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(506) 2223-1327          Published Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 211       Email us
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Got a gripe? Take it to the legislature. There were two groups there seeking action Monday, and one has been camped out for days.

See our story


President says nation's finances must be sustainable
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla said Monday that the country cannot postpone cleaning up its finances if it hopes to maintain for the next 10 years the social right and guarantees it has created.

The various sectors of society have to reach agreement to achieve the sustainability of its public policies, she said, adding that the current tax level “does not reflect the responsibility and obligation of a society like ours.”

The president said that the country has reached the limits of its possibilities because it cannot defend the rights without assigning the resources that transform these rights into realities. To promulgate these rights without offering the means to achieve them is the worse form of demagoguery, she said.

The president is seeking passage of a 14 percent value-added tax and other assorted taxes in a legislature that her party does not control. About half the national budget is borrowed money, and even if she gets all that she seeks, the country's income will still fall below its expenses.

Although Ms. Chinchilla has sought to freeze jobs in the central government, she has not offered any plan to cut the size of her administration. She was speaking Monday at an event in the Ministerio de Planificación Nacional y Política Económica.

A few hours later, the man in charge of collecting taxes was telling lawmakers that he needs more employees to handle the estimated $10 billion the taxes would bring in. The man, Francisco Villalobos Brenes, was before the special commission that is studying the tax proposals.

Villalobos said there would be a big increase in the number of taxpayers, which is why he would need more employees. He has complained in the past about the Chinchilla administration's hiring freeze that has kept him from adding more inspectors. He has been in the job less than a year.

He also said that the tax collecting job would be made more complex by the use of the value-added tax. Under that system tax is added at each stage of the production process down to the retail sale. So instead of one tax, there are a series of smaller taxes. The number depends on the steps in the production process.

Villalobos heads the Dirección General de Tributación. He said that his agency needs a
computer system of the first level so that his employees can maintain a census of taxpayers and handle all the tax forms. He said that the Spanish government was ready to help with its international aid agency.

At another legislative committee hearing Monday, lawmakers were considering a $132 million loan from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo. The chairwoman of the committee, Jeannette Ruiz Delgado of Acción Ciudadana, explained that the money would be put to work to insure citizen security in an integrated way. Among other plans, the money will be used to build prisons in locations that are what she called the most abandoned areas of the country with the highest social risk.

The money also would be used to build civic centers in these areas with the goal of keeping the youth in the area away from crime, she added. The money also would go to developing a school for police, which is the third side of what the lawmaker said was the third side of the triangle. The Banco Interamericano approved the loan in May specifically for citizen security. To accept the loan, lawmakers have to vote to do so.

“The most important of these loans is that they are for social investment and not to finance expenses,”  said Ms. Ruiz Delgado.

The loan would be disbursed over five years, according to the proposal.

Also Monday the business chamber stepped up its attack on the government's plan to tax firms now located in the so-called free zone. This would diminish investments, said the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial. A statement said that the country was changing the rules of the game under which many firms came here and made investments.

There are 574 firms in the free zones, and in 2010 they employed 60,000 persons, the chamber said, citing figures from the Promotora de Comercio Exterior de Costa Rica.  Workers there averaged a monthly salary of $1,028.90 as opposed to the national average of $637, the chamber said.

The government's political party, Partido Liberación Nacional, joined in a coalition with Acción Ciudadana and several other legislators to create a tax package that might win passage. The plan also calls for extending the value-added tax to professional services and private education, although the specifies are revised weekly.

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Our readers' opinions
Someone had their way
with car shipped from Texas

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I recently shipped a very good 1999 Suzuki Vitara from Texas. I have owned it for three years with the sole purpose of shipping it to Costa Rica for my personal use. It had given me good service in the States and had passed every state inspection for those same three years.

My Vitara was bailed out at the aduana for a little over $3,300 in taxes. After the ransom was paid, it was discovered that the gas and oil had been removed from the car. It was after dark at the aduana's storage yard. Gas and oil were inserted, but the oil flowed out, which was not discovered in the dark. Because someone thought that steeling the oil where the oil filter screws in was easy, they did not see the value of screwing the filter back in. Needless to say, my Vitara froze up from lack of oil, which generated the need for a new, rebuilt engine.
After the new engine was installed, my Vitara would not pass the emissions test. It was finally discovered that the air flow system had been removed and replaced with an air flow system for a smaller engine. Because my Vitara's system had an inferior part in place, then only did a specialist discover the switch.
I have read what A.M. Costa Rica stands for, and I think that an individual should be able to retrieve from the aduana, the same vehicle that was shipped, instead of it being used for parts.
Larry Rubenstein
El Cajon de Grecia

Congress would listen
to letters on tax form

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you so much for your excellent coverage of the FATCA issue that the American Citizens Abroad has been working so diligently on the past year.  I am the country representative for ACA and anyone who wishes more information should contact me at  FATCA is truly an overreaching regulation that has had disastrous consequences for American citizens who live or work overseas.  As we know, the U.S. Congress responds to letters and expressions of discontent.
S. Ann Wildey

Tax sale of narcotics
and get rid of crooks

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your editorial on drug arrests is misguided and out of date. Arresting and adjudicating people for possessing small amounts of drugs is a waste of scarce government resources (i.e., taxes). And such enforcement does absolutely no good in reducing consumption. One only needs to look to the United States to see how such policies fail. Thousands of people are dying in Mexico because of these failed drug enforcement policies, while drug use in the U.S. has climbed and the number of people in U.S. prisons and jails incarcerated because of possessing small amounts of drugs has skyrocketed.

Costa Rica has it half right - focus on those dealing dangerous drugs. The other half would be to decriminalize certain drugs, such as marijuana. Regulate its use and tax its sales. That puts those who sell the drug illegally out of business. It frees the criminal justice system to focus on dangerous drug activity, as well as other, more pressing enforcement concerns. And it provides a new revenue source for important government functions.

Prohibition didn't work in the U.S. in the 1930s, and laws making simple possession of drugs like marijuana don't work either. And an analogy to wife beating? Please!

Ken Anderberg
Croatia, formerly of Jacó

Costa Rica has to step up
with rehabilitation proposal

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

If as you say,"The purpose of drug laws is to reduce consumption," then it falls upon society to provide an effective rehabilitation program for drug-law offenders. There is certainly no evidence to support the notion that jail time reduces drug consumption but plenty of evidence to suggest that it is a costly and ineffective alternative to drug rehabilitation programs.

"Republican governors and state legislators in such states of Texas, South Carolina, and Ohio are repealing mandatory minimum sentences, increasing opportunities for effective community supervision, and funding drug treatment because they know it will improve public safety and reduce taxpayer costs," said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute.

So are several other states — egged on by a group of hardline conservatives who have joined the Right on Crime movement. These include Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former speaker Newt Gingrich, the tax-fighter Grover Norquist and the former attorney general for President Ronald Reagan, Ed Meese.

Studies in Texas and elsewhere agree that treatment and probation services cost about one-tenth of what it costs to build and run prisons. A cost-benefit analysis indicated that every dollar spent on those services was worth $9 and 34 cents in avoided criminal justice costs. Besides that, offenders emerge much less likely to commit fresh crimes than those with similar records who go to prison.

Fiscal General Chavarría may well have come to the same conclusion as his conservative colleagues in the U.S. It is now up to the government of Costa Rica to follow through with the same services,

Ivor Sargent,
Montreal, Canada

Here's another viewpoint

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How ignorant are these people to condone and encourage drug use by not enforcing the laws. This will only increase the crime rate dramatically. Idiots!
John Sullivan

Why support the Occupiers
and not the Tea Party?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Now the Nazis, Communists, and the radical Muslims (Iran and others) have expressed support for Occupy Wall Street. They however did not support the Tea Party. Enough said.

Daryl Hardman
Escazú and Texas

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!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

Costa Rican news summaries are disabled
on archived pages.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 211

With drums and banners, citizens come to apply pressure
By Shahrazad Encinias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With drums banging and discourses through a megaphone, demonstrators gathered at Castillo Azul Monday. That's the center of the Asamblea Legislativa  on Boulevard del Museo Nacional and Avenida Central.

Banners and signs were pinned up along the black iron fence demanding the government to listen to the citizens, demanding cleaner air, and no more taxation of land. There was a group of people wearing white shirts and another group of people wearing blue shirts that read Plebiscito in white bold letters. There were two different organizations there for a demonstration.

The one's in the white were the Guardianes del Pulmon. They have been at the Asamblea Legislativa for eight straight days trying to get the attention of politicians to show support in their campaign for clean air in Costa Rica. They have set up a camp along the boulevard where they have slept since last Tuesday with no signs of calling it quits.

“This is a constant struggle,” said Marco Aurelio Carpio Pereira, the director of the campaign. “We have slept here even in the rain, but we don't care because we have to take action. Everything is politics and theory in there so we must come here!” He pointed to the Asamblea.

The organization's flyer asks for a stop to all destruction of mountains and forests, contamination of aquifers and rivers and to protect the flora and fauna. “We demand to breathe pure air today, tomorrow and always” is the motto.

The group of people in the blue shirts that read plebiscito or plebiscite in English are from Asociación Pro Cantón La Península e Islas del Golfo de Nicoya. This is a non-profit organization that is in a struggle for cultural development, economic development, administrative development and human development of the region. The region consists of the Cóbano, Paquera, Chira, Lepanto and Islas del Golfo de Nicoya territories.

“A plebiscite is what we want so we can eventually become a canton and have the opportunity to make decisions,” said Yadira González, an inhabitant of that area and supporter of the plebiscite. “The government takes advantage of the natural resources of that area and does very little for us. That's why there are problems with roads and the schools. Our roads are horrible.”

A plebiscite is the vote of the people from a district or entire country about a political issue.

She added it was important for the group to be there Monday because the special assembly commission for the plebiscite met at 6 p.m. The commission is made up of the three representatives from Puntarenas, the three representatives from Guanacaste and Juan Carlos Mendoza, the president of the legislature.

The Puntarenas representatives are Agnes Gómez from Liberación Nacional, Jorge Gamboa from Partido Acción Ciudadana, and Rodolfo Sotomayor from Partido Unidad Social Cristiana.

From Guanacaste there is María Ocampo and Luis Antonio Aiza from Partido Liberacion Nacional, and Ernesto Chavarría from Movimiento Libertario.

drums in protest
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Kasper
Drums punctuate environmental protest at legislature.

more protests
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias
Carlos Alberto Calderon and Nory Aguiles Azofiela are two members of Guardianes del Pulmon who are living on the sidewalk near the legislature.

The plebiscite has the support of five out of the seven representatives, said Edwin Badilla, the lawyer representing the organization.

“Our cause was presented to the Asamblea in 2001 and we are barely getting attention now. It is crucial for us to be here today and get the support of Agnes Gómez and Rodolfo Sotomayor,” said Ms. González.

This has been a dispute for 96 years, according to Badilla.

The plebiscite advocates ranged in age. Gonzalo Morales was one older man who said he had been in the fight for 45 years.

“We just want to be free,” said Morales.

The southern half of the Nicoya peninsula is part of Puntarenas province and canton. However the gulf of Nicoya separates the area from the rest of the province and the main administrative center is in Puntarenas Centro on the east side of the gulf. The proposal in the legislature would have the new canton called La Peninsula. It would be the province's 12th.

Baroque festival of music begins tonight in Santa Ana
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The municipality of Santa Ana will kick-off the XII Festival Internacional de Música Barroca at Centenaria Iglesia Parroquia de Santa Ana tonight. Inauguration will be held at the Centenaria Iglesia Parroquia de Santa Ana at 7:30 p.m., hosted by the Escuela Municipal de Artes Integradas, the French Embassy and the Alliance Française. The opening concert will introduce “Aires de cortes Franceses, Ingles e Italianos,” performed by a trio made up of the French countertenor Thierry Grégoire, Brazilian Ronaldo Lopes, who plays a theorbo, and Russian bass violinist Elena Andreyev.

“Baroque was a very prolific time, and in Costa Rica that genre isn't played too much, so with this festival we are giving a space for this music,” said Jorge Acevedo, director of the international festival.

The festival, that ends Nov. 6, brings to life the music of certain famed Baroque composers and musicians such as Claudio Monteverdi, Henry Purcell, Marc Antoine Charpentier, Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi and many more artists. There are performances every night.
Baroque is a period and style that began in the 1600s known for it's excessive embellishments and complexity in music, art, drama, and anything that appealed to the senses.

The revival of the classical genre of music brings various musicians from around the world to perform on different nights at one of the four locations. The Spanish Embassy, French Embassy, and Swiss Embassy helped bring artists from their countries. The other venues include the Alliance Française in San José, Auditorio Casa Municipal de la Cultura at the Escuela Municipal de Artes Integradas in Santa Ana, and the Sanctuario Nacional Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles in Cartago.

The Centenaria Iglesia Parroquia de Santa Ana has a conducive environment because it has the classical style of architecture and art inside of the building that it made it a beautiful place for the inauguration, said Acevedo.

Because the festival is held at churches the event will be free of charge.

Those interested in the full lineup for the festival can visit

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 211

Tropical depression turns into a hurricane but far from here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tropical Storm Rina became Hurricane Rina Monday as it moved northwest along the coast of Honduras. The storm appeared to be far enough from Costa Rica so that the effects were minimal. Most were on the Pacific coast.

But not even San José was spared. The national emergency commission said that 13 families lost their homes when they slide into the Río Torres. The municipality is handling that crisis as are central government social workers.

In all there were about 223 persons still in shelters Monday and perhaps 1,000 who had been affected in some way.

Golfito and Guanacaste had the bulk of the persons in shelters.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said Monday night that workers had succeeded in opening the Rio Claro-Paso Canoas route. The Interamericana Sur still was being worked on by road crews. There also was work going on in Cabronero on the Interamericana Norte.

The Interamericana Sur at Casa Mata collapsed into an adjacent ravine. Workers are plowing a road lane into the west side of the highway.

The Consejo said that there still were 37 routes that were closed because of flooding or landslides. Some 61 more were restricted in some way, usually to one lane.
The Consejo said that telephone lines still were being attended to help motorists learn about closed roads. The numbers are 2202-5567 and 2202-5577. They are in service form 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., the Consejo said.

President Laura Chinchilla will be attending today a special meeting of Central American presidents to evaluate the damage from the two weeks of heavy rains. The session is in El Salvador.

The Central American states to the north suffered more from the storms than did Costa Rica. The hurricane still is near Honduras.

The storm is headed toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and the tourist spots there.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says readings obtained by an Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft show the storm reached minimal hurricane strength with 120 kph winds.

The center urged authorities in Belize and on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula to monitor the storm's progress, which is expected to become a major hurricane by late today.

The projected path shows Rina moving northwest and reaching the coast of the Yucatan peninsula by Friday.

The National Hurricane Center says the storm is expected to produce rainfall of up to 10 centimeters in the Cayman Islands to the east.

Readers pick five finalist names for tourism institute's sloth
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Readers have selected five names out of a semifinalist list for the nameless sloth that is the central figure in Costa Rica's North American promotion. They are:

Pokey, Slo Mo, Flash, Syd, Tico/Tico Feliz and Manuel/Manuel Antonio.

Readers now have the chance to vote for just one of these names. Those who wish to do so can send their selection to through Wednesday. The naming has no legal effect, but editors thought the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and its ad agency in Atlanta, Georgia, missed a good bet by not naming the animated critter that promoted the country.

The selection of the finalists brought a litany of new names. Not the least was Little Buddy, submitted by Jennifer Rice of Kids Saving the Rainforest on behalf of her mother who is in New York. Ms. Rice said that Little Buddy was the name of the first sloth the central pacific organization rehabilitated and released in 2000.

Barry N. Leon of Atenas suggested relámpago because the word rolls off the tongue and is ironic because a sloth is something less than lightning.

Daniel M. Sheridan of Tamarindo suggested Bradley from Bradypodidae family category in which scientists place the three-toed sloth.

There were dozens of others that were similarly creative. However, the new entries were not on the semifinalist list, so they did not attract other votes.

Other strong finishers were Oscar, Smiley the Sloth, Paco and I.C.E. This last name dripped with sarcasm because the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad frequently
Mr. Sloth
Instituto Costarricense de Turismo graphic

Will he be
           Slo Mo,
           Tico/Tico Feliz or 
           Manuel/Manuel Antonio?

is considered painfully slow in handling utilities. One woman was unsure about that name. No one likes I.C.E., but everyone loves the sloth, she said.

Other names that found favor were Maksamillion deSloth, Señor Domilion and Stretch.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 211

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Some of Cameron's party
vote to dump European Union

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Britain's parliament has soundly rejected a motion to hold a referendum on whether it should stay in the European Union, but a large block of the prime minister's own party rebelled against him by voting yes.

Prime Minister David Cameron urged the parliamentarians to vote no. His Conservative Party leaders say the EU is in a debt crisis, and the British economy is shaky. They say a referendum would create more economic uncertainty.

But in a sign of party dissent and disunity, 80 Conservatives ignored Cameron and his threat of disciplinary action, and joined those voting for a referendum.

Supporters of the motion say Britain has already ceded too much power to the EU. They also say polls show many British citizens want to bail out of the EU or renegotiate Britain's membership.

With most votes counted
Ms. Fernández wins 53%

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has won a landslide re-election victory.

Ms. Fernández won 53 percent of the vote Sunday with most of the votes counted.  She was 36 percentage points ahead of her nearest of six rivals, the Socialist governor of Santa Fe province, Hermes Binner.

It is a bittersweet victory for Ms. Fernández whose husband, former president Nestor Kirchner, died of a heart attack a year ago this week.  Ms. Fernandez, who succeeded her husband in 2007, struggled to hold back her tears when she cast her ballot in his hometown of Rio Gallegos.

Political experts in Argentina say voter sympathy and Argentina's strong economy helped Ms. Fernández win re-election.

President Fernández said she feels very proud to be Argentine, especially when she looks at the rest of the world economy.

President Fernández is the first woman re-elected president in Latin America.

Venezuelan inmates release
some of their hostages

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan authorities say inmates holding more than 50 hostages at a prison in the central state of Carabobo have released some of their captives after authorities agreed to transfer prisoners to other facilities.

Prison officials say inmates at Tocuyito prison freed 25 prisoners on Sunday. But the officials say guards and prison workers are among the remaining hostages who have been held since Oct. 14.  News reports say the prisoners involved also are demanding improved conditions and the release of some inmates.

Violence has broken out in Venezuela's overcrowded prisons many times in recent years.  Human rights groups say that during the first three months of this year alone, more than 120 prisoners were killed in such incidents.

President Hugo Chavez's government has established a new ministry dedicated exclusively to prisons, and has allocated nearly $100 million to humanize conditions in the facilities.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 211

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Wikileaks will concentrate
on raising a legal war chest

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Wikileaks announced Monday that it has suspended publication in order to concentrate on fundraising to combat an ¨arbitrary and unlawful financial blockade.¨

Since Dec. 7, 2010, subscribers and advertisers have been blocked from paying for their subscriptions by Bank of America, Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and Western Union, Wikileaks said in a press release. And in February this year, U.S. media outlets revealed in detail that the Bank of America had commissioned, through Washington lawyers Hunton & Williams, a consortium of three U.S. intelligence contractors to propose a systematic U.S. $2 million a month multi-pronged attack to hack and smear WikiLeaks.

¨The blockade erects a wall between us and our supporters,¨ said Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, in a press release, ¨preventing them from affiliating with and defending the cause of their choice. It arbitrarily singles out an organization that has not committed any illegal act in any country and cuts it off from its financial lifeline in every country¨

Wikileaks announced that the blockade has cost tens of millions of pounds, 95 percent of its total revenue, in lost donations at a time of unprecedented operational costs.

¨If this financial attack stands unchallenged,¨ Assange said, ¨a dangerous, oppressive and undemocratic precedent will have been set, the implications of which go far beyond WikiLeaks and its work. Any organization that falls foul of powerful finance companies or their political allies can expect similar extrajudicial action.¨

In order to fight back against the blockade, Wikileaks has commenced pre-litigation action against the blockade in Iceland, Denmark, the UK, Brussels, the United States and Australia. They have also lodged an anti-trust complaint at the European Commission and expect a decision by mid-November as to whether the European Competition Authority will open a full investigation into the wrongdoing of VISA and MasterCard.

Assange is currently free on bail in Britain while trying to avoid being extradited to Sweden for questioning in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct. He has denied the allegations and says the extradition to Sweden is politically motivated. He has voiced fears that Sweden will turn him over to the United States to face charges in the release of the documents.

Tico drug agent honored
by international association

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has honored a Costa Rican drug agent as police officer of the year. But he is not being identified because the security ministry cited concern for security.

The U.S. Embassy identified the man as MT and said he had been nominated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency director in Costa Rica, Felipe Springer,

The officer is believed to have played a key role in several major international drug trafficking arrests.

The police chiefs' organization is the largest in the world and has members in 100 countries.

The Policía de Control de Drogas is part of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

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