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(506) 2223-1327           Published Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 166          Email us
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Circles show coverage areas of 13 proposed fire stations that the Cuerpo de Bomberos says have high priority. Six are on the Pacific coast.

proposed fire stations
Cuerpo de Bomberos graphic

Fire fighters to demonstrate for new electricity tax
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's fire fighting agency, the Cuerpo de Bomberos, is poised to open 32 stations in the next 10 years. The only problem is money.

That is why the fire crews will be demonstrating at the Asamblea Legislativa today in support of bill No. 17881 that would impose a 1.75 percent tax on all but the smallest monthly electrical bills.

The measure is important to some expats who live in areas distant from fire stations. This problem is seen in Guanacaste and the Osa and Nicoya peninsulas. Among the proposed fire stations are ones at Uvita, Cóbano, Puerto Jiménez, Monteverde, Nandayure and Tamarindo.

Some expats in the north Pacific have been fighting local fires because professional help is 30 to 45 minutes away.

A statement from fire fighters said that residents in communities like Los Chiles, Puerto Jiménez or Bribrí might have to wait two hours for a response because the nearest fire station is 100 kilometers (62 miles) away.

The Cuerpo de Bomberos has been detached from the Instituto Nacional de Seguros as part of the rearrangement to open the national insurance market to private firms. But the fire agency still gets 4 percent of each insurance policy sold in the country.
The new tax is designed to raise about 8.5 trillion colons a year, about $17 million. The agency said this is enough to construct three new stations a year and provide equipment and maintenance.

Electric customers who use 100 kilowatt hours or less each month would not be taxed. That's about 22 percent of the population, said the agency. A big industrial operation that pays a monthly power bill of 129,242 colons would also pay a 2,262-colon tax, said the Bomberos. The draft of the bill says that the tax would not be subject to the nation's sales tax.

Some 22 legislators signed on to the bill. It was presented in October 2010. Firemen said that today they will present nearly 1,800 letters from community groups in support of the tax. Fire fighters want the bill to get initial approval from the full legislature.

There may be some bad news. A summary of legislative actions said that the bill just was sent back to a committee. This would delay passage or even kill the measure. The current legislature is not particularly friendly to new taxes.

The Cuerpo de Bomberos now has 66 stations and officials hope to have 98 by 2020.

The demonstration today is supposed to be at 2:30 p.m. Motorists probably should avoid Avenida Central at Cuesta de Mora south of the legislative complex at that time

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Our readers' opinions
Caja's health system
is an incredible bargain

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

RE:  Barry Schwartz’ letter ‘denouncing’ the Caja:

Schwartz was not ‘coerced’ into contributing to Seguro Social. It’s a requirement of residency.  The logic behind it is simply that if you want to reside permanently in this country, you need to participate fully in it.  That, among other things,  means being a part of the Seguro Social system (which for most of us is an incredible bargain). 

As far as ‘ease of appointments’ go, if Mr. Schwartz is over 65 he has immediate priority on all appointments.  Presenting your Ciudadano De Oro card at the time you make an appointment insures that you receive the priority you’re entitled to (and it also substantially reduces ‘waiting time‘ when you arrive). 

His complaint about ‘generic medicines’ sounds more elitist than anything else.  The Veterans Administration in the U.S., for example, and most health maintenance organizations there as well, dispense generics on a routine basis because they are far more cost-effective and just as good.  If your doctor THERE or HERE doesn’t agree, he/she is ALWAYS free to demand a branded drug instead of the generic.  What that means is that if you receive a generic and it’s not effective, you need to speak with your doctor and request that you be given the branded form you’ve used before.

Dave Wyllie
San Rafael, Alajuela 

Slipping Caja health care
could hurt flow of expats

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Kudos to Barry Schwartz about his article in today's (Aug. 22) edition.  He is addressing the raping of a government agency by greedy individuals.  I do not know where the Caja buys prescription medication.  While I would venture to guess as much as possible is generic, and, may come from a myriad of nations, that by itself is not always detrimental.  I, myself, even at time buy generic medication from India and have never experienced a problem with it.  However, today less expensive generic medication is coming from China.  The problem is, their standards for safety and sanitary control are virtually non-existent.
Here, within, lies a matter of short sightedness on the part of the government.  With over 10,000 Americans, the baby boomer generation, turning 65 years old, each and every day, many are looking towards Costa Rica as a retirement alternative.  Personally, I receive three to four emails each and every week from friends and acquaintances asking questions.  Being of retirement age, health care is one of the top, if not the top concern of these individuals.  If the quality of health care in Costa Rica is going to slip and become equivalent to that of a third world nation, potential retirees are going to look in other directions.  There can be a beneficial resource to the country within this baby boomer generation.  Millions upon millions of dollars can and will be poured into the overall economy.  But, if you scare them away, their checkbooks and credit cards go with them.
Bruce Jacobs
Park Ridge, New Jersey,
and soon to be in San Ramón

Some young Ticas here
already are sumo class

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I found one error in your article: “This just in: It's OK to be fat, Canadian university study says”.

Within the article was this outdated observation: “Some 18-year-old thin-as-a-rail Ticas are ready to try out as a sumo wrestler by the time they are 35 and after four kids.”

This would be more realistic to the current day obesity epidemic sweeping Costa Rica: Some 18-year-old Ticas are ready to try out as a sumo wrestler already, where as it used to take 35 years and four kids to qualify. Times (and obesity rates) are changing in Costa Rica within one generation.

Get out and take a look.
Pat McCormick
Costa Rica

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 166

Prisma dental

Corporate tax bill bounced back to a legislative committee
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected discontent with the proposed tax on corporations resulted Monday in the proposed law being sent back to a committee.

This is the estimated $316 tax on every active corporate entity in the country. Inactive corporations wold pay half that.

Some lawmakers have been complaining that the measure taxes small businesses the same amount as corporate giants. They will try to change the wording to assess more tax on larger companies.

This is the tax that President Laura Chinchilla and her administration is trying desperately to have passed. The
 measure would have generated about $700 million in the first week of the new year had it been passed quickly. About half of the money would go toward supporting a new police school.

Other lawmakers oppose the six-month period in the law when property owners can remove the ownership from the corporation without paying a transfer tax. The idea is that persons who have homes and cars in a corporation can remove the property and then void the corporation to avoid paying the tax.

Many expats have homes and vehicles in corporate ownership.

The measure already has been passed by the Asamblea Legislativa. The second vote would have been final.

Native Costa Ricans going to court to force state to act
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Native Costa Ricans from the Talamanca are going to court to demand that the government return to them land that is within the bounds of their reserve.

Involved are some 6,000 hectares, about 15,000 acres.

The 1997 law creating the reserve says that non-natives who own property within the boundaries will be relocated or compensated for the loss of their land. The government has not done so. Native spokesmen say that others have entered the land illegally since the reserve was created.

Some expats own land there, and Kekoldi natives have been
 detained in protests at the properties.

The case today is in the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo.

This is just one complaint. The allegations that the state has not lived up to the agreement are also put forth by other native groups involving their reserves.

The situation is similar to a law that enlarged a national park on the Pacific coast so that homes owned by expats were placed in limbo because the state declined to compensate them or even take the property.

One owner is involved in an international arbitration.

Luck runs out for Tico physician who abuses children
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A physician who fled the United States and hid behind the Costa Rican Constitution here has been detained on an allegation that he abused a minor on the Pacific coast.

The man is German Enrique Moreno Rojas, 51, one of about three dozen Costa Ricans here who are sought in the United States and other countries. The Constitution prohibited forcing a citizen here to leave the country.

That stipulation has been an embarrassment to some judicial workers because Moreno had been convicted in Costa Rica in the early 1990s for abusing five boys. But the case expired after he fled.

The U.S. charges, nine counts according to judicial officials in Houston, Texas, relate to his involvement in 2005 with boys at St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic parish. He worked at a health clinic there and told acquaintances correctly that he was a physician in Costa Rica.

After his arrest, he jumped a $60,000 bail and returned to Costa Rica. He set up a clinic in Malpais on the tip of the Nicoya peninsula. Presumably that is where the latest charge of sexual abuse against a child originated. The case is being handled by the prosecutors in Garabito, so after his arrest Monday at his mother's home in Tibás, Moreno was taken to Jacó, the major town in the canton, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

How the man managed to stay a practicing physician for so long is a mystery.

A two-minute check of his name on the Internet turns up a notice that he has arrest warrants outstanding. That is on the Web site of the International Police Agency.

In addition there is a detailed 2006 story of his activities at the church by the Houston Press about what the writer called parish predators.
Interpol photo
German Enrique Moreno Rojas

Someone in the Nicoya community is believed to have searched the man's name on the Internet and began calling news outlets in San José.

Most police officials would not do anything because of the Costa Rican Constitution and the expired case here, although there was a strange suggestion that perhaps the man could be tried here on the U.S. charges.

Apparently the Houston judicial workers never checked the man out either when he was allowed to go free on bail in 2005.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 166

Ms. Chinchilla is escorted past an honor guard at the Mexican monument to the Niños Heroes, the six teenage military cadets who fought the invading U.S. military at Chapultepec Castle and died in 1847. She participated in presenting a traditional floral tribute.

President Chinchilla in México
Casa Presidencial photo

President urges Mexican business leaders to consider Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla promoted Costa Rica as a place to put investments when she met with some 100 Mexican business executives Monday.

The president noted that Costa Rica has had a free trade treaty with México for 15 years and that Mexican imports to Costa Rica have increased 11.3 percent during the last five years. Costa Rican exports to México grew about 9.9 percent during the same period, said the president in a talk to the business people.

She told the group that Costa Rica represented a sustainable and growing location for expansion by Mexican firms. She also noted the presence of many such firms now, including BIMBO, MABE, CEMEX and COMEX

In a joint memorandum, Ms. Chinchilla and Mexican President Felipe Calderón said that exchanges of information about criminal activities between the two countries would increase and that the countries would work together more against drug trafficking.

The presidents noted that during the visit the two countries signed an extradition treaty which would speed the return to México of any traffickers with Mexican citizenship found in Costa Rica.
The pair also promised to continue their fight against climate
change and reiterated their support for United Nations activities in that direction and also the related Protocol of Kioto and the Accords of Cancún.

They also said that they would continue their fight in a coordinated way against organized crime, illegal trafficking of migrants, trafficking in persons and the international trafficking of weapons.

During the first day of her two-day visit, Costa Rica and México also signed an agreement for the recuperation and return of stolen vehicles and planes and agreed to cooperate in building institution capacities for micro, small and medium enterprises.

Although the trip is mainly commercial, Costa Rican officials are seeking help and guidance in stemming drug trafficking by Mexican cartels that have infiltrated into Costa Rica.

Calderón has been engaged in open warfare with drug gangs since he took office in December 2006. More than 40,000 persons have died in drug related violence since then. Calderón used the army to displace the presumed corrupt local police forces, but that has had mixed results.

Ms. Chinchilla and the delegation are expected to return late tonight on commercial airliner.

Morning blaze rips through 10 homes in Curridabat barrio
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A voracious fire swept through a low-income community in Curridabat Monday morning. When the smoke cleared 10 homes had been destroyed, and 25 adults and 20 children were homeless.

The Cuerpo de Bomberos blamed children playing with matches for starting the fire. The scene was in what is called Barrio Nuevo. Fire fighters got the call at 10:45 a.m., but when they arrived on the scene 20 minutes later, flames were climbing to the sky and a dark column of smoke could be seen for miles.

The homes were constructed mainly with wood and in some cases even cardboard with steel sheeting for roofs.
Some residents were lucky enough to remove some items, such as television sets and even a refrigerator, but most lost everything because the flames moved quickly in the dry timber and other flammable materials.  There were no injuries.

Fire truck crews came from as far away as Pavas to participate in fighting the blaze. Fire officials declared the blaze controled after 22 minutes.

By then most of the 10 homes were leveled.

The department noted that a large number of nearby homes were saved by their actions.

The Cruz Roja is providing for the immediate needs of those who were evicted by the flames.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 166

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Rescue crews were nearby
at Canadian air crash scene

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Canadian officials say a lucky coincidence may be the reason three people survived a plane crash in the remote Arctic wilderness Saturday.

Some 500 members of Canada's military, along with a team of investigators from the Transportation Safety Board, were less than two kilometers from the crash scene, getting ready to participate in a mock airline crash training exercise scheduled for Monday when the plane went down on the approach to the airport in the small town of Resolute Bay. 

The rescuers were able to arrive at the First Air Boeing 737 passenger jet by helicopter within minutes of the accident and assist the three survivors, who are listed in stable condition.

First Air says 15 people were onboard the downed plane, including a crew of four.  An airline spokesman confirmed all four crew members were among the 12 dead in the crash.

The official cause of the accident has not been determined, but thick fog was reported in the area at the time.  The plane's flight recorders have been recovered.

First Air says the charter flight was traveling between Yellowknife, in Canada's Northwest Territories and Resolute Bay, a small, remote town located nearly 600 kilometers from the North Pole, in the Arctic territory of Nunavut.  Resolute Bay is often used as a launching point for North Pole expeditions.

First hurricane of season
grows stronger off Florida

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. weather forecasters say Hurricane Irene, the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2011 season, has strengthened as it takes aim at the Bahamas and is expected to intensify.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its latest bulletin Monday that Irene had grown into a Category 2 storm on the five-point scale of hurricane intensity.  Forecasters said the storm now had winds of 160 kph (about 100 mph) and was located about 210 kilometers (130 miles) east of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.  It was moving toward the west-northwest.

The hurricane center forecasted the core of the storm would go just to the north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  The storm was expected to move near or over the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas today, and near the central Bahamas early Wednesday.

Forecasters also predicted Irene would move northwest along the east coast of the U.S. state of Florida later in the week before possible landfall as a major hurricane in South Carolina.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency is urging people along coastal areas of the southeastern U.S. to closely monitor the hurricane and prepare for potential severe weather in the coming days.

Irene intensified into a hurricane over Puerto Rico before dawn Monday, flooding streets, knocking down trees and cutting power to about 1 million residents.  There were no reports of serious injuries.

Puerto Rico's governor, Luis Fortuno, declared a state of emergency to mobilize aid from the U.S. federal government.  Schools, government offices and businesses in the territory remained closed Monday.

Two U.S. song writers,
Leiber and Ashford, die

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Jerry Leiber, 78, who along with his song writing partner Mike Stoller penned some of rock's earliest hits, died Monday in Los Angeles following a heart ailment.

The duo's most famous songs defined the early years of rock and included: “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown” and “Stand By Me”.

The iconic rock songs by Leiber and Stoller were performed by artists such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Rolling Stones, the Drifters and the Coasters.

In the 1990s, the songwriters' tune “Smokey Joe's Cafe” became the inspiration for a Broadway play. The show won a 1996 Grammy as the best musical show album.

Sony/ATV Music Publishing Chairman Martin Bandier called the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's 60 year partnership one of the greatest and most prolific song writing partnerships of all time.

Meanwhile, Nick Ashford, 70, half of the singing and song-writing duo Ashford and Simpson, died Monday from throat cancer. A former publicist says Ashford died in a New York hospital surrounded by his family.

Ashford and Simpson's writing efforts yielded songs for many artists like Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and Chaka Khan. The South Carolina native wrote and recorded with his wife, Valerie Simpson, at Motown Records. They penned such hits for the duet Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell as “Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing” and “Ain't No Mountain High Enough.” Diana Ross re-recorded “Ain't No Mountain High Enough,” and it became one of her signature songs.

Verdine White of the musical group Earth, Wind and Fire called Ashford's songwriting “unmatched in terms of great songwriting”.

Ashford and Simpson were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 166

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Latin America news
Pig farmers say they suffer
from lack of certification

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pig farmers say they are being victimized by free trade treaties.

The Cámara de Porcicultores appeared before lawmakers to complain that a free trade treaty with Perú should be put on hold until the impact on their business is studied. The request came before the Comisión Permanente Especial de Relaciones Internacionales y Comercio Exterior.

Renato Alvarado, president of the chamber predicted the death of the pork industry if action were not taken within a month.

Large quantities of pork are coming into the country, in part from the United States, where importers pay no custom duties under the free trade treaty with that country. Meanwhile Costa Rican exporters cannot take advantage of the treaty because the government is dragging its feet on certifying the animals here free of swine fever or hog cholera, the chamber said. Such certification is needed to ship to the United States or Canada.

Meeting in Puebla seeks
to protect free expression

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

More than 20 Latin American universities are committed to proposing reforms of public policies to combat the impunity surrounding crimes and violence committed against journalists, according to the Inter American Press Association.

With the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation the association is bringing together representatives from 22 universities from 15 Latin American countries in Puebla, Mexico, this week for a Hemisphere Conference of Universities that will prepare recommendations for reforms.

Among other topics the Puebla meeting is expected to recommend amendments to penal codes in a number of countries, protection for the work of the press through the creation of new agencies, changes in academic curricula, and encouragement of public awareness campaigns concerning freedom of expression.

Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, said he is very enthusiastic about this conference. “We are sure it will create a network of universities in Latin America that will collaborate to improve academic practices and help future members of the press do their job in a safer environment,” he said. He is  president of the Inter American Press Association.

Teams of students and professors from Communication, Law, Politics, Sociology and Social Science Schools will discuss the results of research projects they conducted in recent months coordinated by the IAPA. The research focused on the weaknesses and difficulties of the legal, academic, media and press systems in each country. The teams also focused on solutions, so various important recommendations at all levels are expected to be forthcoming.

Costa Rican universities are not represented, according to the conference list.

Power cut today in Santa Ana

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía de Fuerza y Luz said Monday that electrical power would be cut off for parts of Santa Ana at 7:30 a.m. today.

The area involved runs from Urbanización Valle del Sol and includes an area around the Palí supermarket, the Santa Ana clinic, Banco Nacional, the locals Catholic church and the south side of the Liceo de Santa Ana, said the company.

Power is supposed to be back on by 3:30 p.m.

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