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(506) 2223-1327       Published Monday, Feb. 2, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 22       E-mail us
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Google Earth requires a math converter
How to see your property without leaving your chair

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Here is a great tip for expats to find property with Google Earth when a real estate sales agent provides them with a catastro or a plat map of a parcel.  Google Earth has come a long way in the last several years.  Back in 2005, there was very little high-definition photography available for Costa Rica, but today there is much more and it is very impressive. 

Granted some of the sections in high-definition are a bit dated, but they still provide a good guide as to the location of a property.  The date of any frame provided in a higher resolution can be found by running a mouse over the section and looking at the bottom right of the Google Earth screen.

In Costa Rica, coordinates on plat maps use the Lambert system.  One cannot take the numbers found in the ubicación or localización section — both of these words mean location in Spanish — of a plat map and find its location with Google Earth without some heavy-duty calculations.  The Lambert system is a conic map projection frequently used in aeronautical charts.  For lay persons, this means it is a measurement derived from a mathematician's calculation when a curve — as in the earth's curve — intersects with a flat surface, like a map that is flat. Google uses longitude and latitude.

The location section is normally on all plat maps prepared in the past 40 or 50 years.  Very old maps do not have this section because the hojas cartográficas, or cartographic charts, were not created for the country until the late 50s and early 60's.  The coordinates on older maps with the location section may not be very accurate because in the past surveyors did not have very good equipment.  Even today, some surveyors use antiquated measurement devices, and the information is not very precise.

There is no exact area on a catastro for the ubicación section.  It is placed where it fits on the map prepared by a surveyor.  One just needs to look carefully at the map to find it.  The area is small and is represented as a grid.  The grid has numbers on the top and on one of the sides, usually the right side.  The top numbers represent the Lambert X coordinate and the side numbers Lambert Y coordinate.

Now here is the secret to change those numbers into something Google Earth can use.  A person named Tomas de Camino Beck created a simple calculator to convert Lambert into a decimal latitude and longitude value.  These values can be used in the "fly to" section of Google Earth.  The calculator can be downloaded HERE!

The calculator is in a zip file.  It is free of anything nasty like viruses, malware, or spyware.  It is just a simple calculator, nothing fancy.  Users can download the zip file and extract it to the desktop of a computer.  This program is for Windows only.  The program in the zip file is named convertcr. A click on the program will run the calculator.   The first thing that pops up is a welcome screen.  A click on continuar or "continue," and the input fields will be displayed.
Orosi property
A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Orosí property on a Costa Rica sectional map

Here is an example of how to use the calculator and its results for Google Earth:

Using the map in the picture above 552000 goes into  the Lambert X field and 200000 into the Lambert Y field. The calculator returns the decimal values of 9.81692529625514 for latitude and -83.8593293754473 for longitude.  Users should change the option setting for Google Earth to accept decimal values instead of degrees and minutes and put in the numbers in the "fly to" section of Google Earth as 9.81692529625514N, 83.8593293754473W. The Google Earth system will move to the section of the grid above where points 552 and 200 cross.  This area is just outside of Orosi, a city east of San José and just south of Cartago.

Location numbers on Costa Rican plat maps are based on Costa Rica's cartographic charts that use grids, and surveyors use the numbers of the grids.   Costa Rica also has Lambert north and Lambert south areas.  All the charts of the country can be found HERE!

This is a neat way for someone to find on a computer that property someone is trying to sell in Costa Rica. 

There are currently many buying opportunities for real estate in Costa Rica due to the world's financial crisis.  Expats interested in buying property should do their research and take nothing for granted including a property's location.

When interested in a piece of real estate, they should always ask for the "catastro" and, if possible, the GPS coordinates.  Real estate agents usually have the former but not the later.   GPS readings are much more accurate, but now if one does not have them and only has a plat map to work with, the property can be found with Google Earth.

Garland M. Baker is a 36-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.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, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2008, use without permission prohibited.


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4815-5/24/09
Spanish rail cars for Heredia
still objects of negotiations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The proposed Heredia train line will not have any new passenger cars soon.

Officials revealed Friday that the deal still has not been struck for Costa Rica to purchase rail cars from a Spanish line.

Officials disclosed that they were seeking help from a visiting Spanish official, Trinidad Jiménez, secretary of state for  Iberoamérica. A Casa Presidencial press release said that President Óscar Arias Sánchez and others wanted her help to obtain a good price.

In September when Arias returned from Spain Casa Presidencial said that Arias negotiated a preferential price with the state-owned Ferrocarriles Españoles de Vía Estrecha. At the time officials said they would like to have the rail line to Heredia back in service by December.

The suggestion was that the railcars already were on a boat headed toward Costa Rica.

Now Ms. Jiménez suggested that negotiations still are continuing.

Not having the four Spanish rail cars here does not mean the line will not go into service. There are cars already here that could be used. Officials have talked about a February start date more recently. But Jan. 6, A.M. Costa Rica learned that officials at the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles had failed to seek an administrative procedure that would have set the fares for the line. The Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos said the institute did not follow through on its request.

During her visit Ms. Jiménez toured the site of the Jan. 8 earthquake and pledged $285,000 from her government for humanitarian aid.

Ciudad Colón traffic flow
will undergo a change


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ciudad Colón will lose its one-way streets for six blocks in the center of town starting Tuesday.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said that the Municipalidad de Mora requested the changes. The goal is to increase traffic flow, the ministry said.

Officers of the Policía de Tránsito will be on duty during the week to help motorists follow the signs that will be posted.

Alajuela told to vacate
its municipal buildings


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has told the Municipalidad de Alajuela that it must close two structures in the municipal complex in eight days in order to protect workers there.

The structures suffered damage in the 1990 earthquake and sustained even more Jan. 8.

The decision, which was announced Friday, grew out of an appeal by four municipal employees. The workers said that studies showed that the building was vulnerable.

Our reader's opinion
Many real estate contracts
contain arbitration clauses


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My name is Leonardo Salazar, Esq. I am specialist in real estate law and have great experience in arbitration procedures.

I found very interesting your article Friday, since it's something I have experienced recently in regards to many buyers who contacted me to try getting their money back from down payments. 

Coincidentally, almost all of the contracts that were drafted in the many developments have an arbitration clause, which means that the buyer cannot go to the court, but to an arbitration procedure only, which makes the regular court not an option. 

The arbitration procedure is ADR method in which a tribunal of arbitrators act like “judges – independent third party ”  to resolve the problem. This is faster than the regular court actions that might take up to 5 years. 

Of course, this option has some inconvenient, such as you can only sue the entity that actually signed or accepted the arbitration clause and the procedure has a cost for the buyer, but it is a good way to resolve those issues. 

Something the buyer has to take in consideration is that some developers included arbitration clauses that were not well conceived and have mistakes, that will not allow the buyers to go to court and have a very complicated and more difficult arbitration procedure in benefit of the developers, which might be a problem for the investors-buyers. 

Another option, and depending of the specific circumstances, an alternative way to get their money back is, unfortunately, through a criminal case.  But this needs to be studied case by case.
Lic. Leonardo Salazar V. LL.M.
San José

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 22


Arias economic shield proposals getting mixed reviews
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Proposals by President Óscar Arias Sánchez to shield the country from effects of a world economic crisis got mixed reviews.

Union leaders have expressed concern while business executives called the ideas a good start.

Arias made a 29-part presentation Thursday night. The segment most troubling to union officials was the proposal by Arias to issue a decree changing the legal working hours to provide more flexibility for employers.

Predictably, the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados expressed doubt that the rules would exist just during periods of economic crisis. The public employees union has battled the concept of flexibility for years and has a task force set up in opposition.

The details were not given in the president speech, but over the years bills have been introduced in the Asamblea Legislative to provide for a four-day work week with perhaps 10-hour days. Under current law, employers would have to pay overtime for working employees more than eight hours. Companies like Intel Corp. have supported the proposals as a way of making the workforce more efficient.

The Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y Seguridad Social, the workers in the country's social security system including the hospitals, expressed opposition, too. A press release suggested that employees forced to work four days of from 10 to 12 hours each would suffer diminished mental and physical health despite a three-day weekend.

The social security union also rejected the Arias plan that employers should reduce the work hours of employees so persons would not have to be fired.

The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, which represents private industry liked that idea and said it would discuss such a change with lawmakers in the next few days. The organization noted that private industry employs nine of every 10 workers in Costa Rica.

The Caja workers also urged Arias to put a price freeze on basis foodstuffs and dismissed as insufficient the
workers oppressed
There is no doubt how the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados sees the crisis. This is from the organization's Web page.

promise by Arias to urge the price regulating agency to hold the line on bus fares.

The Caja union also expressed suspicion of the Arias plan to lengthen the social security enrollment from three to six months of any employee who was fired. It said the proposal would increase the cost to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social without any corresponding increase in social security payments.

Business leaders liked the idea of reducing interest rates. Arias said he would prevail on the national banks to do that and also ask the nation's housing finance agency and student loan agency to do likewise.

The proposals by Arias included many ideas that already are in the works, and there was nothing dramatic presented. Nevertheless, the administration is airing the full speech by Arias during the usual cadena nacional time periods on television and radio. The original speech was carried live.


Anonymous tipster put immigration chief back in hot water
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's immigration director is in hot water again because an opposition deputy told investigators that he received an anonymous complaint about an alleged mishandling of illegal aliens.

The immigration director is Mario Zamora Cordero, and his office in the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería issued a statement Friday in which Zamora insisted that the deputy make public the name of the person who registered the complaint.

Meanwhile, the Ministerio Público, the independent prosecutorial agency, confirmed Friday that it has conducted a search for documents at the La Uruca immigration offices.

The case has international overtones, too, because the original allegations involved ambassadors here from other countries.

Zamora is the Arias administration official who went public in 2006 with the allegation that he was offered a $2.5 million bribe to allow illegal Chinese citizens to enter the country. The case has generated an investigation of certain employers.

The Poder Judicial said that the documents obtained in the immigration department search would be turned over to the Fiscalía de Delitos Económicos, Tributarios y Corrupción. The investigation centers on failing to fulfill duties and issuing untrue resolutions, known as prevaricato.

The Poder Judicial also said that no evidence has been found to investigate any individual.

The principal allegation is that Zamora allowed four Latin American citizens, found here illegally, to leave the country without deporting them. This means that they could have returned as tourists any time. Deportation
prevents someone from returning for five to 10 years, depending on the situation.

The Poder Judicial said that there was no investigation involving the Colombian ambassador here, Luis Guillermo Fernández, or the ambassador from Uruguay, Octavio Brugnini.

The original allegation came from Alberto Salom of the Partido Acción Ciudadana. The foreign ministry issued a very undiplomatic and blistering statement in which it said that Salom showed absolute disrespect for diplomatic norms by carrying allegations against the ambassadors to the Ministerio Público.

Even if they have done something wrong, foreign ambassadors have diplomatic immunity. And so does Salom as a legislative deputy. Zamora was quick to point that out in a similarly undiplomatic statement.

He said he considered the allegations defamatory and lamented the legal immunity that Salom has. He urged the deputy to make public the name of the person making the allegation.

Zamora has characterized his time at the immigration department as a continual fight against corruption. He only recently avoided being fired when the security minister, Janina del Vecchio, relented. He had been accused of causing too many Sala IV constitutional court appeals.

A number of lawmakers and others came to his defense as a corruption fighter.

The immigration department is mired in paperwork and appointments for residencies are a year or more behind.

Zamora was appointed by Fernando Berrocal Soto, who was fired by President Óscar Arias Sánchez when he said that the political sector here was riddled with persons linked to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, the drug smuggling terrorist group.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 22


'Buy America' clause puts Obama on the spot over trade
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama is facing an early decision on trade policy, one that could anger key members of his Democratic Party, or spark a trade war with some of America's closest allies. In a few weeks Obama is to travel to Canada, where officials are warning of disastrous consequences if the United States embraces protectionism.

The situation has implications for Costa Rica because opponents of the free trade treaty with the U.S. here are hoping Obama will open the document to renegotiations. But they are not hoping for changes that reduce Costa Rica's access to U.S. markets.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an economic recovery plan that could signal where U.S. trade policy is headed as the Obama administration works hand-in-hand with a Democratic Party-controlled Congress.  Both the House and Senate versions of the bill stipulate American-made steel and other products be used for public-works projects designed to stimulate the economy.

Canada and other U.S. trading partners are crying foul.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has been non-committal on the so-called "Buy America" provision. "The administration will review that particular provision and will make a determination on that," said Robert Gibbs.

The mandate to utilize domestic products has the backing of U.S. labor unions that vigorously supported Obama in last year's presidential election. It is also defended by Obama allies in Congress, like Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

"To do the stimulus package in the maximum job-creation way, we ought to be using American-made materials," said Brown. "That means Ohio steel. That means concrete, cement, and other materials that are made in this country."

But some foreign officials are warning the provision would spark complaints against the United States at the World Trade Organization and possible retaliation against U.S. exports. Gerald Keddy, Canada's parliamentary secretary for international trade, said the mandate would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

"We do expect the Americans to live up to their international trading obligations," said Keddy.

Although Costa Rica does not produce steel, the Central American Free Trade Agreement stipulates equal access to
governmental projects for all kinds of products and services.

In Ontario, where much Canadian industry is based, provincial Premier Dalton McGuinty says a trade war would benefit no one, and that the only way to get through a global recession is for nations to support one another.

U.S. business groups agree. While some labor unions have called domestic opposition to the "Buy America" provision "economic treason," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says preserving free trade is "economic patriotism." It warns against what it sees as rising protectionist sentiment in the United States and elsewhere, noting that trade barriers contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Obama has yet to speak in detail on trade matters since assuming office.

As a candidate, he was criticized for sending mixed messages. During the hard-fought primary season, Obama pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, and often struck populist themes on the campaign trail, as he did a year ago in Wisconsin.

"I did not just start criticizing unfair trade deals like NAFTA because I started running for president," said Obama then. "I do it because I see what happens to communities when factories close down and the jobs move overseas."

After securing the Democratic presidential nomination, however, Obama seemed to moderate his stance.

"I believe in trade," he said. "I think trade can grow our economy and improve the lives of ordinary people."

Since becoming president, Obama has made no mention of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, and administration officials show no appetite for a trade war with Canada, America's largest trading partner, or any other nation. Quite the contrary, Press Secretary Gibbs sasid the international community must work together to fix the global economy.

But Democratic congressional proponents of "Buy America" are not backing down, making for what could be delicate negotiations between the White House and Capitol Hill as the economic recovery package moves through Congress.

Canadian officials say they hope to secure a waiver for Canadian products if the provision becomes law. Obama travels to Ottawa Feb. 19.


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A.M. Costa Rica

users guide


This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Statistics

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


Sea Shepherd finds fleet
of whale hunters, it says


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society says its chase ship has located Japan's whaling fleet near Antarctica and is in pursuit.

In a statement Sunday, the U.S.-based group said that after a week of searching their vessel was 11 kilometers (7 miles) from the Japanese mothership "Nisshin Maru" and two harpoon vessels and was closing in on them.

Japan has called the Sea Shepherd activists pirates and eco-terrorists because of their use of aggressive tactics, such as boarding, stink bombs and collisions. But the activists say the whalers are the real pirates because their hunt violates international law.

Last month, Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd founder and captain of the "Steve Irwin," which has been harassing this year's whale hunt, said the group would halt their pursuit of the Japanese fleet next season if Australia takes legal action against Japan.

Australia's Labor government promised during its 2007 election campaign to begin legal proceedings against Japan at the International Court of Justice. But the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd now says it wants to see what progress can be made through diplomacy.

Colombian rebels release
four of six hostages

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian rebels have released four hostages to the International Red Cross in a mission marred by accusations of military interference.

The Red Cross said Sunday the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia had handed over three police officers and one soldier who had been held for more than a year.  It was the rebel's first unilateral release of hostages in nearly one year.

A Brazilian helicopter emblazoned with the Red Cross symbol retrieved the freed hostages from the jungle and flew to the Colombian city of Villavicencio, where the four were met with hugs, applause and white flowers.

A journalist accompanying the mission reported that military flights over the jungle had complicated and delayed the handover.  The Colombian government called the allegations unfounded.  The hostages are among six captives they said it would release this week.

Later Monday, the rebels are expected to release Alan Jara, a former governor kidnapped in 2001.  Former lawmaker Sigifredo Lopez is expected to be freed on Wednesday.  Lopez was abducted in 2002.

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