A.M. Costa Rica

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(506) 223-1327     Published Monday, May 8, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 90         E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica photo
President-elect Arias greets a newsman
It's his day today
Oscar Arias Sánchez, the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner, gets a second chance at the presidency today, and San José is filling with heads of state and important personages.

The official ceremony is at 11 a.m. in the Estadio Nacional in Parque la Sabana, and Arias is expected to issue a series of decrees by 5 p.m.

Arias, 65, will find the country is far different and much more complex than when he left office 16 years ago.
Our report for today is HERE!

Have the rats and vultures got a deal for you!
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Vultures and rats are stalking the innocent home sellers to make a quick buck.

The game is the use of Article 1049 of the Costa Rican Civil Code and property flipping.  The rules are everything goes and the best trickster wins.

Article 1049 is only one sentence long and it states La venta es perfecta entre las partes desde que convienen en cosa y precio.  In English, the string of words translates to “The sale is fixed between parties upon agreement of thing and price.”  The sentence means that it is possible to cheat a naive seller out of a property because of their lack of knowledge of the law.

There are many variations of property flipping. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation Criminal Investigative Division, keeps an extensive database to control this fraudulent activity because many victims are federally insured banking institutions.

“Flipping” is a predatory practice where someone always gets hurt, and it involves artificially inflating the value of a property.  One of the versions in Costa Rica plays like this:

Someone shows up and offers to buy a property with a large down payment and      a mortgage secured by another property to guarantee the balance. The buyer promises to pay off the mortgage in a short period.  Usually the buyer has plentiful paperwork to reflect that the value of the property being used for the guarantee far exceeds the balance due. This is the property whose value has been inflated with fake sales or fake declarations of value.

Some eager sellers will jump at the chance to sell their property and agree to the deal. They get the down payment and a mortgage whose only guarantee is the property or properties with the inflated values. Sometimes the property has little or no real value.

This is where Article 1049 comes in to play.  Any agreement is binding upon parties when they agree on “thing and price.”  Verbal agreements are as binding as written ones only a little more difficult to enforce.

With the agreement made, the scenario can go two ways: 

The first and more likely is that the seller goes through with the deal.  The buyer then sells the property for a big profit and fails to pay the balance on the mortgage when due.  The seller has to foreclose on the guarantee property or properties and finds that its value is much less than promised or completely uncollectable. 

It is almost impossible to cry fraud because the seller just did not do the homework to check out the guarantee.

In the second scenario, the seller does some homework and finds the properties offered in guarantee are not even close to the value they expected.  When the seller tries to renege on the deal, the buyer shows up with an oferta real de pago, usually with an attorney, with the down payment to clinch the deal. 

Oferta real de pago means a “real offer to pay” and regulated by Article 866 of the Civil Procedures Code.   This is all that is necessary to force the completion of the deal. Otherwise the contract will end up in court and a judge will immediately put a judicial lien on the property pending the outcome  The buyer, proving an agreement on “thing and price,” will win getting the property and/or damages.

Some owners selling property report 80 percent of the calls or showings were to someone with a deal up their sleeve.  Deals abound. Qualified buyers do not.

Wise sellers qualify buyers and evaluate deals carefully.  And they do so before entering into a written or verbal agreement. There are many property fraud schemes in Costa Rica. This is only one of many.   Most importantly, sellers need to be aware of the bite in Article 1049 of the Civil Code and decline to agree to anything without proper representation, research and documentation.

Purchase options registered with the National Registry is a much safer way to sell or buy property in Costa Rica.

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 info@crexpertise.com.  Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at crlaw@licgarro.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.  Copyright 2004-2006, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 90

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Gasoline going up again,
thanks to world prices

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The price regulating agency has hiked the cost of gasoline some 51 colons per liter. That's about 10 U.S. cents.

The new price for super will be 526, about $1.04, per liter. Regular will be 504, slightly less than $1. There are similar increases in diesel, from 326 per liter to 388, or about 77 U.S. cents.

The increases are based on increases in the world price of petroeum. The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos said it had sent the resolution to be published.

There are 3.79 liters to a gallon, so the gallon price of super will be 1,994 colons or about $3.94 when the new price is published in the official La Gaceta newspaper.

Robocop is new neighbor

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robocop is coming to the Parrita neighborhood.

Actor Peter Weller, who played the metal lawman on the silver screen has purchased property in Valley of Pacifica, a Paragon Properties of Costa Rica development east of the Costa Rican beach town.

At the same time Paragon says it has sold out 11 complete subdivisions on the Pacific coast. The Hollywood, Fla., based company pioneered Internet and telephone marketing of Costa Rican properties. The company has a showroom in Heredia. It is developing two more subdivisions near Miramar.

Our readers' opinions

Statement on squatters
disputed by reader

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with interest this article on squatters in Costa Rica. We have visited and lived in Costa Rica numerous times in the last 50 years and do not know of any individual who has lost land to squatters or that even has had problem with this. 

My concern is your statement “Land invasions are frequent in Costa Rica. Land owners have a long legal battle to remove squatters after the first three months.”   Someone thinking of buying land in Costa Rica is led to believe that you are going to lose your land to an invasion and that it is not safe to own land in Costa Rica. 

While one always has to be careful in purchase and owning land in any country, the statement in your article is too general and not balanced reporting.  I believe that the situations where squatters have taken over land are exceptions mostly where land has been left alone with no care for long periods of time.

I enjoy reading your newspaper but also feel that more care needs to be taken in making blanket statements about items as important as this.
Luis Alfaro
Vuelta de Jorco

Wish list article called
changes just for Gringos

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I think this article [Expat wish list for the new legislators] should be renamed as the Gringos wish list! First, why is a expat under a tourist visa! You are a tourist not anything else!

Second, You are living in a country that is not North America!

I am married to a Tica and have been for six years; we own property in Tres Rios where my wife’s family lives. Gringos always dismay me when they want to change the world to fit their needs. Costa Rica has too many illegal Gringos and needs to start cleaning house! This wish list is just a list of rules that you want to change to fit the Gringos' ways. Have you ever heard of adapting to your environment!
Scott Benson

Emergency responder
could have averted tragedy

Dear A.M Costa Rica:

I am writing in response to the response to Lisa Herrington’s letter about her sister’s disappearance.  After rereading both letters, it would seem to be that the loss of life was due to negligence rather than crime, a much bitter pill to swallow.  Perhaps all foreign countries should be generalized when sharing such a story make others aware that often times there are no regulations, no agencies that oversee and enforce common sense rules and regulations (and if there are, they are there for show in many cases, not action).

We (tourists) believe what we read and want to think things will be safe secure when they are simply not.  A problem is that we assume if we get on a boat or if we take a rafting tour that the company is certified. Some may think there is insurance as there would be for most adventure tours in the U.S. and Canada, some may think that with all this coastline and no military that Costa Rica would have many boats, safety officers, not quite a Coast Guard, but a system to help distressed mariners and so on.

The reality is with resources being tight here, they needed Taiwan to donate outboards to beef up their Coast Guard.  Boating standards in some parts of the world are very high and in others non existent. Where regulations are high, the ‘senseless’ loss of life is greatly limited.

To describe a horrible and violent crime at a video store and is not only a very intellectually weak argument (violent criminals vs. negligence), and lacks decency and compassion.  If I may remind you, simple safety requirements (aka EPIRB – an emergency responder with a GPS can be had for under $1,000 and would have provided a precise location of the distressed boat), could have prevented this.  Are five lives worth going the extra mile in this case?  An EPIRB cannot be useful if someone is being bludgeoned or thrown off a cruise ship or in a video store robbery.  By some of my reading it appears that having life jackets aboard is tough enough for some tour companies.
Michael Landry
Professional Directory
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, Monday, May 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 90

Arias team

Rodrigo Arias is the minister of the presidencia designate, sort of a chief of staff. Laura Chinchilla is the first vice president. To the left of Arias is Kevin Casas, second vice president.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Arias says he will welcome more trade from all over
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President-elect Óscar Arias Sánchez — on the eve of his taking office — reaffirmed his faith in free trade and the proposed agreement with the United States and other Central American nations.

But he continued his criticism of the United States war in Iraq and said Washington and other developed countries spend four or five times more subsidizing their farmers than they do in giving aid to developing nations.

"The fight of obtaining markets is very important for us,"Arias told reporters in the Tryp Corobici Hotel during a wide-ranging press conference. He said Costa Rica would seek trade pacts with other Latin nations and try to rally the Central American states to negotiate a trade agreement with the European Union.

Speaking of the free trade treaty with the United States, Arias said that no possibility exists to return to the negotiating table to revise the document. He based this opinion partly on his discussions with U.S. congressional leaders. Some, including U.S. Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana dined with Arias Saturday night at his Rohrmoser home.

In an unhurried way Arias fielded questions on immigration, relations with Taiwan, visas for Colombians, likely protests today by local union leaders and unhappiness in the culture community with his plan to take over the former liquor factory.

The liquor factor is now called the Centro Nacional de la Cultura, but the Arias camp has suggested swapping the current Casa Presidencial in Zapote with the centro, which is just east of Parque España.

For years politicians have wanted a civic center in the center of San José, Arias said. Moving Casa Presidencial to the site of the current culture ministry will be a step in that direction, he said. The cultural community with be protesting today with white shirts and blouses. But Arias will hold his luncheon for heads of state in the center instead of Casa Presidencial or the Teatro Nacional.

Rodrigo Arias, the brother of the president-elect, said that the new government will issue decrees after its first cabinet meeting Monday afternoon. But he did not specify the topics. Arias was asked if he were going to declare a state of emergency to repair the country's dilapidated roads. He said he would not but that the new government might seek a loan from the national banks to begin repairs.

Arias also was asked about relations with Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president who unexpectedly became a no-show at the inauguration. Arias was expected to push for access to cut-rate Venezuelan petroleum. Arias said there would be other opportunities for discussion.

Arias said he was embarrassed that Costa Rica made an unforgivable mistake to lend its name to a list of countries that supported the war. He said this was a betrayal of its tradition of peace, democracy and human rights. The Abel Pacheco administration allowed the name of Costa Rica to be included on a list maintained by the White House.

Ministero de Relacionses Exteriores y Culto photo
President Abel Pacheco and Felipe de Borbón y Grecia, the prince of Asturias and heir to the Spanish throne who paid a courtesy call Sunday.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Protester Friday carries an anti-Arias sign near the Centro Nacional de la Cultura. She was one of 600.

The United States needs to increase its investment in less developed countries, Arias said.

It is hard to build an internal paradise if an inferno exists outside, he said in part as a response to U.S. immigration problems as well as what he saw as a failure to spend enough in foreign aid.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Laura Chincilla, Óscar Arias and U.S. Rep. Dan Burton converse Saturday at the Arias home.

At least nine heads of state will witness ceremony
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The inauguration today of Óscar Arias Sánchez has brought at least nine heads of state here.

One no-show is Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, who told his Caracas radio audience Sunday that he just could not make the event here because he was traveling to Europe.

He was to be the major player in an expected discussion about petroleum supplies for Central America.

Although not a head of state, Laura Bush, the U.S. first lady, flew in Sunday night and quickly went to a hotel from Juan Santamaría airport. She will be participating in a morning educational round table at the School of the United States in San Joaquin de
Flores, Heredia. She leaves after the inaugural festivities.

Felipe de Borbón y Grecia, the heir to the Spanish throne, visited Desamparados Sunday to show support for an organization that works against child labor.

Most of the official visitors showed up at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto Sunday afternoon to present themselves and chat with President Abel Pacheco. Six members of the U.S. Congress are here as guests of Arias.

Presidents from México, Panamá, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Haiti and Ecuador are listed among the guests. In all there are 96 delegations with 550 official guests. Countries that did not send delegations, such as the United Kingdom, are represented by their local ambassador.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 90

Some unique aspects of language in Costa Rica
Y como dijo el amigo mío Mickey Mouse, “Todo mundo pa su house.”

“As my friend Mickey Mouse says, ‘Everybody must go to their house.’” This is, of course, a kind of Spanglish with the English words Mouse and house being used in order to create a rhyme. This dicho is popular among kids who use it to mean “it’s time to be going home.”

On the subject of leave taking, voy jalando is an idiomatic expression — which is not exactly the same as a dicho — that means “I’m leaving,” or more literally “I’m pulling (away).”

The verb jalar means “to pull.” But in the dictionary you’re likely to encounter it spelled halar. This is the modern spelling. In Costa Rica, however, we still use the old spelling beginning the word with the letter j rather than h.  Jalando, of course, is the gerund of jalar.

You can employ another expression using jalando when you want someone to leave or to stop annoying you: ¡Va jalando! means “Get out of here!”

When Josefinos — that’s what we call people from San José — complain about the cold they say no hace frio, es yielo lo que hace, meaning quite literally, “it’s not making cold, it’s making ice.” But take note of this word yielo. It is spelled here with a y rather
than an h, which is the spelling in standard Spanish. This y indicates a peculiarity of pronunciation, and is similar to the way Costa Ricans pronounce the letter y in yo. The sound of the Costa Rican y is like that of the letter j in English as in the words jail, jam, or jewel.

Todo el mundo pa’ su house is typical of the younger generation of Costa Ricans who find it very “cool” to mix English words in with their Spanish. After all,

way we say it

By Daniel So

one  hears this being done constantly on television in advertising and in popular telenovelas, our soap operas.

A few years ago I took a course at Indiana University in sign language.  It was an elementary course lasting but one semester, and I learned only some rudimentary things. The next time I was in Costa Rica, however, I visited with a cousin of mine who teaches sign language at the University of Costa Rica. Of course I wanted to try out all my signs.

But she only smiled indulgently and gently informed me that I was signing in English, not in Spanish. I was stunned! It had never even occurred to me that sign language would be different in English and Spanish. But she seemed genuinely pleased that I was trying.

Languages can be complicated, as anyone who has ever tried to learn a new one can attest. But, it’s important to keep practicing and not give up.

Communication is the important thing, and it’s through our mistakes that we learn. Odd as it may seem, communication can often begin with a mistake because it gives someone else the opportunity to reach out and help you.

Chávez says he will double tax on foreign oil companies in Venezuela
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chávez says he plans to raise taxes on foreign oil companies in Venezuela.

Chávez Sunday described the move as a "tax on extraction," saying it would create $1 billion in new state revenue.
He made the announcement Sunday during his weekly television and radio program.

The new tax will be 33 percent, up from 16.7 percent.

Chávez has accused foreign oil companies of exploiting his country's vast petroleum reserves without paying sufficient taxes, and has taken steps to increase revenue from the industry.

Tennessee folk dance group bringing their tradition to Guanacaste
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cripple Creek Cloggers of Murfreesboro, Tenn. are dancing their way through Guanacaste through Saturday. The folk dance group will be in the Plaza de Toros in Guayabo de Bagaces at 6 p.m tonight.

Tuesday the group will travel to Monteverde, again for a 6 p.m. performance in the Galerón Comunal. Wednesday showtime is at 7 p.m. in the Salón
Comunal de Nandayure. Thursday the dancing is in the Salón Comunal de Jicaral at 7 p.m.

Filadelfia is the site Friday at 7 p.m. in the Salón Comunal, and Saturday, the last performance is in the Salón Comunal de Paso Tempisque at 7 p.m.

The 20-member group was invited to tour by the  Comité de Cultura de Cañas and the Compañía Folclórica Caña de Azúcar.

Jo Stuart
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