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(506) 2223-1327       Published Monday, March 2, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 42      E-mail us
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Little theatrical production puts expat out on street
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The abuse of Costa Rica's domestic violence laws is touching everyone, even senior expats.  One 72-year-old man — who is blind in one eye — was thrown out of a home last week in a theatrical production put on his wife's daughter from another relationship.  The man's wife wants the house they once shared.

The event — the so-called domestic violence — was staged. It was a complete fabrication.  However, that did not matter to the police.  The man was thrown out of the house with nowhere to go.

Here is the incredible story:

Around a year and half ago the older man began putting his affairs in order because of this advanced age.  He and his wife had separated, and he was living in one of the two houses they had.   The expat has assisted his wife to obtain training that would support her for the rest of her life.

In Costa Rica, as in many other places in the world, assets are divided equally in a divorce.  He did not want a divorce.  He was happy with the separation.  He just wanted to live out his days in the house to which he had become accustomed.   He decided to ask his wife for an usufruct, an occupancy right, and went to an attorney to begin drawing up the papers. 

When the lawyer began compiling the information, which included doing some simple due diligence, something surprising popped up.  The man's wife was in the process of divorcing him.  He had no idea this was the case.  She was also in the process of trying to evict him from the house he was living in because she was claiming it was part of her assets when they got married.

Upon learning his wife was in the process of divorcing him, the man filed a divorce claim too, so he would be protected and hopefully suspend the eviction process. 

Last Thursday, they both had an audience scheduled in court.  The expat had always attended every hearing up to that day, but for some reason he decided to ask his attorney to represent him without his attendance.  He said he stayed home to sleep in.

Around 7 a.m. or so, he heard banging and drilling.  He thought it was his next-door neighbor working on their house, so he decided to stay in bed and put up with the noise.  After a short while, the noise was so loud he decided to go next door and complain.   The expat's house had an inner living room area and an outer patio that at one time was a carport. 

When he opened the inner door separating the two areas, he was shocked.  Two men had forced their way into the patio area.  The daughter had moved in boxes of her things and spread them around the room.  She did not think the expat was home. He was supposed to be in court. So when she saw him, she was startled for a moment but started screaming at the top of her lungs, he said.

No one really knows which call brought the police.  It is suspected that the police arrived as a result of a call made by someone involved in the farce.   The police prepared a report based on the woman's testimony that she and her child were being abused by the expat.  Once the police report was finish and they left, she packed up her stuff and left too.  She went directly to domestic violence court serving her area and showed all the paperwork to a judge to get an order to kick the expat out of the house.
expat's luggage
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Policewoman keeps watch over belongings of evicted expat.

This despite the fact that she was not living in the dwelling.

The older man called another lawyer for help because the original one was in court for the scheduled hearing.  The lawyer, a woman, knew what was next because of her experience with the law.  She got in her car and went to the house with two witnesses to wait for the arrival of the police that would throw the man out of the dwelling. 

The woman lawyer tried everything possible to explain to the authorities the whole situation was a show and not real.  It was an event arranged to get the man out of the house.  They said they could do nothing.  They had to execute the order of the domestic violence judge.

During the hour that the man had to accumulate his personal items, the policewomen in the group of police officers — they had special badges indicating they were specialists in domestic violence — told the attorney this case was very common.  They said they have been in other fabricated situations where a woman was using the domestic violence laws to get her husband out to the house while the woman had her boyfriend waiting for her to return to bed.

The conclusion of everything that happened on Thursday is simple.  The daughter of a Costa Rican woman bent the country's laws on domestic violence to evict the man. The wife had not lived in the home for two years.

When the man went to the criminal court to file a complaint, the woman attendant looked at him and said in Spanish, "I do not know what to accuse your wife's daughter of, throwing you out of the house is not illegal.  Maybe I can put she broke your locks on the doors and you suffered damage that way."

The expat's hearing is Tuesday.  He will get his say, if the court can supply a translator, which they probably will not do because the judicial system is very scarce on translators these days.  His hearing will probably be postponed.  Even if eventually he could get the place back, he would not move back in.  He is afraid.

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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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 2, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 42

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Another man arrested
in Robert Cohen murder

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man suspected of being a hit man and kidnapper of U.S. citizen Robert Cohen haS been arrested in Chicago.

FBI agents arrested the man, identified as Matthew Francis Nolan, 40, as he left the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse for a bankruptcy court hearing.

Costa Rican officials have been looking for him after his name came up in the investigation of the March 6, 2005, kidnapping of Cohen, a man with roots in Florida who split his time between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

A three-judge court in Limón gave a Honduran citizen 27 years in prison after convicting him in May 2007 of the murder of Cohen. The same panel said there was not sufficient evidence to convict a second suspect, a woman named Anabel Chacón Sánchez. The panel said that her participation in the crime was not clear. Sentenced was Luis Alonso Douglas Mejía. The panel gave him 25 years for the murder and two years for depriving Cohen of his liberty.

At the time, investigators said that the U.S. citizen who was a hit man and the person who arranged Cohen's kidnapping still was at large. Cohen was grabbed as he left the Intercontinental Hotel and taken to a cabin in the Provincia de Limón where he was tortured. The prosecution said that he was abducted, beaten and murdered as a lesson for losing the $7 million in a business transaction.

As a result of the trial, the possibility emerged that Cohen may have been falsely accused and killed for no reason. Both Cohen and another man were employed by the same development company. But the other man committed suicide and may have been the person who took the money. The money had not turned up, Cristian Ulate, the prosecutor on the case, said at the time.

Cohen, 64 at the time of his death, was a developer from Granada, Nicaragua, who was found at the Río Chirripó.  Cohen was grabbed when he left an Escazú hotel to exercise about 7 a.m. Although he had a development project in Grenada, Cohen was based in Costa Rica.

Ulate said that Cohen had made three telephone calls while he was being held. He made a desperate attempt to disclose his location. He spoke with his wife, Susan Cohen, and a daughter, Alisha Cohen, said Ulate. In his third and final call, Cohen told his wife that he was going to drink a limonchelo upon his release. That is the name of a drink he used to tell them that he was being held near Limón, said Ulate.

Ulate at the time of the trial identified Nolan as the second suspect. He said Nolan entered the country on a false passport.  The man already convicted of the crime has identified Nolan as has Ms. Chacón. Prosecutors are expected to try to get him to confirm the identity of the intellectual author of the crime and the man who hired Nolan.

New notification law
goes into effect today


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the day that a new notification law goes into effect in Costa Rica. The new law allows a party in a judicial proceeding to be alerted to the case by e-mail, letter, fax or by a visit from a notary.

This greatly expands the flexibility. Now notification is done by agents of the court, Fuerza Pública officers or privately by a more complex method. The law also provides that individuals and corporations have to have a permanent e-mail on file with judicial authorities. That system is not yet set up.

Notification has been iffy in Costa Rica. Frequently individuals find themselves halfway through a court case without even knowing it exists. Under the new law, a person will be presumed to be notified on the day after an e-mail or fax is sent. A postman will show notification by mailing a return receipt.

The Consejo Superior del Poder Judicial is empowered by the law to create a center of notification.

Canadian firms visiting
for Heredia expo displays


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A commercial mission of six Canadian construction companies will participate in Expoconstrucción in Costa Rica Wednesday through Sunday. The expo is a display of construction products and techniques.

The Embassy of Canada said the mission would be here to take advantage of the Canadian-Costa Rican free trade agreement that allows materials from the north to enter the county at a tariff 6 percent lower than similar goods from other countries. Some of the companies are Merit Kitchens, Icynene Inc., Structuremarine, Micro-Énergies, Prodomo and JAFtech Manufacturing Ltd., said the embassy

The expo is at the Centro Ferial in Heredia. This is the first year at that location. The expo used to be held at the Herradura Hotel expo center but organizers said there was more room and better parking in Heredia.

Women entrepreneurs show
their goods in Puriscal


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An exposition of products produced by women in agriculture in Puriscal is being held in that town Saturday with the help of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería. The event is the II Feria de la Mujer Agroempresaria and it is scheduled to be part of the International Day of the Woman.

Being featured are plants, honey, craft items and all kinds of homemade products, said organizers.  About 40 women are expected to participate. The event is in the Parque de Agricultor in Pursical.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 2, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 42


Portable toilets will keep Parque Manuel Antonio open
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism institute will donate 120 million colons to keep Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio open.

The money, about $214,000, will be used to construct new toilets and a treatment plant at the park.

The Ministerio de Salud threatened to close down the major tourist attraction because sewage from staff toilets was polluting standing water in the park. Instead, Friday inspectors closed down the toilets and park personnel will now use portable toilets until new ones can be constructed.

The is the outcome of a visit by ministers and other officials for an inspection tour of the park. The park had been featured on local television, a development that generated renewed official interest in the facility, which is on the central Pacific coast.

At the same time, María Luisa Ávila, the health minister, said that her inspectors would begin a health sweep of the Manuel Antonio community and nearby Quepos in April.  Although unrelated to the park, the inspectors certainly will be looking for secret waste lines dumping sewage into the ocean and streams.

The park saga bordered on a soap opera for more than a week as health officials threatened to close it down repeatedly. In addition to raw sewages draining into a lagoon in the park, the television station exposé also documented heaps of garbage and rusting, out-of-service
official vehicles in a makeshift junk yard there. The vehicle carcasses created opportunities for the culture of dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

Last week the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the water company, stripped three beaches in the park of their blue flags. The flags denote environmentally friendly locations. The water company, which maintains the major water testing facility in the country, said it feared runoff from the polluted lagoon would contaminate the beaches.

Friday the health minister and the minister of Turismo, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, said that the three park beaches were in an excellent state of cleanliness.

The parks are under the supervision of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, which was represented Friday by Jorge Rodríguez, a vice minister.

Park workers blame the ministry for failing to provide sufficient money to maintain the facility and for failing to return a significant amount of the entry fees that tourists pay to visit the area.

The decision by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo appears to rule out the use of composting toilets that had been proposed for the park for the last two years.

In addition to the portable toilets now in operation at the park, 10 more will be added within 10 days for use until the permanent facility is constructed, said Benavides.


Storm in U.S. disrupts flight operations at two airports here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A late winter storm is sweeping through the eastern United States, and the impact of canceled airline flights is being felt in Costa Rica.

Sunday Delta canceled its Flight 411 from Atlanta, Georgia, to San José and Flight 353 from Atlanta to Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia.

Continental already has announced that its Flight 1762 from Newark, New Jersey, would be canceled today.

Each of those flights were to turn around and make a second flight back to the same U.S. city.

The storm caused  hundreds of flight cancellations at the  William B. Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, according to news reports there. The airport was closed for a time Sunday, but opened in the late afternoon as the   storm moved northeast. Gate delays of up to 15 minutes
were reported in the mid-evening.

Elsewhere in Atlanta transportation officials were urging residents to delay driving their cars after dark. The slush turned to ice due to low temperatures. Many residents are not skilled in winter driving.

Because the storm is moving to the northeast, New York City and adjacent New Jersey are expecting up to 10 inches overnight.

Both Delta and Continental have issued weather advisories that can provide passengers with travel options.

Daniel Oduber does not have any commercial airline flights scheduled from the northeast today, although information on charter flights was not available.

Delta told passengers from its canceled Atlanta flight at Juan Santamaría airport that they would be accommodated Tuesday.


Cockfight raid leads to confiscation of 28 battling roosters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement officers raided a cock fighting operation in Coronado Saturday night and detained briefly 70 persons including 14 minors, they said.

Agents confiscated 28 fighting birds and two carcasses, victims of earlier fights. Some of the live birds had suffered injuries. They were turned over to an agency of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería.

The Grupo de Apollo Operacional, the security ministry tactical squad, was involved in the raid at a private home in Calle de Choque. The young man who appeared to be the occupant of the home had constructed a makeshift fighting ring for the birds and cages to hold them. Also confiscated   were metal spurs that are fastened to the birds during a fight.
These types of fights are illegal under Costa Rica law as a type of animal cruelty, but the tradition runs deep in the Latin world.

Most of the spectators bet on the outcome of the fights. Investigators said the typical bet Saturday was 5,000 colons, about $9.

The raid also included judicial officers and Judicial Investigating Organization agents.

The Fuerza Pública said that all of the minors were 10 or younger. They said of particular concern was the fact that the youngsters were associating with the men there, and alcohol was being served.

The only person detained was a man, believed to be Nicaraguan, who did not have identity papers, police said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 2, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 42


U.S. anti-drug report says Costa Rica should tighten controls
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. government says that Costa Rica should pass legislation that removes contradictions in its offshore banking sector and pass laws to cover the cash flow generated by Internet gambling, dealers in precious metals and jewelry and intermediaries in any business activity that might use cash or non-bank financial institutions.

These recommendations are in the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released Friday by the U.S. State Department. The report said that international drug trafficking continues to threaten U.S. security and highlighted drug problems in countries such as Afghanistan and Mexico.

In a section on Costa Rica, the report said that the country is not a major regional financial center but does have an offshore financial sector and remains vulnerable to money laundering and other financial crimes.

It listed laundering of illicit proceeds of narcotics trafficking, mainly cocaine, fraud, trafficking in persons, arms trafficking, corruption and unregulated Internet gaming.

Bank fraud, especially via the Internet, appears to be on the rise, though there has not been a rise in use of counterfeit currency, the report said, adding that while local criminals are active, the majority of criminal proceeds laundered derive primarily from foreign criminal activity.

There was little in the report that could not be obtained by a close reading of the local newspapers.
The report cited Costa Rican government figures that more than $589 million had been remitted here as of June 2008 mostly from immigrants in the United States but said there was no indication that this money was gained from illegal activities.

The report also said that Costa Rica still has to enact legislation specifically criminalizing the financing of terrorism and that if it does not do so it risks being expelled from the Egmont Group of countries fighting the illegal flow of money.

The report identified 20 countries, including Afghanistan, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan, as major producers and transit points for illegal drugs. Of those, Bolivia, Burma and Venezuela were said to have failed demonstrably to adhere to international counter-narcotics agreements.

The report says Afghanistan slashed opium poppy cultivation by 19 percent in 2008 after two years of record highs. But it says the narcotics industry continues to fund the Taliban insurgency and threatens efforts to establish security in the country.

In Mexico, the report says the government has made headway in its fight against drug cartels, but the crackdown has led to more violence as gangs battle each other for diminishing profits.

At a briefing Friday, a State Department spokesman said Mexico's government is taking courageous steps to confront the drug problem, and is working in cooperation with the United States.


Fuerza Pública says it broke up a merchandise scam at Juan Santamaría airport
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública said it has detained two persons who have been scamming individuals in the vicinity of Juan Santamaría airport. They said the case was unique because the suspects were riding around on a motorcycle.

The police said that case involved an airport version of the old customs scam. A man would approach someone at the airport and offer to sell a laptop computer at a very good price. Once the man had the money, he would make an excuse that he had to get the merchandise. Then he vanished with the money.
This scam has been played for years in the vicinity of the customs facilities when a man promised goods that have been unclaimed or with some other story. But working the scam at the airport is new.

The Fuerza Pública detained a man identified by the last names of Dipalma Vargas, as he was negotiating with an individual. Police said they found receipts on his person for the supposed sale of computers. A complaint a week ago alleged that the man had taken $3,000. Police said that a man on a motorcycle who was involved in the case was the subject of a complaint the previous week that he took $6,000.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 2, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 42


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.


Bus fares to decline,
pricing agency reports


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The price regulating agency has cut bus fares by 5.13 percent for the 712 routes in the country. In all, some 3,589 tariffs have been changed.

The adjustment is based on the complex formula that the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos uses to compute the cost. Fuel prices play a role.

For many local routes, the reduction is just 5 colons, less than one U.S. cent. The biggest cut was 360 colons, some 64 cents on a long-distance route.

John will lose head
again this Wednesday


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Oscar Wilde's version of "Salome" comes on the Teatro Nacional stage Wednesday in cooperation with the Compañía Nacional de Teatro and the Compañía Nacional de Danza.

Salome, a biblical figure, was the stepdaughter of the Roman-backed ruler of Judea. She was the woman who asked as a gift the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

In Wilde's interpretation, the story is one of abuse of power, ambition and obsession.The work inspired the opera by the same name by Richard Strauss. The final scene is not for the weak of stomach.

The effort is directed by Luis Carlos Vásquez with choreography by Humberto Canessa. Rocío Carranza is Salome.

The show is at 8 p.m.  General admission is 3,000 colons ($5.36) and a student ticket is half that.

Undocumented Nicaraguans found

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A weekend sweep of the Guararí de Heredia community netted more than 30 undocumented Nicaraguans, said the Fuerza Pública.  Nine of the individuals were taken into custody. Officers also confiscated small amounts of various drugs.

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