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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, April 26, 2010, in Vol. 10, No. 80        E-mail us
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Smart money checking out those failed projects
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

There are international developers currently looking for deals in Costa Rica.  The past boom in the country created some opportunities because many projects were left unfinished when the market fizzled in late 2008.  They are looking for the money trees of the next boom.

However, some opportunities that look good are not what they appear after some digging into their fundaments.  The most common problems are that the original founders borrowed too much money to get the projects moving because they believed they would sell fast to pay off the debts.

There are other problems too.  Many of the original promoters did not do their due diligence and bought land that in some cases is not developable at all. In other cases, only a small portion of the land is dividable and buildable.  Other problems range from water issues, slope of the land, offsets from springs and rivers, and forestry restrictions, to name a few.

Real estate agents tend to emphasize the good and paint a pretty picture to prospective buyers.  In many cases, they to not disclose the bad — and to be fair — many of them do not know the true state of the property they are trying to sell.
The only way to get a feel of the reality of a property — especially big properties and developments — is to dig and to dig deep.  The first clue is to look at the record at the Costa Rican national registry of properties, the Registro Nacional.

If there are legal problems associated with a property, those facts are usually — but not always — annotated in the property record.  This information usually includes a court case file number if the property has legal problems.  It is imperative to get a copy of the case filed against the property to know the true story and the nature of the legal problems.

These legal cases can be very long and involve volumes of court material.  Most of them are somewhat complex as well, and a good lawyer is needed to decipher the legal mumbo jumbo.  However, with this said, usually if there is lots of paperwork involved in the cases, the summary is usually pretty simple.  In most cases, someone borrowed too much money or made too many promises to creditors and prospective buyers, and they did not meet their obligations. So the project ended up in court.

The good news in some cases is that the parties involved in the court battle want out and are just waiting for someone to come along and save them from the drawn out court battle that is common in this country.

A smart developer who finds a project of interest needs to contract a small professional team to study the details of the case.  The team in turn needs to summarize the history of the project, determine how and why it ran into trouble and determine the players. 

The players would be the people who started the project, the people from whom the developer borrowed money and anyone who bought into the project along the way.  Usually, most of this information can be found in the court material if the property is the object of a legal case.
Real estate is coming back


Once a brief is put together and the history is  known, it is time to have an independent professional get on the phone and start asking
questions as to whether a settlement is possible to close the legal mess and make a deal. Today, many people who were involved in large projects just want out and to get as much cash as they can to put their lives back together.

The last boom of Costa Rica has broken emotionally and financially many individuals and companies alike.

It is interesting to point out that in some cases, the mortgage holders of many properties are lawyers. They loaned money to investors at high interest rates, and they do not want to make any deals.  They just want to foreclose and get the properties they sold back so someday they can sell it again during a new boom time to new, hungry prospective buyers.

What some developers are finding when looking into property deals is that the properties they are studying have already gone through a public auction, but they are being told there is a chance to get the property back by the way of some legal maneuvers.  In most cases, this information is just hopeful thinking on the part of the people who have lost the property, and there is really no legal magic.

There are property deals to be had in Costa Rica today.  From single properties where the owners are broke and need cash and are willing to accept in some cases ridiculous offers to large developments that were never finished.

In the case of the large projects, some have real big problems and expensive ones to fix from a legal point of view, but there are others that do not have legal problems or at least only little ones that are easy to fix.

There are people in the world with money because they held onto it during the financial craziness and are now ready to buy.  Generally, these types of investors know that people make money when they buy, not when they sell.  Another word for them might be bottom feeders. Whatever one wants to call them is unimportant.  The fact is some of them are coming to Costa Rica now and are looking for deals.

This information is important for those in Costa Rica who want to sell.  They need to look at their own financial picture, their legal problems if they have any and try to put together a package that would interest a prospective buyer.  These buyers are here, and they are looking around now.


Garland M. Baker is a 38-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community. Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica. Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2010, use without permission prohibited.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 80

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

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Real estate agents and services

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Our readers' opinions
Protest priorities skewed
and ignores potential

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I just wanted to comment on your article about the open pit mine protest. It is amazing the level of participation that has been achieved with this subject. I actually find it fascinating that such a dinky little project draws so much attention when it is dwarfed by far worse environmental issues.
 
Do you think it would be possible to convince the same people to put the same level of time and energy into protesting the courts and government each time a Tico flushes the toilet and the raw sewage runs into the nearest water course or on to the street? Can you imagine the contamination. These same protestors cannot comprehend this simple issue and act on it. How can they possibly address the problem in San Carlos which requires a far greater comprehension of technical issues.
 
As so far as the water contamination whether caused naturally or by mankind, I would much prefer to wash my hands with the water from San Carlos than any natural water course in any populated area in San José. I suspect the level of heavy metals contained in the raw sewage that is dumped into the local aquifer is similar. The e. coli that comes with it is also an issue for most people. If you follow the chain: we walk in it in the street, we track it into our homes, into our bedrooms and kitchens, as the majority do not remove their shoes no matter where they have walked during the day. So ultimately every thing that we walk in during the day ends up in our bed. A sobering thought for some.  But not a concern for most.
 
I can hardly wait until I see the massive protests about raw sewage contamination or possibly a similar protest about the air quality in greater San José. I say this in jest (sarcastic humor) "It will never happen" because no protestor will give up his right to use the toilet or restrict the polluting buses or walk instead of driving a car until a solution is found.
 
As I am sure the quantity of gold jewelry to be found at this protest is substantial.. That gives me an Idea. Maybe every protester should offer to donate anything they own that is made of gold such as wedding rings or earrings or bracelets to help fund the cause. Not likely.
 
The gold project in San Carlos has the potential to create jobs, support industries, and advance Costa Rica by creating substantial economic growth in a depressed area. It could be used as a model if done with the right vision. If the protestors were paying attention, they could see this as an opportunity to use the San Carlos project to establish safe working guidelines for all mining or resource projects to achieve sustainability in an environmentally sensitive area.
 
Do not forget that protesting is a profession, and it can pay very well if you are part of a large environmental movement. Costa Rica is a incredible country, and one day it will become first world but only with the use of common sense.
Maurice Aerts
Escazú

Very hot water can dull
pain from lionfish venom

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding your article "Threat from lionfish continues to grow in Caribbean," I like to comment that lionfish does not "attack" another fish but will defend itself. 

The lionfish is a slow swimmer.  When hunting, the lionfish do indeed use its large fan-like pectoral fins to herd it's prey into a corner.  Then with a swift motion of a forward thrust along with a sudden opening of its big mouth creating a vacuum, the lionfish gets its prey. 

When threatened, the lionfish first lowers its head and fans its venomous dorsal spines as a signal for the opponent to retreat.  When that fails the lionfish will defend itself if needed by a quick move to jab its dorsal spines into its opponent.  When you approach a lionfish and you see it lowers its head and fanning its dorsal spines, be very careful. 

If a diver has his hand punctured by the lionfish, the venom will cause great pain.  The way to minimize the pain or stop the venom is to put the hand in hot water -- as hot as you can possibly stand.  This has the effect of coagulating the venom, which is a protein.  I used to keep lionfish in my marine aquarium and, no, I have never got stung by a lionfish. But any hobbyist who keeps lionfish knows this information.  The one pictured in the article is commonly called a volitan lionfish or Pterois volitans.
Dennis Jay
Alajuela

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A.M. Costa Rica guide

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 80


Cartago earthquake shots
Photos by Amando Céspedes Marín
The wrecked church in Paraiso near Cartago. The
quake was felt all over the country
Bodies recovered from the ruins await identification at the Cartago armory, which also was damaged heavily.

100 years after quake, small book captures the tragedy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A hundred years ago residents of Cartago were enjoying the rebirth of the city, thanks to the rail line and the prosperous banana trade nearby. The town had suffered the loss of population when the central government moved to San José. The reborn city was a cosmopolitan one with many foreigners and stately buildings. Some said it looked more Spanish than Costa Rican.

The earthquake hit shortly before 7 p.m May 4. The city was destroyed. More than 1,000 persons died. The disaster was beyond the means of the existing emergency apparatus of the country.

A San José writer and his photographer companion arrived in what was left of the city two days later. They produced a book that is available free on line, thanks to the University of California Libraries, which provided a copy for scanning. The photos are horrific. One essay by author León Fernández Guardia is in English. In addition to taking photographs, Amando Céspedes Marín penned a personal account in Spanish.

Both men blame the Irazú volcano for the earthquake. They rode horseback to the volcano peak to find that a new crater had been formed. Fernández notes that Cartago had been destroyed in 1841 and in 1851.

The book came out a month after the earthquake. It was produced by Magazin Costarricense. The title is "The Cartago Earthquake: 6 h. 47 m. 35 s. May 4th 1910."

A .pdf file of the book is available HERE. There also are links to copies that are compatible to other types of online reading devices, like Kindle.

The most modern structure in Cartago, the Central American Court of Justice, also known as Andrew Carnegie's Peace Palace, did not even last long enough to be inaugurated. The wealthy Carnegie had donated $100,000, and the structure was designed to resist earthquakes. It did not.

Fernández was a good reporter who told his story frankly and without emphasizing the emotional. The photos, now yellowed, supply the shock value.  Said Fernández:
poet's house
Ruins of Rafael Ángel Troyo's villa. The national poet died when the spire of a church fell on him, said Fernández.

"Many of the victims of the earthquake remained trapped beneath the broken walls and timbers and those that survived found it difficult to find them all, being themselves hungry and helpless, besides suffering from shock and fright.

"More than 600 dead were recovered from the wreckage; it is estimated that the number of victims amounted to 1,500 out of a twelve thousand population."

Sometimes he could not resist an anecdote:

"Many pitiful stories are told by refugees, One is that of a man who found himself alone after the great disaster . . . saved by a queer turn of fortune. He set himself to the task of rescuing his family alone, refusing to admit that all were crushed to death. Unable to secure aid, he laboured on for many hours without food or drink when he was found to be hopelessly mad."

No one has announced memorial services for the Cartago victims yet, although there certainly will be some.

The Red Sismológica Nacional is planning an all-day seminar on the earthquake May 4 where specialists in geology, earthquakes and weather will discuss the event. The session will be in the auditorium César Dóndoli of the Escuela de Geología in the Universidad de Costa Rica. A full program is online at the agency's Web site.


Heavy rains predicted for parts of country today and tonight
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Weather experts have been concerned by a buildup of moist air since Friday. Now it appears that today will be the day for heavy rains in much of the country.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional issued a warning Friday and then again Sunday afternoon. The warnings noted the warm temperatures and the capacity for warm air to hold a lot of moisture. These conditions are favorable to downpours and thunderstorms, the weather institute said.

The Pacific was called the area where the heaviest activity
was likely to develop. But there also were predictions of rain in the Central Valley, mainly in the north and west. The Caribbean and the northern zone were other likely spots for heavy rain.

Despite the warnings, automatic weather stations showed only a few showers Sunday. The weather institute said that moisture was coming from both the Caribbean and the Pacific. Rains are predicted for the afternoon and evening.

The weather institute warned of possible flooding, landslides and flash floods. The warning suggested that people in areas with these hazards take precautions.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 80


hawk watchers
A.M. Costa Rica/Dennis Rogers
Steven Rogers and Mexican volunteer Ariana Tejada
count hawks from the Kèköldi
observation tower on the Caribbean coast.


During their trips the ones being watched are the hawks

By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A research project affiliated with the Kèköldi Indigenous Reserve on the Caribbean coast logs more than five million birds of prey and vultures in an average year, according to Daniel Martínez, research coordinator.

The observations take place from a 20-meter tower on the highest point of the reserve, a ridge top looking out over the sea and the town of Puerto Viejo to the east and the Talamanca range to the west.

Along the coast the biggest numbers of birds can be seen during the southward migration generally from August to October. In spring, when the greatest numbers pass in March and April, migrants disperse more across the isthmus.

A typical total for the August-October fall migration would be 1.4 million turkey vultures, 600,000 Swainson’s hawks, 1.3 million broad-winged hawks, and 2,000 peregrine falcons, Martínez said.

The annual census started in 2000. The observation tower was completed in 2002. Funding for the tower came largely from the Hawk Mountain observatory in Pennsylvania and The Nature Conservancy.

A recent morning’s count included 800 or so turkey vultures, a fair number of broad-winged and Swainson’s hawks, and 10 peregrine falcons.
Hawks, kites, falcons, osprey, and vultures are usually collectively called raptors though the latter are actually more closely related to storks than the others which are predatory. These birds travel varying distances from breeding to wintering grounds. One of the commonest species, the Swainson’s hawk, goes from the interior western United States to the Argentine pampas each year. Turkey vultures mostly go to Amazonia. Broad-winged hawks go to northern South America.

Despite the vast distances, migration is not so demanding for raptors. They soar on thermal updrafts to gain altitude, and once high enough, glide off towards their destination with no flapping until finding another updraft. Here they circle upwards again, and continue this until roosting somewhere at nightfall and then continue with the warmth of the sun the next morning.

Resident species are ignored in the counts, so a few turkey vultures, evidently locally-breeding birds from their foraging versus migratory behavior, are not recorded. Also regular in the area are king vulture, black vulture, white hawk, common black-hawk, black hawk-eagle, double-toothed kite, and short-tailed hawk.

Kèköldi is run by the Wak Ka Koneke indigenous organization, one of several that unite local Bri Bri community development programs. Facilities include a rustic field station as well as the tower. The center is open to visitors (though it is a stiff hike to the tower), and volunteers willing to stay the season and do regular raptor counts are solicited.



Security ministry plans to outline citizen security initiative

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With just two weeks left in the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration, security officials are presenting a plan for citizen security for 2010.

The presentation has a strong presence of representatives of the United Nations.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública also will outline its achievements for the past year.

The announcement said that the ministry is unifying the technical criteria and designing methodologies that promote human rights, equality, gender equality and the promotion
of citizen security. The project will be called the Plataforma de Prevención Social.

The concept appears to be in keeping with the beliefs of president-elect Laura Chinchilla, who has said repeatedly that crime must be addressed by handling the economic and social problems that generate insecurity.

Participating will be Janina del Vecchio, the minister, and Sofía Ramírez, identified as being from the Dirección sobre Trata de Personas y Promoción de Desarrollo Humano. Addressing trafficking in persons has been a priority with the current administration.

Also attending will be Patricia Salgado and Óscar Valverde of the U.N. Population Fund.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 80

Medical vacations in Costa Rica


Arizona immigrant law
is misguided, Obama says


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A tough new immigration law has been enacted in the Southwestern U.S. state of Arizona.  U.S. President Barack Obama calls the crackdown misguided.   

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation Friday that has been described as one of America's toughest immigration laws.

The new law requires police in Arizona to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally.  Immigrants are now required to carry registration documents at all times.

Gov. Brewer said drug violence in Mexico, along Arizona's southern border, has forced her to act, to protect the people of her state. "We in Arizona have been more than patient, waiting for Washington to act.  But decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation," she said.

Earlier, at the White House, President Obama said the Arizona legislation is the kind of irresponsibility that could result if the U.S. government does not act responsibly on immigration. "And that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe," he said.

Obama said the Justice Department will look at the new Arizona law to determine whether it is legal, and whether it might violate people's civil rights. "In fact, I have instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation, but if we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country," he said.

Civil rights activists have said the bill would lead to Hispanics being targeted by police because of their race.  Hundreds of Hispanics protested the legislation at the state capitol in Phoenix Thursday.

Before signing the bill, Brewer said she has worked with state lawmakers to ensure that the legislation will respect people's civil rights. "I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona," she said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates that more than 10 million people are in the country illegally, 460,000 of them in Arizona.  Thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans enter the U.S. illegally through the state.

Obama said the controversy over the legislation should push U.S. lawmakers of both parties to reform national immigration policies. "I will continue to consult with Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and I would note that 11 current Republican senators voted to pass immigration reform four years ago.  I am hopeful that they will join with Democrats in doing so again, so we can make the progress the American people deserve," he said.

At a naturalization ceremony for members of the U.S. military, Obama said businesses should obey immigration law and not undermine American workers.

The president also said illegal immigrants should pay their back taxes, admit responsibility for breaking the law, pay a penalty, learn English and pass criminal background checks, before they can get in line and eventually earn citizenship.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 26, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 80


Latin American news
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Worldwide immunization
seeks out excluded peoples


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Health Organization is kicking off simultaneous immunization campaigns in 112 countries and territories across the Americas, eastern Mediterranean and Europe. Such cross-border activities can prevent disease and save lives, the agency said.

This is the first time the World Health Organization has launched such an event. Officials say their goal is to expand immunization coverage and raise awareness of the importance of vaccines.

Daniel Epstein, spokesman, said many countries are working to eliminate measles. He says countries in the European region are very concerned that they have stalled in their goal of eliminating measles and rubella this year.

"In European countries, in many of them, immunization coverage is below the 95 percent recommended level. And, there have been ongoing measles outbreaks in some of these countries. Measles cases have also been imported to the U.S. and Canada and the Americas from European countries," said Epstein.

An important goal of the immunization campaigns is to reach those who have been excluded up to now, the agency said.

It notes every year, in the countries of the eastern Mediterranean region, 25 percent of deaths among children under age 5 is attributed to vaccine preventable diseases.

In the Americas, special regional events are being held in border areas of Nicaragua, between Suriname and French Guyana, and between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The agency said young children, pregnant women, elderly and native peoples live in isolated areas where vaccine coverage is low.

More killings in Juárez

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Mexico say seven people have been killed during a shootout in the Ciudad Juárez border area near the United States.

Investigators say five of the victims killed Friday were federal police officers and one was municipal.  The seventh person was a civilian. Authorities say the shooting happened during an ambush of two police vehicles. 

Earlier this month, Mexican federal police were deployed to the Juárez area to take over from soldiers who have failed to stem drug trafficking in the country's most violent city.

Authorities said some 5,000 federal police officers will control security in Juárez, which is located across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Despite thousands of soldiers patrolling the city the past two years, violent deaths have continued almost daily, with Juarez on the front lines of the bloodshed. Thousands of people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón took office in 2006 and began the crackdown.


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