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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, Feb. 28, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 41          E-mail us
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Presenting foreign documents here will be easier
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Importing or exporting documents will become easier now that Costa Rica has agreed to adopt a simplified system based on an international treaty.

One of the main group of beneficiaries will be U.S. citizens who seek to obtain residency here. Until now assembling the paperwork for the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería required the use of a chain of signatures.

A birth certificate, for example, would be obtained from the local county clerk. The person applying for residency here would take or send the birth certificate to the secretary of state in the relevant U.S. state. That office would validate the stamp and signature of the county clerk. Then the would-be expat would have to deliver the document, containing the verification by the secretary of state to the relevant Costa Rican consulate.

There would be another notation affixed validating the stamp and signature of the secretary of state. Then the Person seeking residency or a designate would take the document to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto here in San José. There officials would validate the signature and stamp of the Costa Rican consulate, apply stamps and collect fees.

Then and only then could the document be submitted to the immigration department. A couple seeking residency would have to follow this process for both birth certificates, the marriage certificate, any divorce decrees, the police clearance letters and other relevant documents.

Under the new system offices in each of the 100 countries that have adopted the treaty will affix a certificate that validates the document. Most secretaries of state in the United States have this power. In Costa Rica, the validation will be done at the foreign ministry, officials here said.

The Legalisation Office of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reports that it is the authority in the United Kingdom.

After that validation the document will be accepted in all of the signatory nations, according to the treaty.

Big losers are Federal Express and DHL, which have moved thousands of documents to and from

This is a model of an apostille. According to the Hague convention, the document must be square and at least 9 centimeters (3.54 inches) per side.

state offices and consulates for validation.

Canadians will not have the option because that country has not approved the treaty.

The foreign ministry here said that Costa Rica became the 100th nation to accept the treaty when the Asamblea Legislativa passed the necessary measures. The full title of the agreement is "Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents." The agreement also is called the "Apostille convention" after the French word for certification, the ministry noted.

Due to the way the treaty is worded and the steps that must be taken after a nation gives its agreement, the new process will not be in force in Costa Rica until the end of the year, the ministry estimated. Until then the old chain of legalization will be used, it noted. The United States adopted the convention in 1981.

The ministry noted that the new system would be used for birth certifications, court documents, a patent, sales documents and documents that have been notarized. Presumably the system also would be used for academic degrees earned outside the country. There was no mention of the fees that the ministry might charge.

Under another recent law Costa Rican notaries are empowered to validate signatures overseas and to serve legal paperwork. That means a Costa Rican notary can fly to Spain, for example, and close a real estate deal or serve divorce papers.

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Our readers' opinions
Milanes investor group
agrees dilemma is real

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you for your article in Friday's A.M. Costa Rica regarding the possible discrepancy of property evaluation assessment (estimated) and the actual selling value of real estate. This is particularly true when related to the Louis Milanes/Savings Unlimited case and the dilemma facing the investors who have filed claims.

How much money can be realized from the sales of the properties offered and how much time will it take? Sounds like a plea by Milanes and his lawyers to postpone the actual closure of this case. Pay up or go to trial. He is asking the investors to accept a settlement based on assumptions (assessed value) and not actuality (Who will pay that price?) We all know that property is only worth what someone will pay for it. The preliminary hearing in March will be most interesting and perhaps set a precedent for acceptable collateral in future fraud cases.

Another case to consider is the Villalobos Brothers court awards. The settlement reached was 38.47% of the invested amounts/court awards. The first payment of 27.59 percent was received in early March of 2010. The investors are still waiting for the second installment of 10.88 percent.

I understand that the delay is attributed to the sale of properties confiscated by the courts which were to be sold and the moneys distributed to the investors. Is the second payment 10.88 percent based on the court's assessed appraisal value or the actual selling value? Have the properties been sold? If so, when is the second payment to be distributed?

If properties are accepted as part of a package cash deal then they should be sold first and the resulting sales money added to the pot. Otherwise it is just speculation and it is anybody's guess as to the real value of the properties, and probably more important will take years to complete the "deal."

It is a real dilemma for the investors: Take what is proffered and be thankful or to call his bluff and hope that justice will be served. What to do?
Jim Irwin
Group of 15 Canadian investors.

We must be good stewards
but also smart about it

Dear A.M. Costa Rica

Re: Paul E. Hargraves' letter

When I first read Paul’s letter, I almost skipped it. Great! Another partisan viewpoint! He quickly dismissed and insulted all those with whom he disagreed.

I guess I was bored, so I kept reading. He is obviously the smartest person in the room. I followed with interest his logic and science of the earth warming and the consequences that may follow. He certainly was convincing with his moot argument. No one is arguing that the earth’s climate is not in constant change! I’ll venture to say that no one actually believes that man is not leaving his footprint. But how big is that footprint? Enough with the anecdotal convictions — let’s quantify it!

Once we quantify man’s footprint (agriculture, building structures, manufacturing, burning fossil fuels) vs. nature’s footprint – we can logically decide if we need a global (i.e. *all* countries) political solution to affect the warming trend. But let’s assume man’s footprint is proven to be the problem, I’m onboard to help fix it! What to do? So far, current or suggested solutions involve redistributing wealth (carbon bonds, cap & trade). They do nothing to reduce CO2 gases. Do you have a better plan? Is it economically viable?

My problem is that I feel scientists, along with journalists and educators have been hijacked by this partisan train. Because Paul and others comes across as partisans, I suspect their data and facts were cherry picked to support their respective arguments. Climategate?

Also by blaming everything on global warming (and we do), we don’t look locally for the real culprit or solution. We (as individuals) cannot dismiss our responsibility as good stewards of this planet, but let’s be smart about it.
Steve Clark

Fire drill will be on boat

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Firemen are going to hold a drill Tuesday on a boat docked in Puerto Limón.

This will be the first simulation to involve a ship, although the Cuerpo de Bomberos conducts drills like these every month. The cargo ship that will be involved in the drill will be at the Alemán dock. It is owned by the Medinter company, said firemen.

The drill also will involve the fire protection unit on the boat, which has 24 crew members. Other agencies also will participate.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 28, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 41
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Racing bikes become the target of choice for armed robbers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Crooks have suddenly realized that those bikes athletes are peddling all over the country are not your grandfather's Schwinn Cruiser.

Some of the competition models sell for well over $10,000, and they find a ready market in Costa Rica, a country that values bike racing.

With the realization that bikes are valuable commodities, crooks have become more bold. When bikes became the latest robbery target, the results were bound to be fatal.

In addition, Fuerza Pública officers now have added duties, protecting bike races and practice.

The murder of Mauricio Castro Hidalgo served as a wake-up call to police and sports cyclists. Castro and companions were confronted by robbers Jan. 30 as they practiced on a back road near Linda Vista de la Unión.

When competitive bike racers participated in the Copa Nacional ‘AM-PM’ de Ciclismo de Montaña Sunday the security minister had two motorcycles and four officers assigned to provide security along the route. The bikers
 traveled through Santa Ana, Pozos, Calle Real Pereira and the Finca Familia Guerra.

In Puntarenas two more motorcycle policemen are assigned to provide security along bike right-of-ways in Caldera and Barranca. The security ministry has been planning measures with the Federación Costarricense de Ciclismo.

Police alertness paid off Saturday in Guanacaste when officers detained a man they identified with the last names of Monge Rodríguez, who is suspected of robbing a bike from a cyclist. Fuerza Pública officers said they found the bike in the bed of the man's truck. They said the bike was worth 2 million colons or about $4,000.

Agents located Castro's bike and one other when they were reconstructing the crime Wednesday. Robbers dumped the bike just several hundred yards where Castor received the fatal bullet wounds.

Just as cars that may contain evidence are torched by their thieves, Castro's killers burned up the bikes in a field of coffee plants. They must have realized that the murder would generate a police search for the valuable bike, which was described as a top-of-the-line model. The other burned bike belonged to one of Castro's companions, agents said. 

River cleaup crew hauls sacks full of plastic bottles and other discarded materials. The plastic will be recycled, the organization said.
river cleanup
Comité Bandera Azul Ecológica de San Miguel de Santo Domingo photo

River cleanup shows nothing was done with sewer pipes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those concerned with the Río Tibás conducted a cleanup over the weekend and pulled 15 sacks of plastic and other trash out of the river and from along the banks.

They also reported that two sources of sewage that they discovered and reported in past years continue dumping polluted water into the river. The individuals are members of the Comité Bandera Azul Ecológica de San Miguel de Santo Domingo in Heredia. They said they would report the polluting outlets again to the municipality.

In a release the organization urged authorities to show more
interest in the complaints the group has filed.

The organization also urged some form of support for companies that make degradable beverage containers.

In the last four years with the heavily promoted Paz con la Naturaleza the country has not been able to substitute degradable material in the marketplace. They added that plastic sacks for agricultural purposes also frequently end up in the river.

Despite the trash and pollution, the presence of small animals and birds suggest that the river can still be saved, the organization said.

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Closing of San José-Limón highway adds to the challenge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's highway situation continues to be challenging.

A large section of the new Caldera highway is closed for repairs, and the alternate route has its problems, too. The result is massive traffic jams.

And now highway officials have announced that Ruta 32, the main highway from San José to Limón will be closed from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. all this week while crews paint lines and install reflectors on 30 kilometers of roadway. That's about 19 miles.

Ruta 32 has received some new asphalt as a result of weather damage.

Traffic police will be involved in the closure. The Consejo
 Nacional de Vialidad, the road agency, said that Ruta 10 through Turrialba is an alternate route to Limón. However, that road is narrow in places and difficult for trucks to navigate.

A Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes employee died after he was hit by a car while working on the Río Virilla bridge, so officials are understandably nervous about mixing workers with traffic.

Drivers reported tieups Sunday at Cambronero where a bailey bridge has been installed on Ruta 1, the Interamericana Norte. This is the highway that has been the traditional route to Guanacaste from the Central Valley. With the closure of the new San José-Caldera highway for repairs all the west and eastbound traffic is passing through the damaged section of Cambronero where the highway subsided last year.

Region's daily trafficking income estimated at $19 million

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and special reports

Drug traffickers make $19 million a day, according to  U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Steven Shepro, who spoke at a regional security meeting last week.

He is director of the strategy, Policy and Plans directorate of the U.S. Southern Command. Defense and security leaders from 15 nations completed a two-day Caribbean region security conference in Trinidad and Tobago Thursday where they discussed illicit trafficking, support to law enforcement operations, and regional cooperation against transnational criminal organizations.
Notable among participant observations was a consensus that money generated by the illegitimate trade of transnational criminal organizations can flood local markets and adversely affect legitimate businesses, said the Southern Command in a summary of the meeting.

Shepro did not really give details of his estimate, according to the summary, but he did repeat an observation made by a Caribbean leader that “transnational crime is local crime somewhere.”

U.S. Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of the Southern Command, said that quickly and creatively traffickers are adjusting to counter illicit trafficking strategies.

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Big drug suspect roundup
comes after agent's murder

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Federal authorities in the United States have arrested hundreds of people with suspected ties to Mexican drug cartels following the shooting death of a U.S. law enforcement agent in Mexico last week.

More than 3,000 federal, state and local law enforcement personnel conducted raids in major U.S. cities this week, arresting nearly 700 suspects, and confiscating large quantities of drugs, weapons, and at least $8 million in cash.

The sweep occurred just days after Jaime Zapata, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, was gunned down Feb. 15 on a highway in Mexico's San Luis Potosi state.  Fellow agent Victor Ávila was wounded in the ambush by suspected drug cartel members.

U.S. authorities said they would not tolerate attacks against its agents, and threatened to take strong action against the perpetrators of such violence.  Zapata was the first U.S. agent to be killed in Mexico since Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was kidnapped, tortured and murdered while working with the Drug Enforcement Administration 26 years ago.

When the roundup began in the United States, Mexican authorities announced they had detained Julian Zapata Espinosa, the alleged leader of a cell of the Zeta drug cartel, and eight others believed to be connected to Zapata’s death.

According to Ricardo Trevilla, a spokesperson for the defense secretariat, the suspect confessed to having killed Zapata after mistaking the officials for members of a rival gang.

Trevilla said the alleged hitmen confused the agents’ armored sport utility vehicle they were chasing with that of an enemy cartel.

Political commentators have raised questions about the investigation, since the agent and his partner clearly identified themselves as diplomats and their car had diplomatic plates.  Also, they said, it is odd that the alleged killers would have remained in San Luis Potosí where they were arrested, had they committed the high-profile murder.

Mexico’s attorney general’s office later said the detained cell leader had been arrested by the military in December 2009 after being found with assault weapons, camouflage uniforms and fake badges, but was eventually released on insufficient evidence.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón called U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday to inform him of the arrest.  Admiral James Winnefeld, head of the U.S. Northern Command, said President Obama thanked President Calderón for Mexico’s efforts to bring the attackers to justice.

“President Obama expressed appreciation for the strong investigative work of the Mexicans to arrest one of special agent Zapata’s alleged killers and President Calderón expressed appreciation for the cooperation of American agents that made the arrest possible," he said.

Since President Calderón took office in 2006, more than 34,000 people have been killed in his crackdown on organized crime.  In contrast to the Zapata killing, few of these cases, however, have been investigated.

Tension between the two governments has increased over the past weeks.  The Mexican president expressed anger over State Department cables obtained by the website WikiLeaks, calling Mexican law enforcement agencies corrupt, inefficient and unwilling to cooperate with each other.

In an interview with the Mexican daily El Universal this week, Calderón accused the U.S. government of not doing enough to curb drug distribution in the United States and failing to stop the flow of arms into Mexico.  He said U.S. law enforcement agencies competed with each other, failing to work together and that U.S. diplomats tended to distort what is going on in Mexico, harming U.S.-Mexican relations.

Calderón’s comments came just days after the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly against a measure that would have required licensed firearm dealers to report multiple sales of assault weapons — a new way to catch gunrunners to Mexico. 

President Calderón will travel to Washington this coming week to meet with President Obama.  Talks are expected to focus on security issues and other matters. 
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Three get 30 years each
in murder of professor

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men received prison sentences of 30 years each in the murder of an English professor who died Dec. 15, 2009. The victim, Alexander Obando Campos, worked at various points along the Caribbean coast, including in Sixaola, for the Universidad de Costa Rica.

He disappeared while he was en route to teach English. Agents found his body three days later buried near the Río La Estrella in Penshurt. Stolen was his portable computer and his cell telephone, agents said at the time.

The Poder Judicial identified the convicted men by the last names of Chinchilla Aguilar, Lanzas Matarrita and Obregón Rodríguez.

The teacher was believed to have given a ride to the three men on the day of his death. Agents later discovered the victim's automobile near the same river, and it appeared someone had been trying to push the vehicle into the water. The victim was en route to Amubri, Bribri, Talamanca, from Limón.

The sentence is expected to be reviewed by the Sala III court.

Earthquake near Quepos
does no serious damage

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A moderate earthquake took place near Quepos Saturday morning about 5:11 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no reports of major damage.

The location was estimated to be 108 kilometers or 67 miles northwest of Golfito and 71 kilometers (44 miles) south southeast of San José.

Eight residents reported to the Geological Survey that they felt the quake. The strongest report of damage came from Quepos. The magnitude was estimated at 4.6, and the depth about 32.4 kilometers or 20.1 miles, said the Geological Survey

Canadian woman identified

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian woman who fell and died at Parque Nacional Rincón de la Veija has been identified as Alysa Rotstein, 30. She was a tourist and is believed to have lost her balance while taking a photo.

The woman was accompanied by fellow Canadians when the mishap took place. The woman was on a short vacation from her job in Toronto.

A funeral was scheduled to take place Sunday in Hamilton, Ontario.

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