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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 158      E-mail us
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Gambling and donation from corporations
Two new tax bills officially submitted to legislature

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Chinchilla administration announced officially Wednesday that it is submitting 20 bills to the legislature. The measures relate to security, environment and social welfare.

The security measures probably were not what expats were seeking. The administration put forward a tax on casinos and a tax on corporations as its version of a security initiative.

The two tax bills are part of a larger package sculpted in the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration.

Still to come are proposals to increase the income tax rate, impose a value-added tax and place a tax on financial transactions.

The legislature already has passed one of the measures. This was the so-called luxury home tax that is supposed to eliminate slums.

The tax on corporations has been in the legislature since August, 2006. There has not been much movement. The original tax proposal was for $200 a year, an amount that would not be tax deductible. This tax would be in addition to regular income tax and that tiny cultural tax that is paid every March.

Casa Presidencial tax experts are said to be considering increasing the tax to $300 a year. The bill would cover any kind of personas juridicas from regular corporations or sociedades anominas, limited partnerships and other lesser known legal constructions. Basically if the entity is listed in the Registro Nacional, it would be taxed.

The biggest penalty for not paying the tax would be a prohibition by the Registro for processing any paperwork for the corporation.  Of course the final law, if passed could say anything.

The tax on gambling houses had help from the United States. In late 2009 Costa Rican employees of the Ministerio de Hacienda met with U.S. Treasury Department experts, and the experts made the following suggestion about control of betting houses:

- create a regulatory structure to collect taxes;

- create a commission to regulate the firms;

- establish a law with methods to protect players;

- regulate the activities 24 hours a day all year;

- establish as a fundamental the financial oversight of the operators;

- create a license in which the operators give up confidentiality in exchange for the right to run their business;

- include the right to investigate as part of the regulatory structure;

- include physical casinos within the regulation as well as the online operations;

- enlist the aid of other regulators in the financial area and require the deposits of the betting firms in the Costa Rican bank accounts so as not to evade oversight and controls. Many online betting operations deposit their money elsewhere now.

- strengthen offshore banking regulations;

- establish regulations similar to those in Antigua, which is a big recipient of electronic bets.


Excluded from the proposed tax and oversight are betting programs by the Cruz Roja and the Junta de Protección Social that runs the national lotteries.

The bill would create a national regulating commission within the Ministerio de Hacienda with members from the fiscal general, the Judicial Investigating Organization, the security ministry, the tourism institute and the Instituto  
Tax request

Costarricense   Sorbre Drogas. The commission would name a superintendent to run the day-to-day operations. But the commission would grant licenses.

The commission would collect annually a half percent assessment over gross income. In addition, gambling operators would pay each month 2 percent of their gross income.

Betting houses also would have to report transactions of $10,000 or more, suspicious transactions or other procedures to prevent money laundering. One part of the proposed bill prohibits transactions or transfers of $10,000 or more when they are not part of a payout to a gambling winner.

Gambling houses would have a year to comply with the law after it goes into effect. Those who work in the gambling operations, build gambling machines or even supply gambling materials would have to have individual licenses. That might put a crimp in the many illegal workers now at online betting operations. A whole corps of gambling inspectors would be authorized.

The original corporate tax bill was drawn up in July 2006. The bill met with some criticism in that the tax is not progressive. Intel Corp. would pay the same amount as an expat who has a company to purchase a cell telephone.  The legislative Departamento de Servicios Técnicos leveled that criticism in its 2006 review.

President Laura Chinchilla is promoting the corporation tax as a way to raise money for security and to pay for more police. That was not always the case. When the original bill was introduced, it clearly said the idea was to raise money for the central government general fund.

The two tax bills are part of a larger package sculpted in the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration. Still to come are proposals to increase the income tax rate, impose a value-added tax and place a tax on financial transactions.

The legislature already has passed one of the measures. This was the so-called luxury home tax that caused expats so much panic last year. The income from that tax is supposed to eliminate slums.

The current text of each tax bill was not available on the legislative Web site. It will take several days for the text to be posted or to appear in the la Gaceta official newspaper as a proposal if changes have been made.

Two more bills that are going to the legislature are the Chinchilla proposal to prevent more open pit gold mines and the text of an accord among political parties to provide constitutional protection for water. There also is a proposal to create more housing funds for lower-income families.

A summary from the Chinchilla administration said that proponents of the bill in the legislature would try to put them on a fast track. Both tax bills are likely to run into trouble from opposition parties. Each needs just a majority of the 57 legislative deputies to pass.

The annual tax on corporations would be due just 10 days after the final law was published, said a legislative report.

August is one of those times that the executive branch controls the legislative agenda. Lawmakers can only discuss and act on bills Casa Presidencial has put on a short list.

Both the gambling tax and the corporate tax have been the topic of news stories in the past. What is not known now are the changes in detail that Casa Presidencial might have made.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 158

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Our readers' opinions
Police support anti-crime work
of Community Alliance

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am amazed at some short-sighted individuals who think everyone wants to change Costa Rica to what they had back home in U.S.A. or Canada. If one dives deeper into the facts. one thing becomes obvious: We are here because there are things we don´t like back home and we like life here in Costa Rica more than life back home! But in any land there are inherent problems, so here we have problems Tico and Gringo alike share. Any possible solutions should and could be shared by all.

I attended the “security meeting” held this past Monday night. It was a small start with potential team leaders from many areas interested in organizing a “ community watch.” There was Tico and Gringo alike striving to learn how to help Costa Rica not become an America and or Canada with high crime, but make safe to enjoy and stop it progressing towards what many of us left back home in the first place. It was supported by local police!

None of the meetings I have attended with Community Action Alliance in San Ramón have ever took on an attitude to  "Dictate their desires on the local community” as claimed by some. Any meeting I have witnessed has taken the stance to identify stress points to life here and then meet with those in charge of any particular area and explain what has been identified. Then importantly listen to their position and seek a solution that can be mutually supported by all.

All authorities, thank God, have had a great respect and open mind to discuss concerns, identify solutions and have accepted many of us “trying to give back” at face value. They have encouraged the organization of neighborhood watches, business associations, concerned residents to assist in the solutions not just sit at home and bitch about Costa Rica.

While some Americans appear to want things to stay the same, Costa Rica has decided to evolve without them, let’s just hope Costa Rica does not become another U.S.A. or Canada with all the stress and crime. With a little effort from Ticos and Gringos alike, it won´t!
Tony McCreath
A Canadian in San Ramón


Change can be mentioned
in a friendly conversation

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Hey Bob Stone, what's wrong with a local crime commission? Neighborhood watch, combating crime? We Americans are not all pig headed and arrogant. There is nothing wrong with informing Ticos that crime is not proactive, or basic little things like not being able to bribe cops for 10 dollars, guard rails are good things to have, manhole covers are not to be considered a luxury, DWI is not a contact sport, etc., etc. No we should not try to ram it down Ticos throats, but it's not a bad thing to bring up in friendly conversation.
 
Eddie Baecher
Palmares
 

Presidents seek changes
to improve Costa Rica


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Please enlighten Mr. Stone, that the president of Costa Rica and also her predecessor, both announced that they wanted to make Costa Rica the first developed country in Latin America. To do this, a small country like Costa Rica must get ideas from other successful developed countries. If they could get their "heads out of the sand", and look over the horizons, they will find many good ideas out there. Just copy what has been successful in other developed countries, its a no-brainier. I read as much local news as I can daily, and its very frustrating to see common sense solutions to problems totally overlooked.
 
And what really pisses me off the most, there is a separation of church and state here in the Constitution, but yet, all these weak-willed political parasites can't tell the Catholic Church to stay out of the way. It surely doesn't help when you have the present president walking to Cartago with half the country, and telling them to pray for less  crime here, as if this is going to solve the problem. It's like the blind leading the blind, and young girls keep getting pregnant because of a lack of sex education. So now, look at the enormous populations of all the Latin American countries, its a vicious cycle of poverty and stupidity. By the way, I was raised Catholic, but I did get my head out of the sand at a early age.
John Bisceglio
Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica

Country's going to change:
Progressing or regressing


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I wish to comment on the letter by Bob Stone titled "Expats are dictating values to change culture here".

Mr. Stone wrote: "Yes, there have been problems: theft, worker, and other problems, but they have been put behind us. The culture and beliefs are different in Costa Rica, ..."  Is Mr. Stone trying to tell us that the culture and beliefs of the Costa Rican people welcome or accept "theft, labor problems" and whatever "other problems" in their everyday life and that this acceptance was part of the reason for Mr. Stone's relocating to Costa Rica such that he does not want it changed?

One has to wonder if Mr. Stone is retired here and lives in a gated or guarded environment or behind bars and barbed wire such that he is in a position to "put behind us" the problems of theft, worker and other problems living a self-designed artificial world. In reality things are continually changing, either progressing or regressing.  If Costa Rica is not progressing, it is regressing, at least in relation to the rest of the (real) world.

Mr. Stone wrote: "In our rural location in the western Central Valley near San Ramón de Alajuela, we do not want to see or have any part of these efforts to change Costa Rica."  One has to wonder just who is this "we" Mr. Stone is talking about?  Is Mr. Stone speaking for the Costa Ricans living in this area?  He seems to speak so authoritatively, but in my 14 years living here in Costa Rica I have never met a Tico who had been a victim of a crime, any crime, to just accept it as their culture.

Mr. Stone wrote: "Costa Rica is not the United States, it never has been and never will be. It is a Third World country. Their culture is vastly different . . . ."  It seems that the author, Mr. Bob Stone, would like to keep Costa Rica forever in a Third World state, never changing, never improving, never advancing.  Ms. Chinchilla has sought input from everyone to battle crime and drugs in her country and a Tico reader of A.M. Costa Rica had written in requesting other Ticos to join with the Gringos to assist.  It seems to me that it is Mr. Stone who is attempting to impose HIS wish of a status quo onto the Costa Rican people. One would wonder if deep down it is the desire of Mr. Stone to see Costa Rica follow the path of México where crime and drugs and mass murder run rampant and the government loses control of the country.
Dennis Jay
Alajuela.


Taking away citizens' guns
is not way to stop criminals


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I would like to add to the comments made by Mr. Stone who I know personally. I do agree with him about those from the U.S.A. that are trying to impose their way of thinking on Costa Rica. The only thing that I think will cure the problem of crime is not more laws and such but to punish those who commit those crimes. It is not that the police aren’t doing their jobs. It is the judges who turn loose those who have committed those crimes.

Without proper punishment, those who commit crimes will keep on doing so till they are locked up properly. You can beat a dead horse but until you remove the dead horse it will continue to stink, and that is where the problem is. The president can look all she wants at what is the problem but until those who commit crime are put away then it will continue and it will get worse as the ladrones get bolder and bolder.

Taking guns away from those who are wanting to defend their homes is pure folly. The thieves then know that the people living there are defenseless. Look at Australia. It is bad enough to be here retired but then to take away people’s right to defend themselves against the criminals that the judges continue to turn loose on the people is a crime in itself.

Perhaps the president needs to be sawing new bars for a prison rather than a few guns that the criminals will replace in just a matter of minutes.
Art Sulenski
San Ramón

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 158


Temporary relocation of legislature might cost $25 million
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature may have $25 million in temporary quarters in Zapote until a new structure is completed at the present complex on Avenida 2.

That was the word from Luis Gerardo Villanueva, president of the Asamblea Legislativa, who sent out a written message Wednesday explaining the situation and the need for speed.

The legislature has been ordered to leave its principal building in San José because the structure is unsound and there are many problems. The order came from the Ministerio de Salud. The ministry and the legislature have been fighting over the order for some time.

In May legislative leaders began negotiations with the  Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica to generate the money needed for a new building. They hope to start next year.

Meanwhile in Zapote overlooking the Circunvalación is the new Edificio Mira. This is the structure that the Ministerio de Hacienda says is worth $25 million, according to
Villanueva. The structure is being built as commercial offices. But it is within walking distance of Casa Presidencial east of the downtown. It also is elegant.

The problem is that the legislature does not have the budget to purchase the structure. A lot of work will be needed to turn a commercial office building into legislative chambers. However, the building is emerging as the only option lawmakers have. Other possible choices do not meet code for disabled access or other reasons, Villanueva said.

The legislative interests are no secret. Taxi drivers already are using the structure as a landmark under the phrase "new home of the legislature."

Legislative officials took office May 1 and immediately were faced with the structural problems of the current buildings. A least 40 of the 57 legislative deputies will have to leave their offices due to the health ministry order.

Lawmakers still do not have a clear idea about how they can buy the structure. Villanueva said there are negotiations with Banco de Costa Rica. The idea would be to use the building until a new one is complete and then rent it out with an option to purchase, he said.


Two shooting incidents result in three persons wounded
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gunmen believed to be unhappy patrons shot up a well-known San José nightspot and a Ciudad Nelly couple were shot by occupants in another vehicle in separate incidents late Tuesday.

Fuerza Pública officers captured three men, 20, 25 and 28, in the San José shooting after chasing a vehicle to San Francisco de Dos Rios, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The shooting happened at facilities operated by the Hotel Del Rey, which police described as being near Parque Morazán. A guard sustained a bullet in the leg, agents said. He was identified by the last name of Cerdas with the age of 25 years.

The shooting happened after security personnel ejected
 three persons for unspecified reasons. A short time later a vehicle passed by and shots rang out. There may have been as many as eight shots. Most of the bullets either broke windows or lodged in a door. The arrests took place early Wednesday.

It was on the highway near Playa Hermosa where the Ciudad Nelly couple said they were fired upon. They were traveling from their hometown in a pickup when a blue vehicle approached and shots were fired. The woman, identified by the last name of Cordero, age 25, suffered a bullet wound in the right arm.

The man, identified by the last name of Quelly, age 36, received two bullets in the stomach.

The Judicial Investigating Organization in nearby Jacó is in charge of the case. The shooting happened about 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 158

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church


Governments easily turn to using repression on Internet

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A media watchdog group called Reporters Without Borders has accused the United Arab Emirates of arresting people who used the popular BlackBerry device to organize a street protest against petrol price increases. The incident highlighted how governments around the world are increasingly using Internet and mobile technology to undermine civil liberties.

Internet freedom activists say the Dubai episode is the latest incident in an alarming trend — that entire governments are censoring the internet.

Robert Guerra, who directs an Internet freedom project for a democracy watchdog group, says governments everywhere are cracking down on freedom of expression and online association in a trend he calls "Repression 2.0".

"We need to follow issues related to surveillance and we need to follow the trend of repression 2.0, the use of social networking tools and social media by governments to tracking down and cracking down on civil society," he said.

As one example, Guerra points to Tunisia, which is suspected of launching sophisticated internet attacks against activists and human rights non-governmental organizations.

But human rights lawyer Cynthia Wong says even Western and democratic states are considering policies that put Internet freedom at risk. 

Wong says governments are calling for mandatory filtering in an effort to protect children from dangers on the Internet. And she says anonymous posts may become a thing of the past as governments try to address online defamation issues.

"The goal of a lot of these policies is very laudable and very good, but some of the laws and the ways countries are addressing the problems tend to undermine freedom online," she said.

Activists like Guerra and Ms. Wong point to countries like South Korea, which wants to require people to open internet accounts under their real names.  Guerra believes it's in reaction to street protests that were mobilized by cell phones and anonymous posts.

And in the United States, the FBI wants Congress to lower the legal threshold to access the private data of Internet users.

But governments are not the only ones responsible for placing limits on online freedom, they say. Internet providers and other telecommunications corporations also play a role.

"Increasingly, we see governments push businesses and ask them to take actions that actually assist in government surveillance and censorship," Ms.Wong said. "The way that companies decide to respond to these requests will have a huge impact on human rights."

Guerra points to the sale of sophisticated telecommunications infrastructure by NOKIA Siemans to
censored

Iran's Revolutionary Guards. The deal included equipment that allows law enforcement to monitor mobile phone calls and track the location of cell phone users.

But Google's Bob Boorstin says Internet freedom is an imperfect thing and people should not think of the Internet in idealistic terms.

"Our responsibility at Google is to do everything we can to maximize access to Internet information and to promote freedom of expression, and I use that word carefully — maximize — because there's no such things as pure freedom of expression," he said.

In the past, the governments of Thailand and Turkey have threatened to shut down Google in their countries if the search engine did not remove certain Web sites those governments deemed subversive.

Google refused Turkey's request, saying it was too extreme.

As a result, many of the search engine's popular service's including YouTube, have been unavailable in Turkey since May.

Nevertheless, Boorstin says Google feels it must often compromise with governments, on a case-by-case basis, or face being shut down in an entire country.

Human rights activist Roya Boroumand says she's uneasy with the compromises corporations make over Internet freedom, but she adds the willingness of companies like Google to have a public conversation about it is a step in the right direction.

"Ten years ago we wouldn't have thought that large corporations would have a responsibility in this issue," she said. "Now, this man sits here and he's forced to speak with you, and that's a positive sign."

Ms. Wong says China is perfecting its online surveillance systems on its citizens and is gradually closing up the Internet as a place for free civil discourse.

She adds many countries are looking to China as a model for how to place those restrictions on their own people.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 158

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Venezuela and Colombia
restore diplomatic relations

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chávez, have restored diplomatic relations that were severed last month by Caracas in a dispute over Venezuela's alleged support of leftist rebels in Colombia.

The two leaders made the announcement late Tuesday after talks.  They met at a colonial-era estate in Santa Marta, a city on Colombia's Caribbean coast where 19th-century independence hero Simón Bolívar died.

Cross-border tensions have run high for more than a year as Chávez, who views Bolívar as the inspiration for his socialist movement, imposed what Colombia called a trade embargo before cutting ties completely last month.

Santos took office Saturday.  He said the two leaders have taken a huge step forward in restoring confidence.

At the heart of the latest dispute were allegations by former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe that Venezuela had supported rebels.  Chávez, in turn, criticized Uribe for waging a military campaign against the rebels that threatened the entire region.

The Venezuelan president also complained about a Colombian deal to allow U.S. troops more access to its military bases.

On July 22, Venezuela severed ties with Colombia after Bogota went before the Organization of American States in Washington to present photographs, maps, coordinates and videos it said show 1,500 guerrillas hiding inside Venezuela.  Chávez denied the charge, saying the items did not provide any solid evidence of a guerrilla presence there.

Santos served as defense minister under Mr. Uribe and has clashed before with Venezuela's president.  But the U.S.- and British-educated economist eventually began to distance himself from Uribe and reached out to Chávez, emphasizing his interest in mending relations between the two Andean neighbors.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she hopes the agreement by the leaders of Colombia and Venezuela will settle all issues between the South American rivals. Mrs. Clinton discussed the accord Wednesday with Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman.

Argentina played a key role in brokering the deal between Chávez and Santos. And Mrs. Clinton is making clear she hopes it ends the long cycle of disputes between them.

At a joint press event in Washington with Timerman, Mrs. Clinton had warm praise for Buenos Aires' crisis diplomacy, led by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

"The United States appreciates the constructive, positive role that Argentina is playing in encouraging a peaceful resolution of the issues between Colombia and Venezuela," she said. "And we will continue to support those efforts. As I told the minister in our meeting, we hope that this outreach by President Santos and the reception by President Chávez leads to some positive resolution of the long-standing issues."

Timerman, an editor and human rights advocate exiled during Argentina's military dictatorship, hailed U.S. opposition to military rule and said his first visit to the State Department, in 1978, was to ask for political asylum.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 158


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Pacific storm system
has chance to develop

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This time it is a low pressure system in the Pacific that is keeping forecasters on edge.

The system is due west of Guanacaste over the Pacific.

Environmental conditions appear conducive for further development, said the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The low could become a tropical depression in the next day or two, the agency said. The center assessed the system's chance of becoming a cyclone at 60 percent.

The storm is moving northwest slowly but it still is in range to affect Costa Rican weather.

The Instituto Meteorológico here said that the broad unstable front was facilitating the entry of humidity over the country. The situation is generating rains and downpours in the Pacific, the northern zone and the Central Valley.

The weather service issued a warning for possible landslides and flash floods.

Over Wednesday many sections of the country, except the Caribbean coast, got from a half inch to two inches of rain.

Tourists stranded on hike

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cruz Roja is working with 16 tourists to help them leave a wilderness area near Santa María de Dota. The group entered the area about 7 a.m. Tuesday but one of their number suffered an injury and could not continue, said the Cruz Roja.

All but one of the tourists are British.

Some 28 Cruz Roja workers are involved in the operation as well as the Sección de Vigilancia Aérea of the security ministry.

Once out of the wilderness the tourists were expected to go to San José.

Gas tax adjusted upwards

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The per-liter tax on gasoline is increasing slightly. For super gasoline the tax goes from 199.75 to 201.5, a difference of 1.75 colons, according to the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios de Públicos. Plus gasoline goes up 1.5 colons from 191 colons a liter to 192.5, the agency said. Diesel goes up a single colon.

There are similar increases for all petroleum products.





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