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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, Aug. 14, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 160      E-mail us
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Mother has her day Saturday, and it's a major event
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For many the most sacred day of the year is Saturday. It is the Día de la Madre, Costa Rica mother's day.

Traditionally this is a day Costa Ricans lavish gifts
on their mother and perhaps take her out for lunch or dinner. The Cruz Roja in San Antonio de Belén has another idea. The rescue corps scheduled a bingo game in the Centro Comercial in Rivera de
mother graphic
Belén starting at 3 p.m. Just like Dad would prefer to be left alone in front of the television with a beer in his hand on father's day, mothers might well prefer a hot bingo game instead of family fuss.

Saturday also is the Roman Catholic holy day of the assumption of Mary into heaven. The day commemorates the Catholic dogma that Mary, the mother of Jesus, may not have died a mortal death. Instead she was bodily assumed into heaven when her time on earth was finished, the church says.
This is not a coincidence. Many Costa Ricans believe their mother is worthy of sainthood and of being assumed into heaven. In fact, femininity runs strong in the country.

The patroness of the country is Mary in her manifestation as the Virgen de los Ángeles, which is carefully cultivated at the basilica of the same name in Cartago.

There are cultural reasons for this emphasis on the mother. Fathers had more freedom in Latin cultures, and would share their time between the home and friends elsewhere. The mother always was at home. As columnist Daniel Soto once wrote in A.M. Costa Rica: "It’s not uncommon in Costa Rica for fathers to have more than one family, while, in most cases, a child remains with its mother. She is the one who nurtures and protects us while we are growing up."  More recently the increase in the number of single mothers has solidified the role of the mother in the family.

Mothers also take the lead role in religious observances, including weekly Rosary meetings and annual homages to the Christ child.



Arias got quick diagnosis, Casa Presidencial admits
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Health officials said Thursday that President Óscar Arias Sánchez got special treatment because of his position when it became likely that he had contracted flu. In a release, Casa Presidencial asked the question that was on a lot of minds:

Why were medical samples taken from the president and why were results obtained so fast.

The samples were taken Monday afternoon and the results were in by noon Tuesday. This is a pressing question because some flu sufferers have died because, their families say, they did not get speedy treatment at public hospitals.

Arias also was started on an anti-flu medication Monday.

Casa Presidencial quoted Elizabeth Sáenz, a physician with the Centro Nacional de Virologia, who said that 474 patients have had their test reports made available within 24 hours. The average was 18 hours, Casa Presidencial said. If a sample comes to the lab early in the morning,
results sometimes are available within 12 hours, Casa Presidencial said.

Health officials said Thursday that the flu virus is at the sustainable community circulation stage in the metropolitan area. The whole population is at risk for contracting the virus, officials said. The most vulnerable were said to be those, like Arias, who have a lot of social contact in their daily routine. Officials said they expected the wave of viruses to last until February 2011.

For those who have been in contact with Arias or another flu sufferer, the health officials said they should keep an eye on their health for the following seven days. However, there always is the chance of being in contact with another infected person during that time without knowing it.

Health officials said that those who have flu-like symptoms should isolate themselves as Arias did. He is at home in Rohrmoser until at least Monday.

At least one legislative deputy is at home with flu-like symptoms, and attendance at the Asamblea Legislative was spotty Thursday.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 160

Costa Rica Expertise
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Physicians and surgeons

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7Legal services

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quake map
Red Sismolólgica Nacional map
Red star showed calculated location of quakes

Two quakes take place
between mainland and Coco

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A pair of earthquakes early Thursday in an unusual part of the Pacific Ocean may have been felt on the mainland.

The first, at 3:34 a.m., had a healthy 5.6 magnitude. The second followed at 4:22 a.m. and was registered at 4.4 magnitude.

The Red Sismolólgica Nacional said that the quakes were equidistant between Cabo Blanco on the mainland and the Isla del Coco. Scientists attributed the quakes to friction between the two tectonic plates, the Caribe and the Coco. They said there were some reports from the Central Valley that residents felt the first quake.

There were no reports of damage. The Red Sismolólgica Nacional is part of the Escuela Centroamericana de Geología at the Universidad de Costa Rica.


Plaza de la Democracia gets
a number of new lights


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A joint program of the municipality, the electric company and a government ministry has put more lights in Plaza de la Democracia.

Officials said that the 73-million-colons project ($125,250)  resulted in the installation of 37 lights of 150-watts each on posts 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) high. There also are three 175-watt reflectors and some supporting illumination.

The project had the help of the European Union. The  Ministerio de Vivienda, the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz and the Municipalidad de San José did the job jointly.

The new lights are part of a program to put better lighting in all the parks. In the case of the Plazaa de la Democracia, a remodeling job has moved some of the existing lighting.


Prosecutors going to Limón
to discuss organized crime


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's chief prosecutor said through a spokesman Thursday that he would meet with other prosecutors in Limón to discuss the situation on the Caribbean coast as it related to organized crime.

Tourism and business people in Cahuita, Puerto Limón and Talamanca have been seeking a meeting. They want more police and better enforcement. It appears, however, that the discussion will be held among officials and center on organized crime. Residents were more concerned by street and beach crime.

There were no specifics released by the Poder Judicial. The chief prosecutor, Francisco Dall’Anese, said that the meeting would be of the Consejo Fiscal, which includes all the prosecutors on the independent Ministerio Público.

The consejo will have as its principal duty the implementation of the new organized crime law, said the announcement.


Electronic campaign to push
democratic values to voters


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones is embarking on a media campaign to encourage citizen participation and to strengthen democracy, it said Thursday.

The campaign will target persons between 18 and 30 and will be distributed on television and radio.

The idea, according to the Tribunal, is to encourage democratic values. The Tribunal also wants to give this age group information on elections and the various political parties. Some of the target audience will never have voted in a presidential election like the one scheduled for Feb. 7.

The program is getting support from the Agencia Española de Cooperation International para Desarrollo and the U.N. Program for Development. Also involved in the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales.


New contest to be outlined
for aging historic buildings


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An agency of the culture ministry will be setting out the rules next week for another contest to restore aging historic structures.

The agency is the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural of the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud. The contest is the XIII Certamen Salvemos Nuestro Patrimonio Arquitectónico.

The ministry awards grants to help restore historic buildings. This year the agency is seeking entrants from the provinces of Guanacaste, Cartago, Heredia and San José, it said. The usual prize is 100 million colons, now about $171,000.
 
A number of historic structures have benefited from the grants. Last year, however, the grants went to public buildings, the Correo Nacional to fix up the downtown post office building and to the Culture Ministry to repair the cupola on the Teatro Nacional.


Homeless, disabled dancers
are backbone of this troupe


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Choreographer Meghan Flanigan spent the last five years in Bogotá, Colombia, where she helped shape the dance community. During her stay, she helped form the dance company Con Cuerpos, which brings together professional dancers and Bogota's disabled homeless to create enlightened performances.

Jorge is a dancer with Con Cuerpos. He was born with polio and grew up in extreme poverty in the Colombian city of Cali, which is known as a center for Salsa dancing. When he was offered the opportunity to learn movement and dance with the non-profit group Con Cuerpos in Bogotá, Jorge said he was skeptical.

Ms. Flanigan helped found the organization, which engages Bogota's disabled through dance and performance. She says that despite his disability, Jorge quickly adapted.

"After the first day, all of a sudden he just re-entered his body and was an artist. . . . incredibly poetic physically . . . . was one of those people who can just fly through the air . . . . just so expressive," she said.

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Ms. Flanigan grew up learning ballet. In college, she pursued modern dance, which led her to study at Laban — a modern dance conservatory in the United Kingdom. There, Ms. Flanigan met two dancers from Colombia who urged her to return with them to their homeland and teach.

She ended up staying for four years, during which time she helped form Con Cuerpos, which means "With Bodies" in Spanish. Inspired by the movements of Bogota's homeless people, Ms. Flanigan challenged the stereotypes of the disabled with striking choreography.

"When I saw someone really struggling and I saw that people weren't looking because they would say that's ugly, oh that's feo, es feo, and I would really look and I'd say, no actually that's a person, that's a really beautiful person," she says, "So I started to make a work that was about that."

Ms. Flanigan says that one of the main obstacles for physically challenged dancers is becoming comfortable within their own bodies and making physical contact with other dancers.

"It was so close to people's hearts that it just kept coming up  'My body is a territory of peace.' And creating a new relationship to their bodies and new relationship to other people through bodies, really building up trust and building up physical communication," Ms. Flanigan said.

Ms. Flanigan now lives in Baltimore, but remains active in Con Cuerpos. Her company not only has afforded disabled people in Bogotá the opportunity to perform, but it also has led some dancers to study their art in the United States and Europe.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 160

another great month
Your Costa Rica



A.M. Costa Rica at age 8 a useful tool in financial crisis
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica staff

Saturday is the eighth birthday of A.M. Costa Rica.

The publication originally was conceived as a small Web site to provide daily local news for expats here. Now the publication has developed other titles, and A.M. Costa Rica is the leading English-language voice in Central America and perhaps most of Latin America.

There was a thirst for local news when the first Web pages went up Aug.15, 2001. There also was no way for an advertiser to obtain that necessary daily repetition in presenting a commercial message to the public. There was little effort by the existing news outlets to rock the boat. Crime was grossly under reported. So were the intricacies of real estate purchasing and investing.

To some extent A.M. Costa Rica was swept up by the needs of expats here and the majority of its readership who lives in other countries.

Today A.M. Costa Rica gets more than 5 million hits a month and serves up about 1.2 million pages of news and advertising a month to from 4,000 to 5,000 readers a day. The statistics are compiled by the newspaper's own Web hosting company, the firm Statcounter.com and Alexa, the Amazon affiliate and they are available for the asking.

Unlike some Web sites, the news in A.M. Costa Rica is generated by the newspaper staff from original sources and not lifted from Spanish-language publications. That way the news report can be tailored for the pressing needs of the moment of expats and others.

The newspaper and its corporation have been successful in profiting even during the current times of economic crisis. Savvy business people know that they must advertise heavily in tough times to reach the fewer available customers. They also know that the market will come back, and those firms that have held their ground will be the industry leaders.

A.M. Costa Rica has tried with some success to accept advertising only from honest sources. It has not always been successful, but the advertising management will aggressively investigate reader complaints. The newspaper has declined to renew advertising for some customers based on reader complaints.

Those who do entrust A.M. Costa Rica with their advertising campaigns are surprised at the effectiveness. That is why the majority of advertisers are repeat customers. They also are surprised at the reasonable cost.

Print newspapers are in trouble today because of high production and distribution costs. These expenses are
newspaper readership
 Newspaper readership about 11:15 p.m. Thursday as
 this issue went to the server.


passed on to the advertising customers who may be spending up to 75 percent of the advertising dollar for newsprint. With the modern miracle of the Internet, A.M. Costa Rica is in at least 90 countries every weekday morning at the speed of light. A computerized map shows online readers as they sign on and off around the world. The newspaper has a small but steady readership in Kabul and Baghdad, presumably U.S. servicemen who have eyes for tropical beaches once their tour is finished.

A priority for this newspaper is the protection of tourists and expats and their property. To some extent reporting here was responsible for the creation of the nation's tourist police by the litany of stories about North Americans being victims. Costa Rica still is facing a crime wave, but it appears that expats and tourists are better prepared to protect themselves, in part because of news stories here.

A.M. Costa Rica also appears to be the only newspaper that is writing about the unfair treatment of men in the judicial system. Much of that reporting is by Garland Baker, who lavishes extensive personal resources to get the facts. He is correct in pointing out that many of the country's laws unfairly favor women over men.

Jo Stuart, the weekly columnist, has her own personal readership of those who like her frugal approach to life here. She proves every week that a mature, single woman can do well in Costa Rica on a limited budget.

A.M. Costa Rica has given a start to a number of young journalists who trained in San José as interns. The newspaper has promoted a training dimension because no publication is better than the quality of its reporters and editors.

And then there is the advertising staff who are more capable every day in creating effective integrated marketing programs for advertisers.


And then some days you can't help but to win, win, win
Early Tuesday morning I was awakened by a visitor, the first of its kind in this apartment. It whined, dive bombing, first into one ear and then the other.  I finally had to get up to find my mosquito repellent, which I didn’t have, so I dabbed some Raid on the rims of my ears. 

I did manage to get back to sleep unmolested until 6:30.  Then began a busy day.  First the local pharmacy where I asked how much my prescription would cost.  They only had two of the three and the price was about $30. I decided that for that I could wait in line at the hospital pharmacy where the medicines would be free. 

My next errand was to the bank.  There was a long line, but the kind guard put me up front as is the custom for all possessors of the ciudadano de oro (gold card for seniors).  There I paid my cable TV and Internet and my phone bill.  There I also left my neighbor, Doug, who had walked with me this far, to his business, and I went across the street to catch a bus downtown.  Riding the buses is free and easy for me now that I have my new resident’s cédula.  The bus driver just registers the cédula in some machine.  So much easier than pawing through my purse for change.

First stop Hospital San Juan de Dios where there were, (surprise!) only about six people in line.  The man behind the window took my prescriptions and told me to return the next day after 6 a.m. 

Within a few minutes I was back at the bus stop where I caught a bus that would take me right to the Caja building. (Caja is short for La Caja Costarriccense de Seguro Social, the government run medical insurance and pension programs.)
 
At the door a fellow (wearing a surgical mask to get attention, handed me a flyer.  Once again I was in luck, and the line was short.  I barely had time to peruse the flyer.  Both sides were filled with instructions and information about how to avoid the AH1N1 flu or what to do if you think you have it.  It was lucky I didn’t have an appointment with President Óscar Arias because it warned me not to embrace, kiss or shake hands with people who I meet, and surely I would be tempted to at least shake his hand. He has been out and about among crowds lately inaugurating the new train service to Heredia, I am sure, shaking lots of hands and giving abrazos. I have just heard that he has the AH1N1 flu.

My chores were completed.  I seldom am able to accomplish more than one, let alone three errands in a
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com



morning.  Now I was thirsty and knew I should not get dehydrated, so I stopped in the nearest place that sold drinks.  It was a pasteleria.  I had no desire for a pastry, sweet or salty, but I chose one along with a soft drink.  One bite of the pastry was all I could take. It seemed to be pressed breadcrumbs covered with jelly, sugar and white icing.  I left it on the table and walked out.  A few feet outside the shop a youngish man was sitting on the sidewalk propped against the wall looking rather hopeless.  He wasn’t even begging. I quickly returned to my table and picked up the paper plate holding the discarded dessert and approached the man.  He eagerly reached for it and began eating.

Walking towards yet another bus stop, I began to feel guilty.  How could I give this poor man something so unhealthy for his empty stomach?  But I didn’t go back.

I walked a couple more blocks and caught the Sabana Estadio bus that would take me to my neighborhood.  Getting off (after a pretty bumpy ride), I noted that my own stomach was empty.

The little sidewalk café-soda on the corner of the street where I live had changed hands again and the flyer they put out proclaimed Argentinean food.  I sat down and ordered an executive with pork, no rice.  What I got was a typical Costa Rican meal:  Besides the chop, beans, carrots and broccoli and a cabbage salad and too much of everything. It came with a fruit drink. I didn’t finish that either. The two eager young women behind the counter made the mistake of asking me how it was. I said the vegetables were tasty but overcooked and the beans were undercooked and not tasty.  Then I apologized, explaining that I was an extranjera, not a Tica (as if they needed that information). 

Walking away, I wondered how Ticos could eat that fare day after day.  Then I flashed on people in the U.S. going into McDonald's or Burger King day after day ordering a hamburger and French fries and expecting (and wanting) the same taste they had yesterday.  I guess one would call both comfort foods.  I was just happy that I had Il Ritorno when I wanted something familiar and delicious.  But today I’ll just go home and have a hot fudge sundae.


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You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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A.M. Costa Rica
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Escazú Christian
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 160


acess gap
A.M. Costa Rica/adapted from the Fondo Nacional de Telecomunicaciones                 
Key to Gaps Model diagram:

Up-down = ease and practicality of technical operation
Left-right = Economic resources of population
Gray box = existing service provision (one operator)
Orange box = potential commercially-viable service
Green box = viable with limited subsidies of
                   commercial  operators

Blue box = service and access requiring heavy state
                 intervention
Telecom model shows increasing costs of universal coverage
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The gaps model assumes that commercial provision of telecommunications will first reach heavily populated areas where service is easiest from a technical standpoint and which also contain the highest socio-economic strata. This point starts at the lower left corner of the box graph. Then commercial operators will expand towards the geographical areas (up on the chart) and customer base (right on the chart) where there is potential for profit, until reaching a frontier in both cases. With subsidies they will continue to serve otherwise non-viable customers until a point is reached when subsidies required are so large as to constitute a major impediment. The extreme is then the upper right corner where the most isolated and poorest populations reside.

Subsidies may allow commercial providers to go into geographic areas they wouldn’t otherwise (cell phones) or to low-income areas with pay phones. Elsewhere in Latin America, where the process of privatization and market liberalization has been under way longer, the potential commercial market (orange box) was larger than anticipated. Competition and falling equipment costs bring private operators to areas expected to require subsidies.

The gaps model in Costa Rica is muddled by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the incumbent monopoly provider, and its program to take fixed-line service into areas that might not be reached in a poorer or larger country. Still, the ALCATEL cell phone system was supposed to offer nationwide coverage but never did. Neither are there sufficient public phones in low-income and rural areas, due to inadequate resources and difficult maintenance in the face of heavy use and vandalism. Copper theft is also a threat to older technologies.


In any case, the long waiting lists for cell phones indicates pent-up demand which shows as a large part of the orange box exposed. With cheap handsets and pre-pay modes scorned by the Instituto Costarricence de Electricidad, the viable market will reach deep into the low-income population, just as it has in poorer countries like Haiti.

Geographical coverage, as indicated by the upper side of the box model, is less of an issue compared to, say, Perú, where a dispersed and impoverished population in difficult terrain makes commercial operation unprofitable. The model there was to bring some sort of telephone to any population center of more than 300 people.

Presently in Costa Rica there are very few towns of that size without at least some cell phone signal and probably none without a public phone.

As calculated by the World Bank for a large area of South America and México, a cellular phone market penetration of 65 percent (perhaps half again higher than Costa Rica) would leave a remaining market gap of about 11 percent. After that, to cover the next 10 percent to the sustainability frontier would require a subsidy of about $126 per person. The remaining 13 percent to reach absolute universal coverage would then cost about $736 per person. This last figure should be much less in Costa Rica given other existing infrastructure, but still expensive.

The economic ramifications of this model for Costa Rica were analyzed in a World Bank study but neither the consultant who did the work nor the telecoms regulators were forthcoming with the actual numbers. In any case the study was done in 2007, and is probably out-of-date given the fast-moving nature of the industry.


Internet is the main focus of five-year telecom fund plan
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The five-year plan for the national telecommunications fund gives priority to rural Internet development and access to wideband connectivity for schools and health centers. “FONATEL has as its main goal to promote access, universal service, and solidarity, through the objectives established in Article 32 of the General Telecommunications Act,” says the plan.

The plan focuses on Internet with little direct attention to voice services, reasoning that voice-over-Internet protocol phone services will cover the needs of the least-served populations.

The plan details the dismal state of Internet access in Costa Rica, noting that even in the Central Valley only 12 percent of households potentially have access to broadband service (mostly through cable television providers) while in the rest of the country it is 2 to 3 percent. That was in 2008 and may not reflect that the ADSL “Acelera” service is fully subscribed in most of the country, with no lines available. While 20 percent of computer owners in the central area of the country are connected to the internet, only 5 percent of those in the rest of the country are. Presumably anyone with the resources to own a computer could pay for the service. Also it notes that Internet cafes do good business. Blame is placed squarely on the lack of service availability.

The status of health and social security facilities around the country comes under scrutiny, revealing that the social security agency and its clinics are mostly online, but via dial-up connections useless for today’s World Wide Web. The ministry of health, by comparison, has only 14 percent of its facilities connected at all.

About 40 percent of Costa Rica’s elementary and high schools have Internet connections, though most have broadband.
Generally the fund’s directors consider the recommendations of the World Bank in terms of priorities and technology, looking to fiber-optic trunk lines and WiMax wireless service for connectivity. WiMax is considered the best for rural areas with its ease of installation and a 10- to 15-km. range.

Goals are contained in a five-year plan with ambitious aims starting in the first year. These will be difficult to meet given the proven history of the Costa Rican government in adjudicating infrastructure. The highest priority is rural communal Internet service, given its potential aid to economic development. These facilities are mandated to have computer training programs as well.

The first nine municipalities are those with high population densities but classed as 50 percent or more rural. These include San Isidro de Heredia and Palmares, which are firmly in the Central Valley’s infrastructure, though with some small schools; others in Guanacaste and the south Pacific zone are more rural. Even after five years are elapsed and 48 counties are covered, La Cruz on the Nicaraguan border and the large rural areas of Puntarenas and Limón municipalities appear not to be included.

Plans include connections and computers in one-room schools by the end of the third year, having connected all larger schools immediately. This goal and adding connectivity at all health facilities are the main departures from the rural focus of the program.

In conclusion, the report recommends in passing a requirement that mobile phone operators be required to establish coverage in rural areas, with no provision for paying subsidies. Generally the authors wanted to get started and be funded immediately when the independent telecom Superintendencia was created in February 2009, so as to start with their five-year plan in 2009. They recommended 1.5 to 3 percent of the industries revenues and got 1 percent. There will be no budget until 2010.


Telecom agency continues to seek an assessment of 1.5 percent of gross income
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Costa Rican government comptroller has approved a budget of about $8.5 million for the Fondo Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, the national telecommunications fund. This is 1 percent of 2010 projected gross revenues from the telecoms market.

The assessment is to support the regulatory process and universal service projects. It will be based on market share and collected by service providers on behalf of the government. One percent is a similar calculation to that used in Venezuela and Perú, whereas in some other Latin
American countries it is 3 to 4 percent of net profits, or a combination of license fees, spectrum auction revenue, fines, etc. The Costa Rican telecom regulator, the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, persists in soliciting 1.5 percent.

Public meetings were held Wednesday in several locations in Costa Rica to obtain public opinion on this technical point.

According to the Superentendencia de Telecomunicaciones, the money will be used to promote competition in the marketplace, manage the spectrum auctions set to take place soon, and work towards universal access via the national telecommunications fund.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 160

Casa Alfi Hotel

Big swiss bank makes deal
with IRS on customer data

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An agreement to settle a long-standing tax evasion suit between Swiss banking giant UBS and the U.S. Justice Department has received mixed reviews in Switzerland. Swiss media disagree on the potential consequences of the deal. But all agree that Switzerland's status as a tax paradise is over.

Swiss banking giant UBS has been fending off demands by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to hand over information about 52,000 wealthy American clients suspected of tax evasion. The legal wrangling, which has been going on for months has threatened to poison diplomatic relations between two strong allies. 

But now a deal has been struck. Terms of the agreement are still confidential. But Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce CEO Martin Naville says he is relieved the uncertainty hanging over the protracted negotiations are over and UBS now can get on with its business of banking.

"Even a day in court would have been extremely detrimental to the future of UBS," Naville said. "And so I think avoiding court is great. We will have to see in the details of the agreement to see exactly how much ground they had to give in the negotiations. But, clearly this is positive for UBS." 

Costa Rica has been under similar pressure from United States officials and international agencies. This country has agreed to pass legislation allowing access by national and international tax agencies.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit against UBS in February demanding details of 52,000 American clients. The Swiss government has vigorously rejected these demands, saying it violated the country's banking secrecy laws.

Media reports indicate that under the compromise agreement worked out, UBS will agree to release data on around 5,000 people on the American list, probably those with the largest accounts.

Naville agrees banking secrecy in Switzerland will never be the same.  He says innocent citizens do not have to worry about having their financial data kept confidential. But anything tainted with the whiff of tax evasion will be at risk. 

"The UBS case was a very brilliant case for the IRS to make the point and to motivate all Americans to really come back into the fold, to have voluntary disclosure and make the payments," Naville said. "I think the IRS has beautifully achieved those goals ... It is the IRS trying to terrify the American citizens to do the right thing. But, also, you know, make very clear to banks worldwide and tax experts and lawyers worldwide never to try again to help Americans evade tax. Even if it is legal today, the clear message was it is not going to be legal tomorrow. So, do not do it." 

Ultimately, Naville says UBS had no choice. It had to give in to Washington's demands. He says any bank that wants to be an international player has to do business in the United States, which is at the absolute center of the world's financial markets.

Representatives from the U.S. Justice Department and UBS have told the sitting judge in Miami, Florida they would move to have the legal case dismissed and would file court documents outlining the settlement next week. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 160


Latin American news digest
Anti-government militias
are said to be regrouping


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. legal organization says right-wing militia groups with anti-government agendas are regrouping across the country and growing rapidly.

A report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center says after a decade of nearly disappearing, the anti-government militia movement in the U.S. has returned.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a non-profit civil rights group in the U.S. state of Alabama that, among other things, tracks hate groups in the U.S. It is best known for its work against the Klan.

The center says the stress of a poor economy, a liberal administration led by an African-American president, and the changing demographics in the country are all fueling the rise of militias.

The center says a law enforcement agency found 50 new militia training groups in the country, including one composed of current and former police officers and soldiers.

The report quotes a law enforcement official as saying the growth of right-wing groups is the most significant in a decade, and that it is only a matter of time before there could be threats or violence.

In the 1990s, anti-government elements plotted or carried out numerous attacks, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. It was the deadliest attack on U.S. soil until the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The center says videos and the Internet are helping right-wing groups reach out to potential recruits. It also says cable television hosts who are using their platforms to spread conspiracy theories are also driving the rise of anti-government sentiments.





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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
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