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(506) 2223-1327           Published Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 156           Email us
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Atenas home invasion victim was North American
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An unidentified North American survived a violent home invasion Sunday night, and one of the intruders died in a firefight.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the death followed a shootout between a neighbor and the intruders. The scene was in a home in the upscale Barrio Mercedes section of Atenas, about five minutes from the center of town.

The dead man was still unidentified. Agents said he was about 25. A second assailant is believed to have suffered a bullet wound in the leg.

The intruders were heavily armed, said judicial agents. The men broke into the home through locked gates and a door to confront the North American occupant who was reported alone in the dwelling. That was about 8 p.m.
Judicial police said that a neighbor saw what transpired and began shooting at the intruders to cause them to flee.

Unofficial reports credited the fatal shot to the homeowner victim.

Judicial police said that the neighbor exchanged shots with the intruders and hit one in the chest. The three companions fled, they said.

Home invasions are reaching epidemic proportions in the areas outside the Central Valley. Crooks find the pickings easier when the homes are isolated.
Frequent targets are homes in sections with substantial expat populations. Homes in Barrio Mercedes range up to $600,000 or more.

Some police sources estimated that there are three or four such invasions every night, although not every one makes the news.

Lawmakers pass overwhelmingly new corporate tax
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected, lawmakers took action Monday on a plan to impose a tax on corporations to raise money for undefined security measures.

The measure passed 39 to 5 on first reading. A second favorable vote, probably later in the week will send the bill to the desk of President Laura Chinchilla for her signature.

The president sent out a Twitter message Monday night praising lawmakers for their actions.

The bill is keyed to the base salary, a concept used in many money and penal laws because the value of the colón changes. That amount now is 316,200 colons. And it will change with inflation and increases in the minimum wages.

A functioning corporation will be assessed 50 percent of the base salary. An inactive corporation will be assessed just 25 percent. Inactive corporations are those that do not engage in commerce. Many expats have placed the ownership of their home or vehicle in a corporation.

With the current base salary a functioning corporation will pay about $316.

The tax is applied to all types of corporations, including a sociedad de responsabilidad limitada, a sociedad anónima or certain other more obscure forms of incorporation contained within Costa Rican commercial law.
Small- and medium-sized firms will have the opportunity to duck the annual tax if they are registered as such with the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio and included in the Registro Nacional de PYME Proveedoras. To do so a firm has to show that it has a limited number of employees, is current with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and has paid income taxes in the past year. There is a limit on gross income, too.

The tax will not go into effect until it is signed by the president and published in the La Gaceta official newspaper. Even then the text says it will not go into effect for three months. The tax is supposed to be due in January. The bill also contained a provision for a proportional tax for 2011, but since the earliest the tax can go into effect is November, there may not be a tax this year.

Some expats may be tempted to eliminate corporations that they may have. A.M. Costa Rica has reported that this takes money, too, because a lawyer must be involved.

The bill will raise about $70 million, and the administration has not made clear exactly what it will do with the cash. There is a goal of hiring more police officers, but more police has not stopped the continuing insecurity.

Ms. Chinchilla, too, is a believer in redemption, and many of the security plans devised by Casa Presidencial include provision for reintegrating criminals back into society with jobs, training and similar.

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 The campaign poster reminds readers that if a job offer is
good to be true, it probably is a fake, and a trap for
 labor or
sexual exploitation.

Judicial police launch
anti-trafficking campaign

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judicial police launched a campaign Monday to combat human trafficking. The campaign,  No todo es lo que parece (“Not everything is what it seems”), is a joint effort with the International Immigration Organization.

The campaign says that lack of information allows trafficking networks to snag individuals for exploitation.

The Judicial Investigating Organization has a special division for this type of crime. It is the Unidad de Trata y Tráfico de Personas. In 2010 the division handled 25 cases of suspected trafficking. Half of them were labor exploitation, including the case of fishermen who were enslaved on a foreign trawler. The division is investigating 11 cases for 2011, the agency said.

The purposes of the campaign is to provide citizens with information on the various lures trafficking organizations use to ensnare victims. Among these are offers of foreign employment. The campaign will use the Spanish-language communications media to reach the public. There are plans for print advertising and radio and television spots.

The campaign also has its own Web page and a Facebook page.

Jorge Rojas Vargas, director general of the judicial police said that the agency's confidential line at 800-8000-645 will be a useful tool in finding out about trafficking networks.

The United States downgraded Costa Rica and put the country on the so-called watch list in the annual human trafficking report released in June.

Costa Rica is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, said the report. Costa Rican women and children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country, and residents of the north and central Pacific coast zones are particularly vulnerable to internal trafficking, it added.

The State Department report was critical because the country had no trafficking convictions in 2009.

A.M. Costa Rica criticized the U.S. report for lacking evidence for its claims.

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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 HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 156

Prisma dental

Police grab bad 10,000-colón bills in two incidents Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When the supermarket clerk takes a 10,000-colón bill, eyes it suspiciously and holds it up to the light, the effort is more than ritual. Fake bills are a fact of life in Costa Rica.

The Banco Central is moving to create a new series of highly secure bank notes, but so far only bills in the denominations of 1,000 colóns, 2,000 colóns and 20,000 colóns have been issued.

The counterfeiter's choice is the 10,000-colón note, which is worth about $20 U.S. dollars. The 20,000 colóns note has a number of security features, but perhaps the greatest security comes from the fact that most merchants and certainly all taxi drivers hate them. Circulating the bill is difficult even if the bank note just came from the Banco Central.

The older 1,000-colón and 2,000-colón notes will be phased out at the end of this month, so there is no point in faking them. And the new bills printed on a plastic material are challenging to even the best crooked craftsman.

Sunday Fuerza Pública officers in two different locations came upon fake bills. In La Uruca officers detained a man with the last names of Rivera Acevedo with 23 fake 10,000-colón bills, they said.

In Los Chiles, the Policía de Fronteras detained a man and a women. The 35-year-old man with the last names of Urbina López carried a fake single bill, but his companion, a 21-year-old woman with the last name of González had eight in her possession, police said. This was the second set of arrests by the frontier police this year involving fake bills.  In May the force confiscated 19 fake bills.
fake bills
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
Police officer studies one of the fake bills

Colombia has always been considered a source of excellent fake bills from many countries, but there are indications that many of Costa Rica's fakes come from Nicaragua.

Computerized scanning and laser printing make copying a bill easy, and in the low light of a bar or some other establishment, passing the fake is easy.

That is why Central Bank officials are anxious to put the new 10,000-colón bills on the street. The bank also has a program of training for merchants involved in retail and a series of handouts that show the elaborate security features of the new bills.

Searchers continue to draw a blank in effort to find ranger
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Searchers are not giving up as they try to find clues to the whereabouts of Óscar Cruz Ramírez, a volunteer park ranger who vanished in the rugged territory around Volcán Poás.

The Cruz Roja had two teams of searchers in the Parque Nacional Volcán Poás Monday. The agency said the search would continue. The 24-year-old man vanished the afternoon of Aug. 3.

Each search team is made up of Cruz Roja workers, Fuerza
 Pública officers and park rangers. In addition, the  Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea of the security ministry continues to overfly the area with special cameras that are linked to a ground positioning system and also with cameras using infrared film.

The photos are being studied intently on the ground, the ministry said. Searchers said they planned to expand the effort into virgin forest to seek clues of what happened to Cruz.

The area is rugged with many slopes and depressions, they said.

Good weather probably will last until Friday, forecast says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's weather experts expect the generally dry conditions to continue at least until Friday.

This is called the second canicula when the humidity decreases and winds increase in intensity so that rain in the north Pacific and the Central Valley are reduced considerably, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional in a report Monday.

The Caribbean coast and the northern zone also are likely to have stable conditions during the rest of the week, the institute said.

The central and south Pacific will be getting maritime
winds that will generate rain in the afternoons, it said.

As the agency has said in the past, the prediction does not mean a complete lack of rain. Isolated showers are possible and even thundershowers in the Central Valley and north Pacific. The rest of the Pacific coast also has the possibilities of downpours.

The prediction for today follows that trend. The institute says the morning will be hot with growing cloud cover for the afternoon. Although some isolated showers are possible in the northern Pacific, the Central Valley, that maritime breeze might bring rain to the central and south Pacific.

The northern zone and the Caribbean will continue to see little rain, the institute said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 156
Endangered turtle shows a close association with humans
By the Smithsonian news staff

A genetic study focusing on the Central American river turtle (Dermatemys mawii) recently turned up surprising results for a team of Smithsonian scientists involved in the conservation of this critically endangered species. Small tissue samples collected from 238 wild turtles at 15 different locations across their range in Southern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala revealed a surprising lack of genetic structure, the scientists write in a recent paper in the journal Conservation Genetics.

The turtles, which are entirely aquatic, represent populations from three different river basins that are geographically isolated by significant distance and high mountain chains.

"We were expecting to find a different genetic lineage in each drainage basin," explains the paper's main author Gracia González-Porter of the Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. "Instead, we found the mixing of lineages. It was all over the place." Despite appearing isolated, the genetic data showed the different turtle populations had been in close contact for years.

"But how?" the researchers wondered.

The best possible explanation, Ms. González-Porter and her colleagues say, is that for centuries humans have been bringing them together. The turtles have been used as food, in trade and in rituals for millennia, widely transported and customarily kept in holding ponds till they were needed.               
"For centuries, this species has been part of the diet of the Mayans and other indigenous people who lived in its historic distribution range," the scientists point out in their paper. "D. mawii was a very important source of animal protein for the ancient Mayans of the Peten (Preclassic period 800-400 B.C.)…. And it is possible that these turtles were part of the diet of the Olmec culture more than 3,000 years ago."

One specimen of D. mawii was found in an ancient Teotihuacan burial site in Mexico, a spot located more than 186 miles from the known range of this turtle, the researchers say. An ancient sculpture of a Central American river turtle at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City was found in the Basin of Mexico, more than 217 miles from the turtle's range.

"The Central American River turtle is tame and resilient,"
taking tutle tissue
Photo courtesy of Gracia González-Porter
Researchers Gracia Gonzalez-Porter and Rene Calderón take a tissue sample from between two of the rear toes of a Central American river turtle from the Belize River.

Ms. González-Porter explains, "which makes it easy to transport. Their shells give them lots of protection. People don't have refrigeration so they put the turtles in ponds in their back yards."

During the rainy season in the tropics, the water flows are huge, she says. Rivers and ponds flood, captive turtles escape and mix with the local turtles.

This ancient practice still persists today. In Guatemala, Central American river turtles are kept in medium-sized ponds where they can be easily captured when needed. Similarly, in the State of Tabasco, Mexico, captured turtles are kept in rustic ponds and raised until they are either consumed or sold.

The genetic analysis of the Central American River turtle was initiated because these animals are critically endangered, Ms. González-Porter says.

They are the last surviving species of the giant river turtles of the family Dermatemydidae. D. mawii is currently the most endangered turtle species in Central America. A recent increase in the commercial demand for its meat has pushed it to the brink of extinction—2.2 pounds of their meat can fetch $100.

Most local populations have disappeared, and this turtle is now largely restricted to remote areas that are inaccessible to humans.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 156

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Our readers' opinions
Far right cash conspiracy
designed to hurt Obama

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Down here in Costa Rica, I'm (thankfully) far-far away from the clang, clatter and cat fights of the last months that have transformed Washington, D. C., into a giant litter box, badly in need of cleaning. But the area where I've lived and worked for the last eight years, Manuel Antonio on the central Pacific coast, attracts a lot of money and a never ending gaggle of the wealthy, the wannabe wealthy and the hyper opinionated.

Over the last month or so, I've been hearing some pretty alarming buzz in the local watering holes about a cabal of nameless, ultra wealthy, ultra conservative honchos in the corporate/banking/investing/stock market communities who are allegedly, actively doing whatever they can to make sure that nothing the Democrats and Obama does to fix the economy will work before the next election.

The Standard & Poor's downgrade just by itself has the potential to wipe out pretty much everything that the most recent, relatively limp attempt to lower the debt managed to accomplish via higher interest rates in the future.  An accident? A strategy? I found it interesting that although S&P acknowledged a $2 trillion error in the debt calculations, they STILL executed the downgrade! (Way to shake off that goal line fumble, guys!) And the selloff on Wall Street? As we've seen far too many times, mini market Armageddons like these are easily detonated, and as always, someone made a boatload of cash on it, and the conservatives get to make great political hay in the process.

Maybe I'm naive. Maybe this kind of economy bashing goes on all the time and is a standard operating dynamic of the election cycle. (I mean after all, the party on the outs doesn't want the incumbent to look like he knows the difference between his buttocks and a beach ball when it comes to economics, do they?) But it's painfully obvious that there are millions of arch conservatives in the U. S. who would be more that willing to see the economy go fully in the tank again as it did in '08 if it gets Obama out of the White House. They're all rich enough to ride out the hard times that would follow, and if the middle class gets crushed in the process, that's just another reason for people to abandon the Democrats in favor of the Republicans and return both the Senate and the White House to the conservatives.

With the Republican contenders for the nomination self-destructing every time they open their mouths/with the Tea Party doing it's best impersonation of an albatross around the neck of the Grande Old Party, who knows what can happen/what the ultra right is capable of? Hard to know if you're not wealthy enough to be in the loop. It's hard to know even how to begin to mitigate the monumental mess. Maybe American voters should consider electing adults instead of children?

It goes without saying that another crash/recession up north would be a devastating blow to the already anemic and staggering economy of Costa Rica, and would very likely push the government here into the arms of the drooling, energy addicted Chinese who fully expect to be rewarded with oil contracts in return for a silly little soccer field and promises of a better future for Ticos.

No matter what the truth is about the shameful, thumb-in-the-eye political scrum we're witnessing, which clearly puts people, families, their fortunes and the futures way down there on the priority list, it would make one helluva fine screenplay for any conspiracy theory buff! A mini series maybe? A highlight would have to be the wildly Orwellian attempt on the part of the Republicans to convince middle-class Americans who are drowning in debt, that protecting tax breaks for the rich is actually good for the salt of the earth. Easily one of the best pitches since people sold snake oil off the back of horse drawn wagons.
Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio

Climate change slush fund
for possibly flaky projects

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I've got one question in regard to end of Page 6 article entitled: Anti-corruption organization warns of climate fund misuse: IS THE WORLD OUT OF ITS FRIGGIN' MIND? 

I've written before about man's arrogance in attempting to control climate change.  Latest stats show close to 69 percent question the validity of the man-made global warming theory due to "scientific" manipulation of data.   Hard science, via NASA, through objective satellite studies, (not counting tree rings, re-adjusting figures, or hockey stick analogies) is debunking the climate change fear mongering premise.  That unrestrained and calamitous atmospheric CO2 concentration is now up to a whopping 1.5 ppm/year, and man's contribution is a bare 3 percent of that, or one part per 20 billion). Reality check: this is an infinitesimal figure of a TRACE ELEMENT NECESSARY FOR LIFE ON OUR PLANET. 

Having everyday people (governments take tax money from the people, they don't grow it themselves to give off to pet projects) of the developed/developing countries pay hundreds of billions (maybe trillions) of dollars into a slush fund with unknown oversight to undisclosed persons/entities for possibly flaky projects in highly corrupt countries.

Have we gone totally mad?
Mary Jay
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 156

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Latin America news
A million-plus tourists
reported in first 6 months

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism institute said that more than a million visitors came to the country in the first six months. That represents an increase over the average for the last four years, said the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The agency said it was using figures supplied by the  Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

The exact number was reported to be 1,197,199. The tourism institute also said that in June 86,000 U.S. citizens visited the country as tourists. However, it did not report the total number of U.S. arrivals for the first six months.

In 2009 the country reported 78,381 U.S. visitors. In 2010 some 84,462, according to figures released by the institute in the past.

Canada's Harper plans
visit here Thursday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister will visit Costa Rica Thursday to push for trade and perhaps discuss the renegotiation of the free trade treaty between the two countries.

He is on a Latin tour that includes Brazil and Colombia. He will visit Honduras after meeting with President Laura Chinchilla and other Costa Rican officials.

More than 110,000 Canadian tourists visited Costa Rica in 2010, and the Canadian Embassy said some 10,000 Canadians are residents here.

New satellite readied
for September launch

Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

SES S.A. and Space Systems/Loral announce that the QuetzSat-1 satellite has safely arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on board an Antonov cargo plane. The QuetzSat-1 spacecraft, manufactured by Space Systems/Loral will now be readied for launch onboard an ILS Proton Breeze M booster, scheduled for lift off in September 2011.

QuetzSat-1 is an all Ku-band high-powered communications satellite with coverage of Mexico, U.S.A. and Central America, which is fully contracted to a subsidiary of EchoStar Corp. and will be used in part by Dish Mexico, an EchoStar joint venture, for direct-to-home services in Mexico.

When launched, QuetzSat-1 will be positioned at 77 degrees West. It is based on SS/L's 1300 satellite platform which provides the flexibility to support a broad range of applications and technology advances and provides high power for advanced  television. It is designed to deliver service for 15 years or longer.

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