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These stories were published Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 219
Jo Stuart
About us
Pensionado-rentista proposal
Residents would have to have much more dough
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new residency law would give tax breaks to foreigners living here but require them to show they had income five or six times what is mandated now.

Rentistas and pensionados would be able to bring in household goods and a car without paying taxes. This is similar to provisions that existed in the law until 1992.

Rentistas would have to show monthly income of $6,000 instead of the current $1,000. And pensionados would have to show they had a pension of at least $3,000 a month. Now the pension must be at least $600 monthly.

The proposed law, Nº 15.432, also would establish minimum age limits for pensionados (55 years) and for rentistas (45 years). There are no age limits now. Disabled persons would be exempt from age limits, as would family members.

The proposal came to public view when it was published Oct. 28 in the Gaceta, the official government newspaper. The law carried the notation that it passed a review by the Comisión Permanente de Gobierno y Administración. This is the same committee that is considering a massive rewrite of the immigration laws. One criticism of the proposed immigration law was that it did not contain a provision for rentista status. 

Ryan Piercy, manager of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, said that his organization finds a lot good in the pensionado-rentista law, including the tax breaks. However, he said the association would lobby to reduce the monthly income that would be required of persons holding either types of residency.  He said $3,000 and $6,000 a month was too much.

Monthly income requirement

Piercy said he understood that the proposal hadthe backing of the administration. His association has lawyers on contract and guides many foreigners through the residency process.

When the administration presented its new immigration law, the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública publicized the project extensively. By contract, this is the first public mention of the pensionado-rentista law. The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería is part of the ministry.

Under current law, anyone can obtain rentista status by showing that they have $60,000 in a Costa Rican or foreign bank. They cannot work here and are required to bring $12,000 a year into the country. Pensionados must have a valid and recognized pension. The rentista category is subject to abuse by persons who can simply buy a temporary residency, officials complain.

A preface to the proposed law said that 10,260 persons had taken advantage of pensionado and rentista status since the law was passed in 1971. Since the tax breaks were eliminated new residents moving here can pay $3,000 or more import taxes on personal belonging, and imported automobiles carry a tax of up to 89 percent depending on the age.

Meanwhile, Piercy continues to try to resolve a separate immigration problem. Officials have challenged the way a lawyer for the association and several other lawyers elsewhere have validated immigration documents. The challenge has put a number of foreign residents in limbo.

Investigation sought of ill-timed European trips
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Libertarians in the national congress are questioning trips to Europe taken by telecommunication officials because the itinerary coincided with that taken by a representative of Ericsson de Costa Rica.

The company is involved in seeking a contract for 600,000 more cellular lines for some $130 million, according to lawmaker Carlos Herrera.

Herrera asked that the Consejo de Gobierno investigate the case. Fellow party member Federico Malavassi is seeking an internal investigation by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE.

Hernando Pantigoso de la Peña, a director of Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the Internet agency, was authorized to go to a telecom conference Oct. 10 to 19 in Geneva, said Herrera.

Alvaro Retana, an ICE official, and José Antonio Lobo, a member of the ICE board, were authorized to go to a similar conference, also in Geneva but from Oct. 12 to 18, said Herrera in a statement.

But the lawmaker said that the trio modified their itinerary so that they could go to the Czech Republic, France and Spain at the same time and on the same flights as those taken by Ricardo Taylor, an Ericsson employee. A chart the lawmaker released showed all four persons leaving San José Oct. 10.

Herrera wants to know who paid for the addition air miles and the additional hotel rooms, and he wants to know why the three Costa Rican officials went to countries that had no relation with the reason they were in Europe. The Movimiento Libertario deputy pointed out that officials are not allowed to take gifts particularly when a major bidding process is under way.

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Digital legal paper
gets student edition

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

No official document is really official until it is published in La Gaceta, the stapled daily legal newspaper produced for that purpose.

Now La Gaceta has gone digital at www.lagaceta.go.cr, and citizens can search for their favorite law or bidding notice without leaving their computers. That was the word Tuesday from Belisario Solano, vice minister of Gobernación. The printed version has become more dynamic, too, with more photos on the front page.

Next Tuesday, said Solano, the son of La Gaceta will be born. That is La Gaceta Estudiantil. The daily government paper will be edited down for the benefit of  high-school-level students. However, the student version will come out monthly.

Sweeps in two places
round up illegals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration police grabbed 82 foreigners they said were in the country illegally in a series of sweeps in Puntarenas and Sarapiquí. Of these, nine were deported immediately.

Document checks were carried out in Cuatro Cruces de Montes de Oro, Chomes and El Cocal, all Puntarenas, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. Some 51 of those detained were Nicaraguan, but one person was a U.S. citizen, the ministry said.

The 26 persons detained in Sarapiquí were Nicaraguan, said the Policía Especial de Migración.

Officials coupled the announcement with a suggestion that foreigners carry documentation at all times.

Bandits hold woman
and clean accounts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bandits smashed into the rear of a car driven by an Escazú woman Monday and grabbed her when she got out to inspect the damage. They then held her hostage into the night while accomplices used her bank cards and pin number to plunder her accounts.

The woman finally we let go but the bandits incinerated her card to hide clues. Investigators think the bandits are South Americans.

Airline agreement
has higher liabilities

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A 1999 convention imposing stricter liability rules on airlines for death and injury to passengers has become effective, the U.S. State Department says.

In a media note Tuesday the department said the United States, which ratified what is called the Montreal Convention Sept. 5, is encouraging other countries to join.

The convention not only eliminates liability limits for death and injury but also clarifies the joint liability in operations, in which two airlines from different countries each operate a different segment of a single ticketed international flight.

The agreement also allows lawsuits in cases of passenger death or injury to be brought in the courts of the passenger's "principal and permanent residence" where the carrier has a commercial presence in that state, which will in almost all cases ensure that U.S. citizens and permanent residents can bring an action in U.S. courts.

U.N. resolution
on Cuba criticized

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States administration voiced strong exception to what it calls a "misguided" resolution passed Tuesday by the United Nations General Assembly calling for the end to the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

Sichan Siv, U.S. permanent representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, said in a statement delivered mostly in Spanish that the embargo has been kept in place by successive U.S. administrations in order to maintain pressure to restore freedom and democracy on the Communist-ruled island.

Siv said Havana has shown "no interest whatsoever" in implementing the necessary economic and political reforms in exchange for the United States relaxing the embargo. The regime of Cuba's Fidel Castro, added Siv, has "steadfastly refused" to allow any kind of political opening and continues to deny the Cuban people the most basic of human rights.

Siv said that the Castro regime's "failed economic policies"— not the U.S. embargo — have impoverished Cubans and "destroyed what once was one of the most advanced economies in the region."

Famed Brazilian writer
Rachel de Queiroz, dies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Brazilian writer and playwright Rachel de Queiroz, 92, has died here.

Ms. de Queiroz was born in the northeast state of Ceara in 1910. She went on to publish more than 30 books, from novels to collections of articles. She also won numerous awards, including Brazil's prestigious Machado de Assis Prize in 1957. 

In 1977, Ms. de Queiroz was honored as the first woman to enter the all-male Brazilian Academy of Letters. 

Ms. de Queiroz's sister said the writer died in her sleep of a heart ailment.  She will be buried Wednesday alongside her late husband, Dr. Oyama de Macedo, at the Sao Joao Batista Cemetery. 

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Being refused entry to U.S. was just the beginning
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rica who was refused entry into the United States has a bigger problem now that he is back home. The man, identified by the last names of Bermúdez Delgado, is 22. He went to Houston, Texas, Saturday but U.S. inspectors there said that his entry papers were not in order.

The problem was that he did not bring his suitcase back with him. When the black suitcase arrived at Juan Santamaría Airport Monday, Policía de Control de Drogas looked it over. 

They said they found a double bottom and some three kilos (6.6 pounds) of heroin hidden there.

Police did not say if             they were tipped by U.S. authorities about the suitcase. They arrested the would-be traveler also Monday.

Officials said that the anti-drug police have 

Ministerio de Seguridad Pública photo
Agents cluster around a suitcase that was found to contain what police said was heroin.

confiscated 86 kilos of heroin already this year. The drugs, 189 pounds, stem from 11 different cases.

CBS sidetracks TV movie about Ronald Reagan
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A major U.S. television network has decided not to air a controversial biographical movie about former President Ronald Reagan after criticism from the Republican Party and political conservatives. 

CBS television had planned to air the movie about Ronald and Nancy Reagan later this month. 

But after complaints from the chairman of the Republican Party and conservative groups about how the former president is portrayed in the film, CBS has decided to broadcast it instead on the cable network Showtime, which has a much smaller audience. CBS and Showtime are both owned by the media giant Viacom. 

Chris Ender, a CBS vice president, said "although the mini-series features impressive production values and acting performances and although the producers have sources to verify each scene in the script, we believe it does not present a balanced portrayal of the Reagan's for CBS and its audience." 

Reagan loyalists and conservative talk radio hosts objected to the film's portrayal of the former president. They alleged that several bits of dialogue were fabricated including one scene in which Reagan is depicted as insensitive to the plight of people suffering from AIDS. 

Ed Rollins, a veteran of several Reagan political 

campaigns, said "the made-up dialogue between the president and the first lady was totally inaccurate. Certainly, the reference to the president not being sensitive to AIDS. He was extremely sensitive. He had many friends that were gay in the movie community and was in the forefront early on of pushing AIDS research." 

Ronald Reagan served as president from 1981 until 1989. The 92-year old former president has been in seclusion in recent years suffering from Alzheimer's disease. One of his sons, Michael Reagan, a conservative radio talk show host, says he saw some of the finished film and objected to the portrayal. 

Washington Post television critic Tom Shales says much of the American public still holds Ronald Reagan in high regard and is sensitive to his illness. "To come along with an anti-Reagan movie at this time, at this juncture, was in the worst possible taste and just very unintelligent," he said. 

Others questioned the decision by CBS not to air the Reagan movie. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle was asked for his reaction at the U.S. Capitol. "It smells of intimidation to me. It sounds to me like they were intimidated into making decisions that reversed earlier ones and I am disappointed," he said. 

The Reagan film stars actor James Brolin as the former president. He is married to singer and actress Barbra Streisand, who is active in Democratic Party politics and fundraising. 

México's Fox mending fences in U.S. border states
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican President Vicente Fox spends the rest of this week visiting U.S. states that border his country. He is attempting to promote trade and a possible immigration accord with the United States. However, Fox says he is willing to move slowly and cautiously in promoting an agreement with the United States.

Speaking to foreign reporters on the eve of his trip, President Fox said the primary purpose of the visit to the U.S. border states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona is to promote commerce and better relations. He said immigration would also be an issue on the agenda. 

Fox said he will not be going to the U.S. border states with any concrete proposals on immigration because it is an issue that must be discussed at the federal level. He also cautioned against raising any expectations over an accord, saying that his government intends to work with Washington in the months ahead in the hopes of making progress on the issue.

The immigration issue has been a priority for Fox since he took office in December 2000. The estimated four million Mexicans who reside illegally in the United States, along with millions more who have legal status, sent back around $12 billion to families back home last year. 

These remittances surpass all but the petroleum industry as a source of foreign exchange for Mexico. Immigration advocates say the workers perform tasks most U.S. workers will not do and thereby contribute to the U.S. economy. Their presence north of the border also takes pressure off Mexico, which has failed to produce enough jobs to meet the demands of a growing population.

Fox said he would like an agreement to provide some form of legal standing for undocumented Mexican workers who are already in the United States and the establishment of a mechanism to promote a normal flow of migrant workers back and forth across the border. The Mexican leader indicated that after meeting with President Bush at the recent meeting of Asian and Pacific leaders in Thailand, he feels optimistic that talks on the immigration theme will move forward.

During his trip this week, Fox said he would discuss the matter of human rights with officials in the border states where there have been some reports of mistreatment of migrants. He also said his country is working to improve the human rights situation for Central American migrants who cross into Mexico in an effort to go north to the U.S.

He said he has invited all the nations in Central America to open consulates in southern Mexico, near the Guatemalan border, so that they can better monitor the treatment of their citizens.

Powell urges Nicaragua to destroy its missiles
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Secretary of State Colin Powell has completed a two-day Central American trip that included stops in Panamá, Nicaragua and Honduras. The State Department says Powell obtained a commitment in principle from the Nicaraguan government to destroy a large stockpile of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. 

The acquisition by terrorist groups of the so-called MANPADS, or man-portable air-defense systems, is a major concern for the Bush administration. And it has apparently scored an advance in its anti-proliferation efforts during Powell's talks in Managua late Monday and Tuesday.

Nicaragua has a stockpile of nearly 2,000 Soviet-made anti-aircraft missiles left over from the leftwing Sandinista government of the 1980s. 

According to State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, Powell obtained a promise that the weapons will be destroyed. That came during his talks with Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolaños and other top officials.

"We heard a strong commitment from the president, the defense minister and chief of army of Nicaragua to begin destroying their MANPADS," said spokesman Ereli. "The Nicaraguan government is working on a plan for that destruction. We expect to hear from them in a month or so on that plan. And the secretary urged them to carry out the destruction as soon as possible."

At a joint news conference with Powell late Monday, President Bolaños said he considered the stockpile of the aging weapons a risk to life and to Nicaragua's international reputation. 

But at the event, he stopped short of a flat commitment to eliminate the weapons, saying they should be destroyed as part of a regional balance of forces agreement with other Central American states.

Powell began the brief Central America trip Monday by attending celebrations in Panamá of that country's 100th anniversary of independence.

He concluded it with a five-hour visit to Honduras Tuesday and talks with President Ricardo Maduro.

In a joint press event in Tegucigalpa, the secretary thanked the Honduran leader for his commitment of 370 troops to peacekeeping in Iraq, and praised his economic reform program, which he said could lead to stepped-up U.S. aid under the Bush administration's Millennium Challenge program.

He also said he was hopeful that a free-trade agreement between the United States and Central America can be concluded by the end of the year. 

There is heavy opposition to the free-trade deal in Honduras and about 50 demonstrators protesting the pending accord and International Monetary Fund restrictions chanted loudly as Powell and the Honduran leader spoke to reporters.

Britain's Brown expresses his concern over draft EU constitution
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Britain says the proposed European Union constitution could undermine economic policy control for each country's government. The issue is under discussion as European finance ministers meet here.

British Finance Minister Gordon Brown says he is worried that the draft EU constitution would strip member states of the ability to make key economic decisions. Brown told British radio he will raise the issue with European colleagues.

"I think it is very important that in the new constitution we rule out both tax harmonization and the idea of a federal fiscal policy, because it bears no relationship to the needs of Europe facing global competition," the finance minister said. 

Brown said European countries will lose money and jobs to international competitors if the proposed constitution is not changed, particularly in the area of taxation.

"If we are not flexible, if we are not open, if we are not outward looking, if we are not reforming, and therefore if we are not explicit in ruling out measures that are inflexible such as I am mentioning today," said Brown, "then I believe that the global Europe that we are having to deal with will not be able to withstand the global competition, and therefore we will still have the low growth, the low productivity, and of course the high unemployment, 14 million unemployed, that Europe has today." 

Brown's comments are likely to be seized upon by the opposition Conservative party, which is generally skeptical of Britain developing stronger ties with the European Union. 

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has ruled out the Conservatives' demand that the constitution, when finished, be voted on by the British public in a referendum. Blair wants the constitution ratified in Parliament, where his Labor party holds a big majority. EU officials want the new constitution to take effect in 2006. 

Jo Stuart
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