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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, April 7, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 70          E-mail us    
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Wives bought tract from fugitive snow cone vendor
Politicos' spouses figure in land fraud case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen has recovered valuable seaview property in Manuel Antonio after a four-year court battle that reached into the families of the highest level of Partido Liberación Nacional.

Someone forged the name of the U.S. citizen and took title to the property, which ended up being sold to the wife of San José Mayor Johnny Araya, the wife of 2002 Liberación presidential candidate Rolando Araya and the wife of Oliver Jiménez Rojas, who was just elected as a congressional deputy.

The U.S. citizen, Phillip Baker of California, is the sole shareholder of Kemarma S.A., the corporation that owns the property. The case was decided by a three-judge panel of the Segundo Circuto Judicial in San José.

Although the three judges ruled that Baker should get the property back, the panel acquitted Edgar Jiménez Coto, the notary whose name appears on the false property transfer. He claimed that his notary books had been stolen and blamed unidentified others.

The notary was facing criminal charges of fraud, forgery and use of a forged document. The judges ruled in a decision dated March 28 that the guilt of Jiménez was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

According to the original allegations contained in the decision, Jiménez forged and registered the property transfer conveying the land title from Baker's corporation to Quepos resident José Manuel Garcia Pérez, said to be a fugitive, who has made his living by selling snow cones and balloons on the beaches of Quepos and Manuel Antonio.

Baker proved in court that he was not in Costa Rica in July 2000, the time when he was supposed to have signed the property transfer, and that whoever forged the documents used an outdated number for Baker's passport, which had been renewed.

The snow cone vendor sold the property the following May to Leny Polonio Lobo, the wife of the former Liberación presidential candidate, Kenia Gutiérrez Castillo, the wife of the San José mayor, and Flor María Viales Fallas, a Manuel Antonio hotel owner whose politically active husband was successful last Feb. 5 in his effort to become a member of the Asamblea Legislativa.

A few months later the presidential candidate's wife and the mayor's wife sold their interests to the hotel owner because they were concerned about political scandal, the court decision said. That was during the runup to the 2002 elections where Rolando Araya was presidential candidate of Liberación.

Baker sought the return of his property as a
litigant within the criminal case prosecuted against notary Jiménez Coto. The prosecution was handled by Baker's lawyers because prosecutors of the Ministerio Público declined to do so.

Baker described the property as 2,400 square meters on a main road in Manuel Antonio and worth between $500,000 and $1 million. His company purchased the land in 1991.

The court accepted without argument that unknown persons used the notary's security paper to forge the transfer document, that persons unknown inserted the signature of the notary and that persons unknown used the notary seal and a special numbered ticket of the type used by the Registro Nacional for filing legal documents.

Mrs. Viales Fallas, the hotel owner, testified and said she did not know the notary, according to her statements incorporated in the judicial decision. She said she knew the Arayas well because her husband grew up in Palmares with them.

She also said she thought it was strange to see the man who sold her the property selling snow cones on the beach and wondered what he had done with the $80,000 she and the other two women had paid for the land.

She speculated that the other two women sold her their shares of the property because there was fear of a scandal while Rolando Araya was involved in a political campaign. He lost to Abel Pacheco in 2002.

Mrs. Gutiérrez Castillo also testified that her husband, Johnny Araya, as campaign manager for brother Rolando, also decided to sell the property because problems had emerged with it.  She suggested that she also was a victim.

If the court had decided that Mrs. Gutiérrez Castillo and the other wives had been  purchasers in good faith, there was a possibility that, under Costa Rican law, the hotel owner would have been awarded the property despite Baker's former proven ownership.

But the court decision said that because Mrs. Viales Fallas was a hotel owner in the area it was surprising that she did not know the snow cone vendor on the beach who sold her and the other wives the property and even more surprising that she could believe that such a valuable piece of property could be owned by a street vendor.

Baker said by telephone Thursday night that he spent $35,000 to get his property back. However, the judges declined to order money damages against the notary.

María Gabriela Jara Murillo was the chief judge, serving with Mario Enrique Navarro Arias and Douglas Iván Rivera Rodríguez.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 70


Costa Rica Expertise
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Franklin Chang discusses the strategic plan with Dulce Cortez Artavia and Esteban Badilla Vargas, both of a Cartago technology institute.

More cash for science, math
is message from experts


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A strategic plan for development of science and technology for the next half century can be summed up in two words: more money.

That was the message some 200 academics brought to President Abel Pacheco and president-elect Óscar Arias Sánchez Thursday.

The three-volume document, Estrategia Siglo XXI, diagnoses the current situation in the sciences and mathematics and present a vision of what could be. Naturally, the document calls for improvements in the teaching of math and science and more spending in the technology sector.

However, it also examines existing laws that cover innovations and patents.

Lead authors were Alejandro Cruz and Gabriel Macaya, both former university heads. Also participating was Costa Rican-born astronaut Franklin Chang. The year-and-a-half project was mostly by the CR-USA Foundation. The presentation was held at the Cenrto Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología.

Convention center hopes
expressed for San José


By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff


San José is setting up a board of tourism to push for a downtown convention center, more marketing of the city and the promotion of urban tourism investments. Johnny Araya, mayor, was among those who signed a document to that effect Thursday morning.

The city has suffered from the success of the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia and the public perception that San José is dangerous. In the past nearly every tourist to the country stayed at least one night in San José. Now the Liberia airport can have tourists at the Pacific beaches in a half hour. In addition, hotels near Juan Santamaría airport have blossomed.

Araya also has a plan to redevelop the city.

The Junta de Turismo de San José will have seven members, including the mayor, and will work to strengthen the development of local tourism, said the incorporation papers. Officials hope to take advantage of the city's geographical location and develop one-day tours to visit sights of interest that exist already in the city.

The convention center would be in the vicinity of the Estación al Pacifico train facility at Avenida 20 and Calle Central. The central government is planning to construct a convention center west of town.

Our reader's opinion
Carazo's treaty comment
makes him unhappy


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

What is probably not well known by American expats who came to the country recently is that (and I know its hard to believe) but [Rodrigo] Carazo's administration was 10 times worse than Pacheco's. During his lovely administration, we took the effect of overnight devaluation and hyper inflation. I don't have a clue what he thinks he is doing because no Costa Rican that knew what went on would even listen to him.

There is a big difference between having a CR monopoly and a "different" monopoly. For starters I won't be shelling my $ to support the ridiculous privileges that such employees get right now.

Second, if they don't perform, their sales will suffer — and they WILL care about that.

Third, the telecom business right now is so active that no goverment bureaucracy can stay up to date as it is. A bureaucrat does not care about anything but their benefits and their guarranteed job. A foreign company will care about profits and if it is necessary to raise the landline fee, SO BE IT, I want the service that I need NOW, not in 10 or 20 years

This comment deserves absolute comptent: "He said he didn't think that the full 57 member votes would be sufficient" What is he up to now? He wants us to reject DEMOCRACY? I am sorry if his mind is fading away, but if the PEOPLE representatives approve it, IT WILL BE SO!

Mr Carazo, please enjoy the retirement check you get from us every month and SHUT UP
Carlos Salazar
Moravia, Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 70





 

Whoops!!!
A worker unloads gravel from a truck that pushed through an old banana company railroad bridge over the Río  Naranjo south of Quepos. The improvised bridge has welded rails as a deck and some gave way under the weight of the vehicle this week.

A.M. Costa Rica/Fred Schutter


A new option in agricultural products at Pavas feria
I used to walk to the feria (farmer’s market) in Plaza Víques.  The market was about four blocks long on a level street, with several streets perpendicular to it, also with stands. I could buy everything from fruit and vegetables to chicken and fish, juices and flowers.  There were a number of little outdoor sodas serving breakfast to both the customers and the farmers who probably left home with no time for a substantial breakfast.

The feria in Pavas is also on Saturday morning, but it is considerably farther from my new home.  It is just past the American Embassy compound on a street running into Pavas’ main street.  So I usually take the bus to get there and carry purchases back in a taxi.

This market is located on one long street that runs downhill and then slightly up another hill.  It goes past the post office, which is conveniently open on Saturday morning.  I don’t like doing hills but I usually walk down the hill to see what is available and check out the prices.  I start loading my cart on the way back up.  I hardly notice I am walking up a hill because I am so busy looking at the produce on both sides, often looking in vain for grapefruit. Otherwise, this market has most of the same variety of foods as Víquez with the addition of some stands selling Chinese vegetables, others with organic produce, and more flower kiosks.  There are also about the same number of beggars and musicians.  There are no sit-down sodas, but empanadas and Chinese tacos and other snacks can be bought to eat as you walk.

Although I seem to be paying more for orange juice ($2 for a two-liter bottle), perhaps the price has gone up at Víquez.  Otherwise, most of the fruit and vegetables go up and down with the seasons.  Tomatoes and mangos, two of my favorite things, right now are as low as 50 cents a kilo for tomatoes and 75 cents for a kilo of mangos. 

I seldom saw foreigners in the Plaza Víques feria. I seem to run into them everywhere at the Pavas market.  So Saturday morning is also a time for short visits with those I know and “hello, where are you from?” chats with new acquaintances.  This past week I took my upstairs neighbor who recently arrived from North America. He brought along a     
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com


digital camera with which he was planning to take pictures of the colorful stands and crowds.

The taxi driver returning us from the market was very friendly and talkative.  He told us that when he wasn’t driving a taxi he worked for a foundation that helped children and old people who were homeless.  He also said that he spent three months in Texas every year working for the company of a friend.  He could make as much in three months as he did in about a year here.

I asked him if it was difficult getting to the U.S. (I had visions of him making his way from here through Central America and over the Mexican border.)  He said he had a 10-year visa.  When I asked how he managed that, he shrugged and said he had no idea. 

He was not illegal in the U.S. but, of course, our conversation made me think about the ballooning issue of illegal immigrants, not just in the U.S. but all over the world.   They are economic refugees, if you will, who enter countries illegally, most of whom work hard, and live frugally, sometimes under terrible conditions, in order to save money to take back home.  Meanwhile, many of the citizens of these richer countries are finding it harder and harder to sustain the standard of living they have grown used to. It is going to take a Solomon to deal adequately with these situations. 

Besides the camera, my new neighbor has just about every electronic gadget I have ever heard of, and some I didn’t know had been invented.

As I was storing my week’s supply of fruits and vegetables, he came down to tell me that his pictures didn't turn out well — he hasn’t learned how to operate his camera properly yet.  As I listened to him explain what he needs to do in the future, I was peeling a mango with my vegetable peeler, a wonderfully useful gadget that took no time at all to learn how to operate. 






You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!



A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 7, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 70




Policemen keep an eye on a supposed bank where criminals have taken hostages. Other officers are trying to edge closer during the training exercise.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Hostage training resembles real event a year ago
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a situation that strongly resembled the 29-hour standoff March 7 and 8, 2005, in Santa Elena, police faced a training simulation Thursday where four hostages were being held in a bank by heavily armed men.

The training at the Academia de Bomberos in Patarra, Desamparados, lasted most of the day. Police officers have been engaged in a 15-day course about crisis management under French police experts.
According to Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, such training is important, particularly in cases of kidnapping.

Rojas' agents, Fuerza Pública officers and others from a number of different agencies participated.

Police have been criticized for their handling of the standoff in Santa Elena at the Banco Nacional where hostages died during the 29 hours. One policeman died in an abortive raid. Robbers faced armed guards and the lone bandit ended up keep police out for more than a day.


World has entered an era of mobility, U.S. aide says
Special to A.M. Cost Rica

With people moving back and forth between countries instead of simply immigrating or emigrating, the United Nation’s top migration official said that the world was entering an “era of mobility” in which international cooperation would be more effective than restrictive laws.

“I come from a country with a long history of providing migrants to the rest of the world, which has now become a country of destination,” Peter Sutherland, born in Ireland and now Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s special representative on migration, told the annual session of the Commission on Population and Development, which is focussing on the issue this year.

“For years, we condemned countries that would not allow their people to leave,” he said, adding that, now that movement was possible, there was a need for “coordination instead of control, both nationally and internationally.”

He said that priorities in this new era remain the protection of migrant rights while ensuring the maintenance of the right of countries to determine
who should cross their borders, with certain exceptions.

In addition, he said a cooperative dialogue must begin between developed and developing countries, both bilaterally and regionally, such as the dialogue between the European Union and Africa.

Business, non-governmental organizations and trade unions should “all be at the table of the debate,” since all have a stake in managing effectively migration flows, which had multiple ramifications for the economy, labor, employment and education.

The benefits of migration were well known, said Sutherland, suggesting that an expanded dialogue could “find out ways to compensate who loses out,” be they local workers having to compete with immigrants or countries losing skilled professionals.

Throughout the week-long population meeting, which opened on Monday, UN officials have stressed that, with 200 million people living outside their home countries, more than any time in history, partnerships must be created between countries that receive migrants and their countries of origin. The topic is a hot one in many parts of the world.





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