A.M. Costa Rica

Your daily English-language news source
Monday through Friday

Classified ads 
at the speed of LIGHT!

Click Here
These stories were published Friday, Dec. 13, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 247
Jo Stuart
About us
13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 So there!
By Christian Burnham
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For most, today (Friday the 13th) is a day like any other day. But the superstitious-at-heart have one eye on the sky watching for that falling anvil.

Triskaidekaphobia is the tongue-twisting term for the fear of the number 13. Somewhere in the history of time, the number 13 got a bad rap and it stuck.

According to some historians, there were 13 people at Christ's Last Supper and Christ was crucified on Friday, the 13th. Some claim the superstition derives from Norse mythology that links the number to bad luck.

For whatever reason, in the United States there is a widely accepted aversion to all things 13. High rises (particularly hotels) skip that floor. One would certainly not get married on this day. That is if you wanted the union to last. Travelers are said to avoid airline flights on the 13th day of the month. (Although American Airlines flights from here tomorrow are boarderline full.)

On the whole, fatalistic Costa Ricans seem to be oblivious to the whole phenomenon. When polled most shrugged their shoulders as to the significance of the day. "Bad things happen everyday," said Esther Jara, a University of Costa Rica student.

Most of the buildings in San José tall enough to have a 13th floor have one. At the Holiday Inn — Aurola, however, the elevator skips from the 12th to the 14th floor, perhaps to assuage its American guests.

If the superstition were true, Costa Rican tourism is doomed. The building occupied by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo offices has 13 floors. And yet, as Adolpho Delgado, an ICT security guard, pointed out, the building has survived several powerful earthquakes and stands tall today.

In fact, the number is a blessing for some here. According to one lottery ticket vendor, 13 is a commonly selected number. Yahaira Martinez, a roulette wheel operator at the Colonial Casino, said one of her regular Costa Rican players always selects 13 and wins big often.

This cat
is lucky

This street cat has taken up residence in the outside awning of Shakti Restaurant on Avenida 8.

The animal has found a PURRfect place to get away from the woes of the city. Our photographer has no idea how the cat comes and goes, only that the camera's flash accentuates the eyes.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
The check is in the mail — unfortunately
If you are one of the four people in the United States who thinks the IRS is not doing its job, let me be the first to disabuse you of that thought. Not only are they on the job, they have been on my case for the past 10 years ever since I retired and barely qualify to pay any taxes at all. 

I think they have assigned one special agent just to deal with me. And it really got serious when they wrote to me that I owed them $67 from my 1996 tax return. I could not for the life of me figure out how I could owe them that, but I wrote to them saying something to the effect that since I feared them more than I feared serial killers, muggers, street gangs, the Mafia and the Colombian Drug Cartel combined, I was enclosing a check for $67. 

Rule Number One: You don’t get cute with the IRS.

I won’t go into every year, but let’s look at 1997. At first they sent me a refund of $2.02. I returned that refund check to pay part of my taxes for 1999. In September of 2000, they wrote me that they had checked over my 1997 return, and found that instead of their owing me $2.02, I owed them $252.75. At the time I was in the hospital and could not check my records so I mailed them a check for $252.75. Then I got a letter telling me my check arrived late and I owed them another $6 in interest and penalties, so I mailed them $10 just to make sure. They may have been right, but my taxable income that year was $2,568, and I had already paid $384. Over 22 percent seemed high. 

By the year 2000, I got smart and hired an accountant to do my taxes that is, fill out Form 1040 and put his signature on it. It seemed worth the $50. I wrote my refund check on April 9, 2001, and sent everything off. I didn’t hear from them until I was scheduled to receive a rebate of $300 like other taxpayers. Instead, I got a letter saying that my tax return for 2000 was late. They were charging me $1.92 interest and they would deduct it from my rebate. This would, of course, delay the rebate.

They were right on the mark. It was delayed two months. Their letter regarding my 2001 return said that I had made an error in subtraction and owed them $166.  After checking my return a dozen times, I wrote asking could they please show me where my mistake was? I got a form 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

letter back saying the balance of what I owed them was zero. 

Rule Number Two: Always be polite if not downright obsequious.

As 2001 faded into the distance, I thought I was home free for the first time in years. Then in May of this year I received a nice letter saying they had a check from me for $1,257 (which they had cashed in 2000), but no tax form to go with it, would I send them a duplicate form? I immediately mailed them a copy of my 1999 return, which showed the $1,257, plus the check for $2.02, which I had returned to them. 

In July I received a letter stating that I had underpaid my taxes by $2 in 1999 and with fines and interest, that $2 was now $384. Pay up. I frantically wrote them explaining maybe they lost my check for $2.02 along with my return. In return, I got a letter saying the amount had now reached $392.12 and threatening to proceed with steps required to collect the amount owed. My back is up against the wall, but I refuse this time to knuckle under.

I know I said I would talk about another restaurant this time, but frankly, I can’t think of food, much less write about it with all of this hanging over my head. I have shared this with you as therapy. In doing so, I think I found the snafu, and I know I can’t win. However, today there was a ray of hope. With the resignation of Paul O’Neill, perhaps there will be a change in the IRS culture. 

Maybe they will decide there are better ways to balance the budget than going after the likes of me. Or maybe I and others like me will qualify under that nice little addition to the Homeland Security bill and like Eli Lily and other companies that make money in the States can avoid taxes by living offshore. I live way offshore. However, I must admit, taking three years to discover a $2 discrepancy can be very profitable, so the impetus to change can’t be great. Any suggestions? 

More Jo Stuart

our daily
our site
Check out
greetings from Readers
1  2 3
Check out
our back
Send us
news story
Visit our
Visit our
Visit our
real estate
of Villalobos
Display ad info


We know Customs! 
American-Tico-owned firm 
Commercial and Personal 
Import and Export 
Perry Edwards {Amer} Zinnia Stewart {CR}
Port Limon Agency 
(bonded & licensed) 
(506) 758-2062/2022
How to live, invest or find romance in Costa Rica
Order Now HERE!
Need to rent a car here?
Click HERE!

Magnificent Mimosa Sunday Jazz Brunch
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Jazz with Fuzzy Rojas

Brunch, Jazz, Mimosa, Atmosphere and Vista
What more can one ask for?
Reservations please! 777-1234    $25 plus tax and tip per person

Hotel California, Manuel Antonio-Quepos

Photos courtesy of Ministerio de 
Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública

Anti-drug police unload a bag of the Río Claro haul in San José (left) while bottles (above) were said to be filled with cocaine in suspension.
Drug police score twice with big cocaine busts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Drug police arrested an Italian citizen Wednesday when he tried to leave the country with about five kilos (11 pounds) of cocaine) suspended in solution in bottles containing tourist scenes with the legend "Quepos Costa Rica."

But a raid in the southern part of the country dwarfs that confiscation because agents there grabbed 153 kilos (337 pounds) of cocaine and arrested three persons in Río Claro near Golfito.

The arrest of the Italian, who has the last name Caricato, took place at Juan Santamaría airport. The 27-year-old man was flying to Caracas for a connecting flight to Milan, Italy, said a spokesperson for the Ministerio Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The Policía de Control de Drogas reported that they have been seeing drugs in solution in bottles of shampoo, wine and other fluids since the mid-1990s.

The raid in Río Clara came because a citizen reported the suspicious activity at the home of a man later identified by the last names of Mejía 

Vásquez. He is Costa Rican, but two Guatemalans also were arrested. They were identified by the last names of Pérez García y González Quiñónez.

Police agents were jubilant because this raid represents the first time they have uncovered a packing and transfer point for drugs in the southern zone. Agents searched a building on the property and found sacks filled with sand and also one-kilo packets of suspected cocaine, they said.

The Río Claro raid began Tuesday but continued into Wednesday. Agents also confiscated a tractor with Guatemalan plates. They surmised that drugs were brought to the warehouse, repackaged and then shipped north by means of tractor-trailers which carried other products. Police later found the tractor’s trailer a short distance away and confiscated that also.

Three vehicles owned by Mejía Vásquez also were confiscated. Police said they found a secret compartment in one vehicle, and anti-drug dogs reacted to remains of cocaine there.

The anti-drug police encouraged others to report suspicious activity at 800 DROGA NO or 800 376-4266.

Increased heroin in Colombia concerns Washington
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bush administration is concerned about a "disturbing increase" in opium poppy cultivation in Colombia, with the end-product of heroin finding its way into the United States, said Paul Simons. He is the State Department's acting assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs.

In congressional testimony Thursday, Simons said opium poppy cultivation in Colombia has increased by nearly 62 percent over the last few years: from 4,050 hectares in 1998 to an estimated 6,540 hectares (about 16,000 acres) in 2001.

Simons said that while the 2001 estimate for poppy cultivation and the potential 4.3 metric tons of heroin it represents accounts for only 4 percent of the world's potential production of heroin, it translates to between 22 and 33 percent of the estimated 13 to 18 metric tons of heroin consumed annually in the United States.

Simons rejected charges from some members of Congress that U.S. counter-drug policies and programs in Colombia do not fully recognize the dangers of heroin or devote sufficient resources to attacking heroin production and the cultivation of the opium poppy crop.

In fact, Simons told the House Committee on Government Reform, the U.S. fight against heroin and other hard drugs in Colombia "is a coordinated,
multi-faceted campaign that includes interdiction, 

eradication, and alternative development, as well as law enforcement."

Moreover, Simons said the United States is in the second "and most aggressive phase" of the 2002 spraying program against the opium poppy crop. To date in 2002, 3,263 hectares of poppy have been sprayed, and the United States hopes to reach the year-end goal of spraying 5,000 hectares (12,300 acres) of poppy, Simons said, adding that this figure represents a "significant increase" over the 1,846 hectares sprayed in 2001.

Simons said that with the support of Congress and "considerable effort and work," the United States has significantly increased the "base capability" of its spray program in Colombia.

"We now have a spray plane fleet capable of carrying out serious eradication programs targeting" both coca (used to make cocaine) and poppy cultivation, said Simons.

Simons praised Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for publicly and repeatedly emphasizing his personal commitment to a total war against the Colombian drug trade "on all fronts." Uribe is working closely with the U.S. mission in Bogota to broaden the spray program, enhance the capabilities of all counter-drug forces, increase the effectiveness and coverage of interdiction, and enhance alternative development, said Simons.

For its part, the United States must follow through with its commitments in the fight against both heroin and cocaine in Colombia, Simons added.

Interim tax plan
wins deputies’ OK

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

National deputies in the Asamblea Nacional have approved an emergency tax plan, 45 to 5.

The purpose of the plan is to reduce the deficit that Costa Rica has generated by years of overspending on the national budget. 

All factions of the national assembly supported the measure in the end except the five members of the Movimiento Libertario. 

Even lawmakers who approved the tax plan noted that the recently approved annual budget contains a heavy dose of financing via public debt.

Shortly before approving the package, deputies approved an amendment to levy another small tax on corporations, but one that could not be deduced as a taxable expense.

One report said that deputies also reduced the tax being levied on slot machines at Costa Rican casinos to about $20 a machine per month, far lower than the $300 or so that had been proposed originally. However, the legislative commission that proposed the interim plan is not working on permanent tax increases, and decided this week that they would propose the higher slot machine tax in the final package.

Yule fair prices
slightly lower

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A good bet for the weekend would be a visit to the Feria del Regalo 2002 at the FERCORI exposition center. It runs through Dec. 23.

Sharp-eyed A.M. Costa Rica shopping experts checked out the fair last week and found prices for most products about 10 to 15 per cent lower than in the downtown or at the malls.

This is not an arts and crafts fair or a sale of Christmas goodies. There are a few works of art, but they are quality. The bulk of the items for sale are clothes and music CDs. Admission is 500 colons ($1.33) for adults. The location is at Calle 23 just north of the railroad tracks and Avenida 3.

Theater sets Saturday
for Santa fundraiser

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Little Theatre Group and Santa Claus are combining for a fund-raiser Saturday at the Bello Horizonte theater.

The English-speaking theater group is characterizing the event as a ‘family Christmas day." The event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Blanche Brown Theater. Organizers described it thusly:

"A bake sale of goodies and holiday treats 

"A hot dog stand with all the condiments. The beverage bar will be open.

"Readers presenting Christmas stories in a small group settings A visit from Santa and his High Tech Elves, who will be shooting photos with digital equipment to either e-mail, or immediate prints for you to take home. 

"A theater fundraising event to spread the joy of giving to the local community of charities we support."

Oil execs lose jobs
in Venezulean crisis

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela —  The government has fired four oil company executives who are taking part in the general strike against President Hugo Chavez. 

Officials dismissed the executives with the state-run PDVSA monopoly Thursday on the 11th day of the strike aimed at ousting Chavez. The continued work stoppage has halted oil exports, although the government said Wednesday it regained control of the vital industry. 

Officials said several oil tankers were heading for foreign ports, but opposition leaders denied the claims, saying no tankers had left Venezuelan shores. 

The chief mediator in talks between the government and opposition is warning violence could break out unless the sides reach an agreement. The secretary-general of the Organization of American States, César Gaviria, says both parties continue to have differences, but he urged them to continue efforts to resolve the crisis. 

Gaviria said Wednesday he was fearful the longer the crisis continues, the greater the possibility for violence. Negotiations were continuing Thursday. The general strike has created shortages of food, drinking water and cash. The government says the work stoppage is costing $50 million per day in Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter. 

President-elect due here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lucio Gutiérrez, the president elect of Ecuador, will be among regional presidents today in the San José Palacio. The event starts at 9 a.m. when the leaders of the Central American countries consider tourism, regional integreation and other common themes. Gutiérrez was not previously announced as a visitor.


Trade pact outline
published today

The free trade pact reached this week between Chile and the United States is being hailed as a model for similar pacts between Central America and the United States.

In the interest of public discussion of the topic, we publish today the official U.S. State Department outline of the 800-page Chilean-U.S. document.

Some of the points to which negotiators agreed would have major consequences here if Costa Rica accepted a similar pact.


U.S. citizen shot at
while driving car

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen identified by police as Michael Wright, 45, told officers that a cab driver in a passing vehicle fired a shot that hit him in the right ear, the Fuerza Públic reported.

Wright was driving near the Parque de la Paz in southeast San José about 2 a.m. Thursday when the shooting happened. Police said that Wright had no idea what motivated the man to shoot at him. Police said they found a .22-caliber casing at the scene.
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Dr. Luis Carlos Sancho Torres
  bilingual psychiatrist (UCR)

• consulting • depression 
• schizophrenia
 • psychiatric disability VA Affairs
• evaluations for gun permits 
 • bipolar disorders • addictions 
• methadone
Available 24-hour a day
children and adults
office: 233-7782 beeper: 233-3333



Learn how to best protect your interests in the Villalobos case. Explore your options at

Also, we invite you to join one of the most active discussion groups on the case.  Find out what people who care are saying. Join at irccr-subscribe@yahoogroups.com


Law Offices of Lic. A.A. Hernandez Mussio

Attorney, Notary Public, Official Translator
English and Spanish

Specializing in Criminal 
and Corporate Law Practice

e-mail: legalxpt@racsa.co.cr

www.forovial.com                            Ave. 10, Calle 19, No. 1906
Cell: 365-3088                                            San Jose, Costa Rica

Real estate agents

15 years Costa Rican real estate experience
Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000 
Member, Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce
(506) 232-5016 home   (506) 233-8057 office  (506)382-7399 cell 


Empresa de Investigadores Internacionales S.A.
Telephone (506) 280-5217 
FAX (506) 280-5120
P.O. Box 297-2100 Costa Rica
Cédula Juridica #3-101-097681-32

Web design

- Custom Website Design & Development
- Website Hosting
- Website Marketing & Promotion
- E-Commerce Solutions
- Internet Consulting
One Price Websites - "A great service at an unbelievable price! "
For more information visit our website at www.istarmedia.net or call 
399-9642 or email at: info@istarmedia.net

Chilean-American free trade agreement summary
Officials in Washington announced this week that Chile and the United States have reached an accord on the free trade. The free trade agreement is being touted as a model for U.S.-Central American free trade talks.

Following is the summary of the U.S.-Chile agreement released by the United States Trade Representative:

Trade in goods

• All tariffs and quotas on all goods eliminated immediately or after transition periods — no exceptions.

New market access for U.S. consumer and industrial products

• More than 85 percent of bilateral trade in consumer and industrial products becomes duty-free immediately upon entry into force of the agreement, with most remaining tariffs eliminated within four years.

• Key U.S. export sectors gain immediate duty-free access to Chile, such as agricultural and construction equipment, autos and auto parts, computers and other information technology products, medical equipment, and paper products.

• Chile's "luxury tax" on automobiles will be phased out over 4 years. In the meantime, the number of vehicles to which this tax applies will be sharply reduced as soon as the Agreement takes effect.

• Textiles and apparel will be duty-free immediately if they meet the Agreement's rule of origin, promoting new opportunities for U.S. and Chilean fiber, yarn, fabric and apparel manufacturing. A limited yearly amount of textiles and apparel containing non-U.S. or non-Chilean yarns, fibers or fabrics may also qualify for duty-free treatment.

New opportunities for U.S. farmers and ranchers

• More than three-quarters of U.S. farm goods will enter Chile duty-free within 4 years and all duties on U.S. products will be phased out over 12 years. Key U.S. farm products will benefit from improved market access, including pork and pork products, beef and beef products, soybeans and soybean meal, durum wheat, feed grains, potatoes, and processed food products such as french fries, pasta, distilled spirits and breakfast cereals. Tariffs on U.S. and Chilean wines will first be equalized at low U.S. rates and then eliminated.

• U.S. farmers will have access to Chile that is as good as or better than the European Union [EU] or Canada, both of which already have FTAs with Chile.

• Chilean price bands, under which import duties on the same product may vary according to price level, will be phased out. During the phase out, producers of these products will be treated as good as or better than their competitors with other countries. Elimination of price bands was not part of the EU or Canada FTAs with Chile.

• Eliminates the use of export subsidies on U.S.-Chilean farm trade, but preserves the right to respond if third countries use export subsidies to displace U.S. products in the Chilean market.

• An agricultural safeguard provision will help protect U.S. farmers and ranchers from sudden surges in imports from Chile.

• Both sides renewed their commitment to continue the work on resolving important sanitary and phytosanitary issues, such as meat and dairy inspection and meat grading, that are inhibiting access to consumers in both markets.

Trade in services 

• The commitments in services cover both cross-border supply of services (such as services supplied through electronic means, or through the travel of nationals) and the right to invest and establish a local services presence.

• Traditional market access to services is supplemented by strong and detailed disciplines on regulatory transparency. Regulatory authorities must use open and transparent administrative procedures, consult with interested parties before issuing regulations, provide advance notice and comment periods for proposed rules, and publish all regulations.

Broad commitments to open services markets

• Chile will accord substantial market access across its entire services regime, subject to very few exceptions, a so-called "negative list" approach.

• Market access commitments apply across a range of sectors, including but not limited to:

• Computer and related services 

• Telecommunications services - Audiovisual services 

• Construction and Engineering - Tourism 

• Advertising - Express Delivery - Professional services (architects, engineers, accountants, etc.)- Distribution services, such as wholesaling, retailing and franchising- Adult education & training services- Environmental services

• The express delivery commitment includes an expansive definition of the integrated nature of express services, and affirms existing competitive opportunities.

New opportunities for U.S. banks, insurance, securities and related services

•The financial services chapter includes core obligations of non-discrimination, most-favored nation treatment, and additional market access obligations.

•U.S. insurance firms have full rights to establish subsidiaries or joint ventures for all insurance sectors (life, non-life, reinsurance, brokerage) with limited exceptions. Chile has committed to phase in insurance branching rights.

•Chile commits to modify its legislation to open cross-border supply of key insurance sectors such as marine, aviation and transport (MAT) insurance, insurance brokerage of reinsurance and MAT insurance, and confirms existing rights for reinsurance.

•New principle of expedited availability of insurance services means that prior regulatory product approval is not required for insurance sold to the business community. Expedited procedures are available in other cases when prior product approval is necessary.

•U.S. banks and securities firms may establish branches and subsidiaries and may invest in local firms without restriction, except in very limited circumstances. Chile's private pension system, now nearly 20 years old, was Latin America's first. Held up as a model for other countries, it has greatly increased savings rates. Individually owned pension accounts are worth more than $30 billion.

•U.S. financial institutions may offer financial services to citizens participating in Chile's highly successful privatized voluntary savings plans. U.S. firms also gain some increased ability to offer such products through Chile's mandatory social security system.

•Chile will allow U.S.-based firms to offer services cross-border to Chileans in areas such as financial information and data processing, and financial advisory services with a limited exception. Chilean mutual funds may use foreign-based portfolio managers.

An open and free telecommunications market

• Users of the telecom network are guaranteed reasonable and non-discriminatory access to the network. This prevents local firms from having preferential or "first right" of access to telecom networks.

• U.S. phone companies obtain right to interconnect with networks in Chile at non-discriminatory, cost-based rates.

• U.S. firms seeking to build a physical network in Chile granted non-discriminatory access to facilities, such as telephone switches and submarine cable landing stations.

• U.S. firms will be able to lease elements of Chilean telecom networks on non-discriminatory terms and to re-sell telecom services of Chilean suppliers to build a customer base.


• Chile and the U.S. agreed to provisions on e-commerce that reflect the issue's importance in global trade. Each country also recognized the importance of supplying services by electronic means as a key part of a vibrant e-commerce environment.

• Chile and the U.S. committed to non-discriminatory treatment of digital products; agreed not to impose customs duties on such products and to cooperate in numerous policy areas related to e-commerce.

• For digital products delivered on hard media (such as a DVD or CD), customs duties will be based on the value of the media (e.g., the disc), not on the value of the movie, music or software contained on the disc.

• The e-commerce text identifies Chile as a leader in Latin America for the further development of electronic commerce.

New protections for U.S. investors

• The agreement will establish a secure, predictable legal framework for U.S. investors operating in Chile.

• All forms of investment are protected under the agreement, such as enterprises, debt, concessions, contracts and intellectual property.

• U.S. investors enjoy in almost all circumstances the right to establish, acquire and operate investments in Chile on an equal footing with Chilean investors, and with investors of other countries, unless specifically stated otherwise.

• Pursuant to U.S. Trade Promotion Authority, the agreement draws from U.S. legal principles and practices to provide U.S. investors a basic set of substantive protections that Chilean investors currently enjoy under the U.S. legal system.

• Among the rights afforded to U.S. investors (consistent with those found in U.S. law) are due process protections and the right to receive a fair market value for property in the event of an expropriation.

• The Agreement prohibits and removes certain restrictions on U.S. investors, such as requirements to buy Chilean rather than U.S. inputs.

• These investor rights are backed by an effective, impartial procedure for dispute settlement that is fully transparent. Submissions to dispute panels and panel hearings will be open to the public, and interested parties will have the opportunity to submit their views.

• Open, transparent procedures for settling investment disputes.

Intellectual property rights

• Protection of copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets is state-of-the-art, going farther than previous free-trade agreements. Enforcement of intellectual property rights is also enhanced under this agreement.

• Non-discriminatory treatment for U.S. intellectual property transmitted over the Internet.


• Ensures government involvement in resolving disputes between trademarks and Internet domain names, which is important to prevent "cyber-squatting" of trademarked domain names.

• Applies principle of "first-in-time, first-in-right" to trademarks and geographical indicators (place-names) applied to products. This means that the first to file for a trademark is granted the first right to use that name, phrase or geographical place-name.


• Ensures that only authors, composers and other copyright owners have the right to make their works available online. Copyright owners maintain all rights to even temporary copies of their works on computers, which is important in protecting music, videos, software and text from widespread unauthorized sharing via the Internet.

• Copyrighted works and phonograms are protected for extended terms, consistent with U.S. standards and international trends.

• Strong anti-circumvention provisions to prohibit tampering with technologies (like embedded codes on discs) that are designed to prevent piracy and unauthorized distribution over the Internet.

• Ensures that governments only use legitimate computer software, thus setting a positive example for private users.

• Limited liability for Internet Service Providers (ISPs), reflecting the balance struck in the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act between legitimate ISP activity and the infringement of copyrights.

Patents and trade secrets

• Patent term can be extended to compensate for up-front administrative or regulatory delays in granting the original patent, consistent with U.S. practice.

• Grounds for revoking a patent are limited to the same grounds required to originally refuse a patent, thus protecting against arbitrary revocation.

•Test data and trade secrets submitted to a government for the purpose of product approval will be protected against disclosure for a period of 5 years for pharmaceuticals and 10 years for agricultural chemicals. Closes potential loopholes to these provisions.

• Ensures that government marketing-approval agencies will not grant approval to patent-violating products.

Intellectual property rights enforcement

• Criminalizes end-user piracy, providing strong deterrence against piracy and counterfeiting.

• Chilean government guarantees that it has authority to seize, forfeit and destroy counterfeit and pirated goods and the equipment used to produce them. IPR laws will be enforced against goods-in-transit, to deter violators from using U.S. or Chilean ports or free-trade zones to traffic in pirated products. Ex officio action may be taken in border and criminal IPR cases, thus providing more effective enforcement.

• Mandates both statutory and actual damages under Chilean law for IPR violations. This serves as a deterrent against piracy, and provides that monetary damages can be awarded even if actual economic harm (retail value, profits made by violators) cannot be determined.

Competition policy 

• Commits Chile to maintain a competition law that prohibit anti-competitive business conduct, and a competition agency to enforce that law.

• The Chilean law promotes economic efficiency and consumer welfare, thus making the appropriate objective of competition law clear.

• The agreement also requires that Chile control and regulate state enterprises and officially-designated monopolies. Such firms may not abuse their official status to harm the interests of U.S. companies, and must not discriminate in the sale of goods or services.

Government procurement

• Requires that covered Chilean ministries, regional and municipal governments not discriminate against U.S. firms, or in favor of Chilean firms, when making government purchases in excess of agreed monetary thresholds.

• Imposes strong and transparent disciplines on procurement procedures, such as requiring advance public notice of purchases, as well as timely and effective bid review procedures.

• Covers the purchases of most Chilean central government agencies, 13 regional governments, 11 ports and airports, and more than 350 municipalities in Chile.

• Ensures that bribery in government procurement is specified as a criminal offense under Chilean and U.S. laws. This furthers the anti-corruption goals set out by hemispheric leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001.

Customs procedures

• U.S.-Chile FTA is one of the first U.S. trade agreements with specific, concrete obligations on how customs procedures are to be conducted.

• Agreement requires transparency and efficiency in customs administration, with commitments on publishing laws and regulations on the Internet, and ensuring procedural certainty and fairness.

• Both parties agree to share information to combat illegal trans-shipment of goods. In addition, the agreement contains specific language designed to facilitate the clearance through customs of express delivery shipments.

• Strong but simple rules of origin will ensure that only U.S. and Chilean goods benefit from the agreement. Rules are specific to individual products, but are designed to be easier to administer than North American Free Trade Agreement rules of origin.

Temporary entry for trained personnel

• Agreement contains provisions that provide for the entry into either party of business visitors, traders and investors, intra-company transferees, and professionals.

• In the United States, this will take the form of a special FTA professional visa, available to a limited number of individuals holding four-year degrees. The number of professional visas granted to Chilean citizens will be capped annually.

• Agreement preserves the ability of the U.S. Congress to amend immigration laws, and the professional visa is the result of extensive consultations with Congress.

• U.S. professionals will be able to enter Chile without a numerical limit.

Labor and environmental provisions

• Agreement fully meets the environmental objectives set out by Congress in TPA [trade promotion authority, otherwise known as fast track]. Environmental obligations are part of the core text of the trade agreement.

• Both parties shall ensure that their domestic environmental laws provide for high levels of environmental protection and shall strive to continue to improve such laws. Agreement makes clear that it is inappropriate to weaken or reduce domestic environmental protections to encourage trade or investment.

• Agreement requires that parties shall effectively enforce their own domestic environmental laws, and this obligation is enforceable through the agreement's dispute settlement procedures.

• Chile and the U.S. will pursue a number of cooperative projects to promote environmental protection.

Cooperative activities to promote worker rights

• Agreement fully meets the labor objectives set out by Congress in TPA. Labor obligations are part of the core text of the trade agreement.

• Both parties reaffirm their obligations as members of the International Labor Organization, and shall strive to ensure that their domestic laws provide for labor standards consistent with internationally recognized labor principles. Agreement makes clear that it is inappropriate to weaken or reduce domestic labor protections to encourage trade or investment.

• Agreement requires that parties shall effectively enforce their own domestic labor laws, and this obligation is enforceable through the agreement's dispute settlement procedures.

• Procedural guarantees in the agreement will ensure that workers and employers will have fair, equitable and transparent access to labor tribunals/courts.

• A cooperative mechanism to promote respect for the principles embodied in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and compliance with ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.

Dispute settlement

• All core obligations of the Agreement, including labor and environmental provisions, are subject to the dispute settlement provisions of the Agreement.

• Dispute panel procedures set high standards of openness and transparency: Open public hearings; Public release of legal submissions by parties; Special roster of labor or environmental experts for disputes in these areas; Rights for interested third parties to submit views.

• Emphasis is on promoting compliance through consultation, joint action plans and trade-enhancing remedies.

• An innovative enforcement mechanism includes monetary penalties to enforce commercial, labor, and environmental obligations of the trade agreement.

Villalobos letters
Show me the
(bad) money

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you for attempting to stay on top of the story, which is complicated. I'm sure you get much of your info from the forums. I have come to the following observations about the situation at this point: 

Regarding regulatory agencies of the government: it is more than obvious that if in fact LEV's business was not complying with the banking regulations over the last 25 years, that those agencies were completely negligent in enforcing the rules or they were told not to act.

Either way this blind eye had allowed this situation to continue and grow and attract more and more investors who logically assumed a 25-year household name and storefront operation was blessed by all.

On this point alone if the government's position is this operation was not incompliance, then the government should be held fully accountable for any losses as a result of their failure.

Regarding the recent pursuit of this allegation, if the government is proven to be wrong, they again should be held accountable for effectively destroying a business and causing great financial distress and loss to it's investors.

Regarding allegations of fraud under the victims assistance plan it would seem this claiming process has been abused to collect evidence when it was supposed to establish a debt owing against the frozen funds. The very name of the plan assumes you are a victim and therefore someone or somebody has made you so — the presumption of guilt is implied. 

Undated checks, which were technically invalid, but accepted under terms that each investor knows about are being touted as fraud which is completely wrong and a civil litigation matter at best if things do not work out.

Regarding any bad money getting into the system there is an international protocol that when one government demonstrates clearly to another that they are in pursuit of the bad money and it has arrived in a country such as the CR, that the pursuing country would ask the C.R. in this case to assist in securing those funds.

This is specifically what the Canadian government did, but the C.R. government has taken great liberty to use this to search and freeze the operations of a separate company only because of association. Any other situations of bad money could be simply resolved by this process and in a spirit of cooperation, as it is all over the world.

Regarding the absence of LEV there is more than a legitimate reason for leaving town given the actions of the government. He had not missed fulfilling his obligations in 25 years and suddenly is made out to be a criminal destroying his image business and character on a worldwide scale.

Yet still he protects the privacy of his clients and asks for patience — not the character of a crook from my point of view. I sincerely hope that the government properly resolves this situation immediately as there is not much more downside left to their reputation and as an independent country.


Robert McDonald
Government created
the freeze, reader says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Once more you are giving false information to your readers and at the same time insulting those of us that had funds with these organizations.  Villalobos’ bank accounts were frozen by court order probably at the request of the Minister of Security, the Central Bank or the OIJ, on July 4th.

He continued to pay interest for 2 months out of pocket, and closed his offices on October 14 when he realized that he could no longer operate with accounts frozen here and in the U.S. and that they were going to come and search the offices again to gain access to his list of investors. 

Millions of dollars in interest payments have to be channeled through bank accounts. He also realized that they would be looking for him and thus preferred to disappear rather then face up to a year of detention, just because some judge wants to satisfy the request of the Minister of Security or other official.

In other words, it was the action of the government that interrupted his operation, not his departure, thus depriving thousands of people of their monthly subsistence.

Savings Unlimited was an indirect victim of that same freeze. When word got out of the Villalobos freeze, people rushed to Savings Unlimited to   withdraw their funds, no financial institution could withstand such a concerted assault on their cash . . . guessing the impasse, and probably aware of prison conditions in Costa Rica, Luis Milanes ran.

It is probable that the Savings Unlimited operation was becoming a pyramid and could not have lasted for much longer . . . but the trigger was the freezing of the Villalobos bank accounts.  Whoever was behind that decision deserves a jail sentence more so than the ones in it now.

It would have been a simple matter for the Government or the Banks of C.R., or for whomever was the initiator of the freeze, to ask for a negotiated settlement with Enrique Villalobos without disrupting and ruining the lives of many thousands of Gringos and Ticos, and causing compounding damage to the economy. You have seen nothing as yet, wait a few months and then think back to see if that freeze was necessary in view of the damage it will be doing.

John Manners
Costa Rica
What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001 and 2002 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.