A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica            Friday Edition,  February 23, 2018             Vol. 18,  No.223

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American business sector demands
an emergency decree on infrastructure

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican-North American Chamber of Commerce, known as AmCham, requested road infrastructure be declared an emergency issue.

"The road infrastructure of Costa Rica is at emergency levels to the point that the competitiveness report 2017-2018 places us in the penultimate place in the ranking of roads in Latin America,” it said.

“That shows the urgent need to execute the pending projects to solve the serious mobility problems that affect us, such as the sectorization and trunking of public transport units, electronic payment, the passenger electric train and the extension of Route 27," AmCham said in a press release.

The chamber added that in the present condition the Costa Rican State cannot weaken the institutions responsible for dealing with the emergency, especially the Public Transportation Council and the National Council of Concessions and considers that the latter is at the point of technical closure due to lack of budget.

"AmCham reiterates that through the public works concession model, the state of emergency in which we find ourselves can be overcome and for this the review of the internal procedures of the CNC and the allocation of sufficient budget will be the key to executing the control functions and the implementation of new concessions," added the representatives of U.S. businessmen.

According to Elías Soley, president of AmCham, "it is worrisome that some decisions have been taken to de-fund the operation of institutions such as the CNC, when it is by concession and other forms of public-private partnerships that we can achieve the qualitative leap that we require.” The National Council of Concessions has been responsible for projects that build infrastructure with private money.

Infraestructure022318.jpgPresidential House courtesy photo    
  The sector also encouraged presidential candidates to promote public-private partnerships to face the challenge of infrastructure.

“If the institutions are weakened, we will aggravate the road emergency, we will affect legal security, the predictability that investors require and we will drive away foreign direct investment that might be interested in these developments."

AmCham also made an urgent appeal to the presidential candidates to prioritize the figure of public-private partnerships, including the concession of public works, as it is an optimal instrument to rescue road infrastructure, increase the country's competitiveness and guarantee the quality of life.

"For AmCham the attention to the road emergency is a task of immediate attention of the new administration starting on May 8," the chamber concluded.

Legislature investigates the export of
fake organic pineapples
By A.M. Costa Rica staff   

The Commission for the Control of Income and Public Expenditure of the Legislative Assembly, started an investigation into the alleged irregularities in the export of false organic pineapple.

Present at the first hearing on the subject were the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Luis Felipe Arauz Cavallini, Vice Minister Ivannia Quesada Villalobos, Francisco Dall'Anese, former director of the State Phytosanitary Service and the Board of Directors of the National Chamber of Organic Agriculture.

The parliamentary investigation arises after a complaint filed before the agricultural ministry by members of the National Chamber of Organic Agriculture, which brings together producers mainly from the northern part of the country.

The organic agriculture chamber has questions regarding companies Valle Verde Corp, L and L Proyectos, MMV S.A and Congelados y Jugos Valle Verde S.A which the chamber alleged exported ordinary pineapple, making it look as if it was organic.

Dall'Anese ordered an investigation entrusted to agriculture official José Miguel Jiménez, shortly after checked in hundreds of technically designed sheets to see if there was a fraud.

According to the complaint of the organic agriculture chamber, several conventional pineapple exports could have been passed off as organic pineapple and placed in international markets, thus generating millions in profits.

Even the U. S. Department of Agriculture filed a complaint in this regard during a meeting held in Vermont with Costa Rican producers at the end of October 2015.

Part of the complaint was due to the Ministry of Agriculture’s suspension of several export permits for producers who work with organic pineapple. The complaint suggests that the ministry allowed some entrepreneurs to sell traditional pineapple as if they were organic.

According to a statement provided, after the exporting company was suspended, irregular acts occurred within the government.

"The suspension of activities was revoked. Subsequently there were a series of persecutions against the agronomist who denounced the alleged fraud with organic pineapple,” officials were told.

The denouncing investigator was suspended for eight days without pay, accused of sharing information with the members of the organic agriculture chamber who filed the complaint.
A.M. Costa Rica archive photo  
The United States also filed a claim regarding the subject in a meeting with Costa Rican producers in 2015 in Vermont.

Arauz eventually said in a radio show that everything was due to a problem of business competition and that the actions of the ministry regarding the complaint had been unquestionably lawful.

Now legislators will examine the behaviors of agriculture ministry officials and of private companies delegated by the state to certify exporters and producers.

Organic chamber members said they consider that this issue should be of national relevance and put in the spotlight by the media, so they said that they will remain vigilant.

After the first hearing, the legislators said they were not satisfied with the answers issued by the agriculture ministry leaders and, on the contrary, they hinted at the need to receive more information about the certification process that guarantees that an exported product is truly organic .

"We believe that the organic agriculture sector of this country should be strengthened, but when a complaint of alleged fraud is presented we are putting our little chicken of gold eggs at risk. We will only solve this problem by pointing out, attacking and removing from circulation those who are committing a fraud with such significant production," said the legislator Frank Camacho.

The commission will extend the investigation on the subject and will call José Miguel Jiménez, an agriculture technician, and representatives of the companies involved.

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