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(506) 223-1327              San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 187           E-mail us   
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Tourism tax backed by minister at assembly hearing
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism minister spoke out in favor of a proposed tax on tourists in a visit to an Asamblea Legislativa committee Wednesday.

The minister, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, was promoting the administration plan to dump the 3 percent hotel tax and collect instead $15 from each tourist who enters the country.

Benavides repeated the administration claim that it was losing money because some tourists do not stay in traditional hotels but in condos, beachside apartments and even in the homes of friends.

Benavides said that about $17 million would be raised from the measure. However, since an estimated 1.7 million persons are listed as tourists here every year, the number is closer to $25.5 million. Only about 900,000 tourists come from North America and about 250,000 come from Europe. About 500,000 come from Nicaragua and Panamá, according to official figures.

The minister told the Comisión de Turismo that the $15 would be collected from every person who does not live in Costa Rica. That statement would seem to exempt from the tax expats who live here. However, those who are perpetual tourists and leave the country every 90 days to restart their stay
would have to pay the $15 each time they enter.

The text of the law, No. 16.752, is not yet available on the assembly Web site.

The minister said that the new income would support research and planning in policies of sustainable tourism.

The minister also said that the increase funding would permit his Instituto Costarricense de Turismo to increase the budget to promote the country. Similar and competing destinations are publicized much more, he said.

The institute, located in a palatial office building in La Uruca, has demonstrated an unsteady hand in promotion. For example it invested $4.2 million in a promotional campaign during the World Cup soccer championship in Germany.

Last month it kicked off a $346,000 radio, print and television campaign directed at the national market to help tourism locations get through the low season.  It was the tourism institute, too, that spent more than $800,000 to create and host a Web page.

Under the proposal, a husband and wife with three children would pay $75 before they even left the airport.

Country suffers through another time of heavy rain
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Much of the country is on alert because heavy rains continued for the second day Wednesday. Already there are reports of persons driven from their homes and damage to infrastructure. Guanacaste was suffering the most.

One casualty is a bridge over the Río Nosara in Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula where the abutments were damaged, according to the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

The downpours are being blamed on a tropical weather wave that caused rivers to run out of their banks. Particular concern is being expressed for the Pacific coast, the Central Valley and the mountains along the southern Caribbean coast, said the emergency commission.

In Tilarán, the emergency commission said that 15 homes had been flooded and in the community of
Libano in the same area the Río Cañas destroyed four homes in Santa Isabel Arriba.

In Hotel and Libertad, local emergency commisisions said that 15 families have been evacuated, also because of flooding from the Río Cañas. The cantons of Carrillo, Santa Cruz and Nicoya in the province of Guanacaste had problems as rain continued Wednesday. In Carrillo, Sardinal and El Carpintero were cut off.

In Santa Cruz, the communities of Tempate, Cartagena, 17 de Abril, Las Delicias and La Lorena were experiencing problems, said the emergency commission.

Rain did not start until late afternoon in the Central Valley, but more than an inch of rain had falled by midnight.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the rain would let up early Thursday but return as the typical afternoon downpours later in the day.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 187

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$250 million business center
planned near Alajuela airport

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Spanish group that wants to build a $250 million convention and business center near Juan Santamaría airport ran the plans past President Óscar Arias Sánchez Wednesday.
The developer is Feria de Valencia, and the concept is supported by the Cámara de Exportadores de Costa Rica and the Grupo Interbolsa.

The proposal is to build a center for events, conferences and congresses that would support businesses and tourism. The tourism minister, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, also attended the meeting and supported the idea.

The developers propose beginning in 12 to 14 months and completing the project by 2010. The amount is less than was originally announced when the price tag of the project was said to be $410 million.

Carlos Meléndez of Grupo Interbolsa was quoted by Casa Presidencial as saying that Costa Ricans would be able to participate in the project because there would be an issue of stocks and bonds. The property would be 320,000 square meters or some 79 acres. A hotel also is planned.

Arias to dump associated laws
if trade treaty is rejected

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president's brother said Wednesday that if the Costa Rican people reject the free trade treaty with the United States in the Oct. 7 referendum that the government would ashcan some 13 proposed laws that are designed to implement the treaty.

The statement by Rodrigo Arias Sánchez was in response to a pledge by the Partido Acción Ciudadana to keep fighting the 13 laws even if the voters approve the trade pact in the referendum.

The 13 laws in the legislature, including measures that open up telecommunications and insurance, must be passed for the trade treaty to come into effect. These have been called the supplementary agenda.

Acción Ciudadana probably cannot block the 13 laws if the treaty is passed because the government maintains a two-thirds coalition in the Asamblea Legislativa. But the party could institute stalling tactics.

The treaty must be ratified by the end of March or it is void. However, less clear is when the 13 laws have to be passed for the treaty to become effective.

Rodrigo Arias said in his statement that Ottón Solís, the leader of Acción Ciudadana, said in a letter to Óscar Arias Sánchez, the president, that the 13 proposed laws were inseparable from the treaty.

Rodrigo Arias accused the political party of trying to trick and threaten the Costa Rica people.

Concern voiced over taxes
at Nicaraguan newspaper

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has voiced concern to the Nicaraguan government at taxes placed on newspaper production supplies, saying it contradicts principles of press freedom and free speech guaranteed under the Central American nation’s constitution.
At issue is a dispute between the daily newspaper La Prensa and the customs service which has accused the newspaper of being behind in payment of duties for imported supplies. The Miami-based press organization called publicly on the Nicaraguan supreme court to take up an appeal by La Prensa claiming that the Customs Service’s stance is unconstitutional and violates a law which regulates duties for the news media.
The controversy arose after La Prensa last week sought to avoid payment of import duties for newsprint which it said was exempted. In response, the Customs Service demanded payment of what it alleged was a past due amount of some $740,000.

Kytka Jezek loses appeal
over immigration actions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Sala IV decision has found against Kytka Hilmar-Jezek and her three children who have been considered living in the country illegally.

Ms. Jezek was a well known Central Pacific real estate broker, but she was detained Sept. 11 about 6 p.m. at the  Hotel la Parela in Bello Horizonte, according to the decision.

Her appeal was for habeas corpus and alleged persecution by the Policía Migratoria. Also named was the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. The court rejected the appeal Wednesday afternoon, according to the Poder Judicial.

The decision said that Ms Jezek has applied for residency in the country but had been rejected in September 2005.

Ms. Jezek, who also answers to the name Kit, was turned in by her neighbors who disagreed with her lifestyle, according to immigration officials.

Tamarindo police sweep
turns up little that is illegal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 100 Fuerza Pública officers, Tránsito officers, judicial agents and even police dogs conducted a sweep of Tamarindo for five hours Wednesday, and all they came up with were six foreigners without papers.

The Judicial Investigation Organization based in Santa Cruz coordinated the effort, which included road blocks and vehicle searches. The effort ran from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Officers said that they located a Panamania and five Nicaraguans who did not have papers and confiscated three suspicious motorcycles, three revolvers and a small quantitiy of drugs.

Tourists have complained that all sorts of drugs are readily available on the main street of Tamarindo, however, the police sweep failed to turn up any evidence of this or of North Americans living illegally in the Pacific beach community.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 187

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Next benefit concert features Puerto Rican flautist Torres
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Puerto Rican flautist Nestor Torres, a Latin Grammy winner and a Grammy nominee, will be giving a benefit concert
Nestor Torres
Nestor Torres
Saturday at the Teatro Nacional.

He is the latest of high-profile international musicians to be here to support a fund-raising effort of the Sistema Nacional para la Educación Musical.

Torres will be accompanied by the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil in the 8 p.m. concert.

Torres has more than 20 years as a professional musician and has played with such greats as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chris Botti, Brandford Marsalis and James
Moody. He has recorded with Tito Puente, Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, Ricardo Arjona and Daddy Yankee.

The fund-raising project is the idea of María Elena Carballo, minister of Cultura, Juventud y Deportes. She proposed the idea last May 31. The project seeks to create 21 schools
around the country modeled on the existing Instituto Nacional de la Música.

Torres visited and was thanked by President Óscar Arias Sánchez Wednesday for his efforts on behalf of the country.

The flautist will play from his  "Dances, Prayers & Meditations For Peace" work that was inspired by the aftermath in New York City of the attack on the World Trade Center towers. Torres is no stranger to benefit concerts. He is a native of Mayagüez, Puerto Rica, and scheduled concerts there to help the community.

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Torres went to New York City and played at a number of houses of worship near Ground Zero. "It was my intention to be a conduit for whatever energy was present in the city at the time, and channel it into music that could transform grief to acceptance, anger to courage, and despair to hope," he said on his Web site. The album comes from those performances.

Those who wish to support the music system strongly can purchase $100 special benefit tickets. General admission is 12,000 colons (some $23). There also are gallery seats for 2,000 colons, a bit less than $4.

Arias plans one-day tour to visit Jacó, Montes de Oro, Barranca and Esparza.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez will visit Garabito, Esparza and Montes de Oro in a swing to the Pacific coast Saturday. Community meetings with residents are a principal reason.

The president begins his visit by inaugurating the Centro Comunitario Inteligente de Garabito at the Comité Cantonal de Deportes in Jacó at 10 a.m. This is a public computer facility.

The second stop 15 minutes later is to inaugurate the stretch of new asphalt in front of the Municipalidad de Garabito, Jacó. A public meeting is next at 10:30 a.m. in the Salón de Eventos of the Hotel Amapola, Jacó. The Central Pacific
Chamber of Commerce in encouraging residents and business people to attend.

At 1 p.m. Arias is scheduled to be in Miramar for the inauguration of the municipal amphitheater in Montes de Oro. Some 15 minutes later there will be another community meeting in the Salón de Eventos, Centro Recreativo Miramarense, Miramar. At 3 p.m. there is a community meeting at Salón la Orquídea, Barranca, Puntarenas.

Another inauguration will be of the Centro Comunitario Inteligente de Esparza in the Correos de Costa Rica building in that community at 5 p.m. followed by a community meeting 15 minutes later.

Legislative commission moves to prohibit adoption by homosexuals
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative commission decided Wednesday that anyone with a homosexual orientation would not be able to adopt a child.

The decision, if supported by the full Asamblea Legislativa, would change a section of the Código de Familia.

The action took place in the Comisión de Juventud, Niñez y Adolescencia.

Mario Núñez Arias, the president of the commission, said that the principal concern of the commission is the
emotional, psychological, social and material welfare of minors and that the commission only is legislating in the best interest of the child.

He said that the state ought to insure that minors are only delivered to a family whose base is a heterosexual, monogamous marriage as established in the family code, the Costa Rican Constitution and Christian principles.

With the change in the legislation many children who would be delivered in adoption to homosexuals would avoid living in a disadvantaged situation being the object of jokes, censorious looks and rejection, he said.  He added that this would affect their self esteem.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 187

New early diagnosis techniques may unmask Alzheimer's
By the University of British Columbia news service

Physicians may be able to detect and treat Alzheimer’s Disease in its earliest stages, when patients are experiencing only mild degrees of cognitive impairment, thanks to new diagnostic criteria proposed by an international group of researchers.

Published in Lancet Neurology, the development of new guidelines was co-led by Dr. Howard Feldman, head of the Division of Neurology in the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine.

Feldman, who directs the Clinic for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders at Vancouver Coastal Health, co-authored the paper with a French researcher, Dr. Bruno Dubois, and investigators from countries that include Japan, the United States and England. Feldman is a member of Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

The proposed criteria are based on examining the structure and function of the brain using advanced brain imaging techniques as well as looking at spinal fluid for the imprint of the disease.

Early detection will allow researchers to test vaccines that might be used preventively or to treat fully affected individuals, or other drug treatments that are directed at the earliest stages of the disease — the best time to reduce symptoms.

Existing criteria, established in 1984, involve a two-step approach of evaluating functional disability and then looking for a cause, meaning diagnosis and treatment is delayed until patients have significant dementia symptoms.
“Integrating the profound neurobiological advances of the last 20 years allow for diagnoses based on more than declining functional ability,” said Feldman, a senior investigator with the Brain Research Centre at the university's hospital. He added:

“We now have advanced diagnostic tools — distinctive and reliable biological indicators that can be detected before the patient crosses the dementia threshold of disability.”

The new criteria the researchers are proposing to the scientific community via the article represent a significant shift and will direct scientists and clinicians to a different focus than has been pursued over the last decade, he adds.

New diagnostic measures include a clinical core of early, progressive and significant episodic memory loss plus one or more abnormal biological indicators characteristic of Alzheimer's, including wasting of the temporal lobe as shown on magnetic resonance imaging, abnormal amyloid Beta protein concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid, a specific pattern showing reduced glucose metabolism in scans of the brain, and a genetic mutation for Alzheimer's within the immediate family.

AD is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive cognitive deterioration and is the most common form of dementia.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada estimates that the disease affects more than 238,000 Canadians and that by 2031 about 750,000 Canadians will suffer from AD and related dementias. The Alzheimer’s Association in the United States estimates there are approximately 500,000 Americans younger than 65 with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

Cuban minister says embargo cost country $89 billion
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba's foreign minister has spoken out against the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, as the United Nations prepares for its yearly vote on whether the United States should revoke it.

The minister, Felipe Pérez Roque, told reporters in Havana that the embargo has cost Cuba at least $89 billion since it began in 1962, three years after Fidel Castro installed his Communist regime.

Roque said in the past year alone, the embargo has cost the island nation $3 billion in extra trade and financial costs, as
it must import items and services from other countries that would be cheaper coming from the United States.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez on Monday defended the embargo, saying it has been successful in denying resources to the Castro government. He said U.S. policy will not change until Cuba's regime does.

The United Nations General Assembly takes its annual vote in October on support for the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. For the past 15 years, the body has recommended the United States lift the embargo. Last year only four countries voted in support of it, with 183 countries voting against. There was one abstention.

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