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These stories were published Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 238
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A.M. Costa Rica photo
Yule concerts are on in downtown San José, including this one by La Big Band
Police show of force another Christmas tradition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Christmas seasons is officially here: The security ministry announced that more than 650 policemen have been deployed at key points in the center of San José.

Among these are some 100 members of the Policía Municipal employed by the city.

But the season also brings out crooks, and for the first time friendly street vendors warned a reporter Monday about walking in certain sections of the pedestrian boulevard. The vendors also pointed out certain persons they said were robbers and stickup artists.

In a change from standard procedure, city officials announced that motorists are being encouraged to park along Avenida 2 after 5 p.m. so that they may shop in downtown stores. New diagonal parking spaces have been painted in the asphalt, and this has the effect of reducing Avenida 2 by once lane, mainly in the blocks from Parque Central to the Teatro Nacional.

The Christmas concert season started Monday evening despite a light rain. La Big Band performed on a stage erected in front of the Teatro Nacional.

The portal or manger scene is much reduced this year at the theater. Last year the motif was Christ in the rainforest. Fiberglass trees and a stream were created on the steps of the Teatro Nacional.

But this year, perhaps reflecting governmental finances, the scene just contains the Virgin Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

Rogelio Ramos Martínez, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, said that police were being reinforced in other cities, too. He named Alajuela and Heredia as places where the Fuerza Pública would remain on duty during the whole Christmas seasons so as not to give a truce in the fight against crime.

The police presence in the city of San José is not just downtown. Officials said that the extra police patrols will run from Parque La Sabana to the Fuente de la Hispanidad in front of Mall San Pedro.  Additional patrols will circulate in Barrio Amón to the north and the Pacific Railway Station to the south.

The ministry said that 75 new vehicles and 90 new motorcycles have been put in service for the holidays.

In addition to protecting shoppers, the expanded police presence will provide protection during the Festival de la Luz, the evening of Dec. 13 and during the horse tope Dec. 26 and carnival Dec. 27.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
The 2003 manger scene or portal at the Teatro Nacional is less complex than last year.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
A Fuerza y Luz worker puts the finishing touches on Christmas lights.

The period before Christmas is when employers give their workers the required aguinaldo, the 13th month’s pay for the year. This makes a lot of easy targets for thieves, who have been know to wait outside automatic teller machines and banks.

Robbers have been getting bolder. Two weeks ago a lottery vendor was held up at 6:30 p.m. at the eastern end of the pedestrian mall. The robbery was witnessed by many passers-by who declined to stop the gun-wielding bandits.

 
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More of the same
predicted for today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Will the rain ever end?

That’s the question on the minds of most Central Valley residents who were teased with a touch of dry weather only to have the rains move in during the later part of the week and the weekend.

But the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional reports that the dry season has arrived in Guanacaste, which is the first part of Costa Rica to experience a change of the seasons.

For the Caribbean coast however, the weather institute points out that traditionally December is the month with the most rain of the year. The reason is the influence of storms in the Atlantic which are augmented by cold air moving down from the north.

Sometimes the Caribbean rains are felt in the Central Valley, too, and that is what has been happening for the last five days.

The cold air also has dropped the temperature so that many Central Valley residents are wearing coats and trying to keep warm at home.

The low for Monday was 18.2 Celsius (about 65 degrees), well above the freezing point but chilly for Costa Rica.

Meanwhile the forecast is for more rain.
 

Tax plan advances
without committee OK

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The commission set up to study a new tax plan for Costa Rica could not come to agreement because representatives of the Movimiento Libertario objected to some of the proposals.

So the job of crafting the tax plan has been dumped in the lap of the entire Asamblea Nacional. Within a few days, the three political parties that back the proposed plan will send a report to the full legislature outlining points of agreement and disagreement.

The Libertarians strongly objected to the creation of a new agency to collect taxes. The proposed plan would spin off Tributación Directa, which now is under the Ministerio de Hacienda. Tributación Directa would become a free-standing agency with a lot more power. The proposed creation of a tax on money Costa Ricans and residents earn outside the country would create more new work for such an agency.

Libertarians said that the new agency would consume much of the tax it would collect.

The commission also proposed to apply a 13 percent value added tax to lawyers, notaries, draftsmen, architects, accountants, consultants, mechanics, repair shops and maintenance facilities, according to a statement from the commission. There is some doubt that such a tax will pass the legislative body that contains many lawyers.

The commission did recommend reducing the 13 percent tax to 6 percent for private medical care and for rents greater than $360 per month. This had been reported.

The individual tax rate would be between 10 percent and 30 percent, mainly for persons making more than 1.2 million colons a month. That’s about $2,900 now.

The legislature is entering a period when lawmakers can only consider issues presented by the executive branch. At the top of the list is the proposed tax plan, although with the Christmas holidays fast approaching, fewer and fewer person believe that the measure will be passed by Jan. 1 when an emergency tax plan expires.
 

Suspected war criminal
dies in local hospital

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Ukrainian national wanted in Poland for alleged Nazi war crimes has died before his expected extradition from Costa Rica. 

Doctors at a San José hospital say Bohdan Koziy died early Monday after suffering a stroke last week. He had been unconscious for several days. 

A Costa Rican judge ordered his arrest last month after Poland demanded his extradition.  Polish officials charge the Ukrainian-born Koziy with taking part in the murder of a Jewish family in 1943 while he served as a Nazi police officer. 

Koziy had lived in Costa Rica since 1984 when the U.S. Justice Department canceled his citizenship. It accused him of lying about his Nazi past when he came to the United States after World War II. 
 

Body of one tourist
found in Caribbean

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rescue workers have found the body of Dutch tourist Frank Verweij, 26, who was dumped into the Caribbean when a small boat overturned Saturday.

The body was about a kilometer from the scene of the mishap, said a Cruz Roja official. That’s a bit more than half a mile.

Still sought is a Dutch woman who also fell into the sea at the same time. Four tourists, two from Holland and two from Switzerland, survived, as did the boat’s captain. He told police that heavy debris washed down the Río Matina by heavy rain caused the boat to overturn when high water hit it.

The 22-foot flat-bottomed boat was at the mouth of the river where it enters the sea.
 

Some AID advances
reported by minister

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

About 1,528 persons are recorded as having died of AIDS in Costa Rica since officials became aware of the disease in 1983, María del Rocío Sáenz, minister of Salud, said Monday.

She was speaking at the weekly Consejo de Gobierno on World Day against AIDS.

She said the known infections in Costa Rica are predominately male. Some 87.4 percent of the known cases are men, mainly between 20 and 49 years, with 82 percent of those classified as having been sexually transmitted, she said.

Since 1983, health officials have counted 2,357 cases of HIV infection.

The minister said that the country has shown some advances in the fight against HIV/AIDS, specifically in treatment with anti-viral medications and the organization of a system of mandatory reporting for medical workers.

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U.S. Supreme Court to consider death cases
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will seek to clarify a ruling made last year on the death penalty that affects dozens of death row inmates in several states.

The high court last year ruled that juries, not judges, should make the key decisions as to whether a convicted criminal lives or dies. 

Now, the Supreme Court says it will decide how that decision should be retroactively applied to convicted murderers already on death row. The outcome of the case will affect more than 100 prisoners awaiting execution in several western states. 

The high court will have to sort through conflicting

decisions from lower appeals courts, as to whether the new rule that juries and not judges decide the punishment in death penalty cases can be used to reconsider death sentences already handed down. 

The high court will hear arguments in the case some time over the next few months, and will issue a decision by next July. 

In an another matter, the Supreme Court decided not to hear a case involving gun rights. The court let stand a lower court decision that declared there is no constitutional right for an individual to own a gun. 

Gun rights groups had hoped the court would take up the case and confirm what they regard as a constitutional right to bear arms. The case stems from a challenge to a California law banning certain types of high-powered weapons.


 
U.S. suspends interim security system registrations
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Homeland Security says that it is suspending requirements that visitors to the United States re-register under the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System.

The department said that the system will be replaced by another before the end of the year.

Aliens in the United States had to re-register after 30-days and one year of continuous presence. The new process is outlined in the interim rule published in the Federal Register. 

The system established a national registry for temporary foreign visitors  arriving from certain countries, or who meet a combination of intelligence-based criteria, and are identified as presenting an elevated national security concern. The program has collected detailed information about the background and purpose of an individual's visit to the United States, the periodic verification of their location and activities, and departure confirmation. 

This system was the first step taken by the Department of Justice and then the Department of Homland Security in order to comply with the development of the Congressionally- mandated requirement for a comprehensive entry-exit program by 2005.

The domestic registration program included citizens or nationals from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. However, to date, individuals from more than 150 countries have been registered in the program.

Most of the foreign visitors registered are students, individuals in the U.S. on extended business travel, or individuals visiting family members for lengthy periods. 

The requirement to register does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), refugees, asylum applicants, asylum grantees, and diplomats.

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