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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Thursday, July 26, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 148                          Email us
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Mar Vista

The line of march contained many with local complaints, including the state of the roads and the need for the creation of a new political district for the peninsula.

Municipalidad de Nicoya photo

Locals stage protest march at Nicoya celebration
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The celebration in Nicoya Wednesday was not what the central government wanted. A caravan of cars, buses and taxis carried the message that the government has failed to deliver on previous promises.

Among those protesting was a group from Nosara on the Pacific coast who have been trying for two years to get the access road to their community paved. It is now some 40 kilometers of rock, ruts, dirt and frequently mud fit only for oxcarts, some of the group said.

President Laura Chinchilla was at the festivities in Nicoya, and she had another promise. No family will be removed from their coastal home while she is president, she said, according to Casa Presidencial. The president has promoted a change in the law that would prevent the destruction of home located in the maritime zone on both coasts. The measure has not yet been presented to  the Asamblea Legislativa. However, the president has ordered suspension of demolition and said that the legal change would be presented in August.

The celebration marked the 188th anniversary of the decision by leaders of the Partido de Nicoya in 1824 to join Costa Rica. The peninsula was an independent state then shortly after freedom from Spain.

Protesters said that the mayor of the Municipalidad de Nicoya was harassed by Fuerza Pública officers during the protest. Although he is well known, officers made him show his cédula, the official identification card, said a summary of the march.

In addition, protesters claimed that officers of the Policía de Tránsito halted the convoy so it would not arrive near the festivities where President Chinchilla was.

Among the complains was the failure of the education ministry to build a promised new school. They said that was promised by the education minster last year, but that the school is still just building plans.

They also said that a proposed five-floor tower for specialists at the local Hospital de la Anexión de Nicoya still has not been started. This was announced by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social last year, too, they said. The tower is supposed to have 130 beds.
Municipalidad de Nicoya photo
 Nosara contingent wants the access road hard
 surfaced at last.

Casa Presidencial photo
 President Chinchilla honored the elderly in
 Nicoya, an area where the lifespan seems to be
 much longer than normal.

Marco Tulo Ávila, president of the Nosara development association, said that failing to hard surface the road has kept down tourism and has affected the local economy. Nosara had 400 residents at the protest.

The municipal mayor, Marco Antonio Jiménez, had joined the protect. He declined earlier to be with Ms. Chinchilla at the festivities in the center of the community. He is a member of Movimiento Libertario, and she is a member of the Partido Liberación Nacional. The vice mayor, Adriana Rodríguez, was with Ms. Chinchilla at the Parque Recadero Briceño, and she urged integrated solutions to the problems of Guanacaste development, said a summary.

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Our readers' opinions
Speed of Patriot Act OK
intimidated the public

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I believe that the speed of implementing and the enormous force of The Patriot Act was an overwhelming action to the American public!  Literally overnight, many of the pillars of American freedom were erased by a document that was not read or understood by members of Congress!  And by an administration that unleashed new and frightening authority not only on American soil, but around the world! 

That these violations of the Bill of Rights were never reversed or corrected is a very troubling aspect of the patriotism of all national leaders, from the president down!   Further, I believe that this act sent a message of intimidation and fear over the American people, and that this WAS the intention of those who drafted the act!    Fear of the new power and unbridled authority of their federal government; that was NEVER the intention of the writers of the Bill of Rights!

That the American people would continue to "fly the flag" and sing of the greatness of the U.S.A., in light of this striping of their basic liberties, is troubling and confusing to me!  Have the majority of the people just given up?

Thank you for posting this important letter from another concerned expatriate!

Michael Connolly
Santa Cecilia de Heredia

French philosophy was
major factor on Constitution

Dear A.M. Costa Rica;

I must correct an article in Tuesday's edition in which the statement was made that the U.S. Constitution was greatly influenced by Greek and Roman thinking as well as that of English philosophers. 

To a much greater extent were the more contemporary works of the French thinkers writing following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1658.  Beginning with Fenelon and Fontinelle and continuing through Beumarchais with particular emphasis on Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau, the concept of why an absolute government would no longer work was developed, and the transfer of power to a renewed public citizenry instituted.  Many of the Founders and Framers included these authors in their libraries, some in the original French, and it is those minds transferred to the printed page where the philosophic basis of the United States is rooted.
Kent Carthey
Playa del Coco 

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
From the Costa Rican press
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 26, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 148
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Jacó tax case links some U.S. citizens to evasion strategies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the tax-collecting agency, is deep into a probe of U.S. citizens who are trying to evade taxes by means of real estate investments and bank accounts here.

The probe centers on James Stanley Gray and his wife, Karen Amerling-Gray. Gray is the owner of the Hotel Cocal and Casino in Jacó and is involved in other real estate developments, and his wife is assistant manager of the hotel, according to a complaint and affidavit filed by an IRS agent in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan where the Grays live.

The affidavit by an IRS special agent, Casey Carnahan, details an encounter with Gray with an undercover investigator and a telephone conversation with another undercover investigator with one of Gray's associates in Costa Rica. The IRS agent also received copies of emails that Gray sent to a U.S. investor in which he said he does not report capital gains taxes on his Costa Rican condominium activities, according to the affidavit.

But it is the telephone call that probably is of the most interest to local investors. The affidavit said that a Gray associate, Brad Sanson, outlined the way developers of Vista Las Palmas and Vista Mar have established Costa Rican limited liability companies for clients who invested in the condominium units, said the affidavit. The associate also said that clients are directed to banks in other countries to establish accounts, it added. The document said that from 80 to 85 percent of the approximately 80 investors were U.S. citizens.

The affidavit also said that Gray's associate said that clients are instructed not to admit to owning foreign property on their annual tax return and that payments for properties can be disguised as payments for loans or other expenses.

The second undercover agent in a personal meeting with Gray in Michigan said that the hotel owner outlined how to conceal income from rentals and the sale of condo units.

The undercover agent quoted Gray as sayings he has evaded U.S. taxes this way for 18 years, said the  affidavit.

The complain lists many bank transactions attributed to accounts held by Gray and his wife. Some accounts are in
Banco Nacional here. At one point the affidavit notes that the transactions are typical of a hotel and casino operations.

June 19  agents executed a search warrant at the Gray home in Flushing, Michigan, and obtained many documents to use as evidence. The documents appear to substantially outline the business operation by the Grays, including many bank account statements and notations of individual deposits and withdrawals.

According to the complain, Gray and his wife are each facing a charge of failing to report that they had a financial interest and a signature authority over a financial account valued over $10,000 in a foreign country.

Gray also is facing a federal charge of possessing firearms as a convicted felon. The affidavit said that Gray had been convicted in 1986 of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The affidavit says that Gray had a Michigan hunting licenses for 11 years. The search turned up firearms typical of those used by hunters.

U.S. tax laws require citizens and residents to file a report every year if they have signature authority over a financial account located outside the United States and if the value of the account is more than $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. This is the controversial FBAR law,

“The FBAR is a tool to help the United States government identify persons who may be using foreign financial accounts to circumvent United States law,” says the IRS on its Web site. “Investigators use FBARs to help identify or trace funds used for illicit purposes or to identify unreported income maintained or generated abroad."

The United States is one of the few countries that taxes its citizens on money they earn or receive overseas. Although there is a $92,900 exemption for earned income, Uncle Sam still wants taxes for overseas capital gains. Costa Rica does not tax capital gains, so the situation becomes complex when a U.S. citizen owns a Costa Rican company that makes money on a real estate transaction.

In January the IRS opened a voluntary disclosure program to let taxpayers make filings that they may have overlooked or ignored.

Sea Shepherd confirms that Paul Watson jumped bail
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society says that its founder and president, Paul Watson, is no longer in Germany. The organization was quoting Watson's German lawyer.

The organization said it has learned that Japan may also be seeking to extradite Watson.

“Captain Watson’s attorney reports he has left Germany,” said Susan Hartland, administrative director of Sea Shepherd. We have reason to believe from a reliable source that, once in Costa Rica, the Japanese Government may have sought extradition of Captain Watson to Japan to answer charges related to obstructing their illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We have no further information and are not in touch with him. We will do our best to provide more details as we learn more. Please continue to check our Web site for updates. We will post any new information as it arrives and we are able to confirm its validity."

Watson was detained May 13 on the strength of a Costa Rica warrant. Watson is facing trial in Costa Rica over the claims by shark fishermen that their boat, the  “Varadero I,” suffered damages and crew members suffered injuries in a 2002 run-in with Watson and the much larger “Ocean Warrior.” A quote attributed to Watson calls these claims absurd:
“If Costa Rica believes that there is a need to put me on trial over the absurd accusations of these fishermen we caught poaching sharks, then I am prepared to cooperate with the judicial system to present our video evidence, our logbooks, and our crew as witnesses to those events. Costa Rica needs only to assign a date for a trial, and I will appear before the Costa Rican Court voluntarily, if given assurances that my safety will be guaranteed. There is no need for an extradition or preventive arrest. All Costa Rica needs to do is make a request to appear.”

Despite that quote, Watson's legal team in Germany were trying to prevent the extradition. Watson was released on $319,200 bail and told to sign in frequently with police.

As German authorities realized that Watson has skipped bail, a court resumed the extradition proceedings.

Sea Shepherd is based in the U.S. state of Washington. Watson is a Canadian with U.S. residency.

The seagoing encounter with the  “Varadero I” was filmed and became part of the movie “Sharkwater,” The video appears to contradict the claims of the crew that the vessel suffered damage and crew members were injured. The encounter happened in Guatemalan waters, and Watson said his crew were trying to bring illegal shark finners into custody in that country.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 26, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 148
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Guanacaste reserves doing better than most, new study reports
By the University of Pennsylvania news service

Establishing protection over a swath of land seems like a good way to conserve its species and its ecosystems. But in a new study, University of Pennsylvania biologist Daniel Janzen joins more than 200 colleagues to report that protected areas are still vulnerable to damaging encroachment, and many are suffering from biodiversity loss.

“If you put a boundary around a piece of land and install some bored park guards, and that’s all you do, the park will
eventually die,” said Janzen, a biology professor. “It’s death from a thousand cuts.”

When Janzen and his wife and research partner, Winnie Hallwachs, became advisers for and supporters of Costa Rica’s Área de Conservación Guanacaste in 1985, they worked to ensure the national parks would not succumb to such threats. That area was included in the study and appears to be faring well.

The international team of researchers, led by William Laurance of Australia’s James Cook
Daniel Janzen
Daniel Janzen
University, conducted 262 interviews of field biologists and environmental scientists who had extensive experience working in tropical forest reserves. In all, the interviews incorporated results from 60 protected areas in 36 countries.

The researchers constructed questions to determine how the biological health of the protected areas had changed over the last two to three decades. Some queries dealt with the status of wildlife in the areas: Had large mammal or amphibian populations increased or decreased over that time period? Others asked about changes in environmental pressures: Were fires more frequent or had automobile traffic expanded?

Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers report that the protected forest areas are not serving as the arks that some conservationists had hoped for. Four-fifths of the areas included in the survey had experienced some declines in health.

About half of the areas had suffered more serious losses to biodiversity.

Among the types of wildlife and plants most negatively affected were bats, amphibians, lizards, large-bodied mammals,
stream-dwelling fish, amphibians and old-growth trees.  And the researchers did not even attempt to monitor insects, fungi and other small organisms.

The scientists further observed that environmental conditions and activities occurring outside of the reserves were strong predictors of how biodiversity inside the boundaries fared. Logging, declining forest cover and increasing fires outside the protected areas tended to pull down the health of the reserves themselves. Such losses were rampant: Some 85 percent of the reserves had their surrounding forests decline in the last few decades, while only 2 percent had bordering forestland increase.

Janzen said that many of the features that he and Ms. Hallwachs incorporated into the  Área de Conservación Guanacaste  are obvious, making it socially integrated by hiring only local workers, gaining political support by winning the blessing of the Costa Rican president and incorporating habitat into the park’s boundaries that will allow species to cope with climate change.

The  Área de Conservación Guanacaste, which was included in the survey, is a collection of protected areas holding up well on many markers of health and biodiversity — even improving on many measures since the 1980s.

“We’re atypical,” Janzen said. “We used to have 100 to 200 fires a year and within two to three years we were down to five to 15.”

And while many protected areas have found their borders slowly chipped away by development and human encroachment, Janzen said Área de Conservación Guanacaste has “the opposite issue: the size of the original park was 10,000 hectares; right now it’s 163,000 hectares, so 16 times as big as when we started.” The area now includes five parks.

The challenge, he said, is often acquiring the political and economic will to enact sustainable management and stave off threats from development and human activity in protected areas. And conservationists can’t take a cookie-cutter approach to designing and managing protected areas, Janzen said.

“You have to fine-tune and tailor-make your park to the particular circumstances of a place: the nature of the people, the resources and the organisms.”

The study authors noted that although their findings suggest that many protected areas are in trouble, their intent is not “to diminish their crucial role but to highlight growing challenges that could threaten their success.”

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Colombia coca production
remains steady, U.N. reports

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The area used to cultivate coca in Colombia has risen 3 per cent in 2011 over the previous year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which added that the overall picture remained stable for the raw material used to produce the illegal drug cocaine.

The annual Colombia coca survey, supported by agency, is mainly based on data derived from satellite imagery and field surveys to measure the production of coca leaf.

The 2011 survey shows that some 64,000 hectares were used for coca crop cultivation last year. Also, while the area used for cultivation decreased in 14 of the country’s 24 departments, that trend did not offset increases in six other departments.

Almost two-thirds, or 62 per cent, of coca cultivation was concentrated in only four departments – Nariño, Putumayo and Cauca, bordering Ecuador in the west, and Guaviare, in the central-south area of the country, according to a news release issued by the agency.

The Putumayo-Caquetà region saw a rise of 80 per cent in cultivation, from around 7,360 hectares in 2010, to almost 13,280 in 2011.

Last year, the government manually eradicated 34,170 hectares of coca bush and sprayed a total of 103,302 hectares. While aerial spraying remained at 2010 levels, manual eradication decreased by 22 per cent.

The Office on Drugs and Crime says that recent studies show that the coca leaf yield per hectare has decreased, probably because farmers are cutting back on fertilizers and agrochemicals. Thus, potential cocaine production in 2011 remained stable at 345 tons, down 1 per cent from 350 tons in 2010.

In addition, the farm value of coca leaf and derivatives – coca paste, cocaine base – in 2011 was estimated at $420 million, worth around 0.2 per cent of gross domestic product.

The agency notes that the average net income from coca of a farmer selling coca leaf is close to $2 per day, near the threshold of extreme poverty set by the international community.

“This indicates that small-scale coca crop growers benefit very little from the lucrative cocaine business,” says the agency, which has supported the Colombian government in monitoring coca cultivation since 1999.

Anti-terrorism officials
are upbeat on progress

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center gave an optimistic assessment of the progress made in fighting terrorism since the 2001 al Qaida attacks on the United States.  But the top Obama administration officials also came under pressure from U.S. lawmakers Wednesday about the recent visit of an Egyptian politician to Washington.

Top Obama administration officials had some good news for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security.

"Following the death last year of Osama bin Laden, several of his top lieutenants have been eliminated.  The leaders that remain lack experience and are under siege.  They have limited ability to recruit and communicate with other operatives.  In short, the intelligence picture shows that al Qaida's core is a shadow of its former self, and the overall threat from al Qaida in Pakistan is diminished," said Matthew Olsen. He is director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

But Olsen cautioned that smaller, splinter groups of al Qaida are plotting to carry out attacks, saying that al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, is the most capable of attacking the United States.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also cited progress in efforts to train law enforcement officers to deal with terrorist threats. "We are also in the final stages of implementing a countering violent extremist curriculum for federal, state, local and correctional facility law enforcement officers.  It is focused on community-oriented policing, which will help frontline personnel identify activities that are potential indicators of potential terrorist activity and violence," Ms. Napolitano said.

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King questioned Ms. Napolitano about the recent visit to the United States of Egyptian politician Hani Nour Eldin.  King said that Eldin is a self-professed member of a banned Egyptian Islamic militant group.  Eldin was cleared by the State Department before being granted a visa.

Ms. Napolitano said Eldin was also vetted by the Department of Homeland Security before being allowed into the country, and that he was screened a third time by the Secret Service before he was granted access to the White House.

King said that giving a visa to a member of a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization without first informing Congress violated federal law.

Ms. Napolitano responded by saying that some leaders emerging from the Middle East pro-democracy movement come from organizations that might have evolved into political parties, and that no mistakes were made in allowing Eldin to come to the United States because he was not deemed to be a threat.  Eldin recently was elected as a member of Egypt's parliament.

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Unsolved mysteries provides
no closure for relatives

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sometimes there is no closure. Such is the case with a handful of relatives of tourists who have gone missing in Costa Rica over the last 11 years.

This week seven years ago Laura McCloud-Vockery and her new husband vanished when they took a sportfishing boat out into the Pacific from Flamingo. The honeymoon couple and a crew of three have not been heard from again, although there is a possibility that the body of the husband,  Mark Vockery, was found and personal items were stolen. His credit card was used 15 days later.

The bride had an identical twin sister, Lisa Herrington of Lexington, Kentucky. Like clockwork, Ms. Herrington reminds A.M. Costa Rica staffers of her sister's disappearance each year near the anniversary. This year she included another photo.

“A memory but so vivid, for this week will be seven years (July 29, 2005) since this couple went missing in Costa Rica.  A photo is so priceless such as this one to see the beauty this couple bestows upon on us.  My sister Laura and her husband Mark will live in our hearts forever.”

Young tourist dies in pool

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 16-year-old Canadian tourist died Wednesday in a hotel swimming pool in Playa Grande. He was identified by the last name of Moore.

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