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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 248       Email us
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Corporate tax put back on the legislative agenda
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch again put before legislators Wednesday a proposal to assess a tax on corporations.

Casa Presidencial alerted the Asamblea Legislativa that the proposal was again on the table for action. Originally the executive branch wanted to have the measure passed into law by now so that owners of corporations and similar entities would make the first annual payment of the new tax in the first 15 days of January.

Today is income tax filing deadline
HERE!

For an unexplained reason, the measure was not included in the list of bills that lawmakers received when they started what is called their extraordinary session Dec. 1.

The Costa Rican Constitution specifies the dates when lawmakers can meet. But the executive branch has the power to call extraordinary sessions. Originally these were reserved for emergency actions. But more recently the legislature meets most weeks of the year.

The periods that are called extraordinary are those
when the executive branch controls the agenda. Lawmakers cannot act on any measure that has not been put before them by Casa Presidencial.

Bill No. 16.306: Impuesto a las personas jurídicas was presented formally Wednesday by the decree which was signed by President Laura Chinchilla. However, lawmakers did not take any action.

The legislature is deeply involved in considering the administration's revised tax plan, although there was no concrete action on that Wednesday either.

Legislative leaders who support the tax proposals have promised to stay in session over the Christmas holidays to pass the measures. But considering the number of amendments proposed for the tax plan, its passage is unlikely in December.

The tax on corporations might be passed more quickly. It already has been approved on first reading, so all that is needed is another vote.
The bill had been sent back to committee to adjust some flaws that the Sala IV constitutional court noted when the draft was run by magistrates.

The measure would tax every active corporation slightly more than $300 each. Owners of inactive corporations would pay half that. There are some provisions for small- and medium-sized companies.


Two policemen added to the strange kidnap case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A strange kidnapping case that centers on Escazú got stranger Wednesday.

This is the case that resulted in the arrest of two Colombians over the weekend and the discovery Tuesday of 44 fragmentation grenades and sniper clothing at their homes.

Wednesday two police officers from a special tactical unit were linked to the case.

Judicial agents alleged that the two Colombians kidnapped an individual and tried to extort $2 million from the victim's family by using threats, including the display of a fragmentation grenade.

Agents said they managed to free the kidnapped hostage before any money was paid, but they are keeping a tight grip on details. The name of the hostage was not revealed nor the circumstances.

The Poder Judicial identified the two Colombian men by the last names of González Castro and Ramírez Montoya. A judge has jailed them for three months of preventative detention.

The arrest of the Fuerza Pública officers brought quick press release from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública in which officials pledged cooperation with investigators. Ministry officials have suffered through a number of embarrassing arrests of policemen.

The two officers were identified by the last names of Ortega Vega and Aguilar Núñez. Late
sniper gear
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
This is one of the camouflage outfits found at the homes of the suspects in Bello Horizonte.

Wednesday afternoon they were in a private hearing before a judge in Pavas where their future was being decided. The officers were detained in Acosta and Turrialba. They were members of the Grupo de Apoyo Operacional.

Judicial agents did report Wednesday that the police officers are suspected of holding the kidnap victim until the two Colombians arrived. The crime was reported to have happened more than a week ago in San José.

There was no explanation as to why the police officers would involve themselves in such a case.

There also was no explanation why a resident of Bello Horizonte de Escazú would need the camouflage outfit of a sniper.

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Storm appears slackening,
but alerts are continued


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Heavy rains that have caused flooding in northern Costa Rica appear to be diminishing, and the weather forecast for today is variable showers in the northern zone and the Caribbean coast. Also facing possible showers is the entire Pacific coast.

The storms, caused by two low pressure areas, already have caused two deaths, and more than a thousand persons have had to leave their flooded homes.

The national emergency commission said that it counted 1,038 persons in public shelters. The commission said the principal jobs were providing food and maintaing the hygiene in the shelters.

The commission extended several alerts despite the slacking of the rains.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the heaviest rain Wednesday was along the nation's border with Nicaragua.  In the vicinity of San Carlos and Guatusos some 30 millimeters, a bit less than 1.2 inches, fell. On the Caribbean coast and in the northern zone rainfall ranged from 10 to 35 millimeters, about .4 of an inch to 1.4 inches, it added.

The Sixaola and Tortuguero rivers, both on the Caribbean coast, were reported rising from rain in the mountains. The Río Colorado at the northern border was reported running out of its banks.

The Cruz Roja said it had recovered the body of a man who fell into the Río Sarapiquí Tuesday. The second death was that of a motorist whose vehicle plunged off the highway in Vara Blanca Tuesday morning.

Ceremony marks acceptance
of foreign document process


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With a ceremony Wednesday, Costa Rican officials marked the country's adhesion to the Hague convention for the legalization of foreign documents.

What this means to expats is that the foreign documents they present here do not have to be authenticated by the Costa Rican consulate in the area where the document was produced. This includes such documents as birth certificates, college transcripts and marriage certificates. The documents will have to be certified by the foreign agency that certifies the signatures of notaries, usually the secretary of the state in the appropriate state in the United States.  The process is called  apostille, and the certifying agency attaches a small certificate.

A.M. Costa Rica reported at length on the process when the Asamblea Legislativa accepted the Hague convention in February.

For Costa Rican documents going elsewhere, the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto will validate the documents.

The ceremony Wednesday included the certification of a Costa Rican's grades issued by a private university. The student, Luis Felipe Alfaro Navarro,  will be continuing his education in México.

Similarly, if a foreign professional, a physician, dentist, nurse or teacher, seeks to work in Costa Rica, they will need to have their school transcripts validated in their home countries.  Some 103 countries subscribe to the convention.

Foreign minister José Enrique Castillo Barrantes said that Costa Ricans will be able to follow the progress of their documents online after they present them to his ministry.

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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Today is corporate and individual income tax deadline day
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is income tax deadline day in Costa Rica. Unless a corporation or individual has a special exception, the tax filing due today is for the 2010-2011 fiscal year that ran from Oct. 1, 2010, to last Sept. 30.

There are some new wrinkles this year. Instead of filling out a multipart form and presenting it to one of the state banks, the tax filer must run the document through the EDDI-7 system of Tributación, the tax collecting agency.

Although electronic filing is possible directly to the tax agency, some veteran tax preparers warn against it.
Instead they suggest that the completed form be taken to one of the banks. The bank clerk keeps two copies and the filer gets one, so the form has to be produced in triplicate.

Those taxpayers who find themselves in a bind can file a form reporting zero income and then file an adjusted form when all the data have been processed. Failing to file at all draws a penalty of more than 30,000 colons or about $60. In any event, there would be interest on any taxes owed.

Tributación officials said that any taxpayer who cannot handle the free special software can visit a local tax agency office for help and the use of a computer. This is the same system for filing the monthly sales tax rpeort.


Christmas gift
to the public


The Cuerpo de Bomberos organized and hosted a concert Wednesday night in the Plaza de la Cultura. The rain held off, and the event was a big success as spectators flocked in to watch the free, outdoor Christmas event. There were performances by the youth orchestra of the Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical from Acosta. Also performing were a group of musicians who work with the Bomberos, the fire fighters.
Bomberos concert
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper


Spanish firm will study possibilities for electric train
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The promise for an expanded electric train system in the San José metropolitan area will start to take form as soon as January 2012 when a Spanish train company begins an in-depth study into the project.

The Spanish company, Ferrocarriles de Vía Estrecha, will begin what is expected to be a four-month study into the parameters and details of a train system that would link high population places in the provinces of Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia y San José surrounding the greater metropolitan area of the capital city.

The study is expected to last four months and calculate an accurate cost of the train project. Previously the cost of such an expanded train system had been estimated to be $800 million, apart from operating expenses.
Another focus of the study will be how to integrate the electric train system with other forms of public transportation, such as buses and taxis. Currently the municipality of San José is considering the installation of a state-of-the-art trolley system. A French transit company is simultaneously conducting a feasibility study.

In a presentation at a press conference Wednesday Costa Rican transportation officials affirmed their commitment to exploring the electric train project. Representatives from the Spanish firm outlined the benefits of a train system, linking urban trains to a higher quality of life, noise and pollution reduction, shorter commuting times and less transportation related fatalities.

The firm is the same one from which the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles purchased reconditioned passenger cars.

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The Colegio de San Luis Gonzaga was one of the strcutures that was not heavily damaged. It is being restored.

Cartago building
Manuel Cubero Rodríguez photo
Pre-quake Cartago buildings on display at cultural center
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Cartago is revisiting its historical past through old photographs taken from a time before a large earthquake at the turn of the century shook the city and destroyed much of its structural history.

The photography series will be be on display in the Centro de Cultura Cartaginesa until Dec. 23. The exhibition is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The photographs include old shots of the city's buildings before the 1910 earthquake leveled or damaged many of them. The exhibit will also include before and after shots of the buildings, such as the old Apolo theater which was rebuilt after
the earthquake but in a different style of architecture or others which were simply abandoned.

Some of Cartago's older buildings are still standing. For example the Colegio de San Luis Gonzaga, which sits right behind the exhibit center, is filled with local shops. But it was one of the lucky ones which was not heavily affected structually and is now undergoing a historical restoration conducted in coordination with the municipality and the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural.

The 35 pictures being shown were originally taken by Víctor Manuel Cubero Rodríguez (1885-1957), but many of them have been saved in print or digital format. The reproductions can be obtained through the cultural center.


Investigative center cites kidney disease epidemic along Pacific
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A wave of chronic kidney disease is devastating communities along the Pacific coast of Central America. Victims are mostly men who conduct manual labor — mostly harvesting sugarcane, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.

Analysis of global health data showed that from 2005 to 2009, kidney failure has killed more than 2,800 men a year in the region, the center said.

In Costa Rica, death from the disease is up 16 percent from 2005. In the province of Guanacaste, the regional hospital had to start a home dialysis program because it was overwhelmed with so many chronic kidney disease victims that it began running out of beds to treat patients with other ailments, the center said.

In El Salvador and Nicaragua over the last two decades, the number of men dying from kidney disease has risen fivefold, according to the report. Now more men are dying from the ailment than from HIV/AIDS, diabetes and leukemia combined, it added.

The disease’s cause remains a mystery. A key contributing factor and potential culprit is dehydration and heat stress from strenuous labor, the center investigators concluded. Laborers, typically paid not by the hour or day but based on the amount they harvest, often work to the point of severe dehydration or collapse, potentially harming their kidneys with each shift, said the center.
A research team from Boston University, lead by Daniel Brooks, has found it is not just sugar cane workers who are falling ill. Miners and port workers also suffer high rates of kidney disease, yet they're not exposed to farm chemicals.

What these men have in common is they all work long hours in extreme heat, Brooks told the Center for Public Integrity.

In a preliminary study, Brooks´ team tested blood and urine from sugarcane workers who perform different jobs.

They found more evidence of kidney damage in the workers who have more strenuous jobs outside.

Researchers also suspect that exposure to unknown toxins, pesticides, alcohol or pain medication may trigger the onset of the disease, said the center report.

The World Bank issued more than $100 million in loans to Nicaragua’s sugar industry during the height of the epidemic without formal consideration of the kidney disease among its workers, said the center.

Central America accounts for one-fourth of the United States´ raw sugar imports.

Those with the resources to solve the mystery — the United States and other wealthy nations and international development agencies — largely have resisted pleas to investigate, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

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Google to invest to end
modern-day slavery


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Technology giant Google says it is donating $11.5 million to several coalitions fighting to end the modern-day slavery of some 27 million people around the world.

The donation is believed to be one of the largest corporate initiatives ever to fight slavery.

A Google official Wednesday said the company chose organizations with proven track records in combating slavery. Google says its grants will free more than 12,000 people from modern-day slavery and prevent millions more from being victimized. Ten organizations will be receiving the grants from the technology company.

The Washington-based human rights agency, International Justice Mission, is one of the organizations that will participate in the effort. The rights organization is entering a joint initiative with the groups Polaris Project and Slavery Footprint in a multi-year effort aimed in part at rescuing the enslaved and pushing for better resources for law enforcement agencies overseas.


Progress citied in search
for dengue fever vaccine


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Health Organization estimates that 2.5 billion people, more than two-fifths of the world's population, are at risk of infection with dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness that in its worst form can cause death. Until now, efforts to develop a vaccine against the disease have been unsuccessful. Researchers say a couple of experimental vaccines are showing promise.

Since dengue fever was first identified a half century ago, the incidence of the disease has grown dramatically. The World Health Organization says dengue fever today is endemic in more than 100 countries, and more than 50 million people are infected every year.  Costa Rican health workers see thousands of cases each year, mainly on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.

Scott Halstead, senior advisor to the Dengue Vaccine Initiative, an international consortium of medical research groups, said that fluid treatments for the disease have reduced mortality from the most severe form of the illness. But Halstead added that the rainy season in many parts of the tropics and subtropics, when Dengue-carrying mosquitoes are breeding and biting, is still a time of special anxiety because there is no specific medication or cure for dengue fever: 

“While the mortality rate, in reality, is relatively low because of the availability of good hospital treatment, this is almost unlike any other major infectious disease,” said Halstead.

In its worst form, dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, can cause severe internal bleeding, circulatory failure, shock, coma and death.

There are four related, but distinct, types of the dengue virus that are transmitted by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The difficulty in developing a vaccine, according to Halstead, is that a person may develop immune system antibodies against one type of virus, but would have no immunity against the other types. 

Halstead said that sets the stage for more serious infection later on.

“The antibodies that are left over from the first infection interact with the second type of the virus, and what we say is it enhances the infection. It makes it more severe the next time you’re infected with a different type of virus,” said Halstead.

Experts say it’s usually a second infection with a different Dengue virus that leads to the most severe and sometimes fatal form of the disease, dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Two promising vaccine candidates now are in the works to protect against all types of dengue virus. Both vaccines contain the four types of live but weakened viruses, designed to stimulate the body's production of neutralizing antibodies against all dengue types.

French drug maker Sanofi-Pasteur has reportedly invested nearly $1 billion to develop a vaccine that is proving highly effective in phase-three human clinical trials in Thailand, the last step before regulatory approval. A second vaccine, being developed by U.S. drug maker Inviragen, also has proved to be safe and effective in phase-one human trials.

Dan Stinchcomb, Inviragen’s chief executive officer, said that despite the millions of dollars it has spent so far to develop the dengue vaccine, the company hopes to keep it affordable.

“Our intention is to try to produce the vaccine at low cost so that we can provide it with help of funding to the poorest in need of the vaccine,” said Stinchcomb.

Progress on both dengue vaccine candidates was reported at the recent meeting of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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New rights commission
plans to tackle racism


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A United Nations representative in Costa Rica swore in a new human rights commission for the country Wednesday at the foreign ministry, also known as Casa Amarilla.

The panel's first duty is to bring attention and seek to end racism in Costa Rica with a national plan to fight it, Plan Nacional de Lucha contra el Racismo y la Discriminación Racial, said officials. The country isn't internationally known for the problem with racism, but in the past there have been racism cases involving Nicaraguans, natives, and black people.

The new commission is called the Inter-institutional Commission for the Monitoring and Implementation of the International Human Rights Obligations, or Comisión Interinstitucional para el Seguimiento e Implementación de las Obligaciones Internacionales de Derecho Humanos.

Carmen Rosa Villa, regional representative for the Office of the U. N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she was honored to be a part of the inaugural celebration because Dec. 10 marked the 63rd anniversary of the official Human Rights Day. And that Costa Rica is leader in the department of human rights.

Ms. Villa said the commission will permit dialogue with civil institutions and permit dialogue with the government departments. She referred to the commission as a key tool for human rights in the country. There were more than 20 members who were sworn into the commission. Ms. Villa said that it's not just any person helping but rather a person with the support of an institution.

“This is a task that compromises everyone,” said Villa. “Human rights is an action.”

Some of the sworn in members include Maureen Clarke, executive president of the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, and Carmen María Muñoz Quesada, legislator for the political party Acción Ciudadana. Ms. Muñoz is also part of the human rights commission in the legislature


Child health organization
plans Asserí toy drive


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Children Without Borders is collecting toys for underprivileged children between the ages of 1 and 12 years.

The organization is trying to collect 200 toys for the children of the neighborhood of La Fila de Asserí. The non-profit organization has asked the public for help to reach the goal and bring holiday cheer to these kids.

Children Without Borders is a foundation that provides free proper health care to underprivileged children. The clinics offer pediatricians, general medicine, dental care, psychologists, and heath education to the community. They have two clinics in Costa Rica, one in San José and the other in Guanacaste.

The organization's Web site is www.cwbfoundation.org.









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