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(506) 2223-1327           Published Monday, Nov. 21, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 230       Email us
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Limón witnessed a double header in cricket Sunday.  Liceo San Antonio played Roblealto Hogar Biblico of Heredia for the 2011 junior's cup and won 45-34, while the Escazú Corsairs in the first game of the adult season beat Limón 92 to 44. The games are played under the supervision of the Costa Rica Cricket Federation. Cricket, a game with British roots, has been played in Limón for 125 years, the federation notes. Participants said that some 32 junior teams competed for the championship throughout the year. Photo shows a San Antonio player hitting the winning run during the junior championship game.

Proposed casino bill won't require checks of owners
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative committee has approved and passed to the full Asamblea Legislativa a bill that would tax casinos and gambling call centers, but the redrafted measure avoids regulations of ownership and employees.

The bill restricts casinos to four- or five-star hotels although free-standing casinos and casinos now in three-star hotels are grandfathered into the law.

The bill would assess a monthly fee for each gambling table and slot machine on the casino premises. The rates vary depending on the daily hours of operation.

Casinos originally were considered a lure to attract tourists, but Costa Ricans make up the bulk of those who gamble, based on observations at Central Valley casinos. Still, the proposed law allocates the number of gambling tables to the number of rooms in the adjacent hotel. A hotel with 60 rooms can have 10 gaming tables and 60 slot machines, according to the proposed law. For each additional 10 guest rooms, a casino operator can install one additional gambling table and 10 more slot machines up to a total of 400.

Casinos that are operating 10 hours or less would pay $300 a month for each gambling table and $40 for each slot machine.

For casinos that are open more than 10 hours, the monthly tax is $500 for each gaming table and $80 for each slot machine.

Betting call centers are assessed an annual tax based on the number of employees. Up to 20 employees, the tax is $50,000. From 21 to 60 employees, the
tax is $75,000. From 61 to 100, the tax is $100,000. Call centers with more than 100 employees would pay $150,000.

The money collected from these taxes would not be used to defray the growing national deficit. All money goes to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, according to the text.

The text was revised in committee, and rules to require police checks on casino owners or employees have been eliminated. The original drafts proposed a system of licensing for casino workers.

The new draft continues the rule that casinos cannot open before 1 p.m. and must close by 5 a.m. The draft also eliminated a proposal to tax each gambling bet.

The new taxes would seem to be in addition to the usual income tax required of all Costa Rican corporations.  The new draft does not say if the monthly taxes are deductible.

The draft exempts the national lotteries run by the Junta de Protección Social, raffles and similar run by the Cruz Roja and other organizations that run gambling for charitable purposes.

The new draft also warns casino operators that they are subject to anti-drug, money laundering and terrorism financing laws and requires anyone connected with casinos or call centers to report any suspicious activity.

The draft law will be scheduled for debate if it is put on the agenda for the full legislature. The draft came from the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios, the same entity that also sent a new value-added tax proposal to the legislature.

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Business chamber expresses
concern over tax proposal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's business chamber said that its officials believe that a legislative committee acted prematurely in closing hearings on a new tax bill and sending it to the full legislature.

The Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios did that with votes from the partidos Liberación Nacional, Acción Ciudadana and Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión. 

The chamber said in a release Friday that many issues have not been settled. Among these is the way taxes will be applied to the tourism sector.

Fernando Herrero Acosta, the finance minister, said in an earlier meeting of the committee, that tourism would get special benefits under the proposed tax law. But the chamber, the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, said that tourism appears to be neglected in the text.

In addition, the chamber expressed concern that although public transport is supposed to be exempted from the tax, the imposition of the 14 percent value-added tax on fuel and other transport expenses will result in higher fares.

The business chamber also said that the committee lacked clarity in efforts to apply taxes to the free zones. Companies located there on the promise of tax-free operations for export. The latest draft of the tax bill will assess a 15 percent tax on money remitted to foreign parent companies in 2015 and later. The bill also would allow municipalities to tax the operations.

The chamber also expressed concern about the imposition of the value added tax on bank commissions on automatic teller withdrawals and for credit card transactions.

Correos de Costa Rica
collecting for postal boxes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Correos de Costa Rica S.A., the nation's postal service, has begun collecting the annual premium for postal boxes.

Box holders can pay the annual rent through January without additional charge. However, as of Feb. 1, the rate goes up 50 percent. Box holders who do not pay by March can lose the service. The fee is 10,000 colons or about $20.

Many expats and businesses use postal boxes because street delivery is chancy.

The postal service also said that there are post boxes or  apartados postales available now at most of its locations.

Escazú expat received
final farewell tonight

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Escazú resident Bret Porter died Saturday while en route to a hospital. He was retired in Costa Rica and a member of American Legion Post 10.

He is survived here by his wife, Marjorie Stanfield, a teacher at Country Day School in Escazú. She has invited friends for a celebration of her husband's life at 6 p.m. today at the family home in Los Laureles in Escazú. Directions are available by calling 8870-6756.

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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High court leak injects life into open pit mine opposition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Allegations that a magistrate slipped the draft of an appeals decision to the developers of an open pit gold mine have galvanized the opposition.

A.M. Costa Rica/Zack McDonald
Sign at a rally Friday is critical of both the Canadian mining firm and corrupt magistrates
Opponents of the project gathered Friday at the Corte Suprema de Justicia. They plan to gather again today at the San Pedro traffic circle at 4 p.m. And they are planning a march from the Plaza de la Cultura to the supreme court building Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

A the legislature, lawmakers voted to discuss the case, and members of opposing political parties agree that the implications of the leak damage the perceived independence of the supreme court.

José María Villalta Florez-Estrada of Frente Amplio called for more research on future candidates for replacement magistrates.  Luis Gerardo Villanueva Monge, the legislative leader of the Partido Liberacón Nacional, said he was concerned that one side in a legal case should have an advantage.

Opponents have different reasons to oppose the proposed mine at Cutris de San Carlos. Environmentalists worry that the use of cyanide to leach the gold from rocks might pollute the Río San Juan just three kilometers away.

Former president Óscar Arias Sánchez supported the mine project, so his opponents are siding against the mine. In addition there is a touch of xenophobia because some Costa Ricans object that the estimated million ounces of gold will be mined by the subsidiary of a Canadian firm.

The subsidiary is Industrias Infinito S.A.

The Poder Judicial said that the nation's chief prosecutor had summoned a former Sala Primera magistrate to appear to give statement.

The former magistrate is Moisés Fachler, a politically connected lawyer. He denies that he is the person who leaked the document. A former employee of Industrias Infinito S.A. was the whistleblower in the case, but he did not name the magistrate in public. The former employee said he was at a meeting when a magistrate turned over three copies of the decision draft.

The Poder Judicial characterized Fachler as a suspect in an investigation of divulging secrets and of failing to do his duties. Both are criminal allegations. Fachler quit as a replacement magistrate Monday.

Foreign ministry preparing for Round Two on Isla Portillos
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country will begin presenting its case against Nicaragua two weeks from today at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands.

The new foreign minister, Enrique Castillo, has inherited the job of overseeing preparation of the case. He was quoted by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto as saying the preparation has been extensive with a great number of proofs.

In addition, Costa Rica will document what it says were the violations by Nicaragua of temporary measures ordered by the international court.

The case revolves around the incursion by Nicaraguan
 troops and workmen into the remote northeastern part of the county. Costa Rica plans to stress the environmental damage done at Isla Portillos and the potential damage due to the efforts to construct a new channel for the Río San Juan by Nicaraguan workmen and a dredge.

Some of the Costa Rican legal team already have left for The Hague.

The incursion of the Costa Rican territory took place in October 2010. Subsequently, the international court ordered both countries to vacate the disputed area and gave Costa Rica the responsibility of taking action to prevent more environmental damage.

Still young members of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's Sandinista party invaded the island.

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Expat returns to Guápiles home to find wife and daughter dead
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The wife of a Los Angeles man killed her 5-year-old daughter and then hung herself in the family home in El Prado de Guápiles Friday night or early Saturday, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The husband, Kevin Hayes, discovered the murder and suicide when he returned home early Saturday, judicial police said.

On his Facebook page, the father identified the daughter as  Fergie Stacy Hayes and his wife as Yuritza Junieth Flores. She was 24.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the girl had a  plastic bag wrapped around her head, but that the cause of 
death would not be known until the results of an autopsy are provided.

The body of the girl was in the principal bedroom, while the mother was in the bathroom, judicial police said. Cruz Roja workers said that when they arrived there were no signs of life.

According to a business Web page, Hayes works or worked in Los Angeles under the name of the Tax Doctor preparing federal income tax filings.

Shortly before 8 a.m. Hayes posted on his Web site the message, "I am so sorry to say my wife and baby passed away. God help me!" The Facebook page included photos of his wife and the daughter, including one when they visited Quepos two months ago.

Trucker needed more bananas
to cover a load of canned tuna

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía de Fronteras reported that officers intercepted a cargo of canned tuna that was hidden under bananas.

The encounter with a San José-bound truck and driver took place in Tuba Creek, Limón province.  Police reported that they found  2,592 cans of tuna hidden under the bananas.
They said they presume that the canned tuna came from Panamá because the driver, identified by the last names of  Miranda Calero, was unable to produce paperwork to show that they had been imported legally.

The frontier police have been maintaining a checkpoint along the main highway from Panamá, through Sixaola to Limón Centro. The checkpoint is mainly to stop illegal drugs, but Panamá is a major source of untaxed goods that are smuggling into Costa Rica.

tuna and bananas
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
The plastic-wrapped flats of tuna could be seen easily through the layer of bananas.

Trans-Atlantic boat race winner sets new course record
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Virbac-Paprec 3, as expected, arrived in Limón early Friday, completing the trans-Atlantic sailboat race first out of the field of competitors and breaking the standing record.

The two-man crew of Jean-Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou sailed for precisely 15 days, 18 hours and 15 minutes from the Le Havre, France, to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, a distance of more than 4,000 miles. They beat the previous course record set in 2009 by just more than one hour.

It is the third time Dick has won the trans-Atlantic race. His team finished as the overall winners as well as the first in their
 class of racing boats, defined by the International Monohull Open Class Association.

But boats continued to filter in during the weekend, their crews competing for first place positions in their respective categories. Sunday the first multi-hull boat, Actual, arrived to take the top spot in its much diminished field which began with six boats and finished with only two due to inclement weather in the early stages which forced many to leave the race.

As racers docked in Limón, they were awaited by festival-goers attending the Wa’apin gathering, which showcased Caribbean arts, crafts, music, food and culture. 

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Spanish voters give
conservatives a landslide

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new conservative government will take power in Spain after the center-right Popular Party beat the ruling Socialists by a landslide in Sunday's parliamentary election.

With most of the votes counted, the Popular Party, led by incoming prime minister Mariano Rajoy, is projected to take 187 seats, a 33 seat gain.

The Socialists will control 110 seats, a big 59-seat drop.

Rajoy ran against Socialist candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero decided not to seek a third term because of low approval ratings. 

Spain's economic crisis dominated the election. The country is fighting to avoid slipping back into recession for the second time in two years. Unemployment is close to 22 percent, the highest in the European Union.  Spain's economic growth rate ground to a halt in the third quarter of the year after growing only a tiny 0.2 during the previous three months.

Voters blame the Socialists for failing to act swiftly to prevent the slide in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy. They are also angry over job and salary cuts.

Along with Italy, Spain is considered too big a country to bail out the way the European Union and the International Monetary Fund helped Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

Mr. Zapatero's government liberalized the traditionally Roman Catholic country by introducing reforms such as gay marriage. But he is seen as having been slow to react to Spain's financial crisis and the bursting housing bubble.

U.S. representatives reject
balanced budget amendment

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. House of Representatives has rejected legislation to force Congress to balance its budget, the latest development as lawmakers look for ways to cut spending.

Friday's vote of 261 for and 165 against failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed for passage. The measure, pushed by majority Republicans, would have amended the U.S. Constitution to require that Congress not spend more than it receives in any given fiscal year.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan committee is scrambling to identify budget cuts ahead of a key deadline next week.

The 12-member, congressional supercommittee has until midnight on Wednesday to cut $1.2 trillion in federal spending over the next decade or risk massive automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs beginning in January 2013. Congressional aides say the committee is making little progress on a comprehensive deal to reduce the deficit.

Haiti's president plans
to reconstitute military

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haitian President Michel Martelly says his government is moving forward with a plan to reconstitute the nation's military.

Martelly made the announcement Friday in the capital, Port-au-Prince, during a ceremony commemorating Armed Forces Day. He said the government will put together a commission to develop a plan to restore the military, which was disbanded in 1995.

Haiti's international backers, including the United States, have opposed the idea of resurrecting the military.

U.S. special coordinator for Haiti, Tom Adams, has said Haiti would be better off investing in its police force than rebuilding the military, which had a history of human rights abuses and participation in coups.

Haiti's Armed Forces Day is the anniversary of Haiti's last battle in the war for independence from France.

Brazil sets up commission
to explore military crimes

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has signed a law establishing a truth commission to deal with human rights abuses during the country's two-decade military dictatorship.

Ms. Rousseff signed the measure Friday, along with a law granting public access to documents and records from the dictatorship era, 1964 to 1985. Hundreds of people are believed to have been killed or disappeared during that time.

The U. N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, praised the move as an essential and welcome first step toward healing the country's wounds. She said bringing testimonies to light about abuses during that time will lay the groundwork for accountability for those responsible.

Unlike its South American neighbors Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, which also suffered under years of dictatorship, Brazil has not put on trial any individuals accused of human rights abuses. 

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U.S. makes donations
to six organizations here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. government has donated nearly $900,000 to non-governmental organizations here for the benefit of youngsters.

The organizations are FundaVida, Acción Joven, Niños sin Fronteras, Club Sport La Libertad and Boy with a Ball. The funds are part of the Central American Regional Security Initiative. The money will allow these organizations to continue their work with disadvantaged youngsters in Limón, Pavas, Concepción de Alajuelita, Linda Vista de Patarrá and León XIII, among others, said a release from the U.S. Embassy.

The organizations have developed programs to reduce school dropouts, to prevent violence, to reduce the consumption of drugs and to promote cultural values, said the embassy.

The Instituto Costarricense de Administración de Empresas  also received money for what the embassy said was involving regional partners of the private sector and civil society in the creation and implementation of policies and strategies to prevent and combat insecurity in Central America.

The institute is best known by its initials INCAE. The embassy said the institute got $100,000 to set up three forums on insecurity.

Boy with a Ball got $150,000. The group says it is a unique grassroots organization whose mission is to build and send out teams to reach young people and their families, drawing them into mentoring relationships and small group communities from which they can be equipped not only to thrive, but then turn and reach others.

The organization now works in Triángulo de la Solidaridad and will expand into Los Cuardos.

Acción Joven received $200,000. The organization works in the province of Limón and is developing a program to prevent dropouts at the Liceo Nuevo de Pacuare.

Niños sin Fronteras got $200,000 for its work in León XIII to develop young entrepreneurs, a computer center, a study area, recreation, a health center and the development of small businesses, the embassy said.

Club Sport La Libertad in Pavas received $78,716 for its after-school programs of soccer, baseball, karate. The organization also provides tutoring, social work and psychiatric help for youngsters in need, the embassy said.

FundaVida, which received $150,000, works in the communities of  25 de Julio, Linda Vista de Patarrá y Concepción de Alajuelita and operates an educational program that includes a computer center and a bilingual program.

Store operator murdered

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A robber murdered a 70-year-old store owner Saturday in Barrio México, San José.

Four youngsters seeking to purchase food about 5 p.m. found the man, identified by the last name of Solís, in his Mazatlan pulpería or small store. The man was on the floor of the bathroom with a knife wound in the neck.

The location is Avenida 3 at Calle 24, and the store is well known because it is a landmark for motorists traveling through Barrio México on the northern route out of San José to points west.

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