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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 162       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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New presidential offices to displace small businesses, theater
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A plan to build an official residence for the president just east of Parque Nacional would displace seven businesses, a small commercial center, a hotel, a school, a home, a theater and a parking lot.

The block already has two empty lots, and many of the buildings are rundown.

The theater is La Esquina at the northwest corner of Avenida 1 and Calle 21. The structure also contains office space.  The theater is active and plays are offered on the weekends.

An employee at the theater Tuesday was not aware of the plan. He thought that the construction would be north of Avenida 3 on land identified with the Estación al Atlantico train terminal.  That is the area a commission suggested Monday where three ministry buildings could be constructed to be close to the new Casa Presidencial.

Among the endangered businesses on the block is a bar, a music store, a mattress store, a café and a copy center. The commercial center contains a handful of smaller shops, including a party store. The interior of the block is a large garden.

The Hotel la Casa del Parque is at the northwest corner of the block, and it has recently been remodeled.

The situation may just be coincidence, but President Óscar Arias Sánchez and his Consejo de Gobierno will be meeting at Parque Nacional this morning.

The event today is called a report on the administration's first 100 days in office. That's a tradition going back to the first 100 days of the Franklin Roosevelt administration in the United States where the chief executive was able to get a number of bills past rapidly.

The Arias administration has been less successful, and the president himself is getting flak for spending too much time on international peacemaking instead of home-grown potholes.

Arias has yet to comment on the new location for a proposed Casa Presidencial, but one of the members of the commission that proposed the site is the foreign minister, Bruno Stagno, an architect by 



A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Workmen prepare for the meeting today of the presidential cabinet.

trade. Arias has said he wanted to move the presidential offices downtown and originally chose the Centro Nacional de Cultura, the culture ministry complex that used to be the site of the Fabrica Nacional de Licores.

The previous Abel Pacheco administration exerted pressure on motorists to limit fuel use and avoid the downtown on days related to the last digit of their license plate. The administration also revived urban train service. There is a train stop just two blocks south of Parque Nacional and the Heredia spur runs just north of the park.

Still, the proposal for a new Casa Presidencial and three new ministry buildings will mean a lot more traffic in the sector that is just south of Hospital Calderón Gardia.

Unlike the White House in Washington, D.C, Costa Rican presidents sleep in their own homes. The presidential house is for ceremony and for executive offices. Arias has turned his home in west San José into a second casa presidencial where he receives official guests instead of at the existing facility in Zapote.

There has been no budget proposed although a design contest has been suggested. The idea would need to be approved by the Asamblea Legislativa.

The project would be done in conjunction with a larger makeover of the San José urban core.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 162

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Nearly $10 million going
to rebuild in southwest

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's emergency commission said Tuesday that it is spending 5 billion colons, some $9.7 million, to repair damage caused by heavy rains last September in southwestern Costa Rica.

Daniel Gallardo, president of the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, toured the area last weekend.

The biggest expenditure is 1.3 billion colons or $2.5 million to repair roads and sewers in Buenos Aires, Corredores, Coto Brus, Golfito and Osa, said the commission.

In addition 183 million colons ($355,000) is being spent on an anti-dengue campaign in Golfito, the commission said. Lesser amounts are being spent in Corredores and Coto Brus for the same reason.

In all, the commission in conjunction with the Consejo Nacional de Viabilidad said it has spent 476 million colons, about $920,000, in road repairs in the area.

Committee reports out
Japanese sewer loan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature's Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios voted out a measure that would allow the country to accept $130 million in Japanese foreign aid to fix the Central Valley's rotting sewerage.

Mario Quirós, a lawmaker, opposed the measure because he said he didn't think that municipalities have been consulted on it. The committee quickly approved a motion to seek consultation from the Municipalidad de Puntarenas, of Esparza, and of Santo Domingo de Heredia and from districts such as Lepanto, Cóbano, Paquera, and from the Universidad Nacional and the Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia.

The action means that the measure goes to the floor of the legislature where he would need favorable votes on two non-consecutive days to become law.

In its deliberations, the commission heard a lot of bad news about the nation's lack of sewage treatment and that the human wastes from the Central Valley eventually flows into the Gulf of Nicoya via the Río Grande de Tarcoles.

The money from the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation is just part of the bill. The bulk of the money has to come from Costa Rican sources. Although current estimates are at $300 million, considering inflation and the 20 years to do the project, the final price tag might be $1 billion.

Japanese officials had set a deadline on acceptance of the money. Then they extended it. The new deadline is at the end of the month.

Man loses ear to machete

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men had an argument and one became so enraged that he took up a nearby a machete and chopped of the left ear of his neighbor. Injured was Manuel Antonio González Herrera, 31, of La Ceiba near Orotina. Held was a 30-year-old man with the last names of Rentería Rivas, said the Fuerza Pública.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 162

Our readers' opinion
Marine animal behaviorist warns about Osa tuna farm
By Prof. Dr. W.F. Angermeier 
and Friederike Angermeier

This is an open letter to the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo

Dear Madam/Sir:

Since 1995 my wife and I are visiting Costa Rica every year for several weeks, staying in the southwest at a lodge near Punta Banco, spending thousands of
dollars each time. Not only do we enjoy the rainforest with its many animals and  birds, we also tremendously enjoy the view to the Pacific Ocean with all the marine animals.

From the porch of our cabin we were able to see humpback whales playing, fin whales feeding, seabirds flying, and we explored the beach and the  tidal pools with their abundant marine life.

A while ago we have found out that a tuna farm will be established at this very place that we and others love so much.

As we live in Ireland on an island that
is surrounded by fish farms, we know what will happen to the area in Costa Rica if this tuna farm project goes ahead:
1. Countless dolphins, marine turtles and sharks will die in the tuna nets that are used to catch tuna in the open ocean.

2. The disturbance of the natural habitat by the cages for the tuna exerts enormous pressure on all other marine species.

3. The Golfo Dulce area is a very important calving ground for humpback whales from the northern and southern hemisphere, and the whales will suffer
considerably. So will the marine turtles that have important nesting grounds on the beach in Punta Banco and around the gulf.

4. Left-over feeds and excrements from tuna, as well as anti-fouling agents (to keep the nets free of algae) and other toxic elements will lead to the destruction of the sea floor and reefs in the gulf and around the Osa Peninsula.

5. Elevated levels of nutrients will lead to reduced water quality, affecting marine mammals, fish, seabirds and plants and can cause red tide that would
poison fish and shellfish stocks which then cannot be marketed.
6. Pollution, diseases and parasites will affect wild stocks of fish.

7. Fishermen and sport fishermen around the entire coastline of the gulf and around the Osa Peninsula will catch fish that is not fit for consumption.

8. Marine protection zones will be affected by currents carrying pollutants.

9. Marine animals will get caught in nets surrounding the tuna farm.

10. Predators like sharks will be attracted by the tuna farm and create a danger to surfers, swimmers and divers.

11. The beautiful scenery that tourists come for will be destroyed and affect all lodges around the gulf because our experience shows that where there is one fish farm there will be others soon.

12. Debris and dead animals will be washed up on the shore.

13. Sardines from Peru as feed for the tuna can cause exotic viruses to spread to other marine species.

14. The effect on the Peruvian sardine fisheries will be devastating for that country, by taking one source of energy away from the country to make money in

15. Examples in Europe show that illegal activities are present in some of the tuna farms (like black-marketing and money laundering), also overfishing by illegal and unregistered vessels.

16. The destruction of a natural environment that lots of people all the way around the Golfo Dulce and the Osa peninsula depend on to make a living, will bring considerably less revenue to lodges, restaurants, sport fishing, surfing and diving facilities because of the lack of tourists in the future.

17. “Costa Rica - no artificial ingredients” contradicts tuna farms.

My wife and I have decided not to come back to Costa Rica if this project goes ahead.

Editor's Note: Professor and Mrs. Angermeier live in   County Galway, Ireland. The professor is a behavioral scientist with extensive research in the behavior of marine creatures, including turtles. He retired as professor of marine science at the National University of Ireland.

Income tax proposal will not get fast track treatment
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new income tax law will not be fast tracked through the legislature. Instead, the law will face the traditional committee hearings and discussion in the full assembly.

That was confirmed Tuesday by Evita Arguedas Maklouf, leader of the Movimiento Libertario, which wanted a full hearing.

She said that she and her fellow party members met with central government officials along with others in the legislature that do not support the new law. The fact track method, which was created especially for the massive fiscal package in the last legislature, would limit discussion by lawmakers.

Libertarios oppose the measure because they have said the financial problems of the country could be solved by better collection and action against corruption. Libertarios in the last legislature fought long and hard to keep the fiscal package from becoming law. They were helped by a Sala IV constitutional court decision that derailed the proposal.

The tax law that has been delivered to the lawmakers by the Arias government is identical to the proposal for income tax that was part of the fiscal package. It was Chapter V.

An introduction says that in the last 16 years the income of the lower 20 percent of the population increased only 6.8 percent while the income of the richest 20 percent increased 96 percent. That means the richest fifth earns 20 times the average of the poorest fifth, it said.
The new proposal retains the concept of global taxation in that citizens and residents will have to pay income tax on money generated anywhere. The proposal also retains the concept of capital gains tax on the sale of real estate or intangibles, like stocks and bonds.

The current law has different percentages of tax depending on the origin of the income. Salaries are taxed at 10 and 15 percent. Income from rentals pays a 15 percent tax. Income for professionals is taxed from 10 to 25 percent. Some other types of income are taxed at rates from 0 to 15 percent.

Under the proposed law all these incomes would be lumped together to be taxed at an established, progressive rate

The proposed rates for individuals are 5 percent of the first 2 million colons, some $3,880 at the current exchange rate, 12 percent from 2 million to 4 million, 18 percent from 4 million to 8 million, 22 percent from 8 million to 15 million, 26 percent from 15 million to 30 million and 30 percent for amounts over 30 million.

Today 30 million is about $58,250. The amount taxed is the net income after various deductions. Those who earn salaries less than 450,000 colons ($875) a month probably will pay little or no taxes under the new plan, lawmakers have said.

Corporations would continue to pay at the 30 percent rate, but there would be a rate break for small business.

The income tax proposal is 151 pages, and changes are likely in the legislature.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 162

Costa Rica will not accept terror suspect from the U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and local reports

Costa Rica is one of six countries that have refused to accept a 78-year-old Cuban militant who is being kicked out of the United States.

The militant is Luis Posada Carriles. Venezuela's government has accused Posada Carriles in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.

There has been no statement from Costa Rica's foreign ministry, but Donald George, a U.S. immigration official said in a judicial hearing that Costa Rica had rejected the man. Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador also have refused to accept the man, said the lawyer for Posada Carriles.

Posada Carriles has asked to be released from custody to live with relatives in Florida while U.S. officials process his deportation order. But U.S. officials say he is a threat and should remain in jail.

Costa Rica's Constitution says that the nation's territory shall be a shelter for all those persecuted for political reasons. As such the country has a reputation for accepting refugees. However, Posada Carriles is a
special case. He is accused as a terrorist and a political hot potato.

U.S. Immigration authorities seized Posada Carriles in May, 2005, after the Cuban exile gave an impromptu news conference in Miami, ending weeks of speculation about his whereabouts.

Posada Carriles and three other Cubans had won controversial pardons in Panamá where they were being held in a scheme to blow up Fidel Castro when he spoke as a local university.

Posada Carriles has denied involvement in the plane bombing and in the bombings of several hotels in Havana in 1997 that resulted in the death of an Italian tourist.

Posada Carriles escaped from a minimum security prison in Venezuela in 1985 where he had been held on charges of involvement in the airliner bombing. Eduardo Soto, Posada's lawyer said his client would face certain death if sent to Caracas.

U.S. officials have refused to send him to Venezuela or to Cuba, saying he could be tortured or killed. The case is intertwined with international politics and with the Florida Cuban community.

Profiling gains ground as an air security technique
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The revelation of an alleged plot to blow up several airliners flying out of Britain sparked new special security measures at British airports, measures that caused headaches for passengers and airlines alike with long security lines and canceled flights.  There are now proposals for speeding up the long and often cumbersome security screening process, at least for some passengers.

Published reports say the British government is discussing streamlining airport security through passenger profiling, a method by which certain passengers would be singled out for random checks based on behavior, travel patterns or most controversially, appearance.

There was no official comment on the report.  But it immediately raised charges of potential racism from the country's Muslim community, who felt they would be singled out for special treatment by profiling.  Metropolitan Police Superintendent Ali Desai said on British television such profiling, if based on racial appearance rather than solid intelligence work, would be counterproductive to counter-terrorist efforts.

"What you are suggesting is that we have a new offense in this country called 'traveling whist Asian.'  It is unpalatable to everyone," he said.  "It is communities which defeat terrorism, and what we do not want to do is actually alienate the very communities who are going to help us catch terrorists."

Security experts say the massive airport gridlock caused by the new security measures imposed last week underscored the need for an overhaul of airport security measures.  Aviation Security International editor Philip Baum, an air security consultant, said the current system of subjecting everyone to same degree of screening is simply too cumbersome.

"I think there needs to be a considerable change to the aviation security system that we see not only in this country, but around the world," he said.  "We need an intelligent approach to screening, and need to recognize that there are certain groups of passengers that pose no threat to aviation.  I am not saying that we need to exclude anybody from the screening process, but we need to fast track certain people through the system."

Baum said profiling is much misunderstood and, if taught and applied properly, does not single out any single racial group.  He points out that the alleged
plot was in fact uncovered through a form of profiling.

"Ultimately the current plot, if proven to be true, was identified through profiling.  Certain groups were kept under surveillance more than others," he added.  "I do not believe that the British authorities are surveilling every person every day of their life monitoring every person's activities.  They are targeting their resources at the areas of greatest concern.  That is what we should be doing at the airport security checkpoint."

But critics say fast tracking some people while singling out others for special treatment amounts to a kind of "airport apartheid" that would single out people because of their color.  Member of Parliament Shahid Malik says terrorists would quickly find a way around it.

"When you think about it, these terrorists are not exactly stupid," he explained.  "And if you are looking for someone with a beard and that has brown skin, then they'll put someone who is a white Muslim forward without a beard.  So even in the fight against terrorism, it could be counterproductive.  We might get a bit complacent.  I think the reality is that these things must be intelligence-led, and not beard-led.  I think that would be very dangerous."

In a phone interview, Robert Ayers, an intelligence and security expert at the Royal Institute for International Affairs, says what is inescapable is that the recent plotters were all young British Muslims.  He says that the arguments of both sides in the debate over profiling have merit.

"Although that may make for very, very good policing — in other words, you are focusing your resources on the group that is most likely to be the terrorists — it also represents a form of policing that causes political dissent and grievances from within the Muslim community because they say, and rightly so, 'You are picking on us,'" said Ayers. 

"Well, there is no answer to this because you are indeed picking on them.  But you are not picking on them because they are Muslims.  You are picking on them because that is where the terrorists are coming from.  So both sides will be right, and both sides will argue they are right, and both sides will still not like the other for what they are doing."

Ayers says the debate boils down to working out a balance between moving the greatest amount of people you can in the quickest way you can, and security.  It is risk management, he says, because there is no such thing as perfect security.

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