A.M. Costa Rica

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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, April 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 80         E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Salvaged vehicles seem to be common in lots
Buying a used car here can be a nightmare
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Readers requested this article. Some helped write it, sending in accounts of their experiences trying to buy a used car in Costa Rica.  Most recount the endeavor as a terror.  One couple has almost given up and prefer the bus to dealing with used car salespeople.  They may import their old vehicle from the States, paying more in the process, because they know the car and do not want any more surprises.

The biggest problem is the twisted tongues of some of the sellers.   Little that some state about a used car comes close to the truth, especially the mileage.

A perceptive potential buyer ordered the 30-day unlimited reports package from Carfax.com for $24.99.  Carfax.com is a trusted provider of vehicle history information.  Using the unique 17-character vehicle identification number (VIN) found on vehicle dashboards and title documents, the firm can instantly generate a detailed vehicle history report on any used car or light truck in the United States and Canada.  Another such service is Autocheck.com.  The services and costs are very similar in price.

Then the buyers hit the streets to buy a small car.

Unbelievable almost every car checked had the mileage turned back.  Others had been in a major accident, a fire, or flood.  The National Automobile Dealers Association estimates that Hurricane Katrina alone may have damaged as many as 400,000 cars.
The would-be buyers found leased and rental vehicles along with the taxis and police cars with super high mileage miraculously appearing in Costa Rica with super low mileage.   Some vehicles were just downright lemons and had been reported as such to the manufacturer by previous owners.

When the buyers asked a car dealer the origins of a car, most of them said Florida.  Well Carfax.com reported none came from Florida.  One originated in Canada, then went to Alaska and then two other states before ending up on a big car lot here.

Some in the used car business in Costa Rica appear to be feeding on the innocent.  Used

car lots are everywhere.  This was not true several years back, so apparently it has been a profitable enterprise for many.  The economics are easy enough for shady operators.  Buy a salvage vehicle in the United States with gazillions of miles on it, ship it to this country, turn back the odometer, wash it up a bit and sell it to an unsuspecting buyer as almost new.

The taxes on used cars are higher too.  Vehicles from zero to 3 years old are assessed 52.20 percent import tax. From 4 to 5 years the rate is 63.91 percent. Anything over 6 years old pay a whopping 79.03 percent.

Based on these facts maybe it is just better to import.  This is no cakewalk either.  One needs to calculate the cost benefit of doing so adding in something for the hassle factor.  Here are a few points to consider:  One needs to find the right vehicle, get it to a port of export, locate and engage a customs broker, get it on a boat to Costa Rica, get it out of customs, pay all the taxes and associated fees, and license it. 

Some shoppers may find it is better to buy a new car.  There is a wide selection nowadays in Costa Rica offering a range of different warranties and service arrangements.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at crlaw@licgarro.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info.  Copyright 2004-2006, use without permission prohibited.

Expats are more vulnerable, so they have to be more alert
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats are especially vulnerable to crooked auto dealers.

Expats either buy a car when they arrive in Costa Rica or they import their own vehicle from their home country. And if they must return home, their car is up for what may be a forced sale.

A.M. Costa Rica has not fielded a single complaint about vehicles offered for sale or
sold by advertisers. Most transactions are individual ones between English speakers or with small, family-run enterprises.

Still, we also encourage readers to inform us of their experiences, both good and bad. We would not accept advertising from anyone who generates a flurry of valid complaints.
Costa Rica has limited consumer protection, so it is the responsibility of every car buyer to check out a potential purchases as if there were no guarantees and no recourse. There probably isn't.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 80

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Conference seeking
lessons from big quake

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Saturday marked the 15th anniversary of the 1991 Limón earthquake in which at least 48 persons died in Costa Rica and 79 died in Panamá.

Tuesday emergency officials will meet at 9 a.m. in the  Escuela de Geología of the Universidad de Costa Rica to discuss the earthquake with a goal of promoting preparedness.

Some 651 Costa Ricans suffered injuries as did more than 1,000 persons in Panamá.

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake affected an area of 8,000 square kilometers, (almost 2 million acres) and destroyed 4,452 homes in Costa Rica and left 7,869 damaged.

The quake ruined bridges, railways, pipelines and highways and raised the level of the coast at Limón nearly two meters or about six feet. A small tsunami was generated with waves about six feet high.

The quake was the worst recorded in the world that year. It hit just before 4 p.m. and had an epicenter some 36 kms (22 miles) southeast of the city of Limón  and 114 kms. (71 miles) southeast of San José.

Policeman shot in head
by fleeing store bandits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two robbers shot a Fuerza Pública officer in the head when the policeman tried to halt their getaway.

The shooting took place Friday about 5:30 p.m. on San José south side near Clinica Biblica. Two robbers held up a store, and an undercover police officer became aware of the crime.

The officer was identified as Roy Sarmiento Granados. He was one of a team of police working undercover in commercial areas that are prone to robberies.

The robbers fled in a car, but abandoned the vehicle between avenidas 16 and 18 at Calle 5. There police caught up with two suspects and shot one in both legs. He was identified by the last names of Villavicencio Salazar. He was hospitalized.

The second suspect, identified by the last names of  Vargas Castro, was jailed.

U.S. tourist is victim
of brutal beach rape

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four men in Manuel Antonio-Quepos abducted and raped a 34-year-old female U.S. tourist, and police detained four suspects Friday.

The crime happened on the beach as the tourist was walking with a male companion. Police said one of the attackers held the male companion at knife point while the other three men dragged the woman to a nearby mangrove.

The rape was a brutal one because the men were covered in blood when they returned to their nearby construction jobs, officials said. A guard there became suspicious and called officers.

Investigators found bloody clothes on the beach as evidence of the crime.

The suspects were identified by their last names, ages and hometowns as Cortés, 30, of San José, Vargas, 21, of San Ramón and two brothers named Rojas, both of Limón, said police.

Electric rates going up
for customers of ICE

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Regulators have raised electrical rates 13 percent for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. The rate change goes into effect once the resolution is published in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

The change affects electrical customers in Alajuela, Puntarenas, Cartago, parts of rural San José and parts of Heredia.

The rate change does not affect bills from the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, which supplies metropolitan San José.

The resolution by the Authoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos also allows the institute, known as ICE, to raise rates 6 percent from January to May, a period of high use. The company sought a 17.23 percent raise.

A moderate shock in Pacific

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A moderate earthquake struck near the south Pacific coast about 9:30 p.m. Sunday.  The quake was barely felt in the Central Valley, but a resident of Perez Zeledón said the shaking could not be missed. A seismograph of the Observatorio Vulcanológico Sismológico de Costa Rica said the movement endured for about two minutes.

The quake also was felt in Cóbano on the Nicoya Peninsula, Esparza and in southern Costa Rica.
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 80


Here's an expression for someone who's brainless
No tiene cerebro ni pa’ un derrame.

“He (or she) doesn’t have enough brains to have a stroke.” I just came across this dicho the other day and it made me chuckle a bit to myself because it seems so widely applicable these days.

Many of you may have noticed that the horrible driving practices of many Costa Ricans has become something of a pet peeve of mine. Well, yesterday we encountered a driver who became so impatient with the movement of traffic through a stoplight that he pulled out and passed a whole line of cars on the left at an intersection, dodging cars moving in both directions as he went.

Add to this the fact that he had three young children with him in the car and one could easily say of this idiot ¡no tiene cerebro ni pa’ un derrame!

I use to know a fellow who was a lawyer. This guy always claimed poverty, and he was fond of saying that he was so poor he couldn’t even pay attention, which is a rather amusing little expression in itself. Of course, everyone who knew him smiled when he said this because we were all aware that he was as rich as Midas. Now, looking back, it seems he was right, at least about part of his little personal “dicho.”

He really never did pay much attention to anyone or anything around him not because of his abject poverty, but because he was too busy making money. It could be said that he did indeed have the brain for a stroke, but he just didn’t have time for one. The problem was, however, he didn’t have time for anything else either, not even those who loved and cared for him.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

It would be unkind, of course, to employ today’s dicho to explain why little Johnny can’t read. No tiene cerebro ni pa’ un derrame is more applicable to those older and presumably wiser adults who should know better than many of the stupid things they often say and do.

Once a lady who reads this column regularly wrote to me to say she was learning Spanish at the age of 94. The paradox here is inescapable. Here’s a person at a time in her life when strokes, among countless other serious maladies, are common. But clearly, unlike many much younger people these days, she’s not about to let anything slow down her intellectual development or diminish the joy she finds in being alive. The mind, much like the muscles, is far less likely to atrophy when it is being vigorously used. This seems to me true at any stage in life.

No tiene cerebro ni pa’ un derrame is just a dicho, but it is also one that we should perhaps only apply to others after some degree of introspection of our own.

Don't ask the environment minister how he spent Earth Day this year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The story was one dripping with irony and now humor.

The minister of the environment, the nation's protector of wildlife and nature, was himself lost in a rugged part of Costa Rica.

The story had a happy ending Saturday, Earth Day, but associates will be ribbing Carlos Manuel Rodríguez for years.

The misadventure began Thursday afternoon when Rodríguez, 46, and said to be in good health, left a group of park rangers to get a better look at some animals. They were in Parque Nacional Corcovado on the underdeveloped Osa Peninsula.

What Rodríguez said he was after was a closer look at a tapir and her young. A tapir is a 200 to 300 pound relative to primitive horses and rhinoceros. It's called a living fossil because it is is one of the early mammals. Tapir, called danta in Spanish, are endangered and frequently hunted for their meat.

The tapir Rodríguez followed was not docile. The animal charged him, knocked him down, bit him
several times and forced him to fall over into a ditch, he said. The fall rendered him unconscious, he said.

Meanwhile, the hikers he was with, mostly park rangers, became increasing concerned by his absence and eventually took emergency action.

By Friday more than a dozen Fuerza Pública officers, a helicopter, two small planes, two teams of trackers, two dog units and as well as assorted Cruz Roja and ministry officials were combing the rugged national park.

Rodríguez and his party were equipped for five days in the jungle. Their goal was to examine the results of some projects designed to reduce illegal hunting in the park.

Finally Saturday Rodríguez turned up at a park entrance on Drake Bay. He quickly was flown to San José for an overnight at Clinica Biblica.

The minister said that he suffered a broken rib from the fall, but hospital attendants pronounced him in good health Sunday as he went home.

The Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía that Rodríguez heads controls all the nation's parks and reserves.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 24, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 80

Chávez says he wants Ortega to win Nicaraguan vote
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chávez has endorsed Nicaraguan presidential candidate Daniel Ortega to win his country's November election.

Both men appeared here Sunday on the weekly television broadcast of President Chávez where Chávez told Ortega, "I hope you win."

Both are considered authoritarians.

The endorsement comes on the heels of a recommendation from the U.S. State Department last week that Nicaraguans reject not only Ortega, but also former Nicaraguan president Arnoldo Aleman, who is also a presidential candidate.  A Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said that both men are "discredited figures from Nicaragua's past." 

Ortega led the leftist Sandanista movement against Contra rebels supported by Washington in the 1980s.

The State Department says the U.S. ambassador in Nicaragua is meeting with all parties that have expressed an interest in a "democratic electoral process." 

Meanwhile, Chávez is not without competition at home. Venezuelan newspaper editor and long-time leftist leader Teodoro Petkoff has announced he is a candidate for president.
During his televised announcement Thursday, the 74-year-old Petkoff said "The anguish, division and fear cannot continue."

He also said the government under President Hugo Chavez has spent huge amounts of money, yet the poor are not getting ahead and jobs have not been created.

Petkoff was a Communist rebel in the 1960s but broke off from the Communist Party and helped form the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party. He was later elected to congress and served as planning minister in the 1990s. As editor of the newspaper Tal Cual, he has been a steady critic of Chávez.

He joins three other candidates: William Ojeda, Roberto Smith, and Julio Borges in running against Chavez in Venezuela's Dec. 3 election.

Ortega was president of Nicaragua from 1985 to 1990. He is a leader in the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional. Aleman won election in 1996. Both men are dogged by strong allegations of corruption.

During the last days of the Ortega presidency, many real estate properties were given to Sandinista faithful and to Ortega himself.

Ortega negotiated a pact with Aleman's Partido Liberal Constitucionalista that basically controled Nicaragua at the expense of current President Enrique Bolaños.

Brazil becomes oil independent with new offshore oil production rig
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Brazil's president declared the country independent of the need for foreign oil as he opened a huge new offshore oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean Thursday.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva flipped a switch and drenched his hands in the flowing oil. His gesture recreated one made by President Getulio Vargas when he created the government-run Petrobras oil company in 1953.
Ironically, the new rig came online in the same week that oil prices set record highs.

Roughly 30 years ago, Brazil imported about 80 percent of its oil.

Petrobras says that when the huge new P-50 oil rig is producing at full capacity six months from now, Brazil's oil production will average 1.9 million barrels a day, slightly more than the nation's average daily consumption of 1.85 barrels a day.

Honduras and Nicaragua among countries getting World Bank debt relief
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

World Bank member nations meeting in Washington have approved a debt relief plan for 17 African and Latin American countries that could total $37 billion over 40 years. Two of the countries are Honduras and Nicaragua.

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said two-thirds of the bank members have now approved the plan,
meaning the bank could start forgiving debts in July.
The move follows July's pledge from the wealthy G-8 countries to cancel the debt of the world's poorest countries, many of which are located in Africa.

In addition to Honduras and Nicaragua, the 15 other countries now eligible for World Bank debt relief are Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Jo Stuart
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