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These stories were published Wednesday, May 26, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 103
Jo Stuart
About us
Real estate series gives readers an advantage
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica staff

When Garland Baker agreed to look into changes in the Costa Rican property laws, he did not anticipate that he would be embarking on a career.

Baker, a business consultant, took on the job to research and write articles about property law because he has been here 32 years and has had experience in this area.

A.M. Costa Rica asked him to do that because editors are constantly receiving e-mails from readers who have complex problems with land titles and ownership.

What Baker found was an eye-opener. He has documented a change in the law that actually encourages lawyers and other professionals to steal their clients’ properties by not doing their work correctly.

He has outlined a clearly unconstitutional tax system that penalizes new owners and rewards those who do not change property title.

Baker also has touched on the problems absentee owners might have if some uninvited guest just happens to move on to the property and sets up housekeeping.

More recently, he has documented how two branches of the Costa Rican high court maintain two different and conflicting theories of property ownership. The criminal appeals court says the original owner should be protected even if some fly-by-night con man forges deeds and sells the property to an innocent third party.

The civil appeals court would give the property to the third party and leave the original owner holding the empty bag.

Such flimflam with deeds is common and some employees at the Registro Nacional where important papers are filed have been known to participate in such illegal acts.

In his work, Baker, who is an accountant and not a lawyer, has been assisted in concepts and research by Allan Garro, who is a Costa Rican lawyer.

Monday Baker outlined the powerful and little-used Costa Rican consumer protection law which can benefit foreigners living here.

Coincidental with writing articles, Baker realized that more and more North Americans needed his consultant services in the area of property ownership, so his business, now Costa Rica Expertise, began to change to accommodate the need.

Where is this journalistic series headed? The available information is only growing more complex. Each day editors receive more tips about possible scams and scammers and pitfalls and loopholes in the civil code.

Did you miss any
of these articles?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is a list of articles in the real estate property series to date:

April 12, 2004
Registry law creates chance to steal property


April 19, 2004
Legal manipulations can protect property 


April 26, 2004
Unusual property tax system hurts newcomer


May 3, 2004
Property in Costa Rica 
    Possession is more important than 



May 10, 2004
Country's legal system has rules for



May 17, 2004
Victims have right to express views 
     Landmark decision due in property fraud 


May 24, 2004
Consumer protection law is a valuable weapon


Some people have signed over their properties to friends who said they could help them sell the real estate and then the friend moved in. Others are losing their ownership to squatters.

Some readers said that Baker’s revelations scare them away from property ownership. But that is not the point of the series. The idea is that knowledge is the best defense and that foreigners in Costa Rica have to prepare themselves for business.

The goal of Baker and A.M. Costa Rica is to give them the tools to do that.

Prominent author gives tips on evaluating all those 'experts'
By Chris Howard* 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In Costa Rica the word "expert" is sometimes used very loosely in the expatriate community, on numerous Web sites, English publications and on business cards. 

Don’t get me wrong. There are some highly qualified English speakers here. Nevertheless one should be extremely careful when dealing with foreigners who consider themselves experts in Costa Rica. Just because a person was a professional in his home country may not qualify him to be an expert here. 

Some foreigners consider themselves experts just because they have lived here for a few years. Remember anyone can build a Web site and say anything about themselves.

Many naive newcomers have been taken advantage of by other foreigners who call themselves "experts" who are really incompetent imposters. So, be careful! We know a couple of people who have even lost their life savings because they put their affairs in the hands of an "expert."

What I suggest is that if you happen to come into contact with any foreigner who calls him self an "expert" is to ask all of the following:

(1.) Ask for references from other foreigners who have used the experts services. If your 

expert won’t give you any references you will know immediately you are being duped or sold shoddy second rate services.

(2.) Ask how long the person has lived in Costa Rica. If they have been here for under 10 years be careful.

(3.) Find out what the person’s educational background was when they lived in their home country and if they have any formal training in the Latin American culture, studies or foreign investments. Just because a person was a stock broker, a plumber, an engineer or a policeman in the U.S. or Canada does not qualify him to give professional advice in Costa Rica.

(4.) Beware of colorful well-designed web sites which the so-called experts build to attract naive foreigners.

(5.) Most important find out if the person is truly fluent in Spanish. There is no way a person can have expertise unless he/she can communicate with the locals and understand all the nuances of the local culture and language. Beware there are many foreigners who say they speak fluent Spanish with a vocabulary of only a couple of hundred words. I have run into many of them in my 22 years here. 

Howard of Heredia is a true expert on Costa Rica and is the author of "The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica" now in its 12th edition. The above is a draft of a book chapter.

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Pacheco stresses theme
of sexual exploitation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco told tourism professionals Tuesday night that they better not  come to Costa Rica if they plan on exploiting boys and girls.

The president was speaking at the inauguration of Expotur, the tourism exposition for foreign travel executives.

Pacheco, as happened Sunday night in his weekly television talk, made a reference to Arthur Kanev, a 56-year-old former U.S. dentist, brought back to Costa Rica Thursday from Florida to answer 1999 charges of impairing the morals of underage Quepos women.

Pacheco described the country as offering natural beauty, culture, peace, diversity and comfort. But he said "for those who come believing that this is nobody’s land where boys and girls of this country can be abused with impunity, we have the doors closed.

For sexual exploiters, "if they enter Costa Rica, the only destination that we offer is jail."

Pacheco urged local tourism operators to adhere to the code of conduct that professional tourism organizations have put forth. He called the code an instrument of the first order to combat and eradicate tourism exploiting minors in Costa Rica.

The inauguration was held in the Teatro National. Pacheco said that some 530 sellers of tourism products were represented at the event and that 210 buyers had come to set up some 8,000 appointments to learn about Costa Rican tourism.

The event, which will be Wednesday and Thursday at the Herradura Hotel on the General Cañas Autopista in Heredia, is put on by the Asociación Costarricense de Profesionales en Turismo.

For his part, Rodrigo A. Castro Fonseca, minister of Turismo, noted that Costa Rican tourism had grown since the 1970s when some 300,000 tourists visited the country and there were just 2,845 hotel rooms available.

Thanks to laws that provide incentives, now there are 35,000 hotel rooms, he said and a $1.3 billion industry that saw 1.25 million tourists last year.

However, Castro said that Expotur was hosting just 220 delegates from some 150 companies in the United States, Europe and Latin America and that 250 Costa Rican firms were participating as exhibitors.

Storms go away
to come again today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tuesday resulted in no measurable rain in the Central Valley, the first time in more than a week that there was not a downpour.

The skies clouded over in the afternoon and threatened. But what little rain that fell in the mid-afternoon was hardly enough to wet the pavements.

This situation will not last. The Instituto Meteorológico National said that yet another tropical storm system is moving in on the country. The prediction is for rain starting in the afternoon and continuing into the night.

Costa Rica just endured a week-long period of almost continual rain due to a low pressure area parked over the country. That began to clear Monday, but the weather bureau employees still measured about 9.5 mms. of rain, about four-tenths of an inch, from 7 a.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Winds helped to blow away the rain. A gust of 34 kms. was measured at the Barrio Aranjuez weather station Tuesday. That’s 21 mph.

Despite the clearing weather, two more persons have been added to the toll from the recent spate of storms. In Liverpool de Limón, José Antonio Herrera Rodríguez, 50, was found Monday night in a pool of the Río Blanco. The man was trying to cross the river about 3 p.m. Monday when he was swept away, the Judicial Investigating Organization reported.

In Puntarenas, a man identified by the Fuerza Pública as Juan de Dios Solano Coto, 50, died when he fell into an estuary near the local municipal building.

Two other persons died earlier as a result of swollen rivers and drains.

Cops will be clowning around

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Hospital Nacional de Niños, the Fuerza Pública will be at the hospital this morning to cheer up the youngsters there with clowns, music, books and marionettes.

Master of ceremonies for the 9:30 a.m. even will be Comisario Walter Navarro, director general of the Fuerza Pública.
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A.M. Costa Rica
Consultantes Río Colorado S.A.

James J. Brodell......................................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas............ associate editor

Avenida 11 bis, Barrio Otoya, San José


 (506) 223-1327

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Apartado 12909-1000          SB 11 
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(506) 223-1327                   Miami, FL 33102-5292

At least 200 reported dead in Hispaniola flooding
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities and witnesses say nearly 200 people have died in severe flooding in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. 

Rescuers and relatives continue searching for survivors Tuesday near the border between the two countries, where the Solie River overflowed after several days of torrential downpours. 

The death toll has risen to at least 100 on the Dominican side, where most of the farming village 

of Jimani was wiped out from the floods. Dozens of people are still missing there.

Local authorities in Haiti say about 60 are dead on the Haitian side of the border in the town of Fonds-Verette. Meanwhile, a local priest in the town of Thiotte in southeastern Haiti says flooding there has killed another 30 people.

Forecasters are predicting more rain for the remainder of the week in Hispaniola, the Caribbean island shared by the two countries. The storm is the same one that hung over Costa Rica for a week.

Controversial Bolivian gas export plan causes another resignation
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LA PAZ, Bolivia — The battle over whether to nationalize Bolivia's natural gas industry continues to heat up. 

The country's energy minister, Xavier Nogales, has announced he will resign less than two months after taking the job. Nogales reportedly disagreed with some parts of a referendum scheduled for July 18 on what Bolivia should do with its natural gas reserves. 

Former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada was forced to resign in October after the issue sparked weeks of deadly protests. 

Indigenous and labor groups have opposed a plan to export the commodity through Chile to the United States. They say the plan would benefit foreign companies instead of Bolivia's poor. 

In November, the U.S. State Department said the United States is committed to helping the country export its natural gas.

México's Fox urges calm after bomb attacks at bank buildings
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — President Vicente Fox has called for calm one day after three small bombs exploded outside banks in central Morelos State.

Fox said he would assure stability in the country and that he hopes Sunday's incident was localized to Morelos, which borders Mexico City.

The three small blasts in the town of Jiutepec caused no injuries or deaths, but damaged some property. Police found and deactivated a fourth. 

A note found on the scene was signed by a group calling itself the "Comando Jaramillista Morelense Veinte-Tres (23) de Mayo." 

The note accused President Fox of not keeping his campaign promises, and called for the resignation of the Morelos State governor.

Sunday's explosions coincided with the 42nd anniversary of the death of Mexican peasant leader Ruben Jaramillo, who was murdered in the 1960s in Morelos State. Morelos also is the birthplace of Mexican revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata.

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Private literacy campaign in Brazil wins U.N. prize
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An organization in Brazil that seeks to improve the literacy of four million people in that South American country has been awarded a $15,000 literacy prize by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

The U.N. agency said the literacy prize went to the organization known as AlfaSol, which is said to use an "innovative, simple, and cost-effective model" to improve literacy in Brazil. Two other literacy prizes went to educational organizations in Mauritius and China.

The Brazilian program covers both urban and rural populations, encourages the participation of women, and reaches the poorest and most isolated people, the U.N. agency said.

The U. N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, which launched a 10-year campaign to increase literacy around the world in February 2003, said the world has about 860 million illiterates. This includes one out of every five adults over age 15. Two-thirds of those people are women. In addition, more than 113 million children do not 

attend school and are failing to learn to read and write, the agency said.

Brazil's AlfaSol won the honor because the group succeeded in "mobilizing a large number of citizens, contributing to the sense of local ownership of the program, and creating a large group of educators within the country." the agency said, adding that the AlfaSol model used in Brazil has been successfully exported to other countries.

AlfaSol is short for Alfabetizacao Solidaria, which refers to teaching people the alphabet. AlfaSol says it operates in 21 states of Brazil, in which the great majority of its previously illiterate pupils finish the program being able to read and write to a sufficient degree that they can further their education.

The $15,000 King Sejong prize to AlfaSol was provided by the government of South Korea. King Sejong, a 15th-century ruler of Korea, was a noted Confucian scholar who placed great emphasis on scholarship and education.

Lliterary prizes also went to the International Reading Association in Mauritius and to the Steering Group of Literacy Education in Qinghai, China.

President Lula in China makes a pitch for fighting poverty
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BEIJING, China — Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has called on the world to make fighting poverty a top priority.

Speaking at China's Peking University here, the Brazilian leader said the international community should not treat poverty and food shortages as issues that can be ignored. He said it is necessary to balance the international agenda, which is currently focused on security issues.

The Brazilian president also called for Brazil and China to join forces to promote what he called a "new agreement" within the United Nations to place 

the world body at the center of debate for peace and security. He did not elaborate.

The Brazilian leader met Monday in Beijing with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The two leaders agreed to boost cooperation in a number of areas, including science and commerce, while officials from both countries signed cooperation agreements in health, agriculture, sports and other fields.

The Brazilian president is expected to remain in China for the next few days with an entourage of government officials and businessmen. Brazil and China are among each other's biggest trading partners. On Sunday, Brazil's state oil company, Petrobras, opened a Beijing branch.

Cuba reopens dollar stores, but there are no blue light specials
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — The Cuban government has re-opened its dollar-denominated stores with new, higher prices on most items. 

The government re-opened the stores Monday after abruptly closing them two weeks ago following new U.S. policies aimed at tightening Washington's 43-year economic embargo against the Communist-ruled island. 

Cuba's official newspaper Granma says prices at the 

so-called "dollar stores" are about 15 percent higher. Officials also raised food and gasoline prices. 

Cuba's dollar-only stores sell staples, such as cooking oil and soap, as well as luxury goods such as household appliances that are difficult or impossible to obtain with local currency. 

Havana blames the new higher prices on new Bush administration policies, which include revised limits on the amount of dollars that can be sent from the United States to Cuba.

Jo Stuart
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