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(506) 223-1327         Published Monday, March 10, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 49            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

A ray of hope for those collecting on bum mortgages
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Remember the days of skyrocketing real estate prices in Costa Rica?  People thought then there was no end in sight — no limit on how high a piece of dirt could go.   Real estate in the United States was crazy, too.  Doomsayers here and there were friendless. No one would listen to their tales of a looming crises.

Everyone knows now that the doomsayers were correct.  The bubble burst.   Some of those who bought properties in Costa Rica are now hurting back home.  As predicted, they cannot pay their obligations there or here.  Adjustable rate mortgages were the devil's work fueling the subprime mess.

Many sellers carried back mortgages on real estate here so they could get the highest price possible from buyers.  Smarter sellers made all cash deals.  The smart ones knew many buyers were shopping overly hungry in a vast supermarket and ready to over spend.

Some of those sellers with mortgages now have to face foreclosing on the buyers just as some of the financial institutions in the United States have to foreclose on their subprime loans.

There is a relationship.  People in the United States were borrowing too much money because borrowing money was too easy.  Easy come, easy go.  In other words, buyers who borrowed easy money came here and paid big bucks for overpriced real estate.

Many real estate agents are in denial and jump to say that real estate is still selling like gangbusters because Costa Rica’s market is the world and not the United States.  This is correct.  Costa Rica’s market is the world, and there is a huge market of wealthy buyers in the world.  However, real estate is no longer skyrocketing uncontrollably.  Buyers are fewer and more cautious.   Many of them are smarter than the frenzied buyers of only a few years ago looking for a good deal.

Financial institutions calculate risk and have legal teams to go after deadbeats.  A poor seller who carried back a mortgage for an over zealous buyer does not have a legal team.  They're lucky if they have a decent lawyer.  Some of the sellers took their loot and mortgage back to the United States thinking there would never be a problem collecting the debt.

Sellers who have buyers defaulting on a mortgage now have to decide what to do and how to go about collecting.

For those sellers, there is a little silver lining in the crisis.  Debt collection has become its own law in Costa Rica instead of being parts of other laws like the civil code, the civil procedures code and the law of the judicial power.  The new law No. 8624, called “Ley de Cobro Judicial” is a replacement for many antiquated procedures that bogged down the process allowing debtors to prolong debt collection and sometimes avoiding it all together.

The new law, published in La Gaceta Nov. 20, will take effect this May 20.  A new specialized court will handle all collections eliminating different courts for amounts less than $1,200 and others for amounts over $1,200.  Only a fax number or an e-mail address will be valid for notifications.
foreclosure graphic

Under the new law, once a debtor answers a demand on him or her to pay, a hearing is set.  At the hearing, the judge will analyze the paperwork and listen to witnesses.  With the information at hand, the judge will make a verbal decision.  This is in deep contrast to what happens today where a judge can take months — even longer — to make a decision.  Many roadblocks a debtor could throw into the collection action will be a thing of the past.

The spirit of the law is to turn the current long procedural process requiring loads of paperwork into a verbal and fast judicial action. 

This new law is also an opportunity for investors.  There is profit in buying foreclosure real estate at auction.

Some of the rules have changed too.  Deposits to participate in an auction are going to increase to 50 percent under the new law from the current 30 percent.  When an auction is ready for the docket, three dates are set instead of just one.  Under the old law, only one date was set. If the auction failed, it took months to get a new date. 

The new law is more efficient. Three auction dates are set to deal with auctions when there is no winner.  The first starts at 100 percent of the asset value. The second starts at 75 percent, and the third starts at 25 percent.  If it happens there is no successful auction after three tries, the creditor will be forced to take the asset as payment of the debt.

Sellers who sold and gave buyers mortgages when Costa Rica boomed are not doomed.  The new “Ley de Cobro Judicial” can help collect those mortgages and maybe even get the property back if the debtor does not pay.  The new law is also a serious new resource for savvy investors.

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  Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2008, use without permission prohibited.

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Our readers' opinions
Reader objects to handling
of stories on Texas fugitive

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I finally must speak my feelings on this witch hunt you have placed on Chere Lyn Tomayko.  I personally know this lady and, yes, I repeat Christian lady of high morals and social standards.  She is married to a Costa Rican citizen, and, yes, she does have rights.  Why are you continually trashing this lady that is a mother and a member of a church here in Costa Rica that ran for her life and that of her precious children. 

Have you not studied the statistics of abuse?  This woman should never, and I repeat never, be compared to a terrorist that blew up a United States of America building in New York City and created wars. She is not a terrorist and should be compared to a mother bird protecting her nest.  The justice system of the United States of America is in such shambles that you can ask any attorney, and I have, that the rich get justice and the working class get nothing. 

This lady was a nurse that cared for the sick with the same compassion that she cares for her entire family here.  I know the children, and they are absolutely in fear of this man that is the father of the child.  The daughter is in therapy to cope with the loss of her mother and is playing mommy to the other children when she should be able to have the love and care of her own mother who is locked up in a hole. 

Chere, the mother, less than 2 weeks ago suffered [medical problems]. Chere was terrified to seek outside health care for the fear of suffering heat exhaustion just from the ride in the dog style cage to be taken for outside care.  This lady has serious health issues and may die in the facility here in Costa Rica because of this and leave behind four lovely young girls.  I speak to the girls often, and the daughter that was taken away to safety wants nothing to do with the father. 

He was not a father as he was an abusive man and could never be considered a father.  The daughters are suffering the loss of the mother they love and need.  Ask any mother and they will tell you there is a natural biological instinct to protect her children.  This is a normal fight or flight syndrome.

I will help this family with what ever I can, but nothing, and I repeat nothing, is worse than taking this lady out of this Costa Rican family.  These girls have trouble speaking English.  They are Costa Rican and that includes their beautiful value system that she has taught them.  Chere's husband here, a Costa Rican citizen, has rights here living in this wonderful country.  He is a wonderful man and not just a veterinarian.  He works constantly to put the daughters thru the proper schooling and has provided thru his hard work a very loving home environment. 

This is the first time in these girls' lives they have a REAL father.  There is more to being a father than sperm.  Fathers are responsible and loving, and they do not abuse their families.  I know for a fact this lady is telling the truth.  She has more emotional scars than a wounded veteran.  She is and has been hardly able to eat or digest food for years.  The daughter wants nothing to do with this man that calls himself a father and had the daughters birth certificate taken so she can not even be legal here as a resident of the country that she loves and deserves.  These children need their mother home, and they need it now.

I feel as though many of you at this paper have maybe had issues with women and I am going to research you and find out what your problem is.  There is something very strange about putting this issue as a racial issue against the United States father.  If he loved his child so much, why would he abuse her and the mother of the child as well and put the other sister in fear of her life as well. 

This is no racial issue. It is a issue against discrimination against a woman.  That is the only discrimination that is going on here, and I am fed up.  Leave this woman alone and her family as they are suffering more than any human being could tolerate.  It seems to be someone has exchanged money or favors to your paper for this witch hunt, and I am personally going to find out.  This I promise you I will not longer tolerate reading in your paper.

A father or a mother has responsibilities to their children to protect them from abuse.  Do you understand the meaning of this word at all, or is your blood so cold you are clueless?  I am going to do some writing of my own, and I am going to investigate you and what is wrong with you and why you are discriminating against women.  I am going to go to the ACLU with these Monday.  I can no longer stand by and watch this lady and her lovely Costa Rican family suffer.  You are evil.  Get God.

Then get a life so you can write about news that we need, like why women here are selling babies for money to be able to feed their own families?  Get a clue on what really is happening right in front of your face.  Women are suffering all types of abuse every day, and you know it. 

It is simply not fair and I will not tolerate your slander of this kind and gentle lady and her entire family.  These children deserve a normal life like every child is entitled to and that includes the only father they have ever known who is a wonderful Costa Rican man with high values and morals that cares for this entire family.
Debora Y. Edholm

Murder vs. marijuana
was interesting contrast

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Friday´s A.M. Costa Rica included interesting versions of 17 year-old criminals. One a triple murderer, the other for watering a 48-plant marijuana "farm." The pot bust even featured a nice shot of an uprooted but otherwise nice looking plant, but the homicide did not rate a photo.

It all reminded me of how twisted our laws and enforcement priorities can be, and how sad it is to expose marijuana and users the incredibly harmful and expensive combination of crime and police. 

Now that it is well documented that marijuana is less damaging than tobacco, would perhaps a little "harm reduction" strategy be in order? Unfortunately legalization will always be opposed by moral hyprocrites, many of whom openly abuse cigarettes, booze and prescription drugs — with terrible results.
R. Martin

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 10, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 49

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Telecom workers and teachers going on strike this morning
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Teachers and telecommunication employees say they will be on strike today.

The employees of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad characterize their strike as one in defense of their company, which they call the backbone of development in the country. However, leaders say they will not have a formal march.

The institute, known as ICE, is the subject of several legal proposals and the free trade treaty with the United States. Although a measure in the Asamblea Legislativa purports to strengthen the public agency, some employees think otherwise.

The strike is supposed to cover the entire country. However, previous efforts have not been completely successful. The principal union involved, the Sindical de Empleados Industriales de las Comunicaciones y la Energía, had a thin turnout the last time it called for a
march through the downtown. Workers have not supported the protests strongly since the central government decided they will not be paid for such activities.

The telecommunications union is soliciting the help of the so-called Comités Patrióticos that oppose the free trade treaty. The treaty will allow private firms to offer wireless services.

The last time there was a protest, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad was able to maintain most of the services for the public at its various offices.

The teachers are kicking off their protest at 10 a.m. They are mainly members of the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza, and the protest is over money and what they say is the government's failure to comply with an agreement reached four years ago.

Teachers say they will strike for three days, but government officials certainly will try to get them back in classes before then.

A chilly reminder
from up north

For those who may have forgotten, up in the frigid north it gets so cold that the water freezes!

A.M. Costa Rica's Canadian reader Nelson King reports that "for years I have bragged that we do not get much snow in Toronto, but this year it just keeps coming and coming and coming."

And not just in Canada. Much of the United States has experienced a rough winter.

Admiring the handiwork of driveway shoveling is King's wife, Ellen.

The title on the e-mail that delivered the photo said "Reason No. 1 for going to Costa Rica."

That about says it all.

In San José Sunday the temperature was flirting with 28 degrees. Celsius or 84 F. With a low of 19 C. (67 F.)
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Photo by Nelson King

U.S. to open some markets to Ticos to offset gaming ban
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is getting wider access to certain sectors of the U.S. economy, thanks to an agreement that lets the United States maintain its prohibitions against offshore gambling.

Marco Vinicio Ruiz, the minister of Comercio Exterior announced the agreement Friday. The local announcement said that Costa Rica joins Canada, Japan and the European Community in getting compensation from the United States. The only country that has not reached an agreement is Antigua and Barbuda, said the announcement.

Last year the World Trade Organization said that the United States could not allow domestic firms to offer certain gambling services without letting foreign companies participate, too. At that point, the United states, which has waged economic war on offshore betting operations, withdrew from those aspects of international trade agreements. Several countries, including Costa Rica sought arbitration to obtain compensation.

According to the agreement, the United States will assume new obligations in the World Trade Organization to
compensate Costa Rica for the modification of its markets, said Costa Rica. Among these are opening the market for research and development, warehousing, testing and technical analysis and certain postal and courier services, said the summary from Comercio Exterior.

These new openings for providing service in the U.S. market would seem to be in addition to those provided in the free trade treaty with Costa Rica, the United States and other Latin nations.

The nation of Antigua and Barbuda, on the other hand, seems to be holding out for financial compensation, perhaps as much as several billion dollars. The island nation is a center for offshore betting and had led the fight against the United States in the World Trade Organization.

If the United States does not reach agreement with all parties, certain trade sanctions might be leveled against the country by other members of the trade organization.

For sportsbooks and online casinos in Costa Rica, the agreement means that the United States will continue to try to keep them from doing business there.

Ramp work will result in a suspension of Paquera ferry service Tuesday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Paquera-Puntarenas ferry will be out of service starting at 8 p.m. tonight until 5 a.m. Wednesday, according to the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera.

The association said that during that period major repairs will be made to the ramp that allowed trucks and cars to leave the ferry.

Maico Badilla Chávez, chief of operations for the association, said in a release that some pieces of the ramp are damaged and have to be replaced. And in addition workmen will generally strengthen the landing point, he said

The ramp has been damaged at least twice this year.
Badilla estimated repair costs at 5 million colons or about $10,100. the work will be under the supervision of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte, he added.

The launch Don Bernardino will have an additional run Tuesday to make up for the absence of the ferry, the association said.

The ferry is a crucial link to the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula. The association noted that ferry service will continue between Puntarenas and Playa Naranjo, some 26 kms or 16 miles to the north. Although the road is gravel, a vehicle could travel from Playa Naranjo to  Paquera and points south.

The association also noted that the Puente de la Amistad. over the Río Tempisque further north also is an option.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday March 10, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 49

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Costa Rica slow to sign on to voluntary blackout concept
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has gone a year without rolling blackouts, but now an energy saving initiative is asking the capital's residents to pull together and stage their own voluntary one-hour blackout. “Earth Hour” was conceived by a bunch of Australians, and had its first test run in Sydney last March 31.

The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge switched off the traditional tourist-attracting illuminations in solidarity with the other millions of Sydney residents who joined together to try to make the world take notice of climate change.

March 29 it will become a world-wide event, with over 80,000 people from all around the world signed up on the Web site to show that they will be taking part. Only 48 of these are from Costa Rica, and two businesses have so far signed up to show that they will be joining the effort. These are “Ay, Que Rico Restaurante” based in San José and Mesoamerica Energy, also in San José.
People such as Joan Dewar, the publicity officer for San Jose's Canadian Club, are attempting to raise awareness to get San José's ordinary people interested in living without their lights for one hour.

“If we all tell everyone we know, perhaps we can get San José to join the growing list of cities participating in the worldwide campaign,” wrote Dewar in a newsletter, adding:

“Last year Sydney's massive collective effort resulted in a reduction of 10.2 percent or the equivalent of taking 48,000 cars off the road for one year.  Let's put the word out and help turn the tide on the greatest threat our planet has ever faced.”

The world's major cities will be plunged into darkness at 8 p.m., local times March 29.

So far the most enthusiastic country for signing up to the mission is Canada, with 24,270 people on the list, followed by the United States and then the founders, Australia. Costa Rica, which intends to make itself carbon neutral by 2021, figures very far down the list.

Colombia's chief issues new charge, this one against Correa
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has accused Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, of receiving support from the Colombian rebel group to get elected.

Uribe made the charge Friday at a Rio Group summit in the Dominican Republic, citing as evidence a letter seized during last week's raid by Colombian forces on Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia rebels inside Ecuador. The raid has sparked an international crisis, pitting Venezuela and Ecuador against Colombia.

Meanwhile, Colombian officials said Friday that security forces killed rebel leader Ivan Rios in Colombia. Last week's attack in Ecuador killed a top commander known as Raul Reyes.

Earlier in the summit, Uribe said his government did not inform Quito ahead of the raid inside Ecuador because Correa had not supported the fight against terrorism.

The meeting in Santo Domingo brought the presidents of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela face-to-face for the first time since the conflict began last week.

The presidents finally agreed Friday to peacefully end the dispute. Colombia apologized for its incursion and promised to respect Ecuador's sovereignty.

In a radio address Saturday, Correa said he will not immediately restore diplomatic relations with neighboring
Colombia, saying it will take time.

Uribe also accused Venezuela of financing and supporting the rebels based on evidence obtained from laptop computers seized in the raid. Venezuela denied the charge.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has called on the rebels to release high-profile captive and presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was kidnapped six years ago. Chavez has participated in recent successful hostage negotiations with the rebels.

Uribe at the Santa Domingo meeting said Correa's claims that the attack was a massacre ignores the reality of the terrorist threat posed by the rebels.

The Colombian leader also made the new allegations about links between leftist rebels and Ecuador's government. He said evidence recovered from the cross-border raid suggests that rebels helped finance Correa's election campaign in 2006.

In response, Correa accused the Colombian president of repeated lies. He also said the Colombian rebel conflict is beginning to affect other countries because Uribe's government is unable to police the borders.

Correa said Colombia, not its neighbors, is the source of the problem. He said Ecuador is the victim in this conflict. He also asked leaders at the 20-nation group to study the creation of a joint security force to patrol Colombia's southern borders where rebels operate.

Arms deal sting involved missiles for Colombia's rebels
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

One of the world's most notorious arms dealers, Russian national Viktor Bout, arrested in Thailand Thursday, had a long history of arms dealing including in Latin America,

U.S authorities say they want Bout extradited to the United States.  His arrest in Bangkok came after an eight-month sting operation by U.S. agents of a fake attempt to supply Colombian rebels with weapons and explosives.

Michael J. Garcia, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said it was, in his words, the end of the reign of one of the world's most wanted arms traffickers.

"He was apprehended in the final stages of managing the sale of millions of dollars of high-powered weapons to people he believed to represent a known terrorist organization, the FARC," he explained, referring to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

Authorities in Thailand said their prosecutors have not decided yet if Bout will first face trial in Thailand.

Bout's lawyer, Viktor Bouborine, said the arrest was unacceptable, and that he will insist that Bout is released and sent back to Russia.

In 2006, Bout appeared on an English-language program of Russian television. Through an English translator, he denied any wrongdoing.

"Every time, the same story, the same repetition. I even could call it a witch hunt," he said.  "They have tried to accuse me since 1998 for all kind of alleged operations in Africa, but since that, even with all the powers of the American administration, CIA, FBI and all means like satellites, and this they were not able to come back with a certain proof."

The portly, mustachioed former Soviet military officer, speaks many languages including the southern African language Zulu, and allegedly operates dozens of Antonov cargo planes from a base in the United Arab Emirates.

He is believed to have been the inspiration for a 2005 Hollywood movie starring U.S. actor Nicolas Cage, called "Lord of War."  He was put under U.N. sanctions for flying weapons and ammunition through Liberia to other African countries.
One of those who studied the case, Alex Vines, is a former member of the United Nations panel of experts for Liberia. Vines said Bout remained active on the continent even after West African civil wars ended.

In recent years, security experts say Bout was active in flying weapons to militants in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In many countries, such as Angola, he is reported to have supplied arms and ammunitions to both sides of conflicts.

Charges also were unsealed in New York against Bout associate Andrew Smulian for the same charges: conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, � a designated foreign terrorist organization.

According to the complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court:

• Between November and February Bout and Smulian agreed to sell to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias millions of dollars worth of weapons, including surface-to-air missile systems and armor piercing rocket launchers. During a series of recorded telephone calls and e-mails, Bout and Smulian agreed to sell the weapons to two confidential sources working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who held themselves out as representatives acquiring these weapons for the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias for use in Colombia.

• During a series of recorded meetings in Romania, Smulian advised the fake terrorists, among other things, that: (1) Bout had 100 SAMs available immediately; (2) Bout could also provide helicopters and armor piercing rocket launchers; (3) Bout could arrange to have a flight crew airdrop the weapons into Colombian territory using combat parachutes; and (4) Bout and Smulian would charge the representatives $5 million to transport the weapons.

• During one of the meetings, Smulian provided one of the imposters with a digital memory stick that contained an article about Bout and documents containing photographs and specifications for the SAMs and armor piercing rocket launchers that Smulian had previously said Bout could provide.

As a result of the Romanian meetings, Bout and Smulian arranged the March 6 meeting in Bangkok.

If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 10, 2007, Vol. 8, No. 49

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Bush says there will be no change in embargo against Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President George Bush says he will not end the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba until the government there releases all political prisoners.

Bush met with former Cuban political prisoners to mark the five year anniversary of mass arrests on the island. Teachers, librarians, and journalists were among those detained five years ago this month in what has come to be known as Cuba's Black Spring. Some 75 people were given long prison terms.

"They committed no crimes," said Bush. "They simply held views their government did not like. And they refused to be silent."

Cuba's long-time leader Fidel Castro stepped-down last 
month because of health problems. He has been replaced by his brother Raúl.

Bush says nothing has changed in what he calls a tropical gulag. Bush said now is not the time to change America's long-standing trade embargo. What needs to change, he says, is Cuba's government.

"Cuba's government must begin a process of peaceful democratic change," he said. "They must release all political prisoners. They must have respect for human rights in word and deed and pave the way for free and fair elections. So far, all Cuba has done is replace one dictator with another, and its former ruler is still influencing events from behind the scenes."

Bush also criticized many of the world's democracies for not speaking out against political repression in Cuba.

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 weekday.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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


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.

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

Hemispheric press group cites leniency in murders

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has expressed concern at Nicaragua’s commutation of sentences in the cases of convicted murderers of journalists María José Bravo and Carlos Guadamuz, a development that it claimed  “adds to the climate of impunity surrounding freedom of the press in Latin America.”

Public discussion of the issue in the Central American country follows just days after the Florida-based organization announced its concern at the sentence reductions already granted to numerous criminals after conducting a review of the legal proceedings in 84 cases of journalists’ murders.

The organization's work, which is posted on the Web site, shows that 27 defendants convicted in journalists’ murders have had their prison terms reduced substantially or have served under house arrest, among other benefits. While such actions may be within current law, the Inter American Press Association has been complaining about the leniency that some judges have taken — an issue highlighted at an organization conference in the Dominican Republic last year and attended by representatives of the majority of the judiciaries of the Americas. As examples, the organization cited the cases of the murder of Colombian journalists Guillermo Cano and Orlando Sierra and Argentine journalist José Luis Cabezas.

According to a report in the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa last week justices of the Nicaraguan supreme court, apparently motivated by political interests, were  reported seeking to commute the prison term of Eugenio Hernández González, a former mayor sentenced in January 2005 to 25 years for the Nov. 9, 2004, murder of María José Bravo. Ms. Bravo was the correspondent of the newspapers La Prensa and Hoy in Juigalpa, Chontales province, to the southeast of Managua.

The chairman of the organization's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, declared, “We will be closely watching developments in this matter in Nicaragua, and we trust the courts will fully uphold the verdicts.”

Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, added, “The application of independent justice, of effective trials and sentences for crimes committed against journalists is the only way that we can rely on being able to do away with impunity and break the circle of violence unleashed against news men and women and the public’s right to know.”

Nicaragua Criminal Court Chief Judge Armengol Cuadra confirmed the La Prensa report and suspended hearing of the appeal of sentence under way in his court. He accused his colleagues of intending to reduce the charge against Hernández from that of murder, on which he was convicted and which carries a 15-to 20-year prison sentence, to that of manslaughter, which is subject to a lesser sentence and would enable him to be freed shortly.

Meanwhile last week, for health reasons, the Interior Ministry explained, parole was granted to William Hurtado García, sentenced in April 2004 to 21 years imprisonment for the murder on Feb. 10 that year of Carlos Guadamuz, host of the program “Dardos al Centro” (Darts to the Bullseye) broadcast by the Managua television station Canal 23.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 10, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 49

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