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These stories were published Monday, Sept. 5, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 175
Jo Stuart
About us

A checklist to stay out of real estate trouble
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Every day more and more foreigners are investing in all types of real estate in Costa Rica.  All types are the caveat words.  There are so many kinds of property in the country, investors need to be very careful when buying anything.  There is titled and untitled land, beach, and concession property, forest reserve and protected land to name a few varieties.

To buy real estate here it is a good idea to have a checklist.  Here is a simple one to use:

The first item on the list is to know if a property has a title, who owns the title and what type of property it is.  The Registro Nacional keeps the records on titled property.

Real property has a finca number.  Finca means farm in English but does not mean a country farm with chickens.  The term means a section of real property.  Even houses on lots in the city are parts of fincas.  Finca numbers or farm numbers have two basic parts.  The first digit defines the district in which the property is located.  The last six digits is a unique identification number.  For example a finca number (or lot number) in San José would look something like this: 1-000000.  The one is for San José, and the zeros would be a real number identifying the property.

Farms can also be further broken down into undivided interests.  In these cases, an additional three-digit number is added to indicate the number of owners.

There are four basic types of property listed at the national registry.  The first is the traditional titled property. Condominium property is land divided from “fincas matriz” or mother properties into “fincas filial” or filials and concessions.  Concession land is leased territory controlled by municipalities and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

Properties not listed at the national registery include untitled homesteaded land, beach land within the maritime zone, forest reserve, condominiums that do not qualify for true title and others.
Most Costa Rican land is titled, and it is the safest investment.  However, other properties hold opportunities too.  It is crucial to obtain expert advice when considering any of these properties, including condominiums that do not provide true title.

One example: Developers are selling forested land on maritime zones along the Pacific. However, getting permission from the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía to cut down any trees on these properties is nearly impossible. So buyers either cannot build or must engage in illegal cutting of trees.

Second on the list, is a company to hold your investment.  Own nothing in Costa Rica personally.  It is just too dangerous.  It is too easy to lose to professional crooks or have ownership strangled by a lengthy probate process.

The best company structures to use for holding property are sociedades anónimas known as S.A.’s or sociedades de

Property district

1-San José

Property types


responsabilidad limitada or limited liability corporations.  Both offer the convenience that shareholders are responsible for the assets and not individuals.  LLC’s are the best for property because stock cannot be transferred by endorsing the certificate to someone else without a shareholders' meeting and minutes in the legal books.

Third on the list is to shop for fees.  Transferring property can be very expensive.  Attorneys can charge as much as 1.25 percent of the true market value of the sale.  However, others will negotiate.  Transfer taxes are .26 percent of the sale price. 

Most sales in Costa Rica are not registered at the national registry at the true sales price, but lawyers charge their fees based on the full price.  This is an amazing contradiction: some lawyers do not care about pulling a fast one on the government but do not want to lose one colon of their fees. Sale values sometimes are declared at a laughable several hundred thousand colons.

Here is the last item on this short list.  Verify that any property purchased is ultimately registered.  Lawyers play with the transfer taxes and sometimes just do not fulfill their obligation to their clients and never register the sale.

There are many other points to consider when buying property in Costa Rica.  This list is to illustrate you should have a list.  Many people do not and just show up at the property-closing table as trusting souls.  Many later find surprises that turn a dream investment into a horror story.

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.  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 2005, use without permission prohibited.

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Nation basks in glory
of win against Panamá

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica posted a 3-1 victory over host Panamá Saturday, Match Day 7 of the final round of World Cup qualification.

Meanwhile,  for the first time since 1934, the U.S. selection became the first conference team to qualify for a World Cup berth after posting a 2-0 victory over visiting Mexico

Alvaro Saborio opened the scoring for Costa Rica at the 43rd-minute mark, and then Walter Centeno increased the lead to 2-0 with a goal 11 minutes later.  The game was at the Estadio Rommel Fernández in Ciudad de Panamá. Costa Rican immigration officials estimated that about 4,000 Ticos traveled by bus to see the game.

After Ronald Gómez made it 3-0 with a tally in the 71st minute, Julio Dely Valdes got Panama  the board in the 90th-minute mark.

The final round for the 2006 World Cup continues Wednesday with Match Day 8 as Costa Rica host Trinidad & Tobago at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibás, while Panamá visits Mexico at the Estadio Azteca in Ciudad de México.  Costa Rica has 10 points towards qualification and Panamá has just two, having tied just two of seven games.

The games are being played as part of the  North, Central American and Caribbean Conference.

The U.S. team is now guaranteed a World Cup berth after its 2-0 victory over Mexico, also Saturday, at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

After a scoreless first half, Steve Ralston got the U.S. team  on the board over Mexico  with a goal in 53rd minute of the second half. DaMarcus Beasley closed out the scoring three minutes later for the Stars & Stripes as the team ended México's19-game unbeaten streak in World Cup Qualification.

The U.S. now has 18 points based on six wins and a loss to México in an earlier game. México has 16 points based on five wins, one loss and a tie.

The only other time that the United States was the first team from the region to qualify to a World Cup was May 24, 1934, when a 4-2 victory over México in Rome, Italy, three days before the start of the cup event gave the qualification to the stars & stripes.

The U.S. team, which progress to their eighth World Cup, qualified for the last five world football events. México holds the record with sixth consecutive World Cup qualifications

The U.S. team visits Guatemala at the Estadio Mateo Flores in Ciudad de Guatemala Wednesday.

In other conference aciton, Trinidad & Tobago defeated visiting Guatemala 3-2 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain Saturday afternoon. Both teams now have seven points and are tied for fouth place in the league.

The top three teams are guaranteed World Cup berths, and the fourth-place team must fight for a slot in  a match with the fourth place finisher in an Asian league.

Art fair planned in Desamparados

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An aritisian fair in Desamparados will give local artists and craftsman a venue to spread their works to the public. 

The “Feria de Independencia,” scheduled from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 14 and 15 is scheduled to happen at the Parque Centenario. 

It is sponsored by the Municipalidad de Desamparados and the Asociacion de Artesanos y Aresanas del Cantón del Desamparados.

Our readers' opinions

Sept. 11 plans are vulgar

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

IF the U.S. decides to carry on with their plans for 9/11 there is NO way they can convert their imagine now that LOUISIANA has happened. Bush has NOT made America a safer place to live, and it couldn’t be MORE obvious now. Ill prepared, horrible communications between different government agencies though he’s touted himself like some proud peacock all puffed up! In the face of what we’re seeing going on in the U.S. now he would be wise to CANCEL the vulgar displays he’s planning for 9/11. Even the families of the dead from the towers are outraged that the deaths of their loved ones is being used as a political tool!
Pat Schmit
Pérez Zeledon

He supports small farms

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was shocked once, when A.M. Costa Rica endorsed the American oligarch presidency of George Bush.  So I won’t be shocked a second time when I  read A.M.’s narrow and shortsighted comment on an ICE anti-CAFTA  publication.  Jay Brodell quotes ICE: “[a}nother example of  capitalismo salvaje is that ‘The national farmers will be ruined little  by little because the country will be filled with agricultural products of the  United States.’”  He then comments:  “In other words, Costa Ricans for  years have been paying inflated prices for agricultural goods in order to  maintain the inefficient farmers.”

One of the most myopic elements of the Bush oligarchy is its blind  adherence to industrial efficiency at all costs.  What works in a highly  technocratic economy does not necessarily work in a developing nation where  keeping a large agricultural sector employed is essential.  Costa Rican  agriculture is inefficient compared to the United States where a very small  number of companies control an enormous market share.

Costa  Rica benefits from a very high  percentage of landed persons  (propertied farmers).  This creates individual purpose and employment  security and keeps people from living in the urban street.

In Mexico,  NAFTA displaced 1.5 million people who depended on agriculture for a  living. ICE is correct to warn of the very real dangers of globalization on a  steady farm economy.  This is not to mention that “efficiency” in agriculture generally creates terrible moral and environmental dilemmas.   Witness the highly efficient corporate hog farms in North America. 

I would  far rather pay a little extra for farm products knowing that the family farm in  Costa Rica remains stable, than usher in the exigencies of  unbridled agricultural efficiency and its enormous social  costs.  I dearly hope the Legislative Assembly finds a way to protect the  family farm before it considers passing CAFTA, which will inevitably  disrupt the traditional, essential farm economy on Costa Rica.
Greg Russi
New Castle, Colorado
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Nicoya hotel operator offers housing for storm tossed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Nicoya Peninsula hotel owner has emerged as the first Costa Rican resident to make a public  offer of help to victims in the storm-battered United States.

He is George Perrochet, president of Bahia Luminosa. He said over the weekend that he would provide temporary housing to five senor couples who are victims of Hurricane Katrina. Perrochet said he would be willing to put the couples up for at least a week each for free at his hotel near Paquera on the peninsula's east shore.

Chavez critical of Bush's concern for U.S. citizens

"The fact that no record known to me exists of any hurricane even hitting Costa Rica might appeal to couples who are considering some other place to spend significant time," the hotel owner said in a letter.

In a telephone conversation, he said that his offer was designed to attract people who might end up staying in Costa Rica as foreign residents, particularly U.S. citizens with external income sources who might now be homeless.

The offer by Perrochet is in stark contrast to the government of Costa Rica or social agencies and private companies here. None has made any statement or gesture of support for the struggling United States. The foreign ministry did open a new consulate for Costa Ricans in the stricken area. The former consulate is under water, said a report from the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto. And diplomats are maintaining a list of the estimated 2,000 Costa Ricans who may have been displaced.

Elsewhere there is a groundswell of support for the United States. The United Nations, the European Union and individual countries are pledging support. Even Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said he has ordered the shipment of a million gallons of gasoline and some $5 million in humanitarian aid for the southern United States. A high State Department official accepted the offer Friday. Carnival Cruise Lines is diverting three ships to serve as temporary housing for the homeless.

Some 15 countries in the Americas ae reported to be lending assistance, according to the U.S. State Department.

Despite the lack of attention here, the disaster in the
United States is bound to have serious economic impacts, not even counting the diversion of the
Carnival ships. The Port of New Orleans is a major destination for Costa Rican exports, as are other Gulf ports. The disruption in daily living also will reduce the number of tourists who might have been expected to come from the devastated area.

The cost of rebuilding and the losses suffered by insurance companies will exert an upward pressure on interest rates, which eventually will filter down to interest rates here and what the Costa Rican government pays on its external debt.

The way Costa Rica generally has ignored the hurricane aftermath is not what happened Sept. 11, 2005, when terrorists attacked the United states. Then there was a large outpouring of sympathy, prayer services and public statements. Costa Rica's attitude does not survive an allegation of racism. Even though the bulk of the homeless in the United States are poor blacks, the black members of the Asamblea Legislativa also have been silent.

A.M. Costa Rica published last week ways expats here could help by sending money to a variety of social agencies.

However, Friday a weekly English-language new sources contained not one word of local reponse or reaction to what appears to be a U.S. disaster of biblical proportions.

The U.S. Embassy, however, said that it had received calls of sympathy but did not say how many. "Such spontaneous expressions of solidarity with Americans who have been through such a disaster and face a long, hard struggle to recover and rebuild their lives touched us," the embassy said on its Web page.

Perrochet's offer may be just a gesture unless other hotel operators join him or if transportation can be provided. Although persons persecuted for political reasons have the right to obtain refugee status in Costa Rica, the Constitution does not recognize refugees fleeing a natural disaster. Some airlines are making charity flights but not to Costa Rica.

Those seeking to take up Perrochet on his offer may send a descriptive e-mail to him at katrina@amcostarica.com. His offer will be circulated to media in the southern United States.

The New Orleans consulate is available at a temporary office in Alexandria, La.: (318) 229-7574 and with the e-mail address of consulcrno@hotmail.com in order to local family members of Costa Ricans.

A dicho that can apply to the flooding from Katrina
La union hace la fuerza

“Unity makes strength.” This is a dicho that is often overused, but sometimes misunderstood. In Costa Rica we often apply it when there are family problems such as illness or death. In this case it means we need to stand together as a family in order to support one another.

After 9/11 we Latinos who live in the United States were often heard to employ this dicho because we believed we all needed to stick together in order to lend our combined strength to support the country. In this context la union hace la fuerza is similar to the expression in English, “United we stand.”

I remember, when I was a boy, one of those terrible torrential rains we sometimes get in Costa Rica. It started around 1 p.m. I didn’t have to go to school that day, and I love rainy days. Something about them I find just so relaxing. I like to read and often fall asleep listening to the steady rhythm of the raindrops drumming on the roof over head. This particular day I lay down on our living room sofa with a book, but very soon I was transported to dreamland.

The house was quiet. My grandmother was resting, and my sister was also asleep in her room upstairs. My parents were at work, and the rest of my siblings where either at school or working. I woke up around 3:30 and decided to go to the kitchen for a snack. But when I put my foot down on the floor I stepped into almost 12 inches of muddy water. The house was flooding. Toilets and sinks were backing up. I rushed to the front door only to find that the street was flooded as well, all the while the rain continued to fall in torrents.

I screamed at the top of my lungs to wake up my grandmother and my sister. They all came rushing down stairs startled and frightened by the growing calamity they encountered. My sister telephoned my father and mother and they instructed us to escape to my aunt’s house, which was on higher ground.

But my grandmother had already disappeared back upstairs. We called to her frantically to come quickly because we were abandoning the house.
But when she appeared she was carrying a small figurine of her favorite saint, La Negrita de Los Angeles, the Black Virgin of Cartago. She placed the statuette on the stairs, just above the level of the rising water. “The water will rise no higher,” she solemnly pronounced. My sister and I looked at each other and shrugged. Perhaps we should wait and see.

But a few minutes later the Virgin, filthy water lapping at her tiny toes, had to be moved up to the next step. “The water will rise no higher,” my grandmother intoned with even greater gravity than before.

By that time, however, my sister was already making for the door. But I couldn’t go and leave my grandmother behind, so I began pleading with her to come with me to my aunt’s house. The water continued to rise, and every few minutes grandmother would be forced to repeat her ritual of moving her Virgin to a higher step. At last grandmamma seemed convinced that it must have
way we say it

By Daniel Soto

been God’s will that our house be inundated. She gave up. But by then the water was so deep that I practically had to carry her to safety

From the front porch of my aunt’s house, which was on our same street but at the top of a hill, my family huddled together later that afternoon watching our world sink beneath the deluge as the floodwaters reached almost to the roof of our house. It was one of the saddest moments of my childhood. But the worst was yet to come, after the rain stopped and the water receded

Reentering our house was heartbreaking, as we discovered photos, dishes, books, keepsakes, linens and clothing – the treasures of four generations – strewn about in filthy ruins. As we surveyed the wreckage that had once been our lives, my mother began to cry. My father brought some coffee, and we sat together for a while before starting to clean the place up.

My aunt pulled an old windup phonograph from the rubble and, by some miracle, found that it still worked. So we started playing music and the mood lightened a bit. Some of us began dancing as we cleaned the house.

Suddenly, I came across my grandmother’s statue of the Black Virgin. I picked it up and cleaned the mud from her and took her to grandmother.

“Could you believe it,” she sniffed.  “I took this Virgin to be blessed by our priest. He probably didn’t use real holy water because now look what we’ve got,” she said, gesturing toward the devastation. I smiled without a word.

But, my mother suddenly stood up, placed her fists resolutely on her hips and said "La union hace la fuerza." And side by side we all cleaned up the mess and went about the tasks of putting our family’s life back together again. So the memory of this terrible disaster is not all bad for me because it made us stronger as a family.

Another dicho that compliments today’s is al mal tiempo buena cara, meaning “bring a pleasant face to bad times.”

Of course this was all brought to my mind by the horrible inundation and destruction in New Orleans last week. But that disaster too has the potential to bring us together and make us stronger as a nation if we will but let it.

Pacheco says that nation's economic condition is not his fault
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco blamed the worsening Costa Rican economy on the national deficit and skyrocketing oil prices.

Pacheco delivered his assessment in his weekend television talk where he basically said the economic impact was out of the hands of his government and not his fault.

Pacheco showed a graph saying that spending actually has gone down this year by more than 1 percent.

Other countries also are being hard hit by the rising petroleum prices that also boost the costs of other goods and services, Pacheco noted. The president admitted that poverty had increased in the country after having shown a dip in the early years of his adminnistration and that the trend was likely to continue.

Pacheco blamed the Asamblea Legislativa for not
passing the so-called fiscal plan that calls for $500 million in new taxes. He renewed his call for the legislature to act.

The new budget presented by the Pacheco adminisntration for fiscal 2006 shows that 17 percent of the spending will be financed by new debt. Nearly 30 percent of the budget is to pay for interest on existing debt.

In his talk, Pacheco noted that he and his admininstration have experienced a slide in public confidence, as reflected by public opinion polls. But he attributed this drop to the external  forces.

He made  no mention that his administration had opposed a Harken Petroelum test well of the coast of Limón that was designed to tap a 300,000-barrel-
a-day source.  Nor did he volunteer that the decline in spending by his administration may have been part of a ploy to force passage of the fiscal package. The Pacheco administration will be known for its lack of spending on the country's roads.

Chavez critical of Bush's concern for U.S. citizens
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's president says the Bush Administration has shown it can plan for war, but not for the wellbeing of the people of the United States during a natural disaster. President Hugo Chávez spoke at length here about the devastation of the U.S. Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

President Chávez says it has been painful to watch the suffering in New Orleans and other areas affected by Katrina. The Venezuelan leader spoke on "Alo Presidente," or "Hello President," a weekly program on state-run television where the president speaks virtually uninterrupted for four to five hours.

Chávez said, "The U.S. government took no precautions, knowing that New Orleans is a city below sea level. The government evacuated no one. How many thousands died that could have been evacuated by air, land or sea? Not one ship was mobilized, not one helicopter, before the hurricane."

He then continued in English:

"Mr. Bush on vacation. On vacation in Crawford."

The Bush Administration has weathered strong criticism domestically of both its preparations for Katrina and its response to the disaster. But most foreign leaders have been circumspect on the question of the administration's performance, preferring to offer condolences and, in some instances, assistance for hurricane victims.
President Chávez has instructed Venezuela's state-owned oil corporation in the United States, Citgo, to provide fuel at a reduced cost to U.S. hurricane victims and the poor. Chavez has urged Citgo's top executive, Felix Rodríguez, to make sure Venezuelan assistance reaches those who need it most in the United States.

The Venezuelan leader said he felt comfortable criticizing President Bush, noting that Washington has been critical of his own administration on questions of human rights, respect for democracy and other issues. Chávez has repeatedly accused the United States of planning to assassinate him, and consistently rails against capitalism and what he terms American imperialism.

Venezuela has had its own natural disasters to contend with. In 1999, massive mudslides swept away several communities outside Caracas, killing an estimated 20,000 people.

Meanwhile, in Washignton,  A top U.S. State Department official says the United States will accept Venezuela's offer of humanitarian aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but does not view the offer as a signal of change in the strained relations between the two countries.

The official, Roger Noriega, U.S. assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, said Washington has received offers of relief assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina from some 15 countries in the Americas, including Venezuela.

U.S. seeking comments on proposal to require passports by 2008
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State have formally submitted a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative proposal for public comment, according to the State Department.

The initiative is designed to expedite travel and enhance security, and it would require that, by January 2008, citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Bermuda have a passport or other approved documents to enter or re-enter the United States.

If adopted, the initiative would be rolled out in phases, applying the new passport or secure document requirement to air and sea travel to or from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda as of December 31, 2006.
By Dec. 31, 2007, the passport requirement would extend to all land border crossings as well.

These timelines represent a revision of an earlier proposal that would have begun Dec. 31, 2005.

Although a passport would be the preferred document for travel within the Western Hemisphere or for re-entry into the United States, the Border Crossing Card is among other secure documents that are being considered for approval, the State Department said.

The departments anticipate adopting a final rule later in 2005, after comments on the proposal are reviewed.

Those wishing to comment on the proposal may access the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.

Lawyer for Casa Alianza's is murdered in Guatemala City
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Alianza said that someone shot and killed its legal adviser in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

An e-mail from the organization identified the victim as Harold Rafael Pérez Gallardo, 56, who suffered fatal wounds about 9:30 a.m. Friday. The man, a lawyer, had brought cases contesting the nation's adoption system and  supporting the rights of street children to the courts.
Adoptions are a lucrative business in Guatemala, but Casa Alianza said no one knows who fired the fatal shots.

Casa Alianza, the advocacy group for children, pulled out of Costa Rica last year shortly after the director of Latin America, Bruce Harris, admitted to having a sexual encounter with a former client of the group, a male prostitute in Honduras. Harris had worked vigorously to make the adoption process in Guatemala more in line with international norms.

Police say three suspects had fragmentation grenade in their car
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers said they arrested two Costa Ricans and a Panamanian Sunday with marijuana, munitions for large-caliber rifles and a military-style fragmentation grenade, as the men drove along Avenida 7 at Calle 6 in San José. 

The three subjects were wanted for to answer allegations stemming from several robberies in Limón
and Pococí said Commander Eduardo Guzmán of the Policía Metropolitana.

Officers identified the suspects by the last names Robinson Watson and Herrera Wilson of Limón and Quintanilla Watson of Panama. 

The grenade, full armed and ready for use, was troubling to police. Both the grenade and the rifle shells were found by a trained dog.

Jo Stuart
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