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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Tuesday Aug. 28, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 171                          Email us
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Lawmakers pass two major bills related to taxes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers passed for the second and final time Monday a proposed law to tighten up tax collection and to attack fraud.

The 67-page document contains many changes, and some only will become apparent when the law goes into effect.

The text was submitted to lawmakers March 31, 2011, as part of an extensive tax package proposed by the Laura Chinchilla Miranda administration. Much of the package never was passed. But No. 18.041 survived.

Among other goals, the law seeks to tighten up the partial collection of income taxes throughout the year to provide better cash flow for the state. Now taxpayers are required to report and pay taxes every three months. Many do not. The new law would impose interest charges.

The measure also tightens up enforcement of the law and also administrative procedures outside the criminal code. The summary of the law noted that few tax cases ever result in criminal penalties, so the proposal applies greater precision to tax crimes.

The law also expands the definition of transfer as is related to real estate. Either a direct or indirect transfer must be reported to the local municipality within 15 days and the appropriate tax paid. The draft of the law says that a transfer includes any change in the power over a piece of real estate.

Clearly the purpose is to generate tax even when owners transfer their rights by selling the shares of a 
corporation. Corporate ownership is common in Costa Rica. Real estate can be transferred quickly by a simple endorsement on shares of stock of the corporation that owns the property.

Under the proposed law that was passed Monday the buyer assumes the obligation of reporting the sale. The text contains certain exemptions, such as assuming ownership through marriage.

The law also addresses in detail a requirement to provide a list of shareholders to the Registro Nacional.

The draft also includes measure to combat contraband and strengthen collection by the nation's customs service. The Ministerio de Hacienda, which presented the law, said that one purpose for the changes was to promote voluntary cooperation with the law and to prevent tax evasion. The draft also said that the law would simplify tax transactions and stimulate taxpayers to correct deficiencies.

Also Monday lawmakers passed a bill for the second and final time to inject transparency in financial transactions and to open bank secrecy upon the order of a judge to speed investigation into tax matters.

The measure seeks to remove Costa Rica from the blacklist of the Organization for cooperation and Economic Development that has been critical of the secrecy imposed by the law here on bank accounts.

The measure also promoted interchange of tax information with other countries.

Both measures require the president's signature to become law. Casa Presidencial supported both.

U.S. Embassy says transfer of pot is not that simple
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Monday that delivering confiscated marijuana to Costa Rican officials is not as simple as just a transfer of contraband.

Costa Rica’s established custody procedures in these cases call for an entire legal team to visually inspect the evidence and take samples on board, the spokesman said.  In addition, the team interviews the Coast Guard boarding team involved in the seizure, which makes this a much more complicated procedure than simply flying seized drugs to Costa Rica, he said.

The embassy was responding to an article Monday that showed a helicopter from the “USS Carr” picking up cargo nets of supplies from another U.S. Navy ship. The article was in reference to the attempt by U.S. Embassy officials to obtain docking rights for the “Carr.” The Costa Rican Constitution forbids the arrival of foreign warships without approval by lawmakers.

U.S. Embassy spokespersons have said the “Carr” lingered in the Caribbean with 81 packages of marijuana that its crew picked up in the wake of a smugglers' boat that eventually was captured by a Costa Rican coast guard crew.

This and similar incidents raised the question as to why Costa Rican patrol boats did not just meet the “Carr” and load the evidence.

Such a transfer has happened in the past.

The photo of the cargo transfer was published on the U.S. Southern Command Web site. The photo shows an SH-60B helicopter from the “Carr” picking up supplies from the “USNS Sacagawea” cargo ship. The Southern Command calls this a vertical replenishment.
Carr helicopter
U.S. Navy photo
 Helicopter from 'USS Carr' prepares to carry off

The embassy spokesman said Monday that the  helicopter is armed, which raises again the issue of government approval to land. Clearly, the most secure  and safe way to transfer evidence is through a port visit, he said.

The embassy did not address the possibility of flying a Costa Rican legal team to the “Carr” and flying the team back with the marijuana in a security ministry helicopter.

The status of the marijuana and the criminal case against three accused smugglers remains in doubt. Embassy staffers said earlier that the “Carr” had left the area with the marijuana.

The embassy statement also said the “We join with the executive branch in their call for the national assembly to vote on a request to allow limited visits of U.S. Navy ships participating in this law enforcement mission, in order to provide greater flexibility in future cases.”

Two lawmakers from the Partido Acción Ciudadana blocked a vote last week to let the “Carr” dock.

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Marine Corps League plans
to mark Sept. 11 this year

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Marine Corp League in Costa Rica will take the lead Sept. 11 in marking the anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States.

A spokesman said that the memorial service will be at 11 a.m. at the Sept. 11 park in Sabana Norte. This is the park that was refurbished and renamed in the wake of the terrorist attacks. The location contains a monument to those who died that day when terrorists used passenger jets as weapons.

The ceremony will be at 11 a.m. The day is a Tuesday. The announcement said that everyone is invited.

A Marine Corps League spokesman said that the Marines took the initiative when it appeared there might be no ceremony. A U.S. Embassy spokesperson said Monday that embassy staffers would join with the Marines in the ceremony.

The Marine Corps League is made up of mostly expats who served on active duty with that branch of U.S. services and also supporters who may not be Marines.

Canada and Costa Rica go
back to negotiating table

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today Costa Rica and Canada will begin what is expected to be the fifth and final round of negotiations to update the free trade agreement between the two countries.

The two countries have had a free trade agreement in place since 2002. However, delegates from both nations are working on updating the treaty to include products, services and industries that have developed since then. 

“What we are trying to do is make it more modern because it was one of the first trade agreements we had,” said Sofia Castresana, a press officer with the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior, in a telephone conversation.

One way in which both countries seek to modernize the treaty is by rewriting it to include technological services and products that either had not yet been invented or had not reached the level of use that they currently enjoy.

Telecommunications is one area that has changed dramatically and the new treaty is supposed to take into account changes in this industry and others like it, said Carlos Umaña, a consultant to the ministry, by telephone.

In addition, the countries are trying to update the treaty to make it more clear, straightforward and easy to follow, according to Ms. Castresana.

“We are trying to make it as simple as possible,” she said.

Although this was planned to the last round of negotiations, Umaña said that there will likely be other issues that need to be discussed and settled after the round has concluded.

“This week is supposed to be the last round, but still there are issues that need to be negotiated,” he said.

The fifth round of negotiations is scheduled to begin today in Ottawa, Canada, and will continue until Friday, Sept. 31.

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
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Security ministry debuts high tech center for police data
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Security officials formally inaugurated a new data center that will be in operation 24 hours a day and 365 days a year to link the major agencies electronically.

The data center is part of the Ministerio de Gobernaicón, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Much of the description given Monday was technical and included the types of servers and backup devices. However, officials also said that the data center will link regional offices of the Fuerza Pública, the Dirección General de Migración and the Ministerio de Hacienda. That ministry includes the customs agency whose agents have police powers.

The data center also has closed circuit television, and a screen showed the downtown pedestrian mall. The Municipalidad de San José has an extensive number of cameras monitoring high traffic areas.

The data being stored in the centre includes a summary of criminal records, arrest and detention reports, an electronic list of holders of weapons permits and information on security firms.

The center has Internet access with Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.  Radiográfica Costarricense, known as RACSA, maintains a data base of foreigners who are legally in the country.

The center cost 235 million colons, about $470,000. There is space for 12 employees, bathrooms and a dining area. The center is under high security. The center also has a backup generator, a fire suppression system.
New info center
Ministerio de Gobernaicón, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Jorge Alonso Alvarez v
Screen shows the downtown area.

Firms involved in medical tourism plan a meeting Thursday
By Kayla Pearson   
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cámara National de Turismo and the Promoción Internacional de la Medicina de Costa Rica will host a business meeting Thursday in the hopes of opening more spaces for chain businesses and creating more opportunities for new businesses.

Health and tourist companies will be able to offer their products to more than 50 employee associations in exchange for a training talk about medical tourism and marketing packages during the program called "Rueda de Negocios & Actividades de Encadenamiento," the organizations said.

"Business chaining is a smart strategy that benefits tourist business. We definitely consider that solidarist associations play an important role as an ally in the exhibition of the national tourist product to a fundamental market for the activity as a domestic tourist," said Juan Carlos Ramos, president of the chamber.

The purpose of the meeting is to provide a gateway for tourist operators to negotiate with markets that don't get a lot of business.
Experts who focus in medical tourism and the creation of tourist packages will give the training lectures with the intent of providing tools and transmitting knowledge that will contribute to the competitive development of the tourist industry of the country, reported the chamber.

Brad Cook, owner of Medical Tours Costa Rica, will be exhibiting on international patient care. Luis Carlos Eduarte, general manager of the Hotel Bougainvillea will explain successful medical tourism, and Rafael Gallo, owner of the tour company Ríos Tropicales, will talk about creating tourist packages.

"One of the determinants that has allowed the country to be recognized as an attractive tourist destination has been the preparation of the human resource of companies, so we seek constant training of professionals in tourism to continue to provide a highly competitive product," said Ramos.

Since medical tourism is a market that attracts international patients and involves national services that include health, accommodation, transportation, food service and tours, organizers said they believe this meeting is important. The meeting will be in Hotel Radisson Europa from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call 2234-6222.

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Business sectors invited to comment on Colombian trade pact
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As negotiations between Costa Rica and Colombia continue and come closer to a final set of agreements, the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior will hold forums over six days to hear comments and concerns from interested parties. The sessions start Sept. 5.

The ministry will devote one hour periods to specific products, goods and services, during which time members of that industry will be able to formally explain how the treaty will effect their businesses and what would be best for the industry.

“The idea of these meetings is to take into account priorities and interests,” said Carlos Umaña, a consultant to the ministry. “It's to listen to the sector.”

Sofia Castresana, a ministry press officer, explained that this is a normal part of the process for each treaty that Costa Rica develops with other nations regarding international commerce.
“With every trade agreement, we call all of the different sectors and get their feelings,” said Ms. Castresana. “It's not unusual.”

The free trade treaty with Colombia has already generated controversy over certain products. For example, the chamber representing the Costa Rica food industry criticized the ministry late last month for excluding sugar from the treaty in the first round of negotiations.

Discussions on the food industry alone will take up three days of the forums ranging from topics as specific as sugar, coffee and beef as well as more general topics like glass, plastic and metal products.

Similar to when U.S. administrative agencies call for public comment when they are changing rules, members of the industry can go to the forums to explain how a particular good or product is relevant to them and why that product should or should not be included in the treaty. The forums or consultations will conclude Sept. 13. Each day the forums will run from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Retailer seeks old appliances and computers to recycle
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gollo, one of Costa Rica’s largest home and electronic appliance vendors, announced that the company will collect and properly recycle old machines like computers and refrigerators and dispose of them in a way that is safe for the environment and for other people.

Trying to catch families, especially mothers, who received new appliances and gadgets for mother’s day, the announcement urged people to not leave the old electronic equipment in the yard or on the side of the road like normal trash because this equipment may disperse harmful metals, chemicals and toxins if exposed to the elements.
Instead, Gollo urged people to take their old electronic equipment to one of their 116 stores across the country. From there, the Gollo will take them to collection centers where another company based in Canada will properly dispose of these products, according to the announcement.

Gollo boasts in the release that its electronic recycling program has collected more than 30 tons of electronic equipment over the past four months and they plan to keep up the program’s momentum. The company will accept all old electronics regardless of whether or not they were purchased at Gollo, and will also accept tires in order to prevent discarded tires in dumps from collecting water where dengue-carrying mosquitoes can breed.

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Farmers harvesting early
because of drought in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The worst drought conditions in a generation are sending some U.S. farmers into their fields early to harvest corn.  In the Midwest state of Illinois the poor condition of the corn is cutting into farmers' profits and is driving global prices higher.

The only thing farmer Bruce Nation sees in his cornfields outside Taylorville, Illinois, is heartache.

“This stuff is depressing here.  This is hard to look at for me,” he said.

Most of the ears of corn that managed to grow in his fields are much smaller than normal because of the drought.  Smaller corn means less to sell, which cuts into Nation’s bottom line.

“Probably, maybe 30 kernels on that whole thing.  This is what we are up against,” he said.

Nation was also up against the risk that comes with planting and growing when the cost for seed and fertilizer are at all time highs.

“You are at the mercy of Mother Nature.  Some people ask me why I do not gamble. Why, I gamble every day," he said. "That is just the way it is when you farm.”

As he takes to the fields to harvest — this year about a month ahead of schedule because of the drought — Nation is watching that gamble in real time.  Thanks to an Internet connection in his tractor, he keeps a close watch on the rapidly-changing price for his corn and soybeans.

“I watch them every day," Nation said.  "I have a consultant who helps me on my marketing. He watches it every hour.”

Commodity traders on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade are also keeping close watch over the rapidly changing prices, including’s Matthew Pierce.

“The drought concerns this year have expanded exponentially as we have approached harvest, and some of the pro-farmer numbers we have seen recently have shown much more damage than was even expected just a month ago,” he said.

Pierce says the outlook for both corn and soybeans gets worse by the day, and has global implications.

“The U.S. exportable surplus is dwindling by the day," he said. "And China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico are going to be most directly affected by that.

“We are at all time highs on both corn and soybeans, and that hurts everything over the long, long haul," Pierce continued. "Everybody is going to feel this effect.”

Everybody, including Nation’s neighbors, will feel it.  He says they will see an increase in the price of their groceries in about six months.

But despite all he faces, Bruce Nation will not call this year’s drought a disaster.

“I would not say a disaster.  I would say a setback," he said.  "It is going to set every body back a little bit.  But the farmer has a heck of a human spirit to him, and he is going to go right on plugging.  And that is all you can do, keep swinging.”

Refinery continues to burn
in western Venezuela

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan firefighters struggled Monday to extinguish a blaze sparked by a massive explosion that ripped through the country's largest oil refinery.

The blast Saturday killed 48 people and critically injured numerous others. The fire continued to burn in two fuel storage tanks. 

President Hugo Chávez, in the midst of a re-election bid, visited the Amuay facility Sunday and declared three days of mourning. He rejected suggestions that negligence caused the explosion and fire.

Venezuelan officials say they suspect a gas leak caused the explosion. The blast and fire damaged hundreds of nearby homes and businesses.

"We can't even reach ground zero for anybody to say it was caused by lack of maintenance," said Chávez. "I am aware of who is saying that, but I won't lower myself to their level. I repeat, I would rather keep my spirits elevated and call on everybody to lift the human spirit above any political interests or what have you."

The Venezuelan explosion and the shutdown of U.S. Gulf Coast refineries with the approach of Tropical Storm Isaac helped boost gasoline prices to near a four-month high. Oil prices initially rose, but then retreated on speculation that the storm's effect might prove to be limited.

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Coalition to protest killing
of dolphin by Japanese

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A coalition of Costa Rican environmental groups plans to protest Friday at the Japanese Embassy over the slaughter of dolphin and similar species in that country.

The town of Taiji, Japan, is well known as a place where dolphin and other sea mammals are rounded up into a bay and then killed for meat.

Protesters said the group is the Coalición Costarricense por las Ballenas. The group estimated that the Japanese kill 23,000 dolphin a year. The Japanese report the number is much lower.

The killings in Taiji traditionally start Sept. 1 each year, so protesters plan their demonstration Friday at 9 a.m. The embassy is in Sabana Norte across the street from the national stadium.

U.S. Embassy staffers
to visit Pacific coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Representatives from the consular section of the U.S. Embassy will be available to both Puntarenas and Liberia to answer questions related to passports and visas.

Types of questions the members will answer include how to apply and renew passports and how to receive documents for a new spouse or a baby born abroad.

However, the representatives will not conduct interviews necessary to qualify for non-immigrant visas.  They will, on the other hand, accept documents related to immigrant visas.

“It's not that they are going to issue visas at this time. They are just going to provide information,” said Evelyn Ardon, an embassy spokesperson.

Those U.S. citizens wishing to vote absentee in the 2012 elections can also receive forms and information packages about voting abroad.

The sessions will be Wednesday from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at Hotel Boyeros in Liberia and Thursday from 8 to 9:30 a.m. in Hotel Alamar in Puntarenas. No appointment is needed.

All services that require it must be paid in cash.

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