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(506) 2223-1327           Published Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 246       Email us
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Most cédulas for foreigners comply with new regs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Legal pensionado, rentista and permanent residents are included automatically in the new banking identification system if they have renewed their cédula within the last five years.

That is when the so-called DIMEX system went online at the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

A report published Dec. 1 in A.M. Costa Rica has caused concern among some English-speaking expats because they fear they will have to obtain a new type of identification card.

Foreigners will be required to present their personal identification beginning in January while making bank money transfers. The card will also link the person to the country's electronic immigration network which tracks the movements and status of foreigners. That network is run by Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. The DIMEX system is the same one that currently issues cédulas for permanent residents, rentistas and pensionados, among others. The acronym means  Documento de Identificación Migratorio para Extranjeros.

The implementation of the new regulations is a cooperative effort between Costa Rican immigration officials and the nation's banking establishments, officials said at the time. Kathya Rodríguez, the director general of Migración y Extranjería, said then that permanent residents, temporary workers, students, refugees, the stateless, among others, will be subjected to the new guidelines, but it should not have an effect on tourists. There also is a regulation to issue numbers for persons who do not fall into these
The immigration agency provided this cédula for illustration. The nun pictured is on a religious visa and would be issued a DIMEX card identified as such on the lower right.

categories based on the identification in their passports.

There are many categories of temporary and permanent residencies that generally do not involve North American expats. Some categories, like students, have been identified by stamps in the passport instead of by a plastic cédula card. After January, if a student here on that type of visa wishes to make a transfer of funds through the Costa Rican banking system, he or she will have to obtain a DIMEX card for about $100. Of course, most students do not have the need to transfer funds out of their account or out of the country.

The measure is mainly designed to protect against money laundering. Costa Ricans already have cédulas that are linked to a data base in the Registro Civil.

The DIMEX card contains identifying information in a magnetic strip. The new measures were mandated by the Banco Central, and all banks must comply.

Graphic shows a jump in legal foreign residents between 2008 and 2010. The trend probably has continued.

foreign residents
Source: Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

Legal U.S. residents are about 4 % of population
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The most recent government statistics show people from the United States still represent a significant portion of the foreigners living in Costa Rica officially, but the number staying in the country as perpetual tourists remains unclear.

The 2010 population of residents living in Costa Rica but born in the United States comprise 4 percent of the population of foreign-born residents, or approximately 14,000 people. Nicaraguans represent 68 percent of that number and Colombians represent 6 percent.

Over the past decade Colombian immigrants living in Costa Rica have surpassed in number those from Panamá, El Salvador and the United States. In 1970 there were approximately 25,000 immigrants living as residents in Costa Rica. In 2010 there were 374,000.
The number of immigrants in 2010 accounted for about 8 percent of the total population. Many believe the actual number of people residing in Costa Rica, including Nicaraguan laborers and perpetual tourists, is much higher than reported.

The national immigration database recorded in 2010 more than 1 million arrivals to the country from visitors born in the United States and more than 400,000 arrivals by Nicaraguans. Clearly most of the Americans are actual tourists but many use the Costa Rican immigration law that allows them to stay for three months, then leave the country and return for three months more, as a way to perpetually live abroad without becoming a legal resident. And many Nicaraguans enter and work illegally in the country.

For example several weeks ago the Fuerza Pública apprehended a truck carrying dozens of undocumented Nicaraguans near the border in Costa Rica.

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Opponents of proposed tax
will take to the streets today

By Zach McDonald
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican unions announced Monday action against the Ley de Solidaridad Tributaria, or fiscal plan. The Sindicato de Trabajadoras and the Trabajadores de la Educación Costarricense called for members and the general public to join the protest.

A march is scheduled in San Jose today at 9 a.m. from Parque Central to the Asemblea Legislativa. Avenida Segunda will be closed to accommodate marchers.

Beatriz López Ferreto, president of the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza, said the organization will issue a document stating opposition to the the plan and demand its rejection.

The plan is being pushed by Casa Presidencial in an effort to generate $500 million more income a year.

The plan would extend the current 13 percent sales tax to many other financial transactions and up the rate to 14 percent. Previously exempt activities like hiring professional services and paying for private education now would be taxed.

Oppositions to the tax package say it is largely regressive and places value added taxes on consumer goods mostly at the expense of thousands of impoverished families. The organization calling for the fight said they will not be backing down if the vote goes through before Dec. 24.

"If the project is approved in the first debate, protest actions will continue in 2012,¨ said Ms. Ferreto, ¨even if the Sala IV declared it did not contain constitutional defects."

Ms. Ferreto said that taxes should fall on luxury goods and services, adding that those who make more should pay more. Also suggested was cracking down on tax evasion, which may be as high as 70 percent.

Some of the more radical elements are calling for a general strike and occupation of the legisalture.

Legislators are considering working through what normally would be a Christmas recess to pass the measure. A coalition of the political parties Liberación Nacional and Acción Ciudadana would seem to assure a favorable vote.

Some protesters oppose the way in which the legislative leadership put the measure on a so-called fast track that limits debate. Still there are thousands of proposed amendments that have to be discussed individually.

Many of those who now oppose the tax are the same individuals and groups that opposed the free trade treaty with the United States and other Central American countries.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
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Just when everyone thought the dry season was here . . . .
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just when expats thought it was time to put away the umbrella and break out the sunglasses, nature had other plans.

Two low pressure systems near Panamá have interrupted the glorious arrival of the dry or high season. Rainfall was variable and intermitent in the country Monday. Turrialba reported some 42 millimeters or about 1.6 inches. Some areas like in the vicinity of Santa Rosa, reported no rain. The Central valley had morning and evening showers.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that similar conditions will persist for the rest of the week. That means cloudy skies and rain with strong winds in the Central Valley and Guanacaste.

The institute issued a turbulence advisory for light planes.

The low pressure areas are expected to maintain the instability of the air especially in the south Pacific and the Caribbean, said the institute.

As usual the heaviest rains are expected to fall in the mountains with the possibility of flooding in the lowlands near the Caribbean coast and in the northern zone.

The weather forecasters said that there might be a change to the normal conditions by the end of the week. Normal conditions mean mostly blue skies, little rain and warm days Now there also is a chance of some chilly nights in the Central Valley.

Old timers are quick to talk about how the season dried up at the end of October. This is a year with La Niña developing in the Pacific, and that generally means wetter weather for Costa Rica.
Rain in the evening
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper
Light rain dampened spirits during evening rush hour.

The good news is that hurricane forecasters are putting away their charts and heading for vacation. The season officially ended Nov. 30, and the development of Atlantic or Pacific cyclones is unlikely until May.

'Tis the season for some really annoying gifts for kids
By Zack McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The headache does not usually end with figuring out how to pay for all the kid's toys. For most parents, with the right family members and friends, it is only the beginning.

The seasoned parent can spot a do-not-buy item at first glance. When the kid starts banging that one button, which makes that one annoying sound, over and over in the store — something similar to wisdom sends a sharp, stabbing pain to the base of the skull. Those are do-not-buys, no matter what, items.

Family members, those who do not have kids, often do not understand this concept and will buy the kid whatever it desires. The light-hearted, prankster friends pick these out for the dark, sadistic humor it brings their soul in a season filled with cheer.

To get the desired effects, options can vary.

For the girls, there are the usual baby dolls that cry or make other noise and, often times, have a bodily function or two. There is also a device called Press Dough. It’s a cooking set with real dough and real icing. The toy is a 9,790 colons ticket to endless amounts of clothes, face and hands cleaning, basically.

Along the same messy lines is an item called Moon Sand for the boys. A grainy, play-doh-esque product, Moon Sand comes with 10 ounces of this mortar-like substance. Included with the sand is a mold to make cinder blocks and then the child can build foundations block-by-block. The box proclaims it "never dries out," and, more than likely, for 8.490 colons, never comes out of the carpet.

The Mix Me DJ is the exemplar do-not-buy item if a parent wishes to retain sanity after the holiday season. The product comes with microphones, cheesy synthesizer sounds at the push of a button and a DJ scratching table
mess and noise
Parents can have a mess or noise or both!

that makes the same wikki-wikki sound any time it is touched. For 27,900 colons, not only will the parent have to hear it constantly, but every time the family member without kids or the friend visits and says: "Show me how good you've gotten on that DJ-majig I bought for you.”

The device does not have a volume control. Then that one button, that makes that one annoying wikki-wikki sound, sends something similar to wisdom stabbing into the base of the parent's skull.  All that for $56.

For parents to avoid the impact of these toys, preparations can be taken. Forewarning friends and relatives of repercussions is a proactive strategy. Having a contingent plan in place is also helpful. Practice damage control, so to speak. Designated play areas for the messier gifts, earplugs or hiding battery supply for the noisemakers could work.

Or unlucky parent could invest in padded walls for when it gets downright absurd.

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Another study shows impact of ocean dead zones on sport fish
By the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration news service

The science behind counting fish in the ocean to measure their abundance has never been simple. A new scientific paper authored by fisheries biologist Eric Prince and eight other scientists shows that expanding ocean dead zones – driven by climate change – have added a new wrinkle to that science.

In a paper published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, these scientists sound an alarm that expanding ocean dead zones are shrinking the habitat for high value fish such as marlins in the tropical northeast Atlantic Ocean. As dead zones expand, marlins, other billfish and tunas move into surface waters where they are more vulnerable to fishing. Dead zones are areas in the ocean where oxygen levels are so low that creatures cannot survive over the long term.

“By combining the disciplines of oceanography and fishery biology, we are getting a much clearer picture of how climate driven dead zones are shrinking the habitat for some of the world’s most valuable fish to commercial and recreational fishermen,” Prince said. “With a clearer picture, we will be able to make better management decisions for the long-term health of these species and their ecosystems.”

In the past, Prince has studied the movement of marlins and other billfish in ocean waters off Florida and the Caribbean as well as in the tropical waters of the eastern Pacific. He is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The new paper combines Prince’s research on marlins in the northeast tropical Atlantic Ocean off Africa with oceanographic research in the same waters by Lothar Stramma and his colleagues at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Science in Kiel, Germany, as well as scientists at the University of Miami Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Prince tagged blue marlin, one of the most valuable recreational species on the planet, with pop up satellite tracking devices to record their horizontal and vertical movement. He compared this information on fish movement with detailed oceanographic maps developed by Stramma and his colleagues on the same ocean areas showing the location of zones with low dissolved oxygen. Prince, Stramma and Sunke Schmidtko, are the three equally contributing first authors of the paper.

Blue marlins and many other billfish are high energy fish that need large amounts of dissolved oxygen. By comparing the

Bluie marlin
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photo
Blue marlin are also an important factor in Costa Rican sportfishing tourism.

movement of the blue marlins and the location of low-oxygen areas, the scientists show that blue marlins venture deeper when dissolved oxygen levels are higher and remain in shallower surface waters when low dissolved oxygen areas encroach on their habitat from below.

“The shrinking of habitat due to expanding dead zones needs to be taken into account in scientific stock assessments and management decisions for tropical pelagic billfish and tuna,” said Prince. “Without taking it into account, stock assessments could be providing false signals that stocks are healthy, when in fact they are not, thus allowing overfishing that further depletes these fish stocks and threatens the sustainability of our fisheries.”

While the new paper focuses on the tropical northeast Atlantic Ocean off Africa, the expansion of low-oxygen zones is occurring in all tropical ocean basins and throughout the subarctic Pacific, making the compression of habitat a global issue. The problem for fish in the tropical Atlantic is particularly acute, the authors note, because many of these fish species and the unintended catch, called bycatch, are already fully exploited or overfished.

The new paper follows earlier research by Prince published in 2010 in Fisheries Oceanography based on tagging of marlins and sailfish in the waters off Florida and the Caribbean, which also showed these billfish prefer oxygen-rich waters close to the surface and move away from waters low in dissolved oxygen.

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Protesters block gates
of major shipping ports

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters blocked gates Monday at some of the West Coast's busiest ports in the United States and Canada, as part of a nearly three-month-old movement against what they say is corporate greed.

The protests caused a partial shutdown of operations at some of the terminals in Oakland, California, and Portland, Oregon.

In Portland, hundreds of protesters blocked entrances at two terminals preventing trucks from entering. Employees of the terminals were told to stay home from work. In Oakland, unions representing dock workers and longshoremen sent workers home after hundreds of protesters blocked an entrance to the port.

Similar demonstrations are taking place in Anchorage, Alaska, Los Angeles, California, San Diego, California, and Seattle, Washington, as well as in the Canadian city of Vancouver.

The demonstrations are called "Wall Street on the Waterfront" and are targeting SSA Marine, a shipping company that is partially owned by investment bank Goldman Sachs. Protesters accuse the company of unfair labor practices and union busting.

Goldman Sachs has been a regular target of the anti-Wall Street campaign.

The Occupy Wall Street movement began in New York in September. It says it represents the "99 percent,"  those outside the top 1 percent of wealth holders.

Last week, Occupy protesters in Washington joined thousands of people, including jobless and underemployed Americans, for three days of demonstrations to press an agenda of jobs and economic equality.

Peru's president names
hardliner prime minister

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Peru's president has sworn-in a new team of cabinet members.

President Ollanta Humala replaced 10 of his 19 ministers Sunday.

Oscar Valdes, who had been the interior minister, is the new prime minister.  Valdes is a former army officer who was Humala's instructor in the military.

The finance and trade ministers were among those who retained their positions.

Prominent among the 10 who were replaced was former culture minister Susana Baca.  The Latin Grammy Award-winning singer had been Peru's first cabinet minister of African descent.

Critics say the promotion of Valdes means the government will be less willing to negotiate with rural communities opposed to billions of dollars in new mining and oil projects.  President Humala declared a state of emergency in the Cajamarca mining area last week. 

The president's declaration gives police and the military more authority to shut down protests of the Conga mining project, which he says will bring thousands of jobs to Peru. 

Former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo said Sunday his Peru Possible party opposes what he calls "the militarization of the government of Humala, which was democratically elected."

New report is pessimistic
on economic growth

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Experts at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development say growth is slowing for major economies around the world. 

A report Monday analyzes data gathered in October that is intended to give a look at future economic growth.

The organization says Brazil, Russia, India, China, Europe, and the United States all will expand more slowly over the next six months.

Later this week in the United States, officials at the Federal Reserve will review the state of the world's largest economy and set interest rates. New information also is expected from the government about inflation and factory production.
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State media company Sinart
signs pact with union

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After eight years the Costa Rican state-funded communications group and an employee association have reached a collective agreement that improves the benefits of the employees.

This is the first such agreement in Costa Rica history for the media, according to the press release.

Officials of the Sistema Nacional de Radio y Televisión signed an agreement that will allow certain benefits to the employees of the station, according to Fernando Vargas, president of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados. He said that some of the benefits were an economic package for those that are unjustly fired and the creation of a labor relations board.

“This is very important because it will work as a filter . . . The board won't allow the worker to be abused,” said Vargas.

Another benefit was a pledge of up to 220,000 colons (about $440) to help an employee pay for a funeral of an immediate family member.

The agreement hasn't been put into force because both sides are waiting for the Ministerio de Trabajo to ratify it.

Sinart S.A. runs Canal 13 television, Radio Nacional at 101.5 FM and a publicity agency.

Real estate firm planning
Parrita gift distribution

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rich Coast Realty in Parrita is seeking donations for its annual holiday gift distribution for local children.

“Last year in the week leading up to Christmas we had the idea of reaching out to our friends and clients and asking for donations to buy Christmas gifts for poor children here in Parrita,” said Brendan Ryan, the broker. “We had an overwhelming response and in about seven days before Christmas we raised over $1,700 and bought Christmas presents for about 150 children! And they were thrilled! They were simple gifts, a toy truck and an action figure, or a baby doll was a typical gift, but for a child that wasn't going to receive much or anything at all, they were greatly appreciated.  It was an amazing experience that started with an idea and an email and it took on a life of itself.”

This year the firm will organize its program through three local elementary schools, and will be sponsoring the holiday parties. There are about 150 students between the three schools, and if the company has extra, they will also adopt other schools in the area or give the gifts away through the local church, Ryan said.

Parrita is on the central Pacific coast south of Jacó and north of Quepos.

He said that his firm managed to obtain a discount at a local store and that the firm will be seeking the same this year.

More information is available from Ryan at his email address:

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