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(506) 223-1327           Published Monday, Jan. 16, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 11          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Condo easement situation is example
When laws collide, projects can be big losers
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

When laws collide, the fallout can hurt the little guy — or in this case keep the little guy from getting full title to his new condo.

A simple pyramid can explain the legal system in Costa Rica.  Sources are the Constitution, legislated laws, presidential and executive decrees along with the rules and regulations that give instructions on how to apply law.

The order of importance of law is from top to bottom.  The Constitution is the supreme law, specific laws carry more weight than presidential decrees, and rules are just regulations on applying a law in different situations.

Costa Rican law is always under the watchful eye of the world.  Treaties with other nations can change law in the country but only after an evolutionary process where individuals have to fight for specific rights in an international court. 

Some laws and rules are confusing, and others clash.  One example important to coastal developers is the “Reglamento a la Ley Reguladora de la Propiedad en Condominio,” or the regulation to the law of condominium property.

Article 43 of the reglamento states a condominium built with access via an easement to public roads is legal.  However, the people who approve the paperwork at the Instituto Nacional de Vivienda y Urbanismo or the national institute of housing and urbanism will not sign plans for condominium projects that do not sit right next to a public road.

Developers rushed to develop master plans for incredible condo projects up and down the Pacific coast when the regulation to the condo law was publish in La Gaceta at the beginning of last year only to find their plans quashed by the institute.

The Instituto Nacional de Vivienda says the regulation to the condominium law is illegal and bureaucrats there want no part of it.  Their position is that the rule conflicts with Article 40 of the Ley De Planificacion Urbana, Law of Urban Planning.  This article states the following: 

“Subdividing lots outside the city limits and all urban development will donate all roads corresponding to communal facilities to the municipality making them public.”

This Costa Rican battle between regulatory agencies in an election period has caught developers with their proverbial pants at their knees.  Many of whom have taken significant deposits from buyers promising them a beautiful condo on a hilltop with access via an easement as part of the condominium plan.  Buyers may get something less than full title to their property when it is finished because the project will not qualify under the condominium law.

The dilemma is that the Urban Planning Law contemplated mostly houses on lots in urban developments.  Written 30 years ago, it did 

not envision condo towers overlooking the beautiful oceans of Costa Rica.  The law of Property in Condominium is a modern law for the Costa Rica of today.

The old cronies that make the decisions at the Instituto Nacional de Vivienda do not know who the next president will be.  Their jobs are on the line.  They do not want to take a position one way or the other.

The members of the current political administration will surely not solve this predicament. They are on their way out the door.  Each of the new parties have their own philosophies for the country, ranging from “Let's kick all the foreigners out of Costa Rica” to “Let's sell all our beaches to the foreigner and make ourselves rich.” 

What will really happen is something in between.  What does this mean for the condo tower developers?  Probably something in between, too.  It is the way of the country.  Never really white or black, always in the “gray area.”

Some lawyers say the whole discourse is unconstitutional.  The constitutional court interprets Article 28 of the Constitution to mean everything not expressly forbidden as permitted.  There is no law forbidding private access to condominiums.  Article 28 also states private matters that do not affect moral or public order are out of the action of law.  These both are interesting constitutional points.

Developers are scurrying to find solutions to this legal problem as they are with the freezing of beach concessions.

One thing for sure, nothing will happen on either front until after the election and even then, there is always a “honeymoon” period that needs to wear off before any new president gets down to solving the modern day problems of the country.

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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 16, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 11

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Missing U.S. aircraft
sought near Irazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Searchers will be back on the slope of the Irazú Volcano this morning looking for a U.S. registered small plane that is presumed to have crashed there Sunday.

The craft was believed piloted by an Iowa resident who was going from Panamá to Nicaragua. The aircraft is a Beechcraft Bonanza.

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration records identify the owner of the aircraft as Conrad Wesley Randell. He was believed to be carrying his wife as a passenger. Randell is from Des Moines, Iowa, and a member of the organization called the International Flying Farmers, a group of recreational pilots.

The aircraft was to have made a stop for fuel at the Tobias Bolaños airport in Pavas. A Beechcraft Bonaza has four seats, and rescuers suggested that another family member could have been a second passenger.

The site of the presumed crash is near San Juan de Chicoá. Rescuers searched much of the afternoon until calling off the effort as darkness fell. A resident said he saw a plane flying low and heard the sounds of an impact. But he was not sure exactly where. The area is rugged, and the search was hampered by a rain that fell most of the day. The volcano is about 15 miles east  of San José and north of Cartago.

The weather was bad for flying, too, with low clouds. The Irazú Volcano is 3,432 meters high at the summit. That's 11,260 feet. The Beechcraft airplane has a maximum ceiling of 18,500 feet, although mechanical or other trouble could have diminished the power of Randell's craft, which was manufactured in 1952, according to FAA records. It has a 225 horsepower single piston engine.

Randell's flying record appears to be blemished only by a hard landing he made March 4, 2002, at an airport in Akeny, Iowa, according to aircraft accident reports available on the Internet.  He was unhurt, but damage to the same 1952 aircraft was listed as substantial. The nosewheel and a wing were damaged, the report said.

Unseasonable rain
puts rivers over banks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A cold front hitting the country has brought about unseasonal rain and consequential flooding.  The rain, which is forecast to fall through Thursday, has been strong enough that the weather institute issued a warning Sunday afternoon urging residents near rivers to remain alert to potential flooding.  Some rivers have already washed over their banks, the institute said.  

The affected zones fall primarily along the northern zone of the country and the Caribbean slope although 9 milimeters (.35 inch) of rain fell on San José Sunday, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. 

The cold front has also caused temperatures to drop.  The high Sunday was 28 C (82.4 F)and the low was 17 C (62.6 F), the institute said.  Temperatures in the Central Valley are supposed to drop further today and Tuesday before rising back up again Wednesday and Thursday.  Temperatures should be similar in the northern zone. 

However, conditions along the Pacific should be much warmer.  The weather institute is forecasting highs in the low 30s (high 80s F) and lows in the low 20s (high 60s F) throughout the Pacific Coast. 

Temperatures on the Caribbean slope, although higher than San José, are still unseasonably low.  Highs should be in the high 20s (mid 80s F) with the exception of Wednesday.  The weather institute has forecast a high of only 25 C (77 F) for that day.  The rain there should let up by Thursday, the weather institute said. 

RTV fails to win hike
in vehicle inspection fee

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transportation ministry has rejected a proposal by the Consorcio Riteve SyC to raise the revisión técnica fee.  However, prices still may increase due to a tentative restructuring of the tax. 

Eduardo Montero, viceminister of Transportes, said the Consejo de Transporte Público rejected the proposal because the company did not solicit the increase before Nov. 15 2005.  That raise was supposed to go into effect at the beginning of the year. 

The revisión técnica is the yearly test that vehicles must go through to be declared safe for the public roads.  The test is difficult to pass, especially for older-model cars, and many people are forced to pay expensive mechanical bills in order to get their vehicle approved.

The Consejo de Transporte Público said that Riteve failed to mention any circumstances that would merit raising the fee.  There have been no alterations in the economy nor has the company reached the 80 percent of the projected yearly tests, which, under law, the company must complete, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

As a result, the fees will stay the same, Montero said.  However, the Instituto de Investigaciones en Ciencias Económicas of the Universidad de Costa Rica completed a new calculation model for the fee, Montero said.  The Consejo de Transporte Público will look this model over and present it to the public, Montero said.

Opponents of the revisión técnica call it an illegal monopoly. Some plan to begin a continual protest today. This is the same group that closed the country down last year by blocking the roads and highways with tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles. The support for such an action now — less than a month before presidential elections — is believed to be lower.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 16, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 11

Perfect dicho for things that go bump in the night
¡De Espanto!

“Spooky!”  “Scary!” “Frightening!”  This is really more of an exclamation than a dicho, though it forms part of many colloquial expressions and is an integral part of Costa Rican folklore and legends.

One such legend that comes immediately to mind is La Segua.  This  folktale is all about a beautiful young woman who wanders about the dark and deserted streets and byways at night visiting many shadowy and scary places.

She encounters a young man returning home late and coquettishly attracts his attention. He tries to pursue her, but she eludes him. He catches sight of her again and approaches. La Segua gazes at him seductively, but her smile reveals the large yellow  teeth of a horse. The young man is paralyzed by horror. But then suddenly she laughs, and her laugh is the neighing of a mare.  Stricken with terror, but regaining his mobility, the young man runs away screaming into the night. ¡De espanto!

Stories such as this one are handed down from our grandmothers to our mothers who tell them to their young sons in order to illustrate the importance of coming straight home at night and not lingering around the dark and dangerous streets. They are also designed to warn young men to avoid those beautiful, seductive women who often populate shadowy street corners at night.

Being perhaps somewhat dense as a youth, I didn’t get the real meaning of this story until I was an adult.  Up until then I didn’t connect the prostitutes that haunt the city’s streets at night with La Segua, but rather simply with trouble. The appearance of sexual workers on the streets meant I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I should be high-tailing it for home prontisimo.

De espanto may sometimes be used in conjunction with the story of La Segua when a young man meets a girl so lovely that her beauty startles him. He then might say: ¡Ella está de espanto! Meaning that she is so beautiful it scares him.

Of course, the sole didactic method behind these de espanto tales is to frighten the daylights out of you.

Another of these is la Carreta sin Bueyes or “The Cart Without Oxen.”  It is the story of an ox cart that was carrying coffee to the port one dark night when the driver and his team of oxen mysteriously  disappeared. According to this legend, from thenceforth the ghostly cart was doomed to travel the back roads among the coffee plantations, clunking and creaking over the cobblestones without  benefit of team or driver. This story reminds me a bit of Washington Irving’s tale of The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow, a de espanto story if ever there was one.

Here again, the message is that the night is a dangerous and scary venue, and those who wander about till all hours are likely to meet with an unhappy fate.

The story of La Carreta sin Bueyes, however, has rather a special significance for me.

When I was a kid, my parents owned a small coffee farm with a little house on it in what is now the area on the south side of San José known as Paso Ancho. At that time the district was totally rural and  covered by hectare after hectare of coffee plants.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto


One night a couple of my cousins, my brother and I decide to stay late at the house and tell ghost stories, and, of course, la Carreta sin Bueyes was among them. We were having such a good time that we hadn’t noticed the lateness of the hour.

Then suddenly out of the pitch-blackness that surrounded the little dwelling we heard the unmistakable sound of an oxcart rolling slowly and ponderously through the ruts and over the stones of the narrow dirt roads that cut through the fields of coffee plants.

All conversation suddenly halted, and we sat there in silent terror listening to the slowly approaching sound.

The cousins were trembling with fright, but my brother and I were determined to find out where the sound was coming from and what it was. So, leaving the cousins huddled in fear, we ventured out of the house creeping deep into the surrounding forest of coffee plants.

The only light was the eerie blue glow of the moon rising overhead.  The sound became closer and closer, when suddenly we saw it; la Carreta sin Bueyes!

My brother and I dropped to the ground. The cart continued to move toward us. We were so scared we could not move. I thought the thing would just roll over us, and that was the way we would die.

But, as the ghostly object got closer and closer I began to make out the silhouette of a man driving the cart. “There’s a driver,” I said to my brother. “And look! There are oxen too.”

The cart lumbered just past us, and then abruptly stopped. That’s when the smell hit us, that rich, fetid aroma that can only come from animal fertilizer.

My brother and I realized simultaneously that the oxcart was about to deposit a load of manure right on top of us. We both jumped up and ran screaming like banshees in the direction of the little house.

The next day I told the story to my father who immediately burst out laughing. “Ah, poor Manuel,” he said.  “And who on earth is this Manuel,” I inquired with surprise. “Why he’s the old man who delivers fertilizer nearly every night during the summer,” my father replied, unable to suppress his laughter. 

“Apparently it was you who gave the old fellow quite a scare last night when he was making his delivery to our farm. He told me this morning in all sincerity that our place is haunted and that a couple of ghosts jumped up at him from among the coffee plants last night.”

Well, I’m not easily frightened, but to this day whenever I hear the sound of carreta wheels rolling across a cobblestoned street, it still gives me pause.

Children are the principal victims of latest wave of virus infections
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A wave of illness is sweeping the Central Valley, and doctors say the principal victims are children up to 14 years.

The illnesses began in December and the number of young patients being treated at the Hospital Nacional del Niños has tripled, said Rodolfo Hernandez Gomèz, a medical doctor and director of the institution. Now some 50 children a day are being seen in the hospital's emergency room.

He said that Costa Rica usually experiences two such waves every year. This current wave of rotavirus should end in February. A second seasonal onslaught is likely from June to August, he said. The dry season is when the virus is most likely to propagate rapidly, he said.

The mode of transmission is oral, and the areas with the most infections are San José, followed by Alajuela, he said. The virus is transmitted by fecal contamination, usually stemming from contact with other persons or of food.

Some food stands at the recent Zapote holiday festival were found to have such contamination of the products on sale to the public.

Hernandez said the best way to avoid contaminatiion is by vigous washing of the hands before eating and after using the bathroom. He suggested that indivduals should wash their hands with soap for at least 15 seconds each time. The director also said that persons experiencing the symptoms of diarrea and nausea should not particpate in the preparation of food.  He also cautioned against buying food from street vendors who may not have access to sanitary facilities.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
A little hand-washing goes a long way

For those who are sick, suffering from diarrea and vomiting, plenty of liquids are important the doctor said. And those suffering from the illness should be encouraged to eat even if they have lost the desire, he added.

If a child displays sunken eyes, a pale face and lack of saliva in the mouth, he or she should go to the hospital immediately, the doctor said.

Arrest toll for first few days of festival in Palmares is 20 persons
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officers with the Fuerza Pública in Palmares have arrested 20 persons in the first five days of the festival, police said. 

For the most part, the arrests were related to fighting or partying too hard.  A man identified by the last name Araya was arrested for public drunkenness, officers said.  Three men, identified by the last names Segura, Urbina and Umaña, are accused of starting a fight, officers said.  Another eight men, identified by the last names Rojas, Phillis, Salazar, Arce, Valverde, Pérez and two identified by the last name Xirinachs, were arrested for disturbing the peace, the officers said. 

A man named Guevara was arrested for vandalism,
officers said.  When they arrested him, the officers seized 98 cans of beer, they said. 

However, there were also more serious crimes.  Two men, identified by the last names Aragón, were arrested for crimes against life, officers said.  Crimes against life in Costa Rica are those such as murder, man slaughter, abortion or harming someone seriously enough that they are permanently injured according to Costa Rican penal code.

In addition, a Colombian identified by the last name Méndez was arrested for having two minors work for him through the night into the early hours of the morning, officers said. The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública has some 400 officers patrolling the festival which started Wednesday and runs through Jan. 23. 

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Michelle Bachelet wins presidential runoff in Chile
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — Socialist Michelle Bachelet is set to become Chile's first woman president after winning Sunday's runoff election.

Her rightist opponent, Sebastian Pinera, conceded defeat as vote tallies put Bachelet ahead with 53 percent of the ballots.
Pinera was behind with less than 47 percent. Two-thirds of the vote have been counted.

Ms. Bachelet, a former political prisoner and later a defense minister, had been projected to win.

Succeeding current President Ricardo Lagos, she will inherit an economy that has surged in part because of soaring prices for copper, which is Chile's top export.

Venezuela's Chávez rejects allegation he made anti-Semitic comment
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chávez has rejected charges he made anti-Semitic remarks last month.

Speaking to the Venezuelan parliament Friday, President Chávez said a call for an apology by the U.S.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center is part of what he called an "imperialist campaign."

The Wiesenthal Center had asked Chávez to apologize
for comments he made in a Christmas Eve speech regarding,  "descendants of those who crucified Christ" and those who "took the world's riches for themselves."

A group of Venezuelan Jewish leaders on Friday defended the president and criticized the Wiesenthal Center for speaking out without consulting the Venezuelan Jewish community. The group says Chávez did not specifically target Jews in his speech.
The group also said the world's Jews must learn to work together.

Flag football tourney will take place in Santa Ana at end of month
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The National Football League playoffs are under way in the United States but it's not making much of a stir in Costa Rica.  However, the International Flag Football Federation is sponsoring a tournament in Santa Ana. 

The winner gets to attend the 7th world cup of flag football in Panama City, Fla., said Jim Zimolka, president of the federation. 

So far, only six teams have registered to play but they come from Panama, Honduras, Florida and Boston, as well as Costa Rica, Zimolka said.  The tournament is
 scheduled to take place Jan. 28 at the park in the center of town.   

Other qualifying tournaments will be in San Diego, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Tampa, Fla.; Little Rock, Ark.; Jackson, Miss.; Pal Bay, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala., and Liberia, Zimolka said.  More than 100 teams will play in the world cup, he added. 

There is currently a league that meets every Thursday at 10 a.m. in Parque La Sabana near the basketball courts.  Usually, about 30 persons show up to play, Zimolka said.  For more information, or to register a team, call 282-4159 or send an e-mail to staff@flagmag.com.

Suspect in 2004 robbery and murder of policeman arrested in Pococí
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officers with the Fuerza Pública in Pococí arrested a Nicaraguan man Sunday afternoon in connection with a robbery and subsequent shootout that resulted in the death of a police officer, the agency said.
The 40-year-old man with the last name of Maradiaga is suspected of robbing a check cashier in Limón province in November 2004, officers said.  When 
police were sent to arrest him, Maradiaga fled, police said.  As the officers caught up to him near Matina, he shot at them, killing an officer identified by the last name Fajardo Rosales, officers said.  He has been avoiding arrest since.

Police captured Maradiaga Saturday in the center of the town of Cariarí, the officers said.  When they arrested him, the officers found 5.9 grams of what appeared to be cocaine, they said. 

Jo Stuart
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