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(506) 2223-1327           Published Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 225       Email us
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Tourism chamber says new tax would be big blow
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national tourism chamber finally has come out with a negative opinion on the proposed tax package. The organization, the Cámara Nacional de Turismo, said that the proposed 14 percent value added tax would be a heavy blow to tourism wholesalers who make international deals two years in advance. They would have to eat the tax, the chamber said.

In addition, by taxing services like car rentals, tour operators and guides the country runs the risk of being uncompetitive with other tourism destinations, the chamber said.

Fernando Herrero, the minister of Hacienda who is pushing the tax plan through the Asamblea Legislativa, gave an off-hand comment a week ago in which he said tourism operators would not face the new tax. But so far there has been no additional information or changes to reflect this view in the proposed tax bill.

The chamber said it would come up with a
proposal of its own to present to central government officials

“The official planning of this bill assumes and supposes that the final consumer, who in our case is the national and international tourist, would be disposed to assume an increase in the prices that the tourism sector would carry with the value-added tax, which is not certain.” said Juan Carlos Ramos, president of the chamber, adding:

“In an industry so competitive and feeling the effects of the 2008 economic recession, the increases are very risky for which the providers, especially those at the end of the tax chain, will have to absorb the cost of the increase . . . .“

Costa Rica is listed as an expensive destination, said the chamber, adding that increases in prices via the new tax may cause travelers to visit other countries.

Many of the tourism operators are small businesses that cannot withstand a strong economic blow, said the chamber.


Administration to soften real estate transfer tax plan
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Presidencial has agreed to keep the current 1.5 percent property transfer tax for transactions involving homes selling for 78 million colons or less.

That was a deal reached Friday with the Cámara Costarricense de Construcción, which complained about the impact of the proposed fiscal package on its industry. The threshold is a bit more than $150,000.

The construction chamber complained about the proposal to double the property transfer tax from the existing 1.5 percent to 3 percent.

The adjustment in the bill was one of many as Casa Presidencial played “Let's Make a Deal” with various economic sectors. Central government officials also cut a special deal for farmers. A preferential 2 percent tax, instead of a 14 percent value-added tax, was proposed for material and goods required to grow products that are in the basic basket of foods.

The Friday night accord, which already has received the blessing of some lawmakers, sets up a 2 percent tax for sowing, harvesting, gathering, fumigating, fertilizing and transporting agricultural products.  Also exempt are wheat, soybeans, palm oil and derivatives used in animal feed. And there will be what appears to be a tax rebate on exported agricultural products.
Meanwhile at the legislature, members of a special committee considering the proposal agreed to tax-free purchases of ambulances by fire fighters, the Cruz Roja and the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

They also move to exempt from the 14 percent value-added tax purchases by state high education institutions. The committee also moved to exempt from taxes, the national lottery and other games of chance run by public agencies.

The agreement Friday with the construction chamber would phase in the value-added tax at 4 percent the first year, 3 percent the second year and 1 percent each year after that until the total of 14 percent was reached.

The taxes mainly affect services of engineers, architects, surveyors and other professionals.

Operators of construction projects that have approved plans or will have approval within three months after the passage of the tax law will not pay the value-added tax. Builders had argued that some estimates and contracts were signed without consideration of the new tax.

Still the construction chamber estimated that the new tax would add from 8 to 12 percent to the cost of a home or other building because professional services would become subject to the value-added tax.

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Belén seeks to survey
residents, promote Web site

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de Belén is basking in the prestige of having taken top spot for its municipal Web page for the third year in a row.

The municipality, which is west of San José, said it was honored by the Central American Institute of Business Administration, known as the INCAE Business School, for the Web page.

The municipality is embarking on an informal opinion polling via the Web page and its Facebook location. Officials have set up a team to consider responses from the public to produce a report, officials said. At the same time the municipality will bring a promotional campaign to direct residents to the Web site where routine business can be conducted digitally.


Telecom giant places
one of its own at RACSA


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad has named the director of its international telecom negotiations division to be the new manager of its subsidiary, Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the Internet provider. He is Orlando Cascante Moraga. He succeeds Alberto Bermúdez, who was described as holding the job on a temporary basis.

The appointment is seen as an effort to end the conflicts between the company known as RACSA and its telecom parent. The parent firm provides Internet service, too, and employees at RACSA have always thought that the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad would like to absorb it.


Environmentalists say plan
dead for gulf tuna farming


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An environmental group says that a plan to raise yellowfin tuna in cages in the Golfo Dulce has reached a dead end.

The organization, the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas said that the country's environmental agency said it no longer will consider a petition for the project.

Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A. worked for seven years to get approval of the plan. The idea was to install 80 cages in the gulf and stock them with young tuna. As they grow they would have been harvested for mainly foreign markets.

The shelving of the project request was by the Secretaria Tecnica National Ambiental in the Minsiterio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones.

The Secretaria Tecnica has granted permission in 2004 and again in 2008, but the proposal was attacked heavily by residents along the south Pacific coast and environmentalists.

 
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
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A.M. Costa Rica's
Third newspage
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 225
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Six hunters believe to have confronted Kimberley Blackwell
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of hunters confronted Kimberley Ann Blackwell on the day she was murdered. Investigators have detained one of the group because he is believed to be the only person who carried a rifle.

The woman suffered multiple injuries from what appears to have been a severe beating. But she also suffered a bullet wound.

The Poder Judicial Friday confirmed that prosecutors believe she was confronted by at least six hunters before her death. There was no explanation why other persons have not been detained, although agents from the Judicial Investigation Organization office in Ciudad Neily did bring in and question others before they detained the man now identified as the murder suspect.
All were targets of four raids Thursday by agents.

Prosecutors are expected to see preventative detention for the suspect, identified in A.M. Costa Rica's Friday story as Jorge Enrique Flores Rojas, 36.

The murder happened on property owned by Ms. Blackwell in San Miguel de Cañaza near Puerto Jiménez. The area is rural and near Parque Nacional Corcovado. Ms. Blackwell had a long-running feud with illegal hunters who crossed her land to reach the park.

The Poder Judicial said Friday that it was her conservationist attitude that was the motive for the killing.

Ms. Blackwell was known as the operator of Samaritan Xocolata, which produced high-end chocolate items from Costa Rican cocao.


New scandal clouds anticipated decision in Crucitas case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The proposal for an open pit gold mine in northern Costa Rica has taken a scandalous turn.

The Poder Judicial has confirmed that an investigation has been launched because someone appears to have leaked a draft of a decision in the case by the Sala Primera high court.

The Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo has annulled the agreement under which Industrias Infinito S.A. was to mine nearly a million ounces of gold. The project has been controversial since it was announced because of environmental concerns and, in part, because the parent company of the local firm is Canadian.

The essence of the draft was not made public, but prosecutors are investigating. Only a limited number of persons in the Corte Suprema de Justicia had access to the document.
This is the Crucitas mine case that was supported strongly by former president Óscar Arias Sánchez. The project ran into problems because in order to dig for the gold some protected trees will have to be felled.

The case already has been before the Sala IV, which basically gave the project the go ahead.

The Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo then faulted the process by which the government issued permits. The Sala Primera is hearing an appeal of that decision.

Infinito said that Crucitas is evironmentally, economically and socially viable for Costa Rica. The firm in a release lamented the fact that the project has been frozen for three years. The company noted that the formal complaint was filed by Anabelle León, president of Sala Primera.

The company said its parent firm was evaluating the impact of yet another delay and said that the firm was gathering information for a possible international arbitration.


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A.M. Costa Rica's
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renes law firm
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 225
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indignados
A.M. Costa Rica/Zack McDonald
A mandala, a Buddhist meditation aid, was the centerpiece of the gathering that attracted many unique characters.
Indignent ones gather again at the Plaza de la Cultura
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican indignados rallied at the Plaza de la Cultura Friday afternoon to call on their fellow countrymen to join their movement in condemning what is wrong with the country.

More than 200 people assembled at the plaza and formed a circle around a mandala shaped as a flower. The flower represented life, love, and Mother Earth. At one point a man sat across from the flower and played the didgeridoo while indignantes spoke about their reason for being an indignante. The indignados movement started in Spain in response to the citizen's disappointment in many political and economical problems facing the country. It's a worldwide movement that has reached Costa Rica. Participants have said they believe they are everyone, united for change. Most have different reasons for joining the movement, but they all have in common the want  for change in the country. They are not a spawn of the Occupy movement in the United States.
Some people wore masks from Anonymous, the feared international hacking group. One man wore a neon green full-body jumper suit with a hooded built-in mask. Another penned slogans on his body.

Some of the posters read “No es una crisis es una estafa” (It's not a crisis,it's a fraud), “Unidos por el cambio sin miedo” (united for change without fear),  “Calidad de vida para todos, Democracia real” (quality of life for all, real democracy) and “La Patria no se vende” (the country is not for sale).

Many gatherers sat on the floor making posters, writing in chalk on the cement ground, making jewelry, and cheering on the speakers.

Some of the reasons people said they were indignados are because of corrupt government, the mining, deforestation, killing of sharks, violence in Costa Rica, taxes, and the last election of Óscar Arias Sánchez. Friday was the informal group's second gathering.



Tourist police and workers
pitch in to clean small park


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A small park within sight of the Juan Santamaría airport control tower got a facelift Sunday.

Police officers and workers at nearby businesses swept the small park for trash, plastic bottles and other garbage.

The park can be the first place visitors see as they leave the airport, security ministry officials noted. This also is a location where sometimes horses can be seen being ridden by children as their parents enjoy a day off.

The Policía Turística took credit for setting up the clean-up project. Volunteers came from local hotels, including  Coconut House, Casa Tago and Villa Pacandé, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

park cleanup
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Jorge Alonso Alvarez V.
Some of the trash was buried in muck.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Death of Mexican official
delays parley by leaders


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The North American Leaders' Summit that was to be held in Hawaii Sunday has been cancelled due to the death of a Mexican minister.

Mexico's President Felipe Calderón was set to hold talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the two-day meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in Honolulu.

But Calderón cancelled after a helicopter crash Friday killed the interior minister, Francisco Blake Mora, and other Mexican government officials.

The three leaders were scheduled to discuss North American competitiveness, including spurring job creation, greater trilateral regulatory co-operation, and energy efficiency and climate change.

The cancellation of the North American summit could leave the Canadian leader without an opportunity to meet with President Obama on bilateral issues.

One of them is the U.S. government's decision to delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, intended to carry oil from northern Alberta in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.  The project has been criticized by U.S. environmentalists.

Canada and the U.S. are also looking to finalize the Beyond the Border initiative, a trade and security agreement designed to boost intelligence-sharing and prevent cross-border crime.

President Calderón and his wife were among the government officials who attended Mora's public funeral in Mexico City Saturday afternoon.


Police in Rio take over
notorious hillside slum


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian authorities say police have taken control of the largest slum in Rio de Janeiro, which has been occupied by drug traffickers for decades. 

Hundreds of police invaded the notorious Rocinha as well as the nearby Vidigal slums early Sunday.

The operation went off without any incidents or shots fired. Authorities had announced their planned takeover earlier in the week.

Rocinha, a sprawling hillside community of about 100,000 people, lies near some of Rio's richest neighborhoods. Its central location has made it one of the city's main drug distribution points.

Security forces have occupied 19 slums over the past three years as part of a police campaign to stabilize Rio's security before it hosts the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

Brazilian officials say more than 1.5 million people in Rio de Janeiro live in 1,000 slums spread across the city.


Major League player freed
in Venezuelan operation


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Major League Baseball player Wilson Ramos says he is thankful to be alive after being kidnapped in his home country of Venezuela.

Venezuelan police rescued the 24-year-old Washington Nationals catcher Friday, two days after armed men abducted him from outside his home in the city of Valencia. 

Ramos told the media the forces who freed him in an exchange of gunfire did a great job.

The athlete had not been seen or heard from since he was seized and taken away in a vehicle Wednesday night. He says his kidnappers held him in the mountains and told him little during the ordeal, but that he knew they were Colombian from their accents.

Venezuelan officials say at least three people have been detained in connection with the kidnapping. They say Ramos was found in the mountainous region of Montalban and that President Hugo Chávez ordered the airborne rescue operation.

The baseball star told Venezuela's Globovision television Saturday that his abductors had not harmed him physically, but had greatly hurt him psychologically. He said he would start playing baseball again as soon as he feels good. 

Ramos had recently returned to his homeland to play with his winter league team, the Aragua Tigers. 

Relatives of U.S. major league players have been kidnapped in Venezuela in recent years, but not players themselves.
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Latin America news
Violent Nicoya robbers get
three years, four months


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Six men who were convicted of eight violent robberies in the Nicoya area received prison terms of three years and four months each.

The sentence came in the Tribunal Penal de Santa Cruz. The men were identified by the last names of lanco Gutiérrez, Duarte Gómez, Sequeira Rodríguez, Navarro Ruíz, Arce Vargas and Díaz Gutiérrez. They were detained in October 2010 as police believed they were about to pull off another robbery in Santa Cruz. The men were described as being members of a gang calls Los Nijas.

When the men were detained, judicial agents and police found a number of weapons and ammunition.


Tourism report predicts
more U.S. European visits


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

United States tourists will gradually start visiting Europe in larger numbers despite the downward revision of the economic outlook in the United States, according to a report released last week by the United Nations agency promoting responsible and sustainable tourism.

The study, prepared by the U.N. World Tourism Organization and the European Travel Commission on U.S. outbound travel and presented at the World Travel Market event in London, points out that “although U.S. travelers to Europe tend to be more financially resilient than many, they are still keen on finding value for money at every turn.”

“Although the industry’s focus has turned towards emerging markets like the BRIC countries we should not forget Europe’s most significant market, the U.S.A.,” said Petra Hedorfer, the European Travel Commission president. The reference was to Brazil, Russia, India and China,

“In 2010, Europe attracted 11 million U.S. citizens, a figure expected to rise in the future. It is therefore our duty to strengthen Europe’s image as an exciting and dynamic destination in spite of economic turmoil and changing consumer interests.”

Taleb Rifai, the world tourism secretary general, said that with $75 billion in expenditure on travel abroad last year, the United States remains the world’s second most important source market for tourists.

“Europe, traditionally one of the preferred destinations for U.S. citizens, should remain well-informed of this market and identify emerging trends.






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