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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, April 25, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 81         E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Importing a car? Better get out the checkbook
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Talk about importing a vehicle from the north, and expat eyeballs begin to roll.

No one likes paying up to 80 percent of the value in taxes, fees and transportation no matter how much they love their car.

Thanks to the help of readers, the problems associated with purchasing a used car were reported here Monday. We have additional reader input today as letters.

Simply put, some used car dealers purchase junkers and salvaged autos, bring them here, turn back the mileage and try to sell them as nearly new. Expats are vulnerable because they probably need a car and also may face a language barrier.

But forsaking used cars in favor of importing a new one can be expensive and frustrating. Many expats decide to leave the matter in the hands of professionals, and some importers provide curb-to-curb service. They will even deliver your car to your new home here. At a price.

The current import duty is based on the age of the car. Older cars pay a higher percentage: from 2003 to 2006, 52.29 percent; from 2001 to 2002, 63.91 percent, and 2000 and older 79.03 percent.

That percentage is levied on the estimated value of the vehicle plus the insurance plus the freight charge.

The major charges are listed on the adjacent box based on a vehicle worth $20,000 in the United States. The value is estimated because the actual value that will be taxed is determined by Costa Ricans who use a data base. Variables are the brand
name, the model, style, year, engine displacement, transmission type and fuel, according to experts in this field.

Under "other services and costs," one would find stamps and paperwork, messenger service, taxis, custom house storage fees, registration and valuation paperwork and even a car wash.

For our mythical $20,000 vehicle, these minor expenses total to about $1,600.

Expats should not wait for a bargain and hope that the free trade treaty with the United States is approved. A U.S. Embassy spokesperson familiar with the controversial treaty has said that import taxes on vehicles are considered internal taxes and not customs duties that would be affected if Costa Rica ratifies the agreement.

Many car dealers sell recently imported cars
Cost of importing a newer $20,000 vehicle from the United States

in $s
Ocean freight
Freight forwarding
Limón to San José
Customs import taxes
Customs broker fee
Technical inspection
Road taxes (marchamo)
Initial registration stamps
Other services and costs


that are not yet registered yet. In such case, the buyer gets the ownership papers or deed, a copy of the póliza de desalmacenaje (customs policy) and proof of passing the revisión tecnica vehicle safety inspection.

With those papers the buyer or an agent pays the  marchamo at the car registry, also called Registro de Bienes Inmuebles, to get a tarjeta de circulación.

Once papers are filed, the registry delivers a temporary permit (placa temporal) so the car can circulate for one month until it’s registered. Then the owner has to return this permit in order to get the permanent license plates of the car.

The transfer deed of an imported but not registered car is not assessed a transfer tax but the owner must pay double stamps.

Once the car is registered, there still are possible problems with the bureaucracy.

If a car’s engine blows and a replacement is necessary, the owner needs to get a new engine that also has a custom policy showing import duty has been paid. Once the new engine is installed, the buyer has to take the car for the technical inspection and then request the car registry to change the engine numbers on official documents.
Minor changes, such as a new car color, only require a request signed by the proprietor for the registry to make the change.

The so-called car registry is the same place where officials register all boats, yachts and airplanes.

Garland M. Baker and attorney Allan Garro contributed to this report.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 81

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Our readers opinions

Get an economical tryke

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In reference to your article Monday by Garland M. Baker on used cars in Costa Rica: Two years ago I bought a Bajaj 3-wheel (new) and it was the best transportation decision I ever made. Under $4,000, extremely economical and absolutely perfect for Costa Rica. Cannot for the life of me understand why the country isn't full of them? Has a 2-gallon gas tank. Wheels never seem to stop turning on it!

Paul P. Meister
Used car tales of woe

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thanks for printing the article on buying used cars. Interesting to hear that my problem was not an isolated incident. Here is my story:

Needing a new used car, I thought it would be better to buy from a dealer because I thought I would have some recourse if things went bad. Here's my story. I bought a '97 Trooper from a dealer in San  Isidro de El General. It had 92,000 miles on it. Paid $13,000.

Got it home and it overheated. Brought it back, and they worked on it for a couple of days. Picked it up and drove it home. Again it overheated.

Somewhat suspicious, I looked up the VIN number on  CarFax.com. It told me that, after two different car auctions, (it must have been trashed) it was imported to Costa Rica in '02 with  135,000 miles on it. It probably has 170,000 on it now.

I told the dealer I want my money back because they obviously turned back the odometer. No way will they return the money. There is a buyer's commissioner that can dispute these cases in San José, and we went there. Armed with lawyers on both sides, it turns out that it is not illegal to set back the milage and they refused to return the money.  They could care less about the harm to their reputation.

I went to another dealer in San José and bought a Isuzu Rodeo '00  with 42,000 miles on it. The salesman said that they would return my money if I was unhappy.  It had numerous problems that they said they would fix when I came to pick it up in two weeks.

When I went to pick it up and give them the money, they said that they would not return  my money. So I took a chance and paid them, but not all the repairs were finished. I arranged to bring it back in a month (I live in  Dominical) and gave them three days to fix it. They only started to look at it hours before I came on the third day.

So what I have learned from this is the car salesmen have no sense of customer satisfaction. You can't trust them, and they could care less.  There is a big industry of cosmetically fixing up cars to make you think it is in nice shape. Beware.
For what it's worth.

Harley Toberman
Playa Dominical

Chávez should be heard

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

While I am not a fan of Chávez, his claims of U.S. intervention should not be dismissed. When a criminal is brought before a tribunal of Justice his criminal pedigree is considered by the courts in determining the contention of probable cause. In the instance of the United States, I am afraid that our hands are very soiled with foreign intrigue and intervention with all sorts of debilitating effects for both the U.S. and the country whose course and politics is involved.

The history and self admissions of past and present politically connected people are well known and have been in the media repeatedly. The problems we have now in Iran were fomented by the CIA and the covert action funds department (a nasty little off the cuff account that many presidents have unlawfully used and abused. Read the Ron Paul address to Congress in the well on April 10th for specifics)

Regan no lesser in Iran Contra, and initially Kermit Roosevelt. Time line about 1957 in deposing the then democratically elected head of state (Mossedegh) to
impose the Shah (Pahlevi) and then deposing or exile of the Iotollah to France. (The editor tried to correct this basically correct statement and he is and was wrong then and now.)

The claim of U.S. intervention in Venezuela’s matters should come as no surprise to anyone interested in truth not fostering Neo Con design which is now or should be recognized as a move by this shadow government run by criminal archetypes who care nothing for the rule of law or the legitimacy of a true ballot, The quest of Iraq was a central base from which to pound the rest of the world into submission. (one world government). In the case of CAFTA:   A warning to the Government of C.R. NAFTA has failed, and the U.S. government is being sued in the world court for illicit lumber subsidies which offset the Canadians lumber industry. If people will not honor agreements, than the agreements are a ploy and a sham for nothing more than illegal profiteering of multi-nationals.

Be careful for what you ask for. For it may not be what you thought it was. All of these agreements are one-sided with no genuine benefits for the country intended nor it’s constituency, (many retired and presently serving congressional people now admit that these trade agreements were seriously flawed and (but) they were fast-tracked with little or no time to study them.

This was not by error. It was with a dedicated purpose for a “fast sale” but rather an ugly design to benefit the multi-national companies in a race to the bottom for the lowest wages obtainable regardless of the assignments originally subscribed to multi-national firms now in Mexico are seeking lower labor costs in China. “Caveat emptor.”
Milt Farrow
Titusville Florida
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 81


Court workers will see the relics of Italian saint
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tale may be beyond belief even for some devote Catholics: A priest who can levitate, cure the blind, read minds, understand foreign languages and carry on his body the crucifixion wounds of Christ.

The man is Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who died in 1968 and has been venerated by the Catholic Church as a legitimate saint.

The Catholic priest was said to bear the stigmata: bleeding wrists, bleeding feet and a wound to the lower chest.

Three everyday items of the Italian priest are visiting Costa Rica, and the devotion is enough to bring them to the Poder Judicial for a special Mass and veneratio
 today at noon. Many court employees are expected to attend what is being described as a message of faith.

Accompanying the relics is the Rev. Gian María Digiordio of the Franciscan community in San Giovanni Rotondo. The relics include a lock of Father Pio's hair, a handkerchief and a glove that he wore to hide the bloody mark on his wrist.

Although his devotees call Father Pio the most saintly man since St. Francis of Assisi, the official Catholic church here is not involved in the visit of the priest and the relics. The relics, however, has been making the rounds in various Catholic communities.

Father Pio was canonized by Pope John Paul in 2002, meaning that the miracles attributed to him were studied and validated by a church commission.

Another 3-day weekend declared for public workers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another three-day holiday has been declared for public employees.

Just a week after a five-day Semana Santa break, President Abel Pacheco has declared May 8 a day off for the more than 150,000 public workers in the country. This is in honor of the transfer of power from Pacheco to Óscar Arias Sánchez, the new president.
Private employees are not covered by the decree, but if employers give their workers they day off, they have to do so with pay.

Of course, the 1,300 police officers and countless other workers who are participating in the inauguration of Arias will not get the day off, but they will be compensated with money or additional time off.

The inauguration is at 11 a.m. in the Estadio Nacional.

Public agencies, suspicious of private firm, start their own job fair
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of public agencies are planning a jobs fair, an obvious attempt to compete with similar events put on by a private firm.

The fair will be Friday and Saturday, and some 60 firms will be represented, said an announcement. The firms seek to fill some 2,000 jobs, it said.

The event, which is free, will be held in the Instituto Nacional de Apredizaje, located in the former Colegio Técnico Don Bosco three blocks south of Pizza Hut in Paseo Colón. The hours Friday are from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday the fair runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The event is organized by the Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social, the institute, the Asociación
Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo and the chambers of Industria y Comercio.

The ministry said that many major corporations have agreed to attend.

Fernando Trejos, the minister of Trabajo, blacklisted a job fair that was held last month and said that organizers were charging admission to job seekers and there was no clear record of who may have actually gotten jobs from prior fairs run by the same outfit.

Trejos directed a letter to organizers in mid-February listing his questions. This was the fourth edition of the annual fair, Expoempleo 2006. He urged the organizers to allow job seekers to participate without charge.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 25, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 81

Chávez goes his own way to criminalize insults
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even though many countries in the Western Hemisphere still have anachronistic laws making it a crime for the media to "insult" or "defame" public officials, usually such laws are not being enforced, say officials from the U.S. State Department and international organizations concerned with human rights issues.

They pointed to one notable exception — the government of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

In Venezuela, Chávez has stepped up enforcement of the so-called desacato (insult) laws that increase the penalty for criticizing public officials from a previous maximum of eight days in prison to a prison sentence of six months to a year.  Also, criticizing the president now is punishable by six months to 30 months in prison, although in some cases the penalty is one year to two years in prison.

Venezuela also has increased the severity of penalties in a related category — what is called criminal defamation of public officials — by punishing offenders with a sentence of one year to three years in prison, plus a fine, when previously the sentence was no more than 18 months in prison.  If the offense is committed in a so-called "public manner," the sentence can be increased to as much as four years in prison and the fine can be doubled.

Moisés Behar, regional adviser for the State Department's Office of Andean Affairs, said in an April 21 interview that the Chávez government is swimming against the current from the rest of the
hemisphere in enforcing such insult and criminal defamation laws against journalists.

Behar said the Venezuelan media practices self-censorship in reporting the news to avoid incurring the wrath of the Chávez government.  However, he added that some journalists in Venezuela still take a chance in risking criminal prosecution by giving a fair and balanced account of news that might show the government in a negative light.

Another State Department official, who closely follows Venezuelan affairs, said journalists in Venezuela have been very bold in not backing down from criticizing the government.  This official said the independent Venezuelan media still practices investigative journalism despite the risk of being charged with offending the government.

In some cases, this official said, the government has imprisoned these journalists temporarily and then released them in what the official called a squeeze-and-release type of approach to intimidate the media.

Thomas Shannon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said in November 2005 congressional testimony that at a time when many Western Hemisphere nations are repealing desacato laws, Venezuela is giving them added teeth. 

The desacato law of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's regime mandates one year to three years imprisonment for those convicted of insulting or defaming the nation's president and other government officials.

Torrijos says Panamá will build a bigger ditch
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Panama's President Martin Torrijos has announced a plan to build a new lane along the Panama Canal to allow its use by the world's largest ships.

Speaking in Panama City Monday, Torrijos called the expansion the most important decision about the canal and its role in the 21st century.

The new lane would double the capacity of the canal. 
It would cost $5.2 billion and is expected to be completed in 2014.

The Panama Canal, which links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans with a series of lakes and locks, is a major contributor to Panama's economy.

The expansion would have to be approved by a referendum.

Polls show Panamanians strongly favor the expansion.

Three children and aunt in afternoon house fire in Barreal de Heredia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A house fire in Barreal de Heredia claimed four lives Monday.

Dead are three children, 3, 4 and 5, and their 18-year-old aunt. all were trapped on the second floor
of the structure. Several persons on the first floor escaped. The aunt was babysitting the youngsters when the fire broke out about 1 p.m.

The flames appear to have started near where electricity passes into the house.

Some neighbors suspect electricity started the blaze.

Jo Stuart
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