Vol.18  No. 521 Published Monday, May 21, 2018

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Climate change action means more than carbon dioxide

By A.M. Costa Rica
news analysis

Even the most ambitious plans to corral carbon dioxide still assume that sea level will rise.

Scientist now set the annual rate at 3.5 millimeters as a worldwide average. The U.S. Goddard Space Flight Center has used satellite altimeter data to keep constant track of the oceans since 1992.

The basic dispute about climate change is the cause of the sea level change. Many scientists blame human emissions of carbon dioxide. So, it appears, do the last Costa Rican presidential administrations. The country’s official emphasis has been to make the nation carbon neutral.

Little has been done to take protective steps in advance of the inevitable sea level rise. After all, the sea level has risen about 410 feet since the last glacial maximum. That means much of the gulf of Nicoya was once a plain inhabited by Ice Age creatures including humans.

Some needed steps are legal. The nation’s maritime zone restricts construction and other activities in the first 200 meters above mean high tide. The first 50 meters is public land open to all. The remainder can be awarded to individuals and corporations as concessions. With sea level rise, the maritime zone continues to creep inland. Eventually homes, hotels and other properties will be in the forbidden public zone unless the government takes steps to freeze the maritime zone lines.

This problem affects every property along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as those along some rivers.

Then there is the problem of inundation. The best example is Puntarenas, which is actually what its name implies: a point of sand sticking out in the Gulf of Nicoya. No one in the scientific community should be surprised that the provincial seat of the Puntarenas Canton eventually will be flooded.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional has had on file for at least a decade an estimate of the impact on Puntarenas Centro by various levels of rise by the sea. First the western half of the city will become an island as the sea invades a low spot in the peninsula’s middle. Eventually about two thirds of the peninsula will be lost to the sea, according to the estimates.

The document does not seem to have spurred any action even though all of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts faces consequences of sea-level rise.

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Center for remote sensing of ice sheets (CReSIS) courtesy image   
One of the most dramatic case of sea level rise in the continent is in South America. The red zone indicates 6 meters sea level rise in Amazon delta.

For years, news photos have show the ocean flooding coastal towns, mainly when the tides and the moon are working in consort. Governmental action has mostly been absent.

More recently the metrological institute sent off the latest report, the fourth of a series, to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report emphasizes the efforts being made by the country to neutralize carbon dioxide emissions, mainly with administrative actions. But there is little about mitigation.

In November the institute produced a 113-page study of the effects of extreme weather in Liberia, Carrillo, Matina and Talamanca. Great attention was paid to the Guanacaste drought and the marginal living conditions of inhabitants of the areas. Little mention was made of sea-level rise.

The validity of these documents is in question now with the change in presidential administrations. If anything. Carlos Alvarado is promising greater emphasis on reducing carbon emissions, but he has not said anything about infrastructure to mitigate sea-level rise.

Meanwhile, some estimates suggest that sea-level rise will double in the coming years, regardless of cause.

New rules for owning ammunition come into force

By A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are new rules for the sale of ammunition as published in the official daily paper, La Gaceta. As of last Wednesday ammunition may only be sold in authorized gun stores, minors may not purchase ammunition and all buyers must register their purchases with an official identity cédula or, in the case of companies, with a cédula jurídica.

In addition, ammunition may only be sold for weapons that are duly registered before the Department of Control of Arms and Explosives. That registration must be presented at the time of purchase.

The guidelines also require the owner to present the weapon when the he or she wishes to renew permission to own a weapon.

According to the Ministry of Public Security, the state's duty is to ensure the order and peace of the nation, and it said that these are measures necessary to safeguard the public.

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court has said that the possession of firearms is subject to regulation by the state and can be restricted in accordance to Article 28 of the Political Constitution.


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A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo   
Firearms stores will only be allowed to sell ammunition that matches the registered weapons of the purchaser.

"We have detected how some gun stores sell ammunition to people who do not have registered weapons or who want ammo of a caliber that does not match the weapons they legally carry. In 2017, the import of ammunition was approximately 13 million bullets, which reaffirms the state's duty to regulate its traffic and commercialization," said the deputy minister of Public Security, Eduardo Solano.
Cocos Island will be better patrolled
thanks to new vessels donated by the U.S.

By A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Juan Rafael Mora arrived near Cocos Island Friday to carry out environmental protection and anti-drug operations.

After four years of not being able to patrol a large part of the maritime borders in the south Pacific, the National Coast Guard Service returned to the area.

"For us as a National Coastguard Service, but above all as a country, we can tell the people with great pride that, after four years of not being able to go to Cocos Island, where tuna fishing happens illegally, our first patrol boat arrived," said Martin Arias Araya, director of the National Coast Guard Service.

According to the police chief, the vessel Juan Rafael Mora was previously patrolling the waters in the Pacific.

Arias sent a message to the so-called gray fleet, made up of vessels that enter national waters presumably to fish tuna illegally.

"The Coast Guard has now the capacity to reach those places and find the ships. We are going to stop them and bring them to the mainland to face the corresponding criminal proceedings," he added.


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A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo   
The patrolling near Cocos Island will seek
to discourage illegal fishing.

Geiner Golfín Duarte, administrator of the Marine Submarine Area of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, showed his satisfaction with the arrival of the vessel to the island.  According to Golfín, this is a resource that will facilitate the conservation work carried out by the staff in charge of the site, declared a heritage of humanity.

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Vol.18  No.521 Published Monday, May 21, 2018 Second news page
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Constitutional Chamber halts again law
that would reactivate trawling

By AM Costa Rica staff

The magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court found procedural flaws in the approval of the law that reactivated trawling, a legislative bill that was approved by lawmakers March 20.

According to the judges, in the legislative process the proposal was discussed without technical studies or scientific evidence to support the positions for and against the idea, despite the warning issued by the chamber itself in the past.

The chamber emphasized the need for adequate studies to determine that the bill meets, "a significant reduction of bycatch in the trawl fishery that is compatible with democratic sustainable development."

This resolution had the support from five out of the seven magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber. Nancy Hernández and Fernando Castillo abstained from the vote after claiming that there are technical and scientific studies that allow trawling.

At the end of November, the board of directors of the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture approved the establishment of new licenses for sustainable shrimp fishing, despite the fact that the same constitutional vote established that this type of procedure could only be carried out through a legal reform.

Former president Luis Guillermo Solís published on his official website a statement in which he made public more than 20 amendments that he said met the requirements of the constitutional chamber, although he omitted reference to the legal reform required.

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A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo        
The Carlos Alvarado government has made it clear it will not support trawling in any way.


The vote of the chamber matched the position of the current environment minister, Carlos Rodríguez, who said that there is no possibility of achieving sustainable trawling.

The bill was approved in the first vote in the legislature after a group of fishermen pressured on the lawmakers, arguing the lack of employment opportunities in the areas as the main factor to authorize trawling.
Local referendum takes place to fire Paraíso mayor

By AM Costa Rica staff

Residents from the Paraíso canton in the province of Cartago voted Sunday to determine whether Mayor Marvin Solano should continue to be in charge of the municipality.

The Municipality of Paraíso itself organized the elections, which started at 6 a.m. and closed at 6 p.m. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal was responsible for supervising the process.

"Very few people attended. We visited the biggest polling centers, and it was very quiet," said the director of the tribunal Electoral Registry, Héctor Hernández.

A total of 46,754 people were registered to vote in 86 polling stations.

Mayor Solano has been linked to alleged irregularities in private project works and remodeling of public works. For that reason he faces four complaints before the prosecutor's office.

The Municipal Council of Paraíso called the inhabitants of the canton to the referendum on Jan. 16, when two thirds of the city councils approved the request to carry out the public vote.

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A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo        
Marvin Solano, mayor of the Paraíso Canton.


Results should be ready today, said a tribunal official.





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Vol.18  No.521 Published Monday, May 21, 2018 Third news page

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400 new transit police officers will be appointed
by this government, says official

By A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rodolfo Méndez Mata, head of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation has assured the public that he will hire 400 new transit police officers before 2022.

During his career, Mata has worked with the transit authorities three times and he is a former legislator.

"We appointed 400 of them 40 years ago when I was a minister, we named 400 20 years ago when I was minister. I would like to appoint another 400 in this, my third time as minister," Mata said.

The goal of the minister is to increase the force by more than half.

The transit police force currently has 763 people on its payroll, according to figures from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

"Every year, 450-500 Costa Ricans die on the roads. The number of accidents leaves enormous consequences for people, families, social and economic. We have to give the same priority to road security as we give to public security," Mata added.

According to the minister, the new hires are necessary to ensure compliance with a series of low-cost works that seek to improve road traffic conditions.

These, in turn, will act as the basis for the first stage of a sectorization project in which priority will be given to the collective public transport system.

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A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo      
The minister's goals are in conflict with fiscal reform that seeks to limit hiring of public employees to 1 percent maximum.


Méndez Mata appointed German Marín as director of the Traffic Police, a position he had held in the administrations of Laura Chinchilla and Óscar Arias.
Government suspends guidelines
on when and how roads can be closed

By A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Carlos Alvarado government issued a decree suspending regulation for the closure and use of public roads, which entered into force last December for two months.

The regulation dictates the procedures and requirements for the partial or total closure of public roads for the purpose of sports, recreational or cultural activities.

Different sports and cultural organizations are unhappy with the law because it makes it really hard to organize those activities. For example, a women’s cycling event became impossible under the new rules, according to the Costa Rican Federation of Cycling.

Due to that situation, the government decided to suspend the application of the decree for two months. During this period, a work team made of members of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation and the Ministry of Sports will review and suggest the necessary technical adjustments, taking into consideration the feedback from the organizations.

The decree, signed by Alvarado and the Minister of Public Works and Transportation, Rodolfo Méndez Mata, established the suspension until Aug. 1.

"There is a series of observations from federation leaders and sports committees about the decree, arguing that the regulation establishes requirements that complicate too much getting the permits to carry out this type of activities," said Hernán Solano, minister of Sports and Recreation.

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A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo      
Apparently, the decree made it impossible to carry out an female cycling tour.


"In coordination with the MOPT, we will review these comments, always taking care of the integrity of the people and guaranteeing, at the same time, that the procedures do not prevent or hinder the realization of this type of sports activity so important for the country," Solano said, using the Spanish acronym for the transport ministry.


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Vol.18  No.521 Published Monday, May 21, 2018 Fourth news page


Agents detained three men and two women
linked to the disappearance of an Italian man
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By A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police details three men, 20, 22 and 38, and two women, 19 and 24, Saturday on suspicion of involvement in the disappearance of 51-year-old Italian man.

Arrests took place in in the provinces of Limón, Heredia and Alajuela.

According to a preliminary report, the detainees would have been the last people with whom the man had contact.

Saturday the agents followed a man who came out with plastic bags from a San Joaquín de Flores house and drove to Río Segundo in Alajuela, where he threw the bags on the road.

The agents collected the bags and discovered clothing with apparent traces of blood. The clothing was sent to the forensic sciences complex to be analyzed.

The man was followed and stopped on the road when he arrived at his home in San Rafael de Alajuela. The house was then searched, but nothing of interest was found, judicial police said.

Another group of agents followed the owner of the house to Limón and arrested him. Agents also arrested one more woman and two men who left from the same house.

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Judicial Police photo     
The detainees were sent to the prosecutor's office for further questioning.
The judicial agents received a tip from a source who said the man they were looking for could be in the Zurqui sector, where several searches where conducted, according to the a judicial police press release.

The investigations into the whereabouts of the missing Italian continue.


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Vol.18 No.521 Published Monday, May 21, 2018 Fifth news page
Hammerhead fishing should be immediately banned,
says legal group

By A.M. Costa Rica staff

The group Energy Law Firm has asked the Second Judicial Circuit of San José for a precautionary measure and applied to the National System of Conservation Areas and the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture for the, immediate suspension of hammerhead shark fishing.

According to the group, the fishing should be stopped until the institutions determine the real situation of the shark population in Costa Rican waters, which consists of three species of hammerhead shark, grouped taxonomically under the genus Sphyrna.

In their request, the group demanded that the appropriate governmental agencies carry out research programs and monitoring studies to determine with certainty the real status of these threatened species.

"The state has the obligation to develop, plan and execute administrative actions and measures aimed at the protection of endangered wild species, especially when they are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora," said the judicial request.

Since June the Wildlife Conservation Law no longer applies to sharks, said Randall Arauz, a biologist who supports the request. He blamed the former minister of Environment, Édgar Gutiérrez for the current hammerhead fishing.

Until now, Costa Rica has sought to avoid any policy aimed at improving the protection of sharks, said the biologist.

The request for a precautionary measure was filed by Walter Brenes, a lawyer for the Energy Law Firm, and backed by the Costa Rican organization Endangered Marine Species Rescue Center and Jorge Serendero, representative of the Sea Shepherd organization in Costa Rica.


Shark052118.jpg
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo
There are three types of hammerhead sharks in the country.


“The request for the suspension of fishing for hammerhead sharks is based, among other legal grounds, on Law No. 8059, which declares that in the absence of biological data on the abundance of a species in question and in order to determine the impact of artisanal and industrial fishing, a decision must be made in favor of their protection," said Arauz.

In 2016, former president Lis Guillermo Solís received the title Enemy of the sharks, granted by the German organization SharkProject.

On March 1, 2015, the export of hammerhead shark fins was prohibited by the Ministry of Environment and Energy through a resolution issued by the National System of Conservation Areas.

The shark's fin trade is fueled by Asian consumers who consider it a delicacy.


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Bohemian Road Trip
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Writing a will ? Expecting an inheritance?
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Trapped In The Damas Cave, Costa Rica
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"No Meek Messiah"
The author Paulkovich says Jesus was a mythical-character. From the page 55 (Roman leaders decide they need a god, any viable god, to hold the flagging empire together) and page 61 (in 391AD, Roman Emperor Theodosius elevates Jesus, posthumously, to divinity.)
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"Beyond All Religion"
In that book, author Samuel Butler agrees with the thrust of Paulkovich’s new book, revealing that Christianity was chosen by a vote at the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE over several other contending religions. Sample Sam’s book Click Here
Youtube with awesome revelations Click Here

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The Dark Side of Pura Vida: Murder, Betrayal, Abduction and Revenge in the Vacation Paradise
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Retired baseball player Jack Patterson becomes suspicious after his younger sister dies in a Pacific Ocean rip tide while on vacation in Costa Rica. Jack has to go there to find answers to troubling questions.
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The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica: The official guide to relocation
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Life is a Tropical Garden
By Victoria Torley
A quirky look at gardening in the tropics. What happens when a "Northern" gardener moves to Costa Rica? You have no idea.
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Make gifts from dollars or colones
Running out of gift ideas? Author Dusty Pilot has just released easy to follow, step-by-step instructions for turning bills (dollars or colones) of any denomination into unique gifts such as flowers: roses, daffodils, daisies and poinsettias; shirts and blouses, and birds with flapping wings. Preview or purchase at Amazon. Click Here

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The Trouble with Cash
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Greg and Liz must sell their property in Costa Rica to finance their retirement. They receive an offer for their full asking price of $1million, but it comes with one condition... the payment is to be in cash. They go for it. Things go wrong. The money is stolen.The local police are no help so Greg devises his own plan to get their money back. Buy the book on Amazon. Click Here
....

Vol.18 No.521
Published Monday, May 21, 2018
Sixth news page
Calendar
Tourism
Classifieds
Real Estate
Lifestyle
Food
About Us
...
For Beach Dwellers​


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Oh dear, oh my. Once again I seem to have neglected part of my readership – people who live on the coast. I know Barbara is feeling neglected as I had an email from her asking about plants that will survive in salt air. There are well over a hundred in my reference books and probably more. The problem? They are all listed by their Latin names.

Latin names – genus and species or binomial nomenclature – were first proposed in the 18th century by a Swede named Linnaeus who found the old way of naming plants cumbersome. He was correct because a plant’s “legal” name could run to half a page and involved all kinds of things like leaf shape – and whether or not the leaf had stipules and what kind of stipules – leaf organization on the stem, type of bark, color and formation of flowers…..it went on and on. And, just like today, the same plant could have a different common name as it wandered over national or even county borders. It was a long fight, but Linnaeus won out. The problem today is that my poor reader is getting a long list of Latin names and is going to have to do some research to find out that common name. Sigh.

So, here are a few down to Earth suggestions for those of you living in salty air.

Ground covers: Aloe – great for burns. Madagascar periwinkle – lots of color, just pick one you like. Hinahina of the Borage family – this one grows in sand and doesn’t mind salt spray. Beach morning glory – also grows in sand. Mondo grass – slow growing but likes the beach.

Shrubs: Bougainvillea – lovely colors and moderately tolerant of salt and wind. Jade plant – slow growing to 6 feet high and tolerates wind, salt, drought and heat. Snake plant (mother-in-law’s tongue) – upright variegated growth. Agave – tolerates just about everything. Euryops – lots of yellow flowers. Lantana – lots of different colors and aromatic leaves. Natal plum – fragrant and tolerates sand and salt. Red powderpuff – large blooms and good near the ocean.


Trees: Palms – lots of palms. Beach almond – lovely for shade. Pony tail agave – grows to 30 feet, great accent plant. Neem tree - fragrant flowers grows to 50 feet. Colvillea – bright orange flowers. Buttercup tree – bright yellow flowers, grows to 40 feet.


Vines: Confederate jasmine – moderate salt tolerance and fragrant flowers. Madagascar rubber vine: purple flowers, can reach 60 feet and can be invasive. Golden flame honeysuckle – moderate salt tolerance and great tolerance to wind. Mexican flame vine – moderate salt tolerance, blooms most of the year, bright orange. Yellow mandevilla – great flowers. Sandpaper or queen’s wreath vine - long inflorescence with purple flowers, great for arbors.

If you go to Arenal Gardeners on Facebook, I will be publishing Latin names for over a hundred beach friendly plants over the next week or two.


Plant for the Day


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Victoria Torley photo

Sadly, I have no real beach plants so here is the Madagascar periwinkle a great lover of sun and moist soil. In very hot climates, it should be protected from afternoon sun. Periwinkle is fairly easy to propagate and will bloom for most of the year.



Editor's note: Victoria Torley, gardener columnist, can be reached at victoriatorley1@gmail.com

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Real Estate For Sale
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Beautiful villa of 120m2 with pool overlooking the sea and the valley of 5400m2. Magnificent house with charm in wood and refined marquetry, furnished, very beautiful Balinese style. With its two very spacious bedrooms and bathrooms, plus a mezzanine also very spacious that can accommodate another room and / or an office. A living-dining room with its American kitchen and its large wooden terrace of 70 m2, overlooking the pool and the green and tropical valley of 180 degrees, which ends with a view of the sea. To these is added a beautiful garden of 5400 m2 of tropical trees and decorated with Indonesian imported stone elements. Ideally located in terms of calm and serenity of the place. Finally, being in this heavenly environment, the property is less than 15 minutes from beaches and shops.

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Colinas Del Sol

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Fenced Gated Parcels for Sale
* Colinas del Sol is a fenced and gated project in a quiet area. * There are 88 clear titled parcels. * Mountain areas with great views.
* Gently sloping level areas ideal for hobby farms, gardening, fruit trees. * Quiet place to get away from the busy city and beach crowds. * All lots have gravel roads to them, water and electricity at each. * Parcels are 5,000 sq. meters or larger, starting at only $50,000 USD * Located in Libertad, Guanacaste, northwest Pacific area of Costa Rica. * 20 minutes to the Liberia International Airport * 15 minutes to the Pacific Beaches * 10 minutes to Medical Facilities * 25 minutes to the Liberia Hospital * 5 minutes to Vista Ridge Golf Club

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In Costa Rica, Jeffrey Sandi Murray: jsandimurray@colinasdelsolcr.com
In the USA and Canada contact Jim Day: jimday50@aol.com or call +517-484-3675
For more information: www.colinasdelsolcr.com
Code: 9342-090318



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Vista Verde Del Mar
(Green View of the Sea)

* 4.4 hectares / 10.91 acres.
* All roads on property are complete on solid, original ground...
no "fill" areas.
* Four private 2+ acre parcels available within a ten acre property.
* 12 minutes to the Quepos airport or Quepos Hospital.
* 17 minutes to the new Marina Pez Vela in Quepos.
* Unsurpassed 360 degree vistas of ocean and mountains.
* All legal work to convey clean / clear / legal title is complete.
* NO PRE-SALE glitches, ready to build on !
* Price to sell $299,000 Brokers Protected.

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Code: 9350-050419


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Brand new Casa Palmera
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This exquisite home is located within the EXCLUSIVE gated community. Casa Palmeras has 3 bedrooms with 3 bathrooms, large BBQ area and a spectacular pool over 12m long. The gated community offers the perfect location for home buyers who are seeking true relaxation and peace, also offers 2 tennis courts, miles of hiking trails through primary and secondary rain forest, serenity and privacy! Casa Palmeras is a 5-minute drive from the town of Quepos and the new Marina and just short drive to Manuel Antonio Park and beach. More information here http://palmaspacifica.com/home-for-sale/by-owner-casa-pacifica-3br-2ba/

7 Apartments for Sale
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Casa Palmera II
Price $299,000

Located within the EXCLUSIVE community , it has 3 bedrooms with 2 bathrooms, situated on a 50,000 sq ft lot with large BBQ area, private pool and a huge backyard, ideal for pet owners. It is a 5- minute drive from the town of Quepos and the Marina and a short drive to Manuel Antonio Park and beach.The community offers 2 tennis courts , miles of hiking trails through primary and secondary rain-forest, serenity and privacy!
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Local Office Phone (506) 2777-3339
Phone Rentals: 1-800-381 3770
Real Estate: 1-800-346 9724
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Code:9358-030718



Business For Sale
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For Sale Versatile 2 Floors Building
in La Sabana


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Completely remodeled building. 14 areas for residence and/or offices, call center, upscale storage. Transportation within 50 meters, commuter train, buses and taxis. In La Sabana, San Jose. School, park, gymnasium, tennis club and National soccer stadium walking distance. 24-hour security, many restaurants, clubs and social facilities nearby. Approximately 323 meter construction. Asking $295,000.
Contact Jim Holley
E-Mail: jimmy6902001@yahoo.com
Local CR phone: (506) 8912-5651
Code:9333-072318

Three Cabins For Sale

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In La Fortuna San Carlos. Price $145,000 USD
Three cabins for sale fully furnished with AC, hot water, micro waves, refrigerators, flat screen TV. three years old.Lot is 22 meters by 49 meters. fenced and gated with private drive.Fish and shrimp pond on property with several tropical plants as well as several fruit trees.Room for more new construction house or cabins. This property is in the country but close to Fortuna central.Cabins advertised on AirBnB. Good income property.
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Email:
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Code:9344-081518


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Vol.18 No.521 Published Monday, May 21, 2018 Seventh news page

US brokerage firms closing accounts for American expats

By Tom Zachystal
President
International Asset Management

Many American citizens living abroad have recently been contacted by their US brokerage firms to inform them that their accounts have either been frozen such that they can no longer change their investments or that they need to close their accounts entirely.

Fidelity, Wells-Fargo, Merrill Lynch, and others in many instances no longer want to deal with non-US resident clients through their US offices. Often there is little in the way of explanation, just a letter in the mail or a phone call from a broker who is following instructions and really doesn’t understand the issue. At the same time, non-US offices of these firms often do not have the knowledge or cannot accommodate accounts such as IRAs or 401ks, or do not offer good investment options or adequate investor protection for regular brokerage accounts.

There are two regulations that govern US brokerage firms’ and banks’ reporting and due diligence responsibilities with respect to dealing with non-US residents: The “Know Your Customer“(KYC) rule and FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) regulations. Each is intended to make financial institutions responsible for ensuring that their clients do not partake in money laundering or tax evasion activities.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans living abroad who are simply trying to maintain US bank or brokerage accounts are also affected since in many instances, rather than comply with the additional reporting and surveillance burden imposed by these regulations, their financial institution will simply close their account. If the client has many millions of dollars to invest then it is worthwhile for the US financial institution to undertake the additional due diligence and reporting but, even in the case of a several million dollar account, for large institutions the relationship may not be valuable enough to bother with the extra reporting and oversight.

The Know Your Customer rule mandates, among other things, that a financial institution know the identity and tax status of the account owner and anyone with power of attorney on the account. Furthermore, the transactions within the account need to be monitored for signs of money-laundering activity – which involves deciding what types of transactions are “normal” based on the profile of the account owner and questioning any transactions that do not fall within this criteria. As you can imagine, this is a somewhat arbitrary standard and this is where the difficulty lies for the financial institutions. In addition, it is not just the US that has KYC rules, other countries have them as well and they may differ from the US rules. So the financial institution also has to worry about the KYC rules in the expat’s country of residence whereas for US-based clients it is only the US rules that apply – an additional burden when dealing with non-US residents.

Then there is FATCA. These regulations, which started phasing in at the beginning of 2013, but have really fully been put into effect in just the last year, are intended to assist IRS efforts regarding tax compliance for US taxpayers with financial accounts outside the USA. In effect, FATCA seeks to turn non-US financial institutions into reporting agencies for the IRS and compels participating institutions to report to the IRS on their US taxpayer-owned accounts or on any account where the owner might be a US person.

While FATCA was intended to help the IRS catch US tax evaders it has actually turned into a global tax compliance effort by many participating countries. In order for FATCA to work there has to be agreement from the government of another country to make available information regarding owners of financial accounts in their jurisdiction to the United States government (specifically the IRS).

You may ask how this affects the non-US resident with a US-based account. The answer is that in many cases the agreement that countries have insisted on with respect to FATCA is reciprocal. In other words, a country will say that yes they are willing to exchange information on financial accounts with the USA but the key word is “exchange” – that is, in return, US financial institutions must also agree to provide information regarding their clients who are citizens or residents of the country entering into the FATCA agreement with the USA. This reciprocity is the crux of the whole issue: US banks and brokerage firms have to report to foreign governments on their accounts for residents of these other countries, and in many instances they would rather shut down the account instead of doing the reporting.

Frozen052118.jpg

A.M. Costa Rica archive image


Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have recently been sending letters to many of their US citizen clients living outside the USA saying that their accounts will be closed as of a certain date in the very near future. The letter typically states something like the following:


We have conducted an extensive review of our non-US resident client business to determine whether we had the ability to continue to effectively serve your wealth and investment needs under increasing business requirements and regulatory restrictions. Having completed this analysis, we believe you would be better served by a firm or firms that can meet your comprehensive wealth and investment management needs. Therefore we will no longer be servicing your Merrill Lynch Wealth Management account(s) and/or credit facilities effective.

The letter goes on to offer two options:
- Transfer the accounts to another financial institution.
- Have the assets distributed to you.

The two options in the letter are easier said than done. The second option may not be very attractive if it is a tax-deferred account like an IRA because there may be substantial tax and possibly early withdrawal penalties should the money simply be distributed. The first option may not be so easy either because there are fewer and fewer US brokerage firms willing to deal with American expats.

So what can you do if you have received this letter or a similar one from another brokerage firm?

The best solution is the first option that because if you can find a US brokerage firm or investment advisor who will work with you then the accounts can simply be transferred electronically without tax consequences and without having to sell the underlying investments. The key though is to find a broker or advisor that specializes in US expatriate clients because otherwise you risk having to go through the process again at some point in the future when maybe there will be even fewer options available.

At International Asset Management we have been specializing in investment management and financial planning for Americans living abroad since 2002. Please contact Peter Brahm at peterb@iamadvisors.com if you need help with these issues.


Editor's note: Tom Zachystal, CFA, CFP™
Tom Zachystal is President of International Asset Management (IAM), a U.S. Registered Investment Advisor specializing in investment management and financial planning for Americans living abroad and is a past President of the Financial Planning Association of San Francisco.

This article is for informational purposes only; it is not intended to offer advice or guidance on legal, tax, or investment matters. Such advice can be given only with full understanding of a person’s specific situation.