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These stories were published Tuesday, March 23, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 58
Jo Stuart
About us
It must be a really slow news week in town
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

How can a cow steal the headlines? Easy, get stuffed in the back seat of a taxi.

The little milk cow who seems to have been the target of rustlers has become a media darling. The taxi and hog-tied cow were stopped early Thursday in Santo Domingo de Heredia, and local television was full of shots of the cow peering from the taxi window.

A.M. Costa Rica ran a little story Friday, titled "MOOOving violation," but the Spanish-language press jumped on the story with both hooves.

La Nación published what amounted to an interview with the cow, now named María del Milagro in its Friday edition. The Jersey cow weighs 250 kilos and gives 20 bottles of milk a day, the newspaper said. And she has a calf at home.

El Diario Extra was quick to point out Saturday that the animal really was a Guernsey and that its owner had showed up at the police station where the creature was munching grass.

The cow was snatched from San Pedro de Coronado, north and east of San José. And it still was in the television news Monday night. Did anyone suggest that the cow get an agent?

Following the rules is way to protect property
By Garland M. Baker 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Horror stories abound of property owners not doing their homework or, expressed in legal terms, their due diligence and losing their property to the unscrupulous third parties, including squatters and/or the tax authorities. 

The correct registration of a property is the most important element in land ownership and not the deed in Costa Rica. Just because someone appears to be the legal owner of a piece of real estate does not necessarily mean they are.

News you can use

Similar to the laws in the U.S. state of Louisiana, real estate ownership under Costa Rica law is divided into two elements. One person has the use of the property and another has the ownership. The person with the use is said to have an usufruct (referred to as the usofructo in Costa Rica) of the property, whereas the owner is called the naked owner. When you own or purchase a piece of property, you need to be sure you have the rights to both.

Also, like in Louisiana, property can be held indivision between one or more people. This means each person can hold an undivided interest in the property, none owning any particular piece because each owns a portion of the whole.

This kind of property ownership is very common in Costa Rica, especially in large families, and is divided mostly for inheritance purposes but can cause a quagmire of legal problems. For example, one person dies in the indivision ownership and his/her death can force a liquidation of the whole to satisfy the estate of the person who dies. 

Another risk is that one of the owners is sued and the ownership of his/her portion is attached by the court, which could cause a liquation of the whole to pay the judgment. 

Property is registered here in Zapote
The Web page is www.registronacional.go.cr

More importantly, the individual parts cannot be sold with the right of use because the parts depend on the whole. However, the unscrupulous have been known to sell these pieces to the unsuspecting because they are not familiar with this type of ownership.

Costa Rican law is based on civil law and not common law, as in most of the United States. Civil law equates to details and procedures, and rules are the game here. Simply not doing something right can put your piece of Costa Rica in jeopardy. 

You need to be sure your property is correctly registered with the Costa Rica Registry, or Registro Nacional. You need to be sure you have the kind of title you think you have. You should have a receipt showing your territorial taxes are paid and a certification from the municipality reflecting you are paid up with that entity too.

Many older properties do not have catastros or official topographical maps registered with the national registry and the municipality. This is very important. Not having one probably means the territorial taxes of a piece of property have never been paid.

Paying property taxes is an integral part of property ownership in Costa Rica and, believe it not, most people have never paid the basic taxes on their properties.

A check of your current holdings in Costa Rica is a good idea especially now in the country’s new climate of going after those generally not following the rules.

Mr. Baker is a local businessman who provides business services and solves problems for the international community in Costa Rica. He may be reached at info@crexpertise.com. 

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Picking on mother of newborn just repression
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 50 years ago Costa Ricans fought to make a democratic and a free country. People of the entire nation, including women, fought for the Costa Rica of which we all are proud today.

After this civil war, the leaders wrote in a piece of paper something that we call today The National Constitution or Magna Carta, where all the social guaranties, obligations and rights were set down to make sure that nobody through the years forgets these accords. Among these were equality of women. But sometimes it looks as if the Constitution is just a piece of paper.

Commentary on the news

Proof of that is the recent scandal which involved the now ex-vice minister of transport, Karla González, her baby just six weeks old, a retired teacher and the Sala IV constitutional court

According to a petition by the teacher, Ms. González is violating her baby’s rights just because she decided to bring the baby each day to the ministry office.

I  remember in school that my teacher explained why this battle and the Constitution was important to me as a woman, why it was important for my grandmother, for my mother and even more important for my daughter.

I’m a single mother, and I identify with Karla González because I know how difficult it is to be separated from my baby in order to go to work.  I know how difficult it is to find someone to take good care of my baby without putting her at risk.

But my case is different because where I work, my coworkers respect me and my baby. They have no problem with me bringing my daughter because they also are parents.

Nevertheless in my work being a mother still is difficult because day by day I get to work under the pressure of a society that judges what it sees but not what is.

There are those in society who think they know better how to take care of my baby than I do. 

They judge based on what they see outside, and they never stop to ask or see what really is happening.

Thankfully, we are not living in Afghanistan or other countries where women have few rights. And we are right to expect justice when the amazing double labor of women is recognized and respected.

Who will pay women for their domestic labor at home? The government? The government can’t even pay to eliminate the real  social problems. So it is silly to expect a mother to survive without working. Women long ago and repeatedly have proved that they are strong.

Many woman are alone taking care of their children as single mothers, working at home and then working outside the home at the same time. How many women have sacrificed to educate others in their family, frequently without the help of a husband or a man. 

Can a society return to the time of women’s repression, a time of women’s discrimination, punishing those women who want to be somebody, forbidding them to grow professionally?

Yes, as a mother I feel for Karla González because thanks to a frivolous constitutional court case, this woman is unable to offer her family the economic and personal satisfaction that comes with work.

Soccer fans duck
pilfering charges

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 28 soccer fans who stole from a liquor store in Liberia have been able to duck charges.

The fans were part of a larger group of Deportivo de Saprissa backers who became unsettled after their team tied with the Liberia soccer team Sunday. 

As the fans boarded their buses for the trip back to the San José area, some entered a liquor store, threatened clerks and took bottles, said officials Sunday.

Fuerza Pública officers managed to catch up with the buses about five miles south of Liberia on the Interamerican Highway. They detained 16 juveniles and 12 adults. All spent the night in jail in Liberia.

A spokesperson for the Poder Judicial reported Monday that the individuals were let go. The amount of goods taken did not amount to more than 30,000 colons, the spokesperson said. That’s about $70, a sum that does not constitute a serious crime in Costa Rica, the judicial spokesperson said.

A father of one of the detained youngsters paid the full amount to the liquor store operator who said that he did not wish to press the matter further, the spokesperson said.

Last week a similar group of Saprissa fans battled police after a game in the Estadio Nacional in Parque la Sabana, and several policemen suffered injuries, including a mounted officer who was hit in the mouth with a rock.

Alajuela will get
camera surveillance

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 10 surveillance cameras will be set up by the Fuerza Pública at various points in the Province of Alajuela, officials said Monday. The plan is modeled after the one in effect in the downtown area of San José where cameras high on buildings monitor day-to-day activity.

Officials did not say where the cameras would be located, but they did say that Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the Internet provider, would arrange for the connections.

The announcement came as officials were inaugurating a new police hut in Parque Central in Alajuela. Officials said the presence of police will give citizens a greater sense of security.

Fabio Molina, mayor of Alajuela, said the investment for the hut was 1.5 million colons, or about $3,500.

Rogelio Ramos, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, said that the Canton of Alajuela would get about 24 more police officers by the end of the month.

Taxis fares increase
when rates published

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Taxi riders will be paying a little bit more after a new rate structure is published in the official Gaceta.

The Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos has approved the increase. The cost of the initial kilometer in a taxi will go from 240 colons to 265. Additional kilometers will be charged at 150 colons, an increase of 15 colons.

Taxi rates are adjusted periodically to offset the increasing costs of fuel and other vehicle-related expenses that usually are denominated in dollars. The colon declines daily at an established rate.

The price of 265 colons is about 62 U.S. cents. The additional charge of 150 colons a kilometer is about 35 cents.

Rates are slightly higher outside the San José metropolitan area. Licensed taxi drivers use a meter that records the charge in 5 colon increments.

Visit to adult home
includes Earth tour

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Visitors to the Tom and Norman Home for Unwanted Adults will have an additional side trip Saturday to Earth University.

The annual excursion to Guápiles is conducted by the Angle of Love foundation that supports the home. The bus leaves Santa Ana at 8:30 a.m., Escazú at 8:45 a.m. and 9 a.m. at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, said Donlon Havener, who is accepting reservations at 282-7794.

The trip, including lunch at the university is 10,000, he said. Earth University is a United Nations project that has students from all over the world studying tropical humid regions. A tour is scheduled.

Child dies in blaze

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A  5-year-old died in a house fire in Salitral de Aserrí, officials said Monday. The 7 a.m. blaze took the life of Antony Bejarano Castro, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The small home caught fire when most of the family were either at work or school. The structure was destroyed.
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U.S. to enhance radiation detectors at ports
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The top U.S. Customs official Monday unveiled new high-tech equipment that will be used at U.S. seaports.

Highly sophisticated radiation monitors will be installed at every seaport in the United States. The sensitive detection equipment is designed to prevent terrorists from smuggling radioactive material, in the form of dirty bombs or nuclear weapons, into the country. 

The Port of New York and New Jersey, one of the nation's busiest seaports, will be equipped with the monitors by the end of August, making it one of the first to have them. 

U.S. Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner said it will cost $1 million to install and operate each monitor. He said it's a major step in securing America. "There's no more important task for the Department of Homeland Security and of Customs and Border Protection than keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of our country. And there is no more important weapons that we want to keep out of our country than nuclear and radiological weapons," he said. 

The new monitors screen every container that arrives by ship for radiation emissions. Customs inspectors also utilize large-scale x-ray type machines that are able to scan an entire sea container in two-to-three minutes. Special radiation identifiers can pinpoint the source and 
nature of radiation, and are accurate enough to detect radioactive material masked in heavy lead. 

Customs Commissioner Bonner said the installation of the monitors is the latest in a series of steps around the country to protect U.S. ports of entry. "Because of the catastrophic consequences of the al-Qaida and al-Qaida-associated groups getting that kind of weapon into our country, we don't want to take any chances. We want to have the maximum kind of protection that we can to protect against that kind of terrorist weapon entering into our country," he said. 

There are already more than 300 hand-held radiation monitors being used at U.S. seaports and land border crossings. In February, New York's Kennedy airport began using a radiation scanner for incoming cargo. 

Customs Inspector Michael Hegler said the most worrisome radioactive materials are plutonium and uranium 235, used for making of nuclear weapons. "Most radiation is naturally occurring. Bananas have radiation, ceramic tiles, toilet bowls, porcelain-ware. All have natural radiation. We are looking for uranium 235 or plutonium, which we feel can make a dirty bomb and would be a component of that bomb that is being brought into the country," he said. 

Inspector Hegler said customs officials have a tremendous amount of sophisticated technology at their disposal. "The old fashioned days of us going out to containers and opening doors and just looking are not done any more," he said. 

Officials say 1.2 million containers enter the United States every year through the Port of New York and New Jersey. 

New initiative will aim to improve Caribbean 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.N. Environment Program announced Monday a collaborative agreement to establish an office within the administration to support healthy, well-managed coastal ecosystems in the wider Caribbean region. 

The office will help provide effective follow-up to support White Water to Blue Water-related activities in the Caribbean, including the development of projects to develop, conserve and manage watersheds and coastland marine ecosystems, according to a press release.

"Our vision is healthy, well-managed and productive marine and coastal ecosystems that support secure economies and livelihoods in coastal countries," said administration 

administrator Conrad Lautenbacher. "To accomplish this, we need to improve national capacities of coastal states to manage entire coastal marine ecosystems and encourage partnerships that will develop from the White Water to Blue Water initiative."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the new office also will facilitate cooperation between other U.S. agencies and the United Nation's Global Program of Action, disseminate information concerning integrated watershed and ecosystem management, and "provide technical support to design, develop, and implement national programs of action in the wider Caribbean region at large." 

The term white water to blue water means concern for the aquatic environment from mountain streams to the ocean. The pact with the U.N. will last through the year 2007, the release said.

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Rights report expresses concern about Venezuela
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new report by the Organization of American States  has expressed concern about a number of "worrisome signs" regarding the human rights situation in Venezuela.

The report says the situation in Venezuela demonstrates a "clear weakness in the fundamental pillars that must support the rule of law in a democratic system."

The report, issued by the organization’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, says Venezuela's "institutional weaknesses" include the failure to give "full application" to the nation's new constitution, the perception that the branches of government lack independence, and the "growing concentration of power" in the country's executive branch.

The report also expresses concern about the impunity with which certain armed civilian groups and "para-police" operate, the constant attacks on journalists and the media, and the tendency to "militarize" the public administration through the "increasingly prominent role of the armed forces."

The commission said that most of the human rights violations in Venezuela are related to noncompliance with the "Venezuelan State's duty to prevent and investigate crimes and punish those responsible, which results in their impunity."

The commission said 90 percent of the investigations of human rights violations in Venezuela never go beyond the preliminary stage. The high incidence of impunity in a high number of cases of human rights violations "causes Venezuelan society to lose trust in the legal system and triggers violence, fueling a vicious cycle of impunity and violence," said the commission.

At the same time, a group of six nations working together with the Organization of American States 

to resolve Venezuela's political impasse has said the problem must be resolved peacefully and democratically.

Reiterating the views set forth by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, the "Group of Friends of the Facilitation Process in Venezuela," as it is formally known, says the end to the crisis in Venezuela must be found within the framework of the Venezuelan constitution. The Friends Group, created in January 2003, is composed of the United States, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain.

The State Department's Peter DeShazo has called charges by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that the United States was trying to topple his government "ludicrous, baseless, and irresponsible."

DeShazo, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said last week that Chavez apparently is making those charges to divert public attention in Venezuela from a referendum that seeks to recall the Venezuelan leader from office. Venezuela is a constitutional democracy, DeShazo said, and as a result, the United States supports the Organization of American States Resolution 833, which calls for a "peaceful, democratic, constitutional, and electoral solution" to the political impasse in Venezuela.

DeShazo added that the United States "strongly supports" the work of the organization and the Carter Center in verifying the recall process that is taking place in Venezuela. The Atlanta-based Carter Center, run by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, has led peacekeeping efforts in Venezuela since a 2002 coup briefly ousted Chavez.

The new report is part of its five-chapter document on the human rights situation in the Americas. The document, entitled "Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 2003," also discusses human rights in Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, and Haiti. 

White House praises Uribe and drop in coca harvest
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. government's annual estimates of coca cultivation in Colombia indicate the Andean nation experienced a "dramatic drop of 21 percent in coca cultivation" during 2003, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The report comes a day before Colombian president Alvaro Uribe is scheduled to meet with U.S. President George Bush.

In a press release Monday, the drug office said "net coca cultivation dropped from 144,450 hectares in 2002 to 113,850 hectares in 2003. This compares to 169,800 hectares cultivated during the peak growing year of 2001. A hectare is 2.47 acres.

"Taken together with previously released estimates for Peru and Bolivia, this represents a total production for the region of 655 metric tons — the lowest level since estimates began in 1986."

The press release said the accelerating trend of declining coca cultivation "demonstrates once again the effectiveness of the State Department-supported Colombian National Police aerial eradication program."

The release credited Uribe's leadership for much of this success. Citing Uribe's "unwavering support" for "an aggressive aerial spray program" that 

targets illegal coca crops in Colombia, the White House drug office said that the "accelerating trend of declining coca cultivation demonstrates once again the effectiveness" of the aerial eradication program, which is carried out by the Colombian National Police with assistance from the U.S. Department of State.

"President Uribe's steadfast efforts against the drug trade are chipping away at the largest single funding source for regional narco-terrorists and disrupting the international market for cocaine," said drug office Director John Walters. "This is good news for both the citizens of Colombia and the United States. We look forward to continuing to work with the government of Colombia in a common effort aimed at disrupting the drug market and eliminating the threat of narco-terrorists."

Uribe is expected to ask for more funding to continue Plan Colombia, a joint effort with the United States to cut down on drug production there.

Since 2000, the United States has provided more than $2 billion in mostly military aid under Plan Colombia. The aid package expires next year. 

Colombia is mired in a long-running civil war that pits two leftist rebel groups against rightist paramilitaries and government forces. Both the guerrillas and the paramilitaries finance their illegal operations by drug trafficking with the country's powerful cocaine cartels. 

Jo Stuart
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