legal or illegal.

Another Art City Tour
scheduled for Wednesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is another Art City Tour scheduled for Wednesday. This is the free event where participants are buses to locations like museums, galleries, and other cultural centers.

The event starts at 5 p.m. at museum departure points They are the  Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo in the Centro Cultural Nacional, the  Museo Nacional, the Museos del Banco Central and the Museo de Jade in the headquarters of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros.

There are three routes open to participants. Buses begin at 5:30 p.m., and the museums are open until 8:30 p.m. One route is in the center of San José. Another is in Barrio Amón and the third is in Barrio Escalante.

The sponsor, GAM Cultural, has a Facebook page.

Anti-drug police intercept
another load of cocaine

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another trucker has been picked up with a load of what authorities think is cocaine.

The trucker was stopped at a police checkpoint on the Interamericana Norte, and anti-drug police said they found 629 kilos of the white powder in the ice chest on his truck. He was in the business of delivering sea food.

The man, identified by the last names of  Ríos Varela was remanded to six months of preventative detention after a session in the Juzgado Penal de San Ramón.

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