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(506) 2223-1327           Published Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 202       Email us
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Despite some damage, country seems to fare well
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's weather experts say the worst of the latest series of storms may be over, but there still has been damage.

The Nicoya peninsula was hit the hardest. A resident there reported 8.58 inches from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday on top of 3.55 inches that fell earlier.

The national emergency commission said that the gravel route between Paquera and Playa Naranjo  on the peninsula was damaged with various slides. In the Roman Catholic church in Rio Grande de Paquera some 25 persons were being housed. In  La Esperanza de Cóbano a bridge collapsed. In  Santa Cecilia de Paquera some farm animals died when caught in a flood, the commission said.

There were 36 homes flooded in Nicoya and 20 in Nosara in addition to 15 near the airport there. A total of five shelters held 138 persons on the peninsula alone.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias upgraded its alert at midday for the central and north Pacific coast due to damage reported earlier.

The commission also said that rains were moving into the northern Caribbean. The commission said that the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional was concerned by heavy rains in the early evening over most of the country.

There also were shelters set up in Parrita, Bagaces and Filadelfia with several dozen persons in each.

Nevertheless, the meteorology institute said at 7 p.m. that a low pressure area in the Pacific was having minimal effect on the country and that the weather situation would return to normal for today. The institute added that a number of rivers were rising, including some on the Caribbean side. Cited were the Pacuare, Orosi, Chirripó and Sixaola. On the Pacific coast only the Río Buena Vista in Rivas was a concern, it said

The low pressure area was moving slowly north and was off Guatemala late Tuesday.
U.S. National Hurricane Center graphic
Yellow area is the low pressure moving north. Hurricane Jova and Tropical Storm Irwin threaten México.

Rains in the Central Valley appeared to stop around 11 p.m.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said there was damage to 11 roads, but added that only in Río Claro was a stretch under water. That is Ruta 2. In most cases the damage did not prevent traffic, it said.  The ministry's  Consejo Nacional de Vialidad had machinery at work in many areas clearing the debris from slides. Work was being done in Garabito on the central Pacific coast, in Aserri, Tarbaca, Chirraca and Palmichal in the province of San José, in Hojancha and Nandayure on the Nicoya peninsula and in Turrubares and Puriscal,

The weather institute said that Liberia received 117.3 millimeters of rain or about 4.6 inches through 7 a.m. Tuesday and 6.3 millimeters (.24 inches) thereafter. Santa Rosa in the north Pacific received 172.2 millimeters (6.8 inches) by 7 a.m. And 25.1 millimeters (.99 of an inch) thereafter.

The rains were more modest in the Central Valley. Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela reported 49.6 millimeters (1.95 inches) by 7 a.m. Tuesday and 41.4 millimeters (1.6 inches) thereafter. Guápiles reported 65.3 millimeters or 2.6 inches in the period beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

The weather institute predicted a return to a hot morning today along the coast with moderate rain developing later.

However, tonight is expected to be stable with rain just in some of the mountains, it said.

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Lawmaker objects to pact
that is pushing tax reform

By Shahrazad Encinias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tax reform agreement between the president's party, Partido Liberación Nacional, and the Partido Acción Cuidadana isn't settling well among a few representatives in legislature, according to a vocal member who spoke Tuesday afternoon. The assembly leadership had to cut him off.

The single representative of the minority Partido Frente Amplio, José María Villalta Florez-Estrada, made his point loud and clear for more than half an hour, stating that the agreement between both parties has left his voice as a representative non-existent. Not just his, but the voice of other minority representatives as well, he said.

He was gone for two weeks, and when he came back, to his surprise there was a pact between the two parties that took away his right as a representative, he said. In order for him to bring an issue or a proposal to the full legislature, he would have to be part of the commission that deals with that subject. He is not.

“It's disgusting! This is a disgust to government,” Villalta said, waving his arms to his fellow representatives.

He pointed to the president and the vice-president of the Asamblea Legislativa and said they should be ashamed of their actions. According to the new rules, each representative will only be allowed to discuss the 86-paged budget reform for 10 minutes.

“How do you expect us to sum up 86 pages in 10 minutes?” he asked. “This is a joke.”

The president is Juan Carlos Mendoza García of Acción Ciudadana.

Lawmakers voted to put the measure on the so-called fast track for quick passage while Villalta was gone.

The angry representative was warned on various occasions about his allotted time running out. He said he didn't care because he demands transparency amongst the representatives and they need to hear what he has to say. His microphone was turned off.

“This is the most anti-democratic thing I've seen in my life,” he said as he shook his head and looked at his agenda.

The two political parties and a few other lawmakers agreed on a text of a new tax package, and a commission has been formed to study it.  The fast track rules restrict debate in the assembly when the package arrives there.

Earlier Tuesday Fernando Herrero Acosta, the finance minister, was before the new Comisión Especial de Solidaridad Tributaria that is studying the proposed tax reforms.

He explained that the global tax (renta global) would lump all the income anywhere of a Costa Rican or a resident here for purposes of setting a tax rate and that the world tax (renta mundial) is a levy on income generated outside Costa Rica for persons living here.

He explained to the committee that the tax on corporations would be 30 percent. He also noted that the 14 percent value-added tax would be reduced to 2 percent for private education and health services.

The tax plan also increased by a half percent the tax on transferring property valued more than 50 million colons or a bit less than $100,000 at the current exchange rate.

The tax on transferring a vehicle also increases to 3 percent from the current 2.5, he said.

The government also is seeking a stiff tax on luxury vehicles. Herrero said that vehicles worth more than 57 million colons or about $110,000 would pay this tax. The tax has been reported to be 50 percent.

Herrero also discussed the government's plan to begin taxing companies that are now located in the various free zones. The tax is controversial and would be 15 percent beginning in 2015, according to the proposal.

The country now has a 13 percent sales tax. But a value-added tax generates more income because a tax is assessed at every stage of production. There also is less opportunity for people making products on which the tax is assessed to evade taxes because the individual or company that sold the raw materials would be reporting and paying part of the tax as would the individual or firm purchasing the product. The end user would, of course, find the entire amount included in the retail price.

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, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 202

museum montage
A.M. Costa Rica/Zachery McDonald
Military uniforms and priestly robes clearly are signs of status in 19th century Costa Rica. Experts think that jewelry served the same purpose for residents in the
pre-European era as well as the symbolic head of an enemy hanging from the shoulder. Of course, someone, the artisan, had to make these signs of power.
Continuity of signs of status exhibited at national museum
By Zachery McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The temporary exhibit ¨Investiduras, signos de poder¨ opened Friday at the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica. The exhibit examines a common theme in the different historical moments of most societies: what members are or want to be, through dress or decoration of their bodies.

More than 150 objects are housed in the exhibit, including dress, body decorations, goods, tools and the craniums of long dead chiefs, deformed and elongated to symbolize status.

The objects come both from pre-Columbian societies and the modern era, with emphasis on the 19th century, to highlight the inherent similarities.

The exhibit identifies three sectors that are generally the most powerful in any society: the elite, the warriors and the priests. For obvious reasons, these three were and are integral to societies worldwide.

The elites or chiefs were the most powerful socio-political characters. They were the heads of the hierarchies and could cause social movements. They legitimized their power with large houses, lavish jewelry, elegant costumes and the best food.

The shamans and priests were in charge of the spiritual world, acting as intermediaries between humans and spirits. These characters are easily identifiable by their dress and, due to their close relationship with nature, were often
symbolized by animal statues. The hierarchy and the liturgical calendar are represented in a variety of clothing and specific colors.
deformed skulls
A.M. Costa Rica/Zachery McDonald
Deformed heads are linked to elite rulers, who had their heads wrapped as infants.

The warriors and military were ultimately responsible for protection of the people or conquest of new resources.

Armies being rigidly stratified out of necessity exhibited differences in the infantry and high command by military trappings, badges and decorations and sometimes weapons.

The final part of the exhibit highlights the backbone of all these sectors. Behind each elaborately carved piece of jade, hand-carved religious relic or chiseled-armor chest plate is a complex world of specialists, craftsmen of gold and jade, silversmiths, tailors, dressmakers, shoemakers and painters — the artisans.

Registro to allow customers to download what they bought
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After more than a month, the Registro Nacional is allowing customers to download documents they already had purchased before the agency pulled the plug.

The Registro emailed customers Tuesday to say that they were able to enter their accounts and download from their inventory documents that had been blocked.

The Registro acted quickly after the Sala IV told it Aug. 31 that it could not charge for documents until a court case was decided.

Instead of making documents available for free, the
Registro just stopped the service. The Colegio de Abogados, the lawyers' guild, objected to the charges that the Registro was collecting. In the past, lawyers were able to download documents for free, copy them and then charge their clients.

A copy of a personaría juridica, a document corporation managers need to prove their standing, costs about $5 when obtained through the Registro. Lawyers usually charge an amount equivalent to $20. Some users had posted sums in anticipation of using them. Others purchased documents but were unable to download them when the Registro acted in the wake of the Sala IV temporary ruling.

The online services of the Registro are considered vital to the government's digital plan.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 202

Thursday is last day to appeal first batch of camera traffic fines
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thursday is the last day that motorists can present appeals if they are among the first batch of owners of vehicles caught speeding by the new radar controlled cameras.

The Consejo de Seguridad Vial, said that 2,375 persons had appeals as of Tuesday. The deadline is based on the second publication of the list of speeders in the la Gaceta official newspaper. That was Sept. 30.

Meanwhile there are at least two dozen constitutional court cases that have been filed. Among these are complaints that there is not notification by the Consejo of persons who are to be fined.

Those whose vehicles were pictured speeding in Cartago, Alajuela or San José can appeal the fine at the relevant office of the Consejo. They also can go to the Heredia office. Those who live outside the metro area but whose vehicles were pictured speeding here can appeal at offices in Liberia, Pérez Zeledón, San Ramón, Puntarenas or any office that is nearest.

Those who do appeal do not need a special form, just a letter
 stating why they should not be fined. One reason for appeal is if the owner was not driving the vehicle, the Consejo said.

The fines are so steep that banks are offering payment plans to motorists. Although there is talk of lowering the fines, the penalty for exceeding the speed limit by 20 kph (12.4 mph) is  237,104 colons (about $460). Motorists caught speeding more than 120 kph (74.4 mph) are faced with a  316,138 fine (about $615). Over 150 kph (93 mph) and the penalty is jail.

The amount of the fines are in the law, so any reduction would have to be by legislative action.

The Consejo said it would follow what the legislature says.

Telephone numbers for places where the ticket can be appealed are San José: 2010-4619, 2010-4620, 2010-4621, 2010-4622, 2010-4623; Heredia 2263-2912 (the Delegación de Tránsito); Puntarenas 2663-8734 (the Delegación de Tránsito); Alajuela 2441-7411 (the Delegación de Tránsito); Guápiles 2710-4257 (the Delegación de Tránsito); Limón 2797-1734; Cartago (the Delegación de Tránsito); Pérez Zeledón 2010-4696; San Ramón 2445-5985 (the Delegación de Tránsito); Osa 2788-8394, ext. 125 (the municipalidad), and Liberia 2665-6291.

No this is not a yard sale. Frontier police in Los Chiles near the Nicaraguan border accumulated these household items when they stopped a vehicle that was believed involved in a burglary nearby.

burglary loot
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo

Burglars leaving scene of crime run into a police checkpoint
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The headquarters of the Policía de Fronteras in Los Chiles looked like a flea market Tuesday after officers intercepted a vehicle load of household items that had been taken from a home in Caño Negro.

Thieves did not know that police have been involved in a special operation for several months to prevent the theft of cattle, drug trafficking and the entry of illegal individuals. So a
vehicle containing the burglary loot came up on a police check point. The driver tried to evade the police control point, and eventually the four occupants jumped from the vehicle.

Police managed to round up four suspects. All are from San Ramón, officers said. The arrests took place near the crossroads known as El Parque de Los Chiles, said the police report.

The loot included fans, sound equipment, televisions, a sewing machine and other household items.

Even a clumsy, special effects sloth needs a good name
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Readers have responded to suggest a name for the clumsy, three-toed sloth creature which is the centerpiece of a multi-million dollar tourism institute promotion.

The sloth's friends have names.  He (assuming the sloth is a male) introduces Luis, a monkey, and Jorge, a turtle. And there is Freddy, the Costa Rican, who refers lamely to the sloth as Mr. Sloth. But no name for the principal character.

Readers should remember that the sloth is algae-free, perhaps the only one of its species that way. And, despite being a Costa Rican native, he speaks Midwestern standard English. He can be found here on the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo promotional video.

A.M. Costa Rica will not award a prize, but editors will give readers a chance to vote on submitted names. Readers should also provide a reason why they believe that the name they suggest is appropriate.

Submitters will be identified unless they request otherwise.
sloth falls
Instituto Costarricense de Turismo photo
Some are upset that the sloth ends his sales pitch by falling off a tree branch.

Those interested can send suggestions to until Oct. midnight Oct. 17.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 202

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.S. alerts citizens overseas
about possible Iranian acts

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. State Department has issued a worldwide alert for American citizens about possible anti-U.S. actions following charges against two Iranians accused of conspiring with Tehran to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

The State Department said late Tuesday that the alleged Iranian-backed assassination attempt may indicate the Iranian government could be taking a more aggressive focus on terrorist activity.

Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department charged Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen with an Iranian passport, and Gholam Shakuri, an Iran-based member of the Iranian Quds force, with conspiring to kill Saudi ambassador Adel al-Jubeir.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the plot was “conceived, sponsored and directed” from Iran. He promised Washington will hold the Iranian government accountable.

Shortly after the announcement was made, the U.S. Treasury Department announced economic sanctions against Arbabsiar and Shakuri, as well as three officers of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

President Barack Obama called Ambassador al-Jubeir to express solidarity against the plot, calling it a flagrant violation of U.S. and international law. He assured al-Jubeir the U.S. is committed to protecting all diplomats serving in the United States.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday the U.S. will continue to work with its allies to further isolate Iran from the international community.

Iran strongly denies being involved in the assassination attempt. Iran's U.N. ambassador wrote a letter to the United Nations Tuesday expressing outrage over the U.S. allegations, calling them politically-motivated warmongering and propaganda.

Officials say Arbabsiar unknowingly hired an informant of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to carry out the plot, believing the informant had ties to Mexican drug cartels capable of killing the Saudi ambassador. They say Arabsiar confessed to making a $100,000 down payment on the scheme with a price tag of $1.5 million.

Officials arrested Arbabsiar at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport Sept. 29, but Shakuri is still at large.

U.S. Senate passes bill
targeting Chinese currency

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that could bring sanctions against China or any country found to be deliberately manipulating the value of its currency.

The measure would open the door for U.S. sanctions if the Treasury Department finds a country is manipulating its currency and not taking steps to fix it. It also would make it easier for U.S. companies to seek tariffs on foreign imports.

Many U.S. lawmakers say Chinese currency manipulation gives its goods an unfair advantage on world markets by making U.S. products too expensive. Opponents to the bill say they fear it could start a trade war with China.

China calls the bill a serious violation of World Trade Organization rules. The official Xinhua news agency said the bill may ignite a trade war. Beijing denies deliberately undervaluing the yuan. It says it is taking steps to let its value rise and fall naturally against the dollar.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where passage is uncertain. Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor is asking the White House to take a formal position on the bill before the House considers it.

President Barack Obama has not officially come out for or against the measure. But the White House says it wants to be cautious and make sure any new law does not violate World Trade Organization rules.

Chávez says he'll return
to Cuba for more tests

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez says he will return to Cuba next week for medical testing.

In a brief telephone interview broadcast on Venezuelan state television, Chávez said the rigorous medical tests will evaluate his cancer treatment. 

During the interview Chávez said he is undergoing constant treatment, exercising and consulting with doctors.  He also said he is sunbathing.

President Chávez has said he finished a fourth and final round of chemotherapy in Cuba, but has not discussed what type of cancer he is battling.

Chávez had surgery in June to remove a tumor from his pelvic area.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 202

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Students behave badly
and end up being held

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A high school tradition got out of hand in Pérez Zeledón Tuesday and police reported they rounded up 50 minors and eight persons of age.

The disturbance took place at the Liceo Unesco where students in the highest class generally celebrate the end of their exams. Tuesday they began with water balloons and then graduated to eggs, fruit and food. The targets were passers-by along the main street in front of the school.

Police took the minors to their headquarters and notified parents to pickup their children. The eight students over 18 are going to juvenile court, the Fuerza Pública said.

McKee Jacó planning
annual fundraiser Nov. 11

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is known for it's beautiful mountains, beaches and the hospitality, but what is never in the tourism brochures is the overpopulation of stray animals, at least in the area of Jacó.

And this is why the Asociación Pro Bienestar Animal, also known as McKee Jacó, will hold their annual fundraiser on Nov. 11. The 2011 Annual McKee Fiesta will be a dance and dinner at the Amapola Hotel in Jacó.  The date is a Friday.

The funds from the festivities will go to the rescue and rehabilitation of homeless animals in the Jacó area. There will be live music by the local band Chupacabra, dancing, food and a glass of wine all-inclusive with the purchase of your ticket. And to make a little extra for the animals there will also be a silent auction and raffle, the organization said.

Trial starts in New York
for Russian arms dealer

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The trial of a former Soviet air force officer and alleged international arms dealer dubbed by security experts the “merchant of death” is underway in New York.

Jury selection was held in the federal trial of Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman accused of conspiring to sell thousands of military-grade weapons to be used against Americans.

Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 after meeting with undercover U.S. agents posing as members of the Fuerza Armadas Revoluciarias de Colombia, a rebel group that the United States has designated a terrorist organization.  He reportedly promised to supply them with surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and land mines they said would be used to kill Americans and Colombians.

Bout is charged with four counts including conspiracy to kill Americans and to provide material support to a terrorist organization.  He has pleaded not guilty and has called the prosecution a witch hunt.

Security and arms-trade experts say Bout had made many millions dealing weapons, often arming both sides of civil wars in African countries, including Angola, Rwanda, Sudan, Congo and Sierra Leone.

A former top anti-terrorism adviser in the Bush administration, Juan Zarate, says the sting operation was the result of a U.S. effort to find a way to bring Bout before a U.S. court. “There is no question that he supplied everything from AK-47s and bullets, to attack helicopters in ways that inflamed civil wars and insurgencies, and which violated international sanctions.  It is why he was a wanted man both in Europe and in the U.S. and why he is the subject of U.S. prosecution for this particular incident in violation of U.S. law," he said.

Experts say that Bout, a former Soviet military translator, began a private air cargo business in the early 1990s, using disused military planes.  In addition to his alleged arms dealing, his planes transported food, humanitarian relief, and even U.N. peacekeepers to some of the same conflict areas where he sold weapons.  For a time, the U.S. military contracted with him to fly supplies to troops in Iraq.

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