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(506) 2223-1327           Published Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 194          Email us
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Photo is from the south side of the volcano crater lake. Clearly seen is the gray color of the water caused by a convection current in the center of the lake, said researchers.

Rincón de la Vieja
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica/Eliecer Duarte González

Rincón de la Vieja appears to be waking up again
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Volcán Rincón de la Vieja appears to be waking up after a 13-year nap.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica reported small eruptions in the crater lake, evidence of thermal activity there and the death of fish in nearby rivers. The volcano threw out some material Sept. 16 that appears to have affected fish as much as 18 kilometers  (more than 11 miles) downstream, the observatory said.

Scientists conducted a site visit from Tuesday to Thursday.

Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja is about 25 kilometers or about 15.5 miles northeast of Liberia in Guanacaste. The volcano is 1,916 meters high or about 6,286 feet. It is part of the mountain range that is the spine of the country.

The observatory said that the first reported activity from the volcano was in 1850. There was an explosive eruption in 1863 and more activity noted in 1912, 1922, 1940, 1955, 1963, 1965 and 1966.

In December 1966, the mountain put out black smoke and ash. Later researchers found chunks of rock the volcano had put out, the observatory said.

There was more ash and fine material expelled from 1969 to 1975 and 1983 to 1987. The most spectacular was Feb. 6, 1983, according to observatory records. Residents in Dos Río de Upala some 8 kilometers north of the volcano and residents a similar distance to the east heard the eruption and saw a large column of ash. The eruption produced an avalanche of mud and killed fish in the ríos Pénjamo and Pizote. There also were blocks or rocks thrown a kilometer from the crater, the observatory said.
There have been periodic eruptions since then through 1998, according to the observatory records.

The volcano is not as well known as Arenal, Poás, Turrialba or Irazú, in part because of its location. These four active volcanos are around the Central Valley.

The observatory said that what researchers saw near the summit suggests that there may be activity similar to the major events in the 1980s and 1990s with economic impact on the communities nearby.

They urged precautions, monitoring and that the communities be linked with a communication system in case of emergency.

Park officials have closed off the 13-kilometer (7.5 mile) hiking trail to the crater.

The researchers said there were two channels for runoff from the summit to nearby rivers. They said that the outpouring of mud and liquid from the volcano can reduce oxygen levels in streams and rivers, thereby killing fish.

There also is a temperature factor and toxicity from the sediment that is dumped into the waterways.

The crater lake is mainly a product of the heavy rains that fall on the Caribbean face of the mountain. The visitors said they could see convection in the lake caused by the heat of the volcano and small eruptions in the center.

There also are gas vents that are emitting vapor.

The mountain is tall enough that it shares two separate climates. On the west side, it experiences the dry climate of Guanacaste. To the northeast, the climate is similar to the Caribbean and the northern zone, according to the observatory.

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Banco Naacional photo
Jewelry items are among those on sale at the fair

Fair promotes disabled
who make and sell crafts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Banco Nacional is holding an artisans' fair in its downtown central offices today. All the participants have some form of physical disability, said the bank. The event is cosponsored by the Partido Accesibilidad sin Exclusión. Today is the second of two days.

The bank said that the goal is to break stereotypes and help small enterprises. Some 34 artisans were to be involved.

Tourism institute planning
North American campaign

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo plans to launch a major advertising campaign Thursday for North American markets with a virtual press conference. The event will be carried online at noon eastern standard time that day at this LINK.

The event appears to be in the hands of Burson-Marsteller, a major advertising and consultancy agency. The firm is a part of Young & Rubicam Brands. The company signed a two-year contract with the Costa Rican tourism agency in late 2007, but there has been no announcement of a new advertising agreement.

The objective of the 24-month campaign was to raise awareness in the United States and Canada of Costa Rica’s wide range of tourist offerings, especially ecotourism, adventure tourism and educational travel. Particular emphasis will be given to the key feeder markets of New York, California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

Earlier this year Burson-Marsteller was identified as the tourism institute's public relations agency.

Firefighters seeking history

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's fire-fighting agency seeks public input to help it put together a complete history of the organization.

The agency is the Cuerpo de Bomberos de Costa Rica. An announcement said it seeks texts, photos and other documentation which can be dropped off at any fire station.

The history will span the 150 years that fire fighters have been active in Costa Rica, it said.

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, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 194

As fiscal year ends, government wants its money today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today marks the end of the fiscal year in Costa Rica.  Most corporations and individuals adopt the traditional fiscal year and pay income taxes Dec. 15.  However, individuals and firms also can request a special year based on individual circumstances from the Dirección General de Tributación

As A.M. Costa Rica pointed out Sept. 20, today also is the last day to pay an estimated advance amount on 2010-2011 income tax.

Francisco Villalobos, the nation's chief tax collector, has been adamant that those who do not pay this advanced amount will face fines and penalties. A lot of accountants do not agree with him, but unless expats want to make legal history, they probably should pay the tax.

This will not be easy. First individuals and corporations are on the hook for the greater amount of the average of the last three years taxes paid or the amount of last year's tax. The Ministerio de Hacienda Web site gives a good explanation but only in Spanish.

The money can be paid at a local bank with one of two forms: D-108 “Autoliquidación de pagos parciales impuesto sobre la renta” or D-110 “Recibo Oficial de pago.” Naturally the amount paid is deducted from the total tax for the year when the final form is paid.
Taxpayers are supposed to make this payment three times a year, but the rule has been enforced lightly.

Villalobos, who has been on the job since late last year, is being aggressive in collecting this type of tax now.

Expats who are in business also should know that they have until Nov. 30 to report major income and expenses to Tributación on form D-151.  That process also is explained on the Tributación Web site.

Generally expats have to report total sales to a single customer if they amount to more than 2.5 million colons during the year.

They also have to report payments to a single vendor that reach this amount.

But for professionals, rents, commissions or interest the base amount is just 50,000 colons, less than $100 and probably less than one extended medical visit.

Employees at Tributación put these numbers together based on the cédula number of the company or individual and create a cross-match of expenses and payments. That way they can see who understates income for tax purposes.

A lot of landlords are surprised when a Tributación worker contacts them during the coming year because most property owners do not expect expats to file such a form.

Costa Rica is tolerant to alternative medical treatments
Oops, it looks like I have added to the error problems of the last couple of weeks.  Two weeks ago when I wrote about social life in Costa Rica, I said that Newcomers was a sub club of the Women’s Club.  Not so.  It is an independent entity.  That means they have separate officers, dues and members.  Of course, you can belong to both.  Sorry Newcomers and Women’s Club, for the error.

My friend Nina is back in Norway.  And I am very happy for that.  I have written about her before because she is a remarkable woman.  She works for Norway’s state department and has been stationed in Palestine, Kabul and Juba, Sudan.  While she has been working to bring some sort of relief and help to the people of those countries, I have been enjoying life in Costa Rica.

Nina was a resident adviser and later my assistant when I was director of the International House at San Jose State University.  I was amazed at her schedule of classes over the years.  They ranged from business to anthropology. I remember her master’s thesis was on the lives of African American gay men in San Francisco.

While Nina plans to get an advanced degree in psychology, her fiancé is continuing his studies in alternative medicine.  He is adding to his work in acupuncture, nutrition and homeopathy and is now studying efficacy of herbal treatments. 

I was surprised to learn that the medical establishment in Norway is not sympathetic to the practice of alternative medicine, which probably means the country is not, either.

Fortunately, Costa Rica seems to be much more accepting of other ways of knowing and believing in many areas.  Although Catholicism is the official religion, there are many people who freely follow different denominations and beliefs without interference.  The same thing occurs in the medical profession. There are many excellent doctors in all fields of medicine in Costa Rica, but I have never found it difficult to find someone who approaches healing in a non-allopathic manner, and I even know a couple of medical doctors who also practice homeopathy or recommend herbal cures.  The Mercado Central and most ferias sell various natural and herbal treatments.

I am, as a patient, happy for this tolerance.  Over the past
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

two years I have been in the hospital and seen so many doctors I had lost count by the time I simply gave up and decided that they could not diagnose the source, or even treat the symptoms of my pain.  So when a friend’s friend suggested I go to her iridologist, I said, “Why not.”  It is noninvasive, and it doesn’t involve yet another x-ray.”  The iridologist examined my eyes with a computer program and then gave me some homeopathic medicine, and I have been pain free since I have been taking them. 

I have found no side effects except for a smile that comes more often and a more daring imagination as to what I can do.

I am not dismissing the medical profession out of hand.  It bases its work on the scientific method, and they are rightly proud of that.  But like other belief systems, science is managed by humans who are influenced by such things as the law, their morals and religion, not to mention, their mothers.  Thus doctors will help find a painless method for killing a person sentenced to death by the law but condemn anyone who wants to help someone who wishes to die.

And when it comes to research, they are also constricted both by the law and their own prejudices and religious morals. 

Most physicians accept that many prescription drugs contain the essence of plants and that some vaccines contain a strain of the disease they are immunizing against, but they dismiss homeopathic and herbal treatments.

There are still many things that science cannot explain, nor can they dismiss such phenomena as the placebo effect, evidence of operations that were performed thousands of years ago, or even the pyramids. Our belief in the truth of progress has kept us from appreciating the knowledge and practices of the ancient world . . . or other ways of knowing.

Editor's Note; There is a discussion of Iridology HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 194

Lawmakers consider creating registry for those who watch cars
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers are considering creating a registry or some other type of official list of the cuidacarros, the men and a few women who voluntarily watch parked vehicles in the street.

A legislative commission considered the measure Thursday.

These are the men and women with the reflective vests who hit up motorists for spare change when they return to their vehicle. Whether the individuals actually safeguard the cars is an open question that generally depends on the person.

Mario Zamora, the security minister, talked about the bill Thursday before the Comisión Permanente de Gobierno y Administración. He said that if they go ahead with the plan lawmakers should make watching cars without being registered a minor crime.

Zamora also said there were other options in use in other Latin countries.

Legislators have tackled this issue in the past without results. Fuerza Publica officers have sought help from these car guards and even held training meetings. But there have been no reports of car guards actually providing usable information to police. Those who participated in the police training in July 2007 received a reflective vest, a cap and a wallet card that accredited them as assistants to the police.
The quality of car guards occupies a wide range. They could be upstanding retirees who need some extra money.

Or they could be the crack-smoking neighborhood burglar occupying his time until the sun sets.

Registration is designed to weed out the bad apples.

Many areas of the city are known for the car guards who work there. Some become so attached to where they work that they end up taking an employer to labor court on the premise that they actually were employees. One car guard actually won such a case against a restaurant.

Some cuidacarros are quite aggressive in demanding payment for the use of the public street and even abusive to the enforcement staff. In some cases, it’s little more than extortion, with everybody secure in the knowledge that they will scratch the paint if you don’t pay.

Others provide what are known as boleto where parking is regulated, as in the San José downtown. Cuidicarros mark up these parking permission slips and live off the difference.

Sometimes a crooked car guard will recycle these official boletos by taking one from the first vehicle and selling it to another motorist. Motorist No. 1 gets a parking ticket when the enforcement agents pass by. Expats should put the boleto inside the vehicles on the dashboard to defeat this practice.

Quantity of fish and not appearance called key to healthy reefs
By the Wildlife Conservation Society news staff

Coral reefs that have lots of corals and appear healthy may, in fact, be heading toward collapse, according to a study published by the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups.

Using data from coral reef systems across the western Indian Ocean, an international team of researchers identified how overfishing creates a series of at least eight big changes on reefs that precipitate a final collapse. This information can help managers gauge the health of a reef and tell them when to restrict fishing in order to avoid a collapse of the ecosystem and fishery.

The study appears this week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The authors say these changes are like a series of light switches, each of which make the reef more degraded and dims the chances of sustained fishery production and recovery.

“The study identifies eight changes before all of the ecological lights go off and the reef and fishery are gone” said Tim R. McClanahan, the lead author on the study and the head of the Wildlife Conservation Society's coral reef research and conservation program.

The study shows that in well-protected areas, there are typically 1,000-1,500 kilograms of reef fish of various species per hectare of coral reef. As the volume is fished down below 1,000 kilograms, the early warning signs — like increased seaweed growth and urchin activity — begin to appear. The researchers found that between 300 to 600 kilograms per hectare, there appeared to be a window of what is known as maximum sustainable yield, but when the fish stock drops 
below 300 kilograms per hectare, the reef is in real trouble, they said.        

"Below 300 kilograms per hectare we see a series of dramatic changes on reefs. This is where you get on a real slippery slope,” McClanahan noted.  “Strangely, the metric used by most managers to gauge the health of reef systems— coral cover — is the last threshold before ecosystem failure. Overfished reefs can appear healthy and then shift to algae dominated seascapes.”

The authors recommend measuring the biomass of fish instead of coral cover to identify the early warning rather than the final sign of reef collapse.

“The good news is that a reef can likely provide sustainable fisheries even after the first three warning switches are turned off, but it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy fishery and restore reefs when the final five switches have been turned off,” said McClanahan. “This study provides managers and policy makers with a tangible target of where to maintain their fishery.”

Reef fisheries with no regulations tended to perform poorly, with some collapsing. No-take marine reserves, where fishing was prohibited, were the best performers and tended to maintain key ecosystem processes such as predation.

“People depend on reefs for their livelihoods, so we can’t prohibit fishing everywhere,” noted Joshua E. Cinner.  “A key finding from our study was that even easily enforceable regulations that restrict gear or the types of species that can be caught helped maintain biomass. These regulations are often more agreeable to fishermen than no-take closures and consequently receive higher levels of support and compliance.” He is with Ames Cook University, Queensland, Australia.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 194

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Chávez appears on TV
to deny health rumor

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has gone on television to dismiss rumors about his health, a day after a newspaper reported he had been rushed to a hospital with kidney failure linked to his treatment for cancer.

The televised images Thursday showed Chávez, wearing a baseball cap and a red top, tossing a softball on the grounds of the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. The Venezuelan leader also criticized the news media for inquiring too much about the details of his condition. President Chávez has not said what type of cancer he has.

In a telephone interview earlier in the day with state television, Chávez urged Venezuelans to “pay no attention to rumors.” On Wednesday, Miami-based Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Herald, citing anonymous sources, said the Venezuelan leader had been taken to a military hospital for emergency care. Chávez did not specify from where he was calling, but did say he was working at “half-speed” while undergoing therapy.

Chávez had a cancerous tumor removed from his pelvic area in Cuba in June. Since then, he has undergone four rounds of chemotherapy, three of those sessions in Cuba.

He has pledged to run for a new, six-year term in next year's elections.

Press group cites increase
in repression by Cubans

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has condemned a recent escalation in Cuban repression of dissidents, violations of freedom of expression and obstacles to foreign correspondents, an issue that will be taken up by a special committee of the organization at its General Assembly to be held in Lima, Peru next month.

In an incident Tuesday political police officers beat and insulted Martha Beatriz Roque, head of the Cuban Community Communicators Network, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzerique, a member of that organization, and Berta Soler, of the Ladies in White group and a former political prisoner, who declared, “I have been arrested and mistreated many times … but never like I was beaten today.” She added, “The blows really hurt, but what hurts more is the lack of freedom.”

“The lack of respect in Cuba for freedom of expression, of the press and of assembly -- pillars in any political system that should respect human rights -- are a reflection of an archaic regime that stifles and harasses criticism and demands for change by citizens,” said Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Inter American Press Association.

The Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission reports that the repression of independent and opposition media has become more frequent, and that this month alone 400 arbitrary detentions have taken place, ranging from a few hours to several days – the highest number of arrests in the last 10 years, according to that organization.

“Added to this repression, “Marroquín declared, “is the regime’s failure to abide by promises to allow greater access to the Internet – all of which just goes to show the fear the authorities have of the flow of information and how they seek to prevent effects such as those of the Arab Spring.”

Marroquín is president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21. He added that the repression is also aimed at the foreign press. He recalled the cases of the new bureau chief of Agence France Presse news agency and that of Mauricio Vicent, correspondent of Spanish newspaper El País and Cadena Ser radio, both of whom were denied permission to work in Cuba.

“What is noteworthy is the absence of solidarity shown by Latin American governments to the Cuban people and their failure to denounce human rights violations. The only solidarity we have noted to date is that which the governments are giving the Raúl Castro regime,” Marroquín said.

He added that while the government freed journalists imprisoned during the Black Spring of March 2003, the majority of whom were sent into exile in Spain, “it now appears that the regime has redoubled its efforts to punish and censor all dissidence.”

Since July last year, following talks between the Cuban authorities, the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish government, a total of 22 independent journalists have been released from jail and ordered to leave Cuba, most of them going to Spain.

U.N. anti-crime official
calls cartels massive threat

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Warning that the solution to narcotics trafficking must be global in scale, the chief United Nations anti-crime official today began a two-day official visit to Mexico, where tens of thousands of people have been murdered and mutilated in drug wars over the past five years.

“Organized crime and the criminals behind these networks pose a massive threat to the region and are increasingly impacting on other parts of the world,” said Yury Fedotov  after a first meeting with President Felipe Calderón in Mexico City, He is U.N. Executive director of the Office on Drugs and Crime. He added:

“These criminals are responsible for the death and misery of people across the globe through their increasingly diversified illicit operations. We have to remember, however, that such violent crimes form part of a much bigger, worldwide picture in which we face a complex and shifting threat. We have to remember that while the crimes are often violently local, our solutions must be global.”

In meetings with Calderón and a number of senior leaders, Fedotov’s will discuss areas ranging from human trafficking and migrant smuggling through to illicit drugs and corruption.

“On too many occasions, it is the citizens who have become victims while attempting to pursue a peaceful existence,” he said of those who are often most affected by organized crime.

Recalling last month’s violence at a casino in Monterrey, where 52 people were reported to have died in an arson attack linked to drug gangs, Fedotov pledged his agency’s continued support to Mexico, noting that its location at the intersection between South America and North America often pits it against criminal groups working to undermine peace and security.

“Tackling organized crime and the criminals behind these networks without international collaboration is futile,” he stressed. “If this is done without considering the wider region, we simply run the risk of having the crime networks relocate to a new country.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 194

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Latin America news
Most regions to get rain
and thunderstorms today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Much of the country faces a day of thunderstorms and downpours, the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said Thursday.

The weather institute blamed humidity coming in from the Pacific and said there would be downpours in all regions except the northern zone, the north Pacific and the Caribbean coast.

There were storms early today which were accompanied by lightning.

Some 125,000 strikes of lightning have been counted so far this year.

The rains today are expected to extend into the evening.

Suspect with long record
held in pit bull burglary

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even pit bulls are not safe. Police detained a 41-year-old man who is accused of breaking into a San José home to steal a pit bull puppy.

The Fuerza Pública said that the suspect had at least 121 arrests on his record and 10 convictions for property theft.

Police said a neighbor saw the man scale a wall, avoid two strands of razor wire and break a window to enter the home. The neighbor called the homeowner who called police, they said.

Small business operators
can attend export session

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 60 representatives of small- and medium-sized enterprises participated this week in the launching of a program to help them become more competitive abroad.

The program is called FINPYME ExportPlus and comes from the Inter-American Investment Corp., an agency of the Inter-American Development Bank.

The investment corporation plans a series of workshops. The first is Nov. 9 with the topic “Managing Export Finance: How to Manage your Company’s Finances Effectively.” The Camara de Exportadores de Costa Rica is handling reservations and fax  2225-7270.

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