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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 243                        Email us
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Like others, Canadian grapples with soaring taxes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Canadian Greg Allen has a perfect vacation home in Playa Matapalo.

Cows wander in the nearby surf. Monkeys stare from the trees, and an occasional sloth drops by to keep en eye on things.

Palm trees shade the home and sometimes frame the spectacular sunsets.

But there is a problem. The municipal tax collector wants $4,300 for the annual rent on Allen's home and maritime concession. That's more than a 515 percent increase from the previous year's payment of $700.  He says he wouldn’t have minded a reasonable increase.

The Yukon resident is not alone. The soaring taxes and maritime rents appear to be a general problem among expats in Costa Rica. On his street there is a modest bed and breakfast where the annual tax is  $7,800.

Allen is unusual in that he complains. He said Wednesday that workers in the Municipalidad de Aguirre know who he is and that he has appealed the new rental amount and the accompanying assessment.  Six months ago he received the decree denying his appeal and upholding the municipality’s appraisal process. Although Allen is hoping to rent the structure himself for short periods to offset the high taxes, he is not considered to be in business. He is just a tourist.

The 51-year-old man said he was lucky to find the land in 1991 and eventually obtained a legal maritime concession and built the home in 2002.

He said he put about $60,000 into the structure, and the current assessment appears to be about right at $100,000. What troubles the Canadian aircraft mechanic is that the municipality is
Greg Allen photo
The Allen castle in Playa Matapalo.

collecting a 4 percent annual rent (known as the canon) based on the value of the home. He said he believes that this percentage is too high.

By contrast, for his principal residence in Whitehorse, Yukon, he pays about $1,200.00 a year for a two-story, 2,400-square foot log home on 18 acres of land, he said.

Allen refers to the Matapalo home as a castle because it has a tower-like set of rooms which probably impressed tax assessors.

Allen said that his neighbors also have similar complaints and some even have suggested that they might have to sell.

Allen said he wanted to eventually leave the Matapalo home to his children, but now he wonders if he would be doing them a favor.

The Dirección General de Tributación just came out with a new property assessment manual that appears to boost the value of homes up to 40 percent even though the real estate market is fairly static now. That will affect expats who own their own land as well as maritime concession holders and particularly those with larger homes who must pay the annual luxury tax.

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Not much change in ranking
of Tico corruption in index

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
with wire service reports

The latest corruption perception index shows little change for Costa Rica. The country shared 48th place with Lithuania, below Hungary and one notch above Rwanda.

Last year Costa Rica ranked 50th of the 176 nations surveyed, but the creator of the Index, Transparency International said that the methodology changed for this year, so some fluctuation was expected.

The way the index is created does not measure corruption, just the public perception of it. So the results are limited.  Says Transparency:

"The CPI is limited in scope, capturing perceptions of the extent of corruption in the public sector, from the perspective of business people and country experts. Complementing this viewpoint and capturing different aspects of corruption, Transparency International produces a range of both qualitative and quantitative research on corruption, both at the global level from its secretariat and at the national level through Transparency International’s network of National Chapters based in over 90 countries around the world. This body of research provides a comprehensive picture of the scale, spread and dynamics of corruption around the world. It also serves to mobilize and support evidence-based, effectively-tailored policy reform."

World map with index scores

A personal corruption commentary

The world view on corruption

That serves to explain why Costa Rica, mired in several corruption investigations now, has not changed much in the index.

Various political parties are on the carpet for why they used public funds, and dozens of officials are undergoing investigation over the catastrophic results of an effort to construct a roadway along the country's northern border.

The index ratings range from 0 to 100, which would be a perfect score. Costa Rica achieved a score of 55 to place in the 48th spot. The highest-ranking Latin countries were Uruguay and Chile tied in the 20th spot with a score of 72 each.

Chile and Uruguay received the highest scores out of the 19 Latin American countries in the index. Three countries — Denmark, Finland and New Zealand — topped the list with scores of 90. Costa Rica is the only other Latin American country to rank higher than 50.

The global anti-corruption watchdog group has ranked Venezuela near the bottom of its list of 176 countries.

Transparency gave Venezuela a score of 19 on the scale of 0 to 100.
In a news conference Wednesday, Transparency International's Huguette Labelle was asked what accounted for the country's low score.
"The issue of openness within the country and outside the country is a big issue in Venezuela," said Ms. Labelle.
Venezuela scored the same as three other countries: Haiti, Chad and Burundi.
Other Latin American countries that ranked near the bottom were Paraguay, with a score of 25, Honduras at 28, Nicaragua at 29, and Ecuador at 32.

Transparency International says no country received a perfect score and any score below 50 indicates a "serious corruption problem."
Brazil, one of the region's most populous countries, received a score of 43, but Ms. Labelle said the country had made significant improvements in recent years.
Cuba received a score of 48 while Mexico received a score of 34. The United States, at 73, ranked just behind the United Kingdom.
The study incorporates data from sources including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.

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
From the Costa Rican press
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
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International Baptist Church

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
A traditional Chinese dragon passes in front of the La Soledad church.
City's new Chinese quarter inaugurated with Christmas songs
By Kayla Pearson
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The municipality inaugurated Calle Chino Wednesday with an all-day festival of parades, musical performances and dance.

Hundreds gathered around a stage placed a few meters from the grand archway and watched as groups from regions such as San José, Nicoya, Puntarenas and Santa Cruz shared Chinese culture.

“We have different groups from different areas of the country to perform during this event by the municipalidad,” announced spokespersons.

However, China was not the only theme.  Orchestra students from Centro de Atención Formativa y Recreativa Antonio José Obando Chan Toñito in Puntarenas pulled from their repertoire Christmas songs such as "Joy to the World" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

The group, dressed in conical Asian hats, then enlivened the crowd with contemporary songs such as the television series Hawaii Five-0 theme song and Lady Gaga's "Just Dance," to which young audience members sang along.

Calle Chino is located at the Paseo de los Estudiantes or Calle 9, and was built as a symbol of friendship between Costa Rica and China.  The construction was recently finished after 10 months of work, allowing participants to walk freely up and down the pedestrian mall.

The process cost many business owners sales, and some even closed, they reported.

To shop owners relief, the inauguration also came with a lot of business.  Rochi Ruvoletto, owner of Top Pizza which opened four months ago, said he had many customers come in throughout the day.

Hopefully, this is a sign for the future, he said.

There still is lingering resentment. ICOMOS de Costa Rica has its offices on Calle 9. The non-profit organization is the local representative of the International Council of

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
 Students from Centro de Atención Formativa y Recreativa
 Antonio José Obando Chan Toñito from El Roble,
 Puntarenas. also played Christmas carols.

Monuments and Sites. A press release Wednesday said that the organization is working to retain the Costa Rican identity of the area and the surrounding Barrio La Soledad. The organization said it achieved some success in having the Chinese arch moved from in front of the La Soledad church.

Despite its efforts to retain the name of Paseo de los Estudiantes, municipal workers put a Barrio Chino sign in front of its offices, the organization said.

The name of the street honoring students is not just because the Liceo de Costa Rica and the Colegio Superior de Señoritas are nearby. The designation reflects the bravery of students to overthrow the dictatorship of president Federico Alberto Tinoco Granados and his brother, Joaquín, who was minster of war, in 1918.

Students and others took to the streets to end the bloody dictatorship after an armed uprising was stifled by assassinations.

In addition there is political opposition to Johnny Araya Monge, the San José mayor, who helped create the idea of a Barrio Chino. He is a presidential candidate.

With U.S. financial help, police will track crime with computers
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Security officials and the Fuerza Pública announced Wednesday that police will operate under a new computerized-data system that will eventually cover the whole country.

The U. S. Embassy in San José is contributing nearly $500,000 in equipment and training staff as well as 280 hours per month of manpower in order to start the system, according to a press release from the ministry.

The U. S. government is lending a hand because the system was originally developed in New York City in 1995, officials said at a conference.

The Sistema Integral de Mejoramiento Estratégico Policial, or CompStat (Computer Statistics) in the United States, is a police system that compiles and categorizes crimes by the urban districts in which they occurred, explained Eric Nelson, chargé d'affairs at the embassy.

The system allows for police to map trends in crime in certain areas and respond with more police or different strategies where crime is higher. This system has been adopted by U.S. cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles as well as international cities like Vancouver in Canada, San Juan in Puerto Rico and Panama City.

Officials said that the system calls for breaking communities into separate reporting districts to track statistics there. They also said that this will also bring accountability to the officials in charge of those areas by showing how much or how little they are reducing crime.

Many cities in the United States have a similar online program that allows any interested person to track the frequency of specific or all kinds of crime in an urban area over a period of time.

However, security minister Mario Zamora could not say specifically what information would be available to the public
due to a law that prohibits officials from giving away certain information. This may limit how much accountability the system will actually bring.

Additionally, this system relies on people reporting when they are the victims of crimes. A.M. Costa Rica reported last month about a survey where barely half of robbery and theft victims said that they report the crimes.

Finally, it is not clear if the Fuerza Pública would begin filing crime reports. Under the current system, victims of crimes must go to the Judicial Investigating Organization to file a report.

While crime was reduced dramatically in New York City after the program was implemented, some critics say that numerous other factors contributed to that crime reduction, including a zero-tolerance policy towards petty crime taken by Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Other critics say that the system encourages police to not report crimes in order to make it appear like crime is decreasing.

The system has already been implemented in the community of Tibás north of San José, officials said. The ministry plans to gradually expand the program throughout the metropolitan area of San José, then to the other central provinces and downtown Limón and last to the more rural provinces.

Meanwhile, the Spanish-language newspaper La Nación announced its own system to track crime Wednesday. The newspaper said it would be publishing news articles today highlighting high-crime areas.

The newspaper appears to have done a typical computer-assisted reporting project using data from the Judicial Investigating Organization. The data runs through June and includes major crimes.

Previous reports from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública have shown the obvious, that urban areas have higher crime. Tibás contained the section known as León XIII, perhaps the most densely populated part of Costa Rica. It also is a low-income area known for high crime rates.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 243
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museum show
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Ethan Orozco, 6, was among thousands who enjoyed the fireworks at the children's museum Wednesday night.
Museo de Niños puts on a spectacular Yule show for children
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the clock passed 7 p.m. Wednesday, thousands of children’s eyes were fixated on the sky and their faces were illuminated with reds and blues from fireworks bursts.

For many, including 6-year-old Ethan Orozco, this was the best part of the 12th edition of the illumination of the castle exterior at the Museo de los Niños in north San José.

The event, themed Regalo de Fe, was what spokespersons called the official welcome to Christmas.  It featured live music, skits and a fireworks show of 4,000 lights.

Staffers began designing the show six months ago, developing dance and theatrical scenes to depict messages of love, hope and faith. 

Characters Museíto and Museíta were the stars, engaging the children in the crowd to help them overcome fright and have faith that they would make it though situations such as being stuck in a boat.

National singer Hans Wust opened the show with six original songs made for the occasion.  With songs such as “Eterno Dios,” “Fiel hasta el Final,” “Deciende sobre me” and “Vamos a Cantar,” the artists reminded the crowd of the religious reason for the season.
A little after 7, the museum was illuminated with a talking face made possible by Luz Art that counted down from 10.  At that moment, the show cast broke out in a musical number and the crowd was treated with a fireworks show.

Children later debated the best part remembering most the floating boat scene, pictures on the castle and fireworks as the top three.

For Lydia Sánchez, it was the uniqueness of the show that made it exciting. 
boat people
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson 
Characters Museíto and Museíta are at sea in an open boat during this skit that is designed to help children overcome fear.

“I have been coming for nine years with my children, and each year it is different,” she said.

Ms. Sánchez also added that she appreciates how the museum will make special arrangements for those with disabilities.

She recently had a surgery, and would not have been able to stand in the crowd, she said.  The museum gave her and her three sons seats.

Kind acts fell in line with not just the theme of the show, but also with the reason the museum gave the country a monumental free show, said spokespersons.

For protection of the spectators, a coalition of police agencies blocked off roadways and created a safe path from Avenida Central to the museum. Being a pedestrian was encouraged because there was little parking. Street closings  jammed traffic all over the central part of the city.

Low profile drug boat fails to conquer waves of three meters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. patrol plane crew alerted Costa Rican and Panamanian law enforcement Tuesday and set off an international collaboration that ended in the sinking of a semi-submersible drug ship and the death of its captain, said security officials.

The drama played out about 40 miles off the Caribbean coast at Sixaola. The semi-submersible crew was braving three-meter waves and attempting to avoid capture. They were not successful, and the fiberglass craft sank with perhaps seven tons of cocaine in waters 3,000 feet deep, said security ministry officials.

Three men on the craft were saved by the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, whose patrol boat, " Punta Burica 65-4" was first on the scene. Later a U.S. craft arrived as well as one from Panamá. Since the sinking happened in waters of Panamá, the three suspects and some 74 kilos of cocaine found floating near the scene were turned over to law enforcement in Panamá.

Colombian drug smugglers are using submarines and these low-profile semi-submersibles to evade ocean patrols. This may have been the first boat of it type encountered in the Caribbean near Costa Rica.

In other anti-drug action, Judicial agents made two major confiscations on highways in Costa Rica Tuesday, according to reports from the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Agents captured two men with $650,000 in one case and three men with half of a metric ton of cocaine in the other, they said.
The first case occurred Tuesday afternoon when narcotics officers pulled over a truck driven by two men near Zurqui north of San José, according to a judicial bulletin.

Officials said that when police opened the cargo section of the truck, they found approximately $650,000, mostly in American dollars, in dozens of packages covered with a tarp.

A judicial spokesperson identified the two men by their last names and ages, which are Abarca González, 38,  Sandi Hernández, 30.

Officials said that Abarca was part of an organization that was dismantled in 2006 when police raided its headquarters in Cartago and confiscated $2 million and 1,400 kilograms or 3,100 pounds of drugs.

Narcotics investigators made the second bust at about 8 p.m. that evening in the area of Carmen de Siquirres, a report said.
Police detained three men in that bust, according to the spokesperson. They were identified by the last names and ages as Espinoza Ulloa, 36, his son Espinoza Jiménez, 18, and a nephew Vega Jiménez, 28.

Police stopped a truck with one driver along with a car with the two other suspects that were escorting the truck, officials said. The men unsuccessfully tried to flee in the car.

Once they stopped both vehicles, agents said they found 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of cocaine hydrochloride in the walls of the truck as well as a 9 millimeter pistol and a .40 caliber pistol with the other two men.

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U.S. space agency beefs up
its plans to explore Mars

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. space agency has big plans for the Red Planet. NASA has announced an ambitious multi-year Mars exploration program, looking ahead to meeting President Barack Obama's challenge to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Charles Bolden, NASA administrator, said the seven missions, planned or already under way, will ensure America remains the world leader in the exploration of our Earth-like neighbor. Next year, NASA will send an orbiter to study the Martian upper atmosphere, and in later years, another mission will take the first look into the planet's deep interior.

​​American space scientists also will work with the European Space Agency's 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions. In addition, a new rover is planned for launch in 2020, building on the successful design of "Curiosity."

The car-sized robotic vehicle "Curiosity" currently is traversing the Martian landscape, digging through the Martian soil for any evidence there may have been life on that planet, and is four months into its two-and-a-half-year mission. NASA's Mars exploration rover "Opportunity" has been working on Mars since January 2004.

The planned new rover would be a new addition to NASA's ambitious program of exploring the Martian surface and atmosphere, ahead of its goal to send a manned mission to the Red Planet in about 20 years.

Jazz great Dave Brubeck
dies just short of  92 years

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck died Wednesday in Norwalk, Connecticut of heart failure.  He was 91.  Brubeck rose to fame in the 1950s and became known the world over.  His recordings cover a wide spectrum of music including jazz, classical, spiritual and even pop.

Many believe that Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo A La Turk" from his groundbreaking 1959 album "Time Out" ushered in a new era for jazz.  Like others on the album, it was a song that combined complex time signatures with classical, jazz and Third World rhythms.

David Warren Brubeck was born in Concord, California, and was first exposed to music by his mother, a classically trained piano teacher.  He discovered jazz improvisation while studying with French composer Darius Milhaud.  His interest in jazz was fueled by the formation of the Dave Brubeck Quartet and his own label Fantasy Records.

Following World War II, his group found work in small towns across America.  Brubeck said those thriving jazz clubs provided his finest training.  

"When I grew up, almost every bar had a small combo and there were dance halls that we used to drive across this country, from one dance –– and maybe 200 or 300 miles — the next day we'd be in a different dance hall.  Great dance halls clear across the open part of Nebraska and those towns, and we'd come across that way.  It's changed a lot because most of our jazz now is in the universities and colleges . . . have taken over the old way that we used to have, a way to learn was one-on-one next to an old veteran."

The Dave Brubeck Quartet consisted of Paul Desmond on alto saxophone, Joe Morello on drums, Eugene Wright on bass and Brubeck on piano when they recorded the Desmond classic "Take Five."  The song was so successful that it earned a spot on the popular music charts.

​​One of Brubeck’s best-selling albums was "Jazz Goes To College," recorded in American coffeehouses and college auditoriums during a tour in 1954.  It sold more than a million copies and landed Brubeck on the cover of Time magazine.

Brubeck believed that the younger generation played an important role in shaping the direction of jazz. 

"What we're going to have now is the individual who's come out of this group of people that respect the past," he said. "Because you really can't take a step forward until you know what was behind you."

The Dave Brubeck Quartet continued to tour and record until 1967 when Brubeck decided to pursue jazz-based symphonic works and sacred music.  A seasoned world traveler, he recorded several albums based on his reflections of other cultures.  Among them, were "Jazz Impressions of Eurasia," "Jazz Impressions of Japan" and "Moscow Night."

In 1993, Dave Brubeck teamed up with his sons Chris on bass and Dan on drums to record "Trio Brubeck."  Three years later, he won a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement, and in 2009, he was the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor.  His son Chris once remarked, "Making music together is the most natural thing in the world for this family."
Dave Brubeck died Wednesday, one day before his 92nd birthday.

Brazilian architect Niemeyer
was man who built Brasilia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

World-renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who designed much of Brazil's modern capital, died Wednesday at the age of 104.
Niemeyer is most famous for his use of abstract forms and curves, abandoning traditional straight lines. He was among the first to explore the possibilities of reinforced concrete to convey his creative vision.
The Brazilian architect established himself during the middle of the 20th century as one of modernism's greatest visionaries.  He designed hundreds of objects around the world, including work on the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
On that and other early projects, Niemeyer teamed up with another pioneer of post-war buildings in concrete, the French-Swiss architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known by his pseudonym of Le Corbusier.
In 1956, Niemeyer was appointed chief architect for Brazil's futuristic capital, Brasilia, a new city in the heart of the Amazon jungle. That achievement brought him worldwide fame.
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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 243
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Latin America news
Original flamenco production
also will be a cancer benefit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Academia Al Andalus will present “Flamenco a la carte” Dec. 15.  It is a show that uses dance, songs and guitars to tell the stories of 10 women. The academy is the area's oldest flamenco company and this show celebrates the 21st year of operation.

Dancers from the academy were asked to bring to class a life story, in which 10 were selected and put with choreography.  These stories recount situations of love, friendship, joy, melancholy and pain.

The actors of the show worked with director and actress Sylvia Sossa. Hannia Amador designed costumes that help patrons envision better the scenes, a release said.

Fundación Resurgir, a foundation that helps people with cancer, will receive 50 percent of the sales. Located in El Llano de Alajuela, this foundation houses patients with cancer who live outside the Central Valley and serves them for free while they are receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy in hospitals of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

“Thanks to this partnership, these people can have a better rest, eat better and have company to better cope with this disease,” said the academy.

The flamenco show will last from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the new space, Theatre Espressivo on the second floor of Centro Comercial Momentum Pinares.  Tickets are 10,000 colons.  Patrons can purchase tickets at 8342-4083 or at the Academia Al Andalus.

Electronic waste sought
to recycle in Desamparados

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Parque la Libertad and municipal officials in Desamparados and other sponsors are inviting the community to bring electronic waste to the park today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The campaign, Campaña de Recolección de Residuos Tecnológicos, is a part of an effort to make the community more environmentally friendly, a release said.

Materials the park is collecting include printers, ink cartridges, toners, CPUs, laptops, monitors, motherboards, power supplies, keyboards, mouse, cables, routers, phones, cell phones and their batteries, televisions, audio and video equipment, household appliances and alkaline dry cell batteries.

The address of the park is 350 meters north of Palí in Fátima and 200 meters to the east, or in front of Plaza de Futbol de Río Azul.

Small businesses in Limón
will show off their products

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials of the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio will hold a fair for small businesses in downtown Limón this weekend.  

The third annual “Limón Emprende 2012” will feature 100 small businesses entirely from the province of Limón selling a wide variety of goods and services, according to a ministry press release.

These businesses are all run by people who took loans from the ministry to get started.

The fair will also feature a series of concerts, a contest for the best rice and beans dish on Sunday and fireworks on Friday.

The fair will take place on Pier 70 of the Junta de Administración Portuaria y Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica docks in downtown Limón. Entrance to the fair is free. The fair will open on Friday at 5 p.m. and continue until Sunday.

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A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 243
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Jo Stuart

Click HERE for graphic to see a much larger map with country scores.

Brazil and China are taking steps
to reduce impact of corruption

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An anti-corruption group says Brazil is making progress in fighting corruption while China is passing some laws that eventually might ease the problem. These nations were the exception to Transparency International's assessment that efforts to fight corruption are stalled or losing ground in many cases.

Cambodian motorcycle taxi driver Chum Van says it is just not fair. He said police sometimes put the blame for accidents on poor people, regardless of who is at fault.

Nigerian tailor Ukudi Nawa said corrupt officials make it hard to even turn on the lights. “So that really has a negative impact of my business because it makes me spend more.”

​​And she said it angers customers when she then has to raise prices to pay for a generator. 

Nigeria and Cambodia are among 176 nations studied by Transparency International, which found serious official corruption in two-thirds of the countries.

​​Transparency's Huguette Labelle said the newest study of bribery and other abuses shows few nations improving.

"We have hundreds of millions of people around the world who face daily extortion, and in some countries it can be 50 percent of the population had to pay a bribe to gain access to essential services like water, education, health," she said.

​Ms. ​Labelle said transparency is a key tool in fighting corruption, and praises Brazil for publishing a daily account of government spending that make it harder to hide abuses. She said the nation also is working on tougher laws to stop corrupt actions by elected officials.

She said China has been prosecuting people on corruption charges, and passing new anti-corruption laws.

​​"They have been taking a lot of steps, I think now we will see if it has an impact on reducing corruption," said Ms. Labelle.

The report lists nations from least to most corrupt. China ranked 80th from the best, Brazil was 69th.

​​Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand were the least corrupt nations. The United States ranked 19th, which is behind some other wealthy democracies.

That worries Alan Larson, the head of the U.S. Chapter of Transparency International. "I think Americans need to be alarmed and be demanding a response to the fact that 18 countries around the world are seen as having greater integrity built into their institutions and less corruption built into their institutions," he said.

The worst corruption scores were earned by Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan.

"I think that something for the government to really address and come up with novel methods of fighting corruption so we can get people’s trust and international community," said Anwar-Ul Haq Ahadi, Afghanistan's minister of commerce.

While complaints about corruption helped spark the Arab Spring uprisings that toppled governments in the Middle East, the report shows the drastic step of changing leadership has not ended corruption. 

Transparency International bases its annual report on perceptions of corruption on multiple sources of information from businesses, international organizations, and experts around the world.

Why do people accept corruption?

By Kate Woodsome
For Voice of America

When I lived in Cambodia, I got into a lot of fights. I’d protest the fruit seller who was overcharging me for mangoes because I was American. I’d wave my hands at the police officer who fined me for driving on the correct side of the road. I’d get angry with doctors at the “free” clinic for charging poor patients for drugs.

My Cambodian boyfriend usually just watched and shook his head.

But when we went to the Justice Ministry to get papers for his U.S. visa application, he told me not to fight. Not this time. Just go with it, he said, as he handed money to the clerk to get his papers the same day.

It made me wonder, why do people accept corruption that’s exploiting them? Why defend a government that runs off bribes or nepotism?

“We rationalize the status quo because it reassures us that things are under control and we’re going to be able to have a predictable life,” says Justin Friesen, a doctoral candidate at Ontario’s University of Waterloo and co-author of “Why Do People Defend Unjust, Inept and Corrupt Systems,” published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

“People have psychological needs to feel good about themselves. Nobody likes to be criticized. Nobody likes their group to be criticized," he says. "Because of this, people will often rationalize and defend the systems they belong to and the status quo they belong to.”

In Cambodia, that might mean paying an extra service charge to power company officials to make sure your lights stay on. In the United States, it could mean staying silent when your coworkers are overcharging clients or lying on their timesheets to earn money for hours they didn’t work.

Basically, people want to keep things calm. And if you’re not protesting the problem, the likelihood grows that you’re a part of it.

According to Lamar Pierce, associate professor at the Washington University in St. Louis, two major factors contribute to corruption: Economic motivation and self-serving biases.

“If taking bribes are a function of how much you can feed your kid, then often that is the overwhelming motivator,” Pierce says of the first factor.

But the second factor, to which we all fall prey, is more complex.

“If people are able to convince themselves quite irrationally that what they’re doing is really okay, it’s not their fault, it’s not hurting anyone, that they’re not going to get caught, that’s where you get situations like the subprime crisis,” he says, referring to the U.S. financial crisis in which profit-hungry lenders approved mortgage loans to people who couldn’t afford them.

It’s even easier for people to ignore the desire to be good if they cheat by a little bit rather than to the maximum extent possible, according to Francesca Gino, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and the author of "Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan."

“By seeing other people around us cheat, especially when those people are our co-workers or peers, we are more likely to cheat ourselves,” she adds, describing dishonesty as “contagious.”

So where do we draw the line? Pierce says it starts with asking a simple question. “How would you feel talking to your mom about this at dinner?”

“The very simple metrics that people intuitively tend to do are very helpful as a first-line defense,” Pierce says.

The second-line defense? Ask yourself about the consequences of your actions.

“Is there an ethical component to this? Who is this going to harm? Who is this going to benefit? Is it going to violate any rules?"

It's a five to 10-second check, Pierce says, that can mean the difference between right and wrong.

Useful links
Foreign Embassies
in Costa Rica
Ave Central at Calle 120
Pavas, San José. 920-1200
San José, Costa Rica
Call 506 2519-2000
after hours call
506 8863-4895

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506 2242-4400
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