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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Nov. 26, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 234           E-mail us
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'Tis the season to fill out forms for the tax collector
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Can't figure out how to stay busy over the weekend?

Well, the tax form D-151 is due by Tuesday. That should keep most taxpayers here occupied.

In Costa Rica, tax eligible individuals and corporations have to report in detail their income and expenses on this form. This is done in advance of the income tax filing deadline of Dec. 15 for fiscal year 2009-2010.

Although the Web site of the Dirección General de Tributación only says that sales or purchases that total 2.5 million colons must be reported, there is a catch. There is a far lesser threshold for rents, interest, commissions and professional fees.

The 2.5 million colon limit is about $4,965. Many companies here keep their books in both colons and dollars. So purchases from one Costa Rican-based vendor or sales to one customer during the year that reach or exceed that amount have to be reported.

But the 50,000-colon limit is just $99.30 at the current rate of exchange.  So nearly all dental visits, legal consultations and medical appointments reach or exceed that limit.

Did you sell a couple of articles and photos to A.M. Costa Rica last fiscal year? If so, your name will be in the corporation report along with your identification number.

Get six or seven haircuts at a classy place? The barber has to be reported.

The tax rules only apply to those doing business here. Some tourism firms here have their affairs set up so they do all their business in another country, probably the United States or Canada. The bad news is that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is considering adopting the same detailed reporting for firms and some taxpayers.

Tax collectors here and elsewhere lie awake at night worrying that someone is getting away with something.

tax time

Plenty of expats have corporations that hold title
to their cars or homes. Even if the corporation had no income, the mechanic who worked on the car or the man who painted the house might be filing the D-151 and listing the expat as having made a payment.

If the expenses are not on this form, taxpayers are not supposed to list an expense as a deduction on the income tax form. Generally tax inspectors also want to see a certified invoice or factura, too.

The situation could be worse. The legislature passed a measure that said these types of reports had to be made every three months. Tributación was slow to react and only expressed concern after the law was passed. Then it prevailed on lawmakers to postpone the major requirements of the law because the tax department just did not have resources to handle the paperwork.

The Ministry of Hacienda issued a decree that basically said it would ignore the new law.

Tributación has set up an electronic system to collect the information needed in these forms. It is the Declara system, which requires a download into a PC. Otherwise the filing has to be on appropriate tax forms and presented in person at an office of Tributación.

Update requires Caja OK for many transactions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A change in law is about to be approved that prohibits individuals and companies that are not up to date with their social security payments from doing business with the government and its agencies.

The measure is designed to cut down on the number of deadbeats on the rolls of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The measure says that any person or entity seeking tax exemptions, permits, concessions or approval
of other paperwork has to be paid up with the Caja. If a company hires subcontractors, the principal firm is responsible for seeing that the firms that are hired to do government work also are up to date, the measure says.

Individuals doing business with the government have to be enrolled themselves, either as employers or as an independent business person, it says.

The Caja reports that only 0.38 percent of its employers are behind on payments. One big deadbeat is the central government itself, which owes millions of colons on behalf of its employees.

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Environmental group says
private docks to be restricted

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An environmental organization said it has been told that the central government will require foreign fishing boats to unload their catches at public docks instead of private ones.

This is a key element in the fight against illegal fishing as well as other crimes. But for years and contrary to Costa Rican law, fishing boats have been using private docks in Puntarenas.

The organization is Programa de Restauración de la Tortugas Marinas or PRETOMA. The organization is mainly interested in the shark finning operations. With private docks, fishing boats did not have to abide by the law that says sharks must be landed with their fins intact. There is an economic motivation to cut off the fin at sea and toss the disabled shark back in the sea to die.

Randall Arauz, president of the non-profit group, said that he was not totally impressed. He has heard the same promise, first in 2004 and then in 2007. But the private docks remained open.

This time it was the minister of Agricultura y Ganadería, Gloria Abrahan Peralta, who said the private docks would be closed to foreign-flagged vessels as of Dec. 1. She said she had been in contact with commercial fishing operators.

The Sala IV constitutional court and the Contraloría de la Repúbica have been calling for this action for years.

"Not only shark finning is facilitated by leaving the public interest unprotected, so is drug trafficking and slave running, as has been duly exposed by the national press," said the organization.

"This measure would mean the government would finally be abiding by Articles 211 y 212 of Costa Rica’s Customs Law, which mandate the use of public infrastructure for the importation of products," said the organization in a release. It said it would keep watch to see what happens.

Twin drug cases lead
to Guanacaste raids

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In two major Guanacaste drug sweeps, the Fuerza Pública and anti-drug police detained 14 persons they said were members of two gangs. The raids were in Nicoya and Santa Cruz.

The anti-drug police confiscated 2.2 million colons, 1,562 doses of crack cocaine, seven doses of ecstasy, 220 grams of cocaine and 191 doses of marijuana, they said.

Some 140 police officers participated in the raids. They were in Barrio Santo Cristo de Esquipulas and Barrio Chorotega, both Santa Cruz.

Investigators were closing in on the Santa Cruz band since the first of the year. They had picked up at least four associates in August. While doing so they learned of another group also involved in drug distribution, they said. That was the gang headquartered in Barrio San Martin in Nicoya. Four persons were detained there Thursday.

Scamsters visit victims
of tropical storm damage

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Homeowners who had their property damaged by Tropical Storm Tomas might become victims again. Crooks are passing themselves off as government inspectors and trying to extort money from the homeowners.

The Ministerio de Vivienda y Asentamientos Humanos and the Banco Hipotecario de la Vivienda issued a warning Thursday. They said that government inspectors work in teams and do not ask for money.

The crooks have obtained documents that are evalution forms used by the government inspectors, the agencies said.

Young teens threatened
to leap at court building

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two young teens, who have a habit of threatening to jump, threatened to do so again Thursday afternoon from the fourth floor of the court building in downtown San José.

The two girls found their way to a balcony, and one sat on the wall and dangled a leg over the side some 50 meters above the ground. Eventually they were talked down. Both girls are involved with the Patronato Nacional de Infancia, the child welfare services, and had been living in agency shelters. They have been involved in similar incidents.

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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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 234

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An A.M. Costa Rica editorial
Mining decision is a black eye for making investments here

By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The Wednesday court decision on the Crucitas open pit gold mine is another black eye for Costa Rica and a clear warning to international investors to take their business elsewhere. The country already is in the cellar on an index of the ease of doing business.

The developers of the gold mine have been trying to get the project started since at least 1996. The current operator is Infinito Gold Ltd. of Calgary, Canada. The company's shares took a 50 percent hit Thursday when news of the court decision reached investors.

Now open pit mines are controversial, and maybe they should be forbidden. But Infinito's subsidiary here, Industrias Infinito S.A, has all the permits and a concession.

The company could hardly expect a controversial and obviously activist lower court decision to ashcan the project, particularly after the Sala IV constitutional court said the concession was in order and the permits valid.

The three-judge panel of the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo took two days to render its summary verdict. The Sala IV took weeks to analyze the case.

Infinito said it is awaiting the release of the written decision expected Dec. 14 before taking any action. The company said on its Web site that it "is considering all legal options including submitting an appeal to the relevant chamber of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica (Sala IV)."

The lower judicial panel stressed the environmental damage. That also is a factor in protests against the Hotel Riu on the Pacific coast. University students get very
emotional about cutting down 1,200 mountain ash trees at the Crucitas site in Cutris de San Carlos or Pacific mangroves, but they are blind to the tons of untreated raw sewage that pour into Central Valley streams each day en route to the Gulf of Nicoya.

The protests seem to be directed at local branches of foreign firms. At stake in Crucitas is $1.2 billion in gold. The Canadian firm would make a profit over the millions already invested, but the nation will get a cut, as will the men and women employed by the mine firm. At the end of the project, the land will be reclaimed.

Someone needs to explain to the university opponents that trees get old and fall down. A forest needs to be managed, which includes some lumbering as well as temporary clear cutting for open pit gold mines.

Infinito is well positioned now to have some smart international lawyers build a successful case against Costa Rica. The possible price tag is $700 million.

Meanwhile the judiciary should begin an investigation to determine if the three-judge tribunal exceeded its authority in contradicting the Sala IV and if there were other forces at work. The panel urged a criminal investigation of former president Óscar Arias Sánchez, and he was not even party to the case. Does not a sitting president have the flexibility to issue a decree advancing the work of a large business that will be of economic benefit to the country?

When the dust clears, the gold still will be there for someone.

The case is similar to Costa Rica's refusal to allow an offshore exploratory petroleum well with the obvious effect on gasoline prices.

Those supposedly with integrity selling out is nothing new
 At first, I was going to defend last week’s column on "Dancing with the Stars" against all the slings and arrows it was getting from the right.  But I realized that very few really understood what it was I was really worried about.  Then I decided I was responsible for obfuscating what I was trying to say because I got caught up in the background story.

My complaint was about the judges — mainly Len Goodman — because they were compromising their integrity to go in the direction the crowd was going. I thought that was a harbinger of what is going to happen in the Real World.

However, after listening to my son, who called both my concern and the responses “a tempest in a teapot,” I changed my mind.  We and others have spent a lot of print and energy on a reality show that is more scripted than reality itself.  It is just TV, and that’s entertainment, he told me, and all expectations are null and void. So I got back my sense of humor and irony.  Those judges were imitating what is already happening in the Real World.  There is nothing new about a professional or an expert who is expected to have integrity, selling out.  It happens all the time.  Honest profit is admirable.  Profit made dishonorably is not. So what else is new?

But I do want to make clear that I don’t think that saying Bristol Palin, Sarah Palin's daughter, is a mediocre dancer is a personal attack on her character or an indication that I hate her.  It is just an observation of her talent in that direction.  At the same time I will say she is an effective crusader for safe sex. 

After her public service spot with “The Situation,” the Pope has approved the use of condoms for the purpose of avoiding AIDs.  His okay is limited, but it is the first time in history a pope has conceded that much.  Go Bristol!

And now to change to the here and now and my own (“boring”) life.  On Wednesday the day dawned with more blue then grey in the sky, the sun made an early appearance and it looked like it planned to stay.  Even my apartment, where most of my windows are on the north side of the building, was warming up.  It has been a long rainy season.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

For Thanksgiving I had organized a small group of friends to have our midday Thanksgiving at a little café in Rohrmoser.  Everything was a success, at least to my mind, and I was thankful.  Then my friend Sandy stopped by as we were drinking our coffees and espressos.  That was wonderful, too: the frosting on the pie, as a friend of mine used to say.  And the weather held, at least until we were leaving, then, oops, back came the rain.

Everyone had cleaned their plates except me.  When I arrived home and put my doggy bag in the fridge, it seemed to me someone in the kitchen had added more. Usually the food in doggy bags is all mixed up when you get home but this was nicely arranged and more than enough for another Thanksgiving dinner.  I sent off a mental thank you to the chef.

Then I found in my inbox an e-mail from a very dear friend in the States with whom I had lost touch.  Ellen said she had been trying to call me to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. Soon I was talking to her and so happy to do so.  She is off to Washington where she will be working for many good causes.  Knowing Ellen is something else to be grateful for on this Thanksgiving.

And to think that when I woke up yesterday (granted, before my first cup of coffee), all I could think of to be thankful for on this day of thanks was that Jon Stewart exists.

And then, at the end of the day, that I have this column where I can write what I want to. Especially helpful is remembering the movie “The In-laws” and the advice Peter Falk yells to Alan Arkin on how to dodge the hail of bullets: “Serpentine!  Serpentine!”

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers.

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Parrita battles medical effects of Tropical Storm Tomas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Parrita residents who suffered through the effects of Tropical Storm Tomas are now suffering through illnesses blamed on the storm, according to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Edgar Carrillo Rojas, director of the local Área de Salud, said that since the third day of heavy rains at the beginning of the month the cases of diarrhea have tripled. The clinic is getting 45 patients a day instead of the usual 15, he said. Among those ill are persons who came to the area to provide help to those affected by the storm.

The physician blamed the problem on inadequate preparation of food and weaknesses in hygiene. The workers at the Parrita clinic have embarked on a publicity campaign and training to stem the increase in illnesses.
The Caja clinic also is reporting respiratory problems, which are being blamed on the large quantity of water in the area and lower temperature.

Many residents of Parrita had three feet of water in their home and had to wade through flooded streets for days. Other effects of the storm include depression, post traumatic stress and anxiety, said the physician. Psychiatrists and psychologists form the Central Valley have been assigned to the area, he said. The physician said that a change in the weather should reduce the number of respiratory cases.

On another front, the Caja sent teams of physicians and nurses to San Isidro de Dota, a mountain community that still was cut off by storm damage. Of the 65 persons living there, 10 had diarrhea and vomiting and others had respiratory problems, stress and diabetes, the Caja said.

Revelers will disguise a jacote tree as a Yule evergreen

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans are experts in making do with what they have. So it is no surprise that a jocote tree is being drafted for Christmas. That is at the Biblioteca Municipal Tulio Perlaza in Sabana Sur this afternoon. 

Jocotes are those little green and orange fruit with the large pit inside.

The nine meter (29-foot) tree will be decked out just as if
it were an evergreen. There will be Christmas carols at 3:30 p.m. with a chorus of seniors at 4:30 p.m. There is a band concert at 5 p.m. and the lighting of the tree at 6 p.m.

The library is one of the chain maintained by the municipality. It is four blocks south of Parque la Sabana.

Another Christmas tree activity will be Wednesday at the Museo de Arte Costarricense. That will be at noon at the museum, which is in Parque la Sabana.

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Rio police invade slums
after wave of violence

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian authorities have raided a Rio de Janeiro slum in an ongoing effort to apprehend drug gang members blamed for days of widespread violence that has left about 30 people dead.

Officials say security forces backed by armored vehicles entered the Vila Cruzeiro slum Thursday, despite efforts by the gangs to block access to the area with burning vehicles.

Rio has been hit by a surge of violence since Sunday, with attacks on police stations and the burning of vehicles.  Police say the unrest was ordered by imprisoned drug gang members.

So far, more than 150 people have been arrested in raids on Rio slums.

The city of six million has high crime and murder rates.  Heavily armed drug trafficking gangs control many of Rio's poor areas, making the city among the most violent in Latin America.

Rio is among the Brazilian cities that will host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament.  Rio is also the site of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Venezuelan TV owners
will seek U.S. asylum

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The owner of a Venezuelan pro-opposition television channel has told U.S. media that he has asked for political asylum in the United States.

Globovision president Guillermo Zuloaga made the comment Wednesday in an interview with CNN's Spanish language channel.

Zuloaga fled to the U.S. in June after the government in Caracas issued a warrant for his arrest based on fraud charges relating to another business, an auto dealership.  Zuloaga denied the charges and said Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez ordered his arrest on trumped-up charges.

Zuloaga has also denied allegations of involvement in a $100-million scheme to assassinate the Venezuelan president.

Chávez has waged a long-running campaign against Globovision.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said earlier this year that it is concerned about the use of the punitive power of the state to silence opponents in Venezuela.

Italian students storm
Italian heritage sites

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Italian students stormed Rome's Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa Thursday as part of nationwide protests against budget cuts and university reforms proposed by the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

In the northern city of Pisa, the students prevented tourists from entering the landmark, while in Rome dozens of protesters jumped over turnstiles at the entrance. Thousands of students in other Italian cities took part in protests against the reforms.

Thursday protests were the latest in a wave of demonstrations against austerity measures in Europe. 

Thousands of British students rallied in London and other cities Wednesday against government plans to triple university tuition and fees. Protesters attacked a police van, set fires and sprayed graffiti.  Two police officers were injured and at least 29 marchers were arrested.
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October, November see
few felt earthquakes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some earthquake scientists are getting a little nervous because there were only seven felt earthquakes in the country in October and only three in November so far.

The November quakes were off Jacó and Quepos in the Pacific and near Pérez Zeledón. The magnitudes ranged from 3.6 to 4.4, enough to be felt as far away as Rivas, Nicaragua, in one case.

The largest October quake was Oct. 8. It was a 5.9 jolt northeast of Zarcero in the central mountains. Other quakes ranged from 3.3 to 4.9

The Red Sismologia Nacional is calling November one of the months with the fewest felt quakes. Meanwhile there are hundreds of small quakes that can only be detected with instruments.

Generally scientists like lots of light earthquakes because they believe this takes the pressure off the faults and prevents a larger quake.

The major production of quakes in Costa Rica is the interplay between the Cocos tectonic plate and the Caribe or Caribbean plate. The Cocos plate is being forced under the Caribbean plate. There is a clear line in the sea offshore in the Pacific where the junction between the two plates can be seen. However, the effects go far inland. The Zarcero quake was blamed on the release of tension between the two plates.

In fact, the nation's central volcanic mountain range is a product of the relationship between the two plates similar to the rest of the Pacific ring of fire that runs from Asia through Alaska and down the Latin American coastline.

Paseo Colón administrator
held on pimping charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police detained a 42-year-old man Thursday and said he was engaged in pimping at the massage parlor he operated in Paseo Colón.

The Judicial Investigating Organization made the unsurprising announcement that the massage parlor was really a front for prostitution services. The operation collected from 14,000 to 18,000 colons (from $27.80 to $35.75) for an hour session, the agency said. The women, who averaged about five customers a day, got half the payment, agents said.

Five women, three Nicaraguans and two Costa Ricans worked at the establishment, but they were not detained. They ranged in age from 22 to 30, the Judicial Investigating Organization said.

While prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, pimping is not. Nevertheless, some prostitutes are attracted to massage parlor operations because of the security and the regular working hours.

Law officers usually make one or two such arrests before major religious holidays, while other better known establishments operate unhampered.

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