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Costa Rica: New law strengthens measures against human trafficking

 New law strengthens measures against human trafficking; Free Trade Agreement with Colombia nearly ready; medical profession against Law on Salary Incentives

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New law strengthens measures against human trafficking

The Law N.9095 Against Human Trafficking entered into force this Friday 8 February. For authorities, this represents a new weapon in the fight against this form of “modern slavery”.

It includes new measures and financial resources to fight against the illegal trafficking of human beings. It also creates new crimes and increases penalty for existing crimes.

The Law creates a permanent fund that will guarantee resources for preventive measures and for the attention of victims. It will be financed by a $1 tax levied on people exiting the country. The existing tax will allow national authorities to count with $1.5million to $2million a year.

A permanent Coalition Against Human Trafficking is also being established to promote policies related to this calamity.

The Law also makes the trafficking of organs and human tissues or fluids a crime. People caught “possessing, transporting, selling or buying” these will incur eight to sixteen years of prison.

Among other things, individuals involved in promoting or creating programs, campaigns or adverts to bolster Costa Rica’s image abroad as a destination for sexual tourism will now incur four to eight years of jail time.

The law also promotes new sanctions against people involved in the exploitation of people, the trafficking of migrants or selling of children under the age of 18.

Costa Rica is a receiving, transit and source of origin country for this kind of trade. It affects over 12 million people worldwide and is the second biggest source of illegal income after drug trafficking. Last year, 93 victims of trafficking and threatened by organized crime were taken into care.

Free Trade Agreement with Colombia nearly ready

This week, the fourth round of negotiations to define the terms of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Costa Rica and Colombia came to a close.

The most important outcome of this round was the concluding chapters on trade defense and financial services, as well as annexes on services and investment.

This marks the conclusion of 20 out of 21 chapters. It includes chapters on transparency, technical obstacles to trade, sanitary measures, cooperation on customs issues, intellectual property and telecommunications, among others.

Technical teams will be meeting in the following days to negotiate the final points. This will involve access to agricultural and industrial goods, as well as rules of origin. Consultations with the productive sector will also be carried out with the view of concluding negotiations.

A study shows that there are important export opportunities for Costa Rica in electronics, pharmaceuticals, agroindustry and the medical industry.

Moreover, the conclusion of this FTA with Colombia is the final step for Costa Rica to become a member of the Pacific Alliance. It already has bilateral agreements with Chile, Peru and Mexico, which are the remaining members of this regional organization.

Negotiations between both countries started in July of 2012 and are expected to conclude in 2013.

Contention over Law on Medical Incentives

On Thursday, after a second debate, legislators unanimously approved a bill destined to give “the right interpretation” to the Law 6836 on Incentives for Professionals in Medical Sciences.

The “authentic interpretation” of the Law voted on Thursday recognizes that incentives should be calculated on doctors’ base salary, not gross salary. Gross salary generally includes extra days of work and other variable activities.

This would make least 2000 lawsuits from doctors invalid. It is estimated these would cost the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (Costa Rican Social Security Fund – CCSS) over ¢ 170 billion ($340 million). Hence, the main argument in favour of this Law is that it is necessary to prevent the CCSS going bankrupt.

The Unión Médica Nacional (National Doctors’ Union – UMN) agreed not to go on strike over the Law 6836 on Medical Incentives. However they declared they will take legal action against it by resorting to the Constitutional Court or Sala IV.

 

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