Two ways to boost the economy
Opinion by James Brodell
Editor Emeritus of A.M. Costa Rica
A pragmatic business executive looking at Costa Rica's financial situation is sure to shudder over so many missed opportunities and bad decisions. As a realist, the business expert would ask why the country has not exploited its offshore petroleum potential, rejected exploratory wells in the northern zone, drove off a Canadian gold mining firm and lets foreign commercial fishing boats loot its coastal waters.
Then there is the immigration problem. The country is providing support, including medical, to untold numbers of illegal immigrants, not to mention the legions of public employees.
Officials even now are going forward with plans to de-carbonize the economy, an impossible feat, even as government officials and scientists elsewhere begin to suspect that the incremental warming of the earth stems from far more complex causes. After all, most of the glaciers melted and sea levels rose more than 400 feet in the last 10,000 years, and most of the time there was little human generation of carbon dioxide.
De-carbonization is more of a political ploy to levy a massive carbon tax and generate restrictive regulations that will further cripple the economy.
At the same time, the legislature wrestles with an unsolvable budget problem that only will grow worse as world interest rates rise and balloon the national debt.
There are two steps that the current legislature could take that could help. They could restore the benefits of the pensionado program and create a foreign employment immigration category.
The old pensionado program provided benefits for expats who moved to the country, including the right to import tax-free cars and furniture. There are still a few pensionado license plates that can be seen in the country. The pensionado immigration category still exists but without a lot of the old benefits. Panama has been promoting the many benefits of its expat program to the detriment of Costa Rica.
There also are a lot of employed persons who do not qualify for the pensionado or the rentista visas who still would like to live in Costa Rica legally and conduct their business while enjoying a perpetual beach vacation.
There are numbers of foreigners who are living that life right now but simply as perpetual tourists. Many telecommute to the north and pay no taxes on their earnings to their home country or even to Costa Rica.
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo
Many of the foreigners would welcome the stability of a new immigration category because they fear being denied reentry as they return from one of those obligatory trips outside the country to renew their 90-day tourist visas. In many cases they are too young to receive a pension and cannot come up with the funds needed to be a rentista. They also know that as a tourist they are not allowed to work legally.
The jobs with overseas firms are not the sort that put them in competition with a Costa Rican job seeker.
With the new category and stability would come the obligation to be a Costa Rican taxpayer, and the government could easily obtain income information from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service or the relevant agency elsewhere. Tax officials here already have sharing agreements with other countries.
The benefit to the country from an improved pensionado program might seem like small potatoes, but U.S. statistics show that 10,000 persons there are reaching retirement age every day. Other statistics show that most do not have the money to continue with their current lifestyle but they could live comfortably in Costa Rica.
Until now, Costa Rica has been promoted as a retirement mecca mostly by firms that assist with the residency process. At the very least, the central government should make efforts to promote the benefits of pura vida retirement to First World countries. And it would be helpful to make some changes in the law to compete with other countries that are actively seeking retirees.
A foreign or self-employment immigration category would legalize what exists now, generate more tax for the government and open the country to many more writers, consultants, day traders, software designers and many others who can telecommute or work with short trips out of the country. A substantial number could be expected to pick a beachside location in Costa Rica over a cubicle in some chilly North American city.
Emirates and Jetblue open shared route
By A.M. Costa Rica staff
Emirates Airlines will facilitate Costa Rica's connection with the Middle and Far East and with Africa in conjunction with Jetblue Airlines after the Technical Council of Civil Aviation approved their request to operate flights between San José and Dubai under a shared code and via points in the United States.
Emirates is one of the most sophisticated airlines in the world, flying a fleet of 244 aircraft, all Airbus 380 or Boeing 777-300, to more than 160 countries directly or in shared flight.
The company uses the Dubai International Airport as a base of operations.
Some 78 million people pass through the Dubai airport each year. The flights will provide Costa Rica with a connection through Dubai to the markets and destinations of the Middle East and Africa, and will open an important niche for the attraction of tourism and investments for the country, the airlines said.
The United Arab Emirates has shown interest in Costa Rica. In 2010, an air services agreement was negotiated and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the UAE and Costa Rica.
Those agreements are now embodied in the shared code, officials said.
The code-sharing figure consists of a cooperation agreement where one airline associates with another in order to reach other destinations to which it does not have direct access at the time.
In this case, Emirates Airlines has five weekly flights from Dubai to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, five weekly flights from Dubai to Orlando, Florida and a daily flight from Dubai to JFK airport in New York.
In all cases, these flights would connect with those of Jetblue from Fort Lauderdale and Orlando to San José and from New York to Liberia.
The codeshare requested by the companies from the General Directorate of Civil Aviation includes all Jetblue destinations in Costa Rica, corresponding to the Orlando-San José-Orlando, New York-Liberia-New York and Fort Lauderdale-San José-Fort Lauderdale routes.
In the case of the New York-Liberia flight, the government negotiated the start of Jetblue's MINT service as of Dec. 15 with an A321 airplane of 159 seats, including, for the first time on this route, 16 in business class beds.
Emirates Airlines courtesy photo
Emirates Holidays will promote Costa Rica
as a destination in the Americas.
The vice president, Epsy Campbell, expressed her satisfaction with the news.
"I am particularly pleased to know that the work developed by the Costa Rican Embassy in the United Arab Emirates, our officials in the Foreign Ministry and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute has paid off. We show that there is inter-institutional capacity to work successfully for the benefit of the country. Economic diplomacy is an important development tool for the progress of our society," she said.
The Minister of Tourism, Maria Amalia Revelo, stressed that "this is the first step of a long road that awaits us for the opening of the Middle East market and destinations beyond. We are hopeful that in the medium term we will begin to venture into the different markets with actions that are effective and that promote the trips of both the Middle East and of already identified destinations of connection such as India, South Africa, Australia and some parts of Asia.”
Emirates Holidays, the tourism company that is part of the Emirates group, will promote Costa Rica as a destination in the Americas.
Costa Rica and the United Arab Emirates have reciprocal embassies in San José and Abu Dhabi since 2017 and 2018, respectively. The citizens of both countries do not need visas to travel between both countries, which signed 11 international instruments in a year.
Costa Rica promotes pineapple in China
By A.M. Costa Rica staff
Asia FruitLogistica courtesy photo
The Asia FruitLogistica International Trade Fair was
attended by more than 13,000 traders from 76 countries.
In the first semester of 2018, Costa Rican exports from the agricultural sector totaled $1.6 billion, representing 28 percent of the total exported goods and a growth of 4 percent in relation to the same period of the previous year.
The products with the highest increase were: pineapple (12 percent), bananas (1 percent) and coffee (2 percent).
Nations that have increased their purchase of Costa Rican products are: Holland (13 percent), Italy (21 percent) and the United States (2 percent).
A tropical parasite to avoid
Dear A.M. Costa Rica readers:
Tropical diseases and parasites can be particularly difficult to treat. Angiostrongylus costaricensis is one of those parasites.
The parasite is also known as rat lungworm because the mature worm is only found in rodents. The worm larvae are excreted in rat feces which are ingested by snails and slugs. The larvae grow in the new hosts but cannot mature unless the snail is eaten by a rodent.
This would appear to be a closed cycle – rat to slug to rat – but other animals, like frogs and freshwater shrimp and crabs can be infected, as can humans.
In people, A. costaricensis lodges in the intestines and the infected individual can have a long period without symptoms which makes diagnosis difficult.
When they occur, the symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, vomiting and diarrhea which may initially be attributed to food poisoning, infection, or appendicitis. As the symptoms continue, even after the usual treatments, a diagnosis of parasitic infection may be confirmed.
Most cases of infection in humans resolve themselves without more than palliative treatment which can include corticosteroids for inflammation of the intestines and analgesics for pain.
In rare cases, however, larvae can enter the abdominal artery and mature into adults causing thrombosis and hemorrhage.
They may also produce eggs which can clog small blood vessels. What was a simple condition is now life threatening but infection can be easily avoided.
Human infection usually occurs when food is not properly handled.
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo
All fruits and vegetables, especially leafy vegetables, should be thoroughly washed before they are eaten and food should be properly cooked to kill the larvae.
Gardeners and anyone else who works outside should wear gloves and take care when removing slugs and snails from plants. The ground around the home and outbuildings should be kept clean and free of refuse that might attract rodents.
There is no treatment that will rid the body of the parasites which usually die when their normal life cycle is interrupted, but this is a case of “better safe than sorry.”
Editor’s note: The views or opinions expressed by the author are the sole and exclusive responsibility of the sender and do not necessarily represent the opinion of A.M. Costa Rica. Therefore, the newspaper does not accept liability for reader's opinion letter content.
From bugs and slugs to...
Well, by this time you should all know that I have a greenhouse . . . .
Right now, my Stanhopea wardii is in bloom, and the fragrance used to fill the entire space. Why doesn’t it? What could overcome the perfume of such a lovely flower?
Right now my greenhouse smells, reeks, stinks, of stale beer. You guessed it, I have slugs. I only noticed them this morning as I was spraying the orchid roots, and I knew exactly what to do. Down to Zamora’s, grab a couple of cans of Pilsen and start setting out trays of stale beer. Not sure why they like it stale, but that’s okay because I really don’t feel like carrying a salt shaker out there.
Slugs can play havoc with a lot of plants but they have a special affinity for Cattleya orchid leaves so better to be safe than sorry.
While we are on the subject of pests, what about wasps? I trucked on down to the orchard where I was attacked by wasps who decided to mutiny when I tried to collect the bounty (Mutiny? Bounty? Got it?) because they didn’t like the idea of my collecting anything out of a tree they had selected as home. It may have been cowardly, but I ran.
When I finally stopped running – I can’t run like I used to – I realized I needed to go back and do what I had intended, I needed to check the fruit. When we talk about our orchard, we aren’t kidding. There are 35 or so fruit trees down there, and we are hoping for our first real harvest.
For quite a while, we fed the fruit trees by spreading fertilizer on the surface of the ground starting at the drip line. That was great for the weeds but not so much for the production of fruit.
This year, I fertilized the trees the hard way. Starting at the drip line with a giant hole punch – a serious aerator. Down into the soil about 3 or 4 inches, then drop a tablespoon of fertilizer into the hole and cover it up.
Now the food is down near the roots of the tree but past the roots of the weeds. Circle the tree with the aerator. First circuit, 15 holes. Second circuit, out from the first, 24 holes. How big the tree is will tell you how far out you have to go, how many circuits you have to make and how many holes you have to punch in the ground.
I think I would rather be chased by wasps. Can you say, “exhausted?”
Plant for the Week
Victoria Torley photo
I don’t want to bore people who don’t like orchids, but this is my new Gongora cassidae, purchased at a local farmer’s market, and I love it. This orchid has a very different shape compared with the others that have bloomed for me and not quite as much scent. The flowers are about 2.5cm (an inch) and hang in a bunch. Plant your Gongoras in filtered shade and give them water occasionally if you are in a drier climate.
Editor's note: Victoria Torley, gardener columnist, can be reached at email@example.com
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Raids on two pineapple export companies
By A.M. Costa Rica staff
Costa Rican police, The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Spanish police raided two pineapple export companies as part of investigations related to the export of cocaine hidden in pineapple shipments.
The Ministry of Security reported that the investigation focuses on companies that have sent drugs from Costa Rica to European countries such as Belgium, Germany, Holland, Spain and England, and to the United States.
Police raided two of the companies, one located in the center of San Carlos and another in the town of Los Angeles de Pital, also in San Carlos.
The first company was Corporación Difari S.A, a firm dedicated to the export of pineapple to several European countries and registered by a Costa Rican subject with the last names of Mora Sequeira. The 42 year old has a history of assault with a weapon and reckless driving, according to investigators.
The second company was identified as Inversiones Joss S.A and is dedicated to the export of pineapples to the United States. It is registered by a Costa Rican man with last names of Salazar Solórzano. He is 34. In the facilities of the company, drug police said they found an envelope containing an unidentified substance which was sent for analysis.
The investigation of these cases began more than a year ago when the police began intelligence work against groups that ship drugs in containers. This led them to the carry out operations such as the one that occurred on Aug. 22 when they broke up an international criminal trafficking organization that apparently shipped cocaine to Europe inside pineapples.
The police worked together with police from other countries since the investigations against these two companies had the support of the Regional Office of the U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the General Commissariat of the Spanish Judicial Police.
Thanks to the operations in this and other countries, police said that the groups allegedly linked to the movement of drugs in containers were dismantled. Here are the highlights:
November- December, 2017: Spanish police seized a shipment of 745 kilograms of cocaine from Panama. The Spanish police arrested nine people.
Aug, 7: Spanish officials seized a shipment of 67 kilograms of cocaine that were in cylinders placed inside the pineapples. No one has been arrested in this case yet.
Costa Rican Drugs Control police courtesy photo
The investigation of these cases began more than a year ago when the police began intelligence work against groups that ship drugs in containers.
Aug. 22: A pineapple shipment containing 45.3 kg of cocaine was seized at Port of Wilmington, Delaware, United States.
Aug. 29: Another pineapple shipment containing 66.94 kg of cocaine was seized at Port of Wilmington.
The investigation revealed that in the case of Corporación Difari S.A, the cocaine was apparently placed inside cylinders that were hidden there in the bodies of the pineapples which had been carefully cut to remove the pulp, investigators said.
The cocaine cylinders had been bathed in a liquid or wax to hide the scent of the drugs with the intention of the detection of drug control dogs and customs, they added.
At the other company, Inversiones Joss S.A, the cocaine was put in cardboard boxes in shipments of pineapple and cassava as those products that traveled in container units, said investigators.
The drugs were hidden between plastic rectangular sheets pressed and placed inside the corrugated cardboard boxes, they added.
The investigation into these cases is ongoing as police try to locate all those involved in these cases of drug trafficking.