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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, May 29, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 105        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Migración uncovers scams linked to residency
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not every self-designated residency expert does what he or she is paid to do, and immigration officials have filed complaints with the national prosecutor's office in cases where expats have been swindled.

The latest case — and the first complaint filed by the new administration — involves Brazilians who appear to have been the victims of a scam. Immigration officials found that these residents were carrying false residency cédulas and had false residency permissions stamped in their passports.

A summary from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública characterized the Brazilians as victims of a scam.

A U.S. expat two months ago was jailed briefly when inspectors from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería found that the documents he carried were forgeries. The U.S. expat said he had paid a man he thought was a lawyer to obtain residency for him several years ago.

The man was seeking a decision by the Sala IV constitutional court so he could stay in the country. Others were believed to be in the same boat.

Johnny Marín, the former immigration director, and Roxana Quesada, the former subdirector, filed 85 complaints with the Ministerio Pública, and the majority of these
cases involved irregularities in applications for residency visas, said the ministry of which Migración is a part.

Mario Zamora, the new immigration director, said that he expected he will strengthen the existing controls and have better coordination with Costa Rican consuls overseas so the number of these types of cases can be reduced.

Officials involved with immigration said that their first step was to attack corruption within the agency. This suggests that the fake documents and the fake residency stamps in passports are part of an inside deal.

An open secret in Costa Rica is that certain individuals use immigration stamps to illegally renew tourist visas. Such services are used mainly by people who are working here illegally in the first place and choose not to travel outside the country for 72 hours to renew the tourism permission.

Some of these immigration stamps are forgeries, and others have been taken or stolen from the immigration agency.  But still others are in the hands of immigration employees who conduct a side business of renewing visas.

Two immigration workers have been detained on the allegation that they were making adjustments in the agency's data base to reflect the fake stamps that were being placed in the passports of expats. These individuals are believed to be talking to prosecutors.

Crop circles in Europe will be on display at two malls here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 60 photos of crop circles will be on display at Mall San Pedro from Thursday through June 8 and at the Outlet Mall, San Pedro, from June 9 until June 16.

Crop circles have been in the news since the 1960s, and some have attributed their formation to space aliens. Many of the circles
show up in fields of grain in England.

Some men have confessed to creating the circles at night with various wooden devices, but they are not universally believed.

Some have very sophisticated designs. The photos in this exhibition come from 2005 and include maps and other explanatory materials from sites all over Europe.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 29, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 105

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

Daily newspaper warns
of collapse of social order

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The authoritative daily newspaper La Nación said Sunday that corruption and bad public management was undermining the country and making vulnerable the rights and basic interests of the inhabitants.

The impetus for the strongly worded editorial was the special benefits that public employees have been getting at the expense of the taxpayer. Speaking mainly of the public monopolies, the newspaper editorial said that the response to its years of criticisms has been insults.

Without mentioning names, the newspaper also said that the corruption and bad management had been adopted at the highest levels.

The newspaper called upon President Óscar Arias Sánchez to follow up on his promises at his inaugural speech or the political, economic and social orders will collapse, it predicted.

The editorial was alarmingly blunt even for the daily newspaper that generally speaks plainly.

The editorial did not mention Miguel Ángel Rodríguez by name but the former president had been Page One news for two days running. La Nación linked alleged overpayments by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros to a bank account controlled by Rodríguez in Panamá. The national insurance monopoly appears to have paid vast sums to overseas firms for re-insurance, the hedging of the insurance bet against excessive payouts. Among the agencies so insured was the Institute Costarricense de Electricidad, the power and telecommunications monopoly.

La Nación published copies of checks that showed payments to the account by two re-insurance firms and payments from the accounts to Rodríguez and his wife, Lorena Clare Facio. In all, the newspaper said that Rodríguez collected nearly $200,000 from re-insurance firms while he was president. His term ended in 2002.

Rodríguez already is being investigated in a kickback probe involving Alcatel, the French telecommunications firm.

Universidad VERITAS
gets new auditorium

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Universidad VERITAS inaugurates a new, $1.5 million auditorium today at its Zapote facility.

The university specializes in design and animation, so the structure has a special significance. The auditorium can hold 260 persons and it is part of a new building of workshops.

Ex-astronaut will speak
on energy solutions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Brian O'Leary, a U.S. astronaut in 1967, will talk about the suppression and cover up of global warming and new energy solutions June 6, according to organizers of the monthly Speaker's forum in Escazú.

O'Leary, who holds a doctorate, has written a number of books on science, space, energy and culture.

The talk will begin at 7 p.m. in Bello Horizonte, and there is a 1,000-colon entry fee, about $2. Directions are available at 289-6333, 821-4708 or 289-6087.

Development bank plans
to promote Latin lands

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter-American Development Bank has announced a new plan to promote economic opportunities for low-income people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The development bank said the Building Opportunity for the Majority Initiative is aimed at the low-income majority of the region, where it said some 360 million people, or 70 percent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean, have incomes below $300 a month.

The development bank said the initiative establishes benchmarks and targets to measure performance over the next five years.  The agency will use the plan as a guide for focusing on a few priority areas, such as expanding the access of low-income people to formal financial services by building on the experience of microfinance.  The plan also will guide financing for projects in such areas as expanding access to affordable housing and modern communication technologies.  The plan is to be launched at a conference this month in Washington.

The region's low-income population lacks access to running water, reliable electricity, good roads and safe transportation, while their homes tend to be built precariously on land "they probably can't prove they own," said the development bank.

In addition, the businesses of low-income people are hobbled by a scarcity of credit and excessive bureaucratic requirements, the development bank said.  Even though the Latin American per capita gross domestic product has grown 95 percent since 1960, poverty and inequality levels barely have budged, it added.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 29, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 105


Tony Mora Picado speaks to Cahuita property owners regarding the most recent efforts toward gaining title for their land.

A.M. Costa Rica/Annette Carter

Cahuita residents facing a Nov. 11 deadline for titles
By Annette Carter
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Working to beat the clock, community leaders in Cahuita, a small village on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, held a public meeting last week to encourage property owners to begin the process which will eventually earn them the right to title land that has been in some families here for nearly 100 years.

The issue relates to property given in 1915 by then-president Alfredo González Flores to the black people living in the south Caribbean zone of Costa Rica.  As the story goes, the then-president was appalled when a boat in which he was traveling was forced ashore near what is now Cahuita and he saw the Caribbean people living in shacks on the beach.  Later, he sent an engineer from San José to draw lots and open the land between Tuba Creek and Cahuita Point for settlement.

Although many Cahuita families have lived on, farmed and made their living from these same properties for nearly 100 years, the land was never titled in the Registro Nacional. In 1977, with the enactment of the Maritime Zone Law and no legal titles, it appeared the original Cahuita families and others owning land within the zone might lose their property altogether.  The law declares all land countrywide within 50 meters of high tide to be for public use and all land 150 meters further inland to be government property which can be leased as a concession from the government.

In November a law was passed in the Asamblea Legislativa giving Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca official “city status”—a legal way to avoid the maritime zone restrictions since cities are exempt from the law.  But later two legislators appealed the ruling on constitutional grounds.  A date for hearing the appeal has not been set.  Even if the appeal does not prevail there is still a pile of paperwork required by each landowner to apply for title and a looming deadline of Nov. 11 — one year after the “city status” law passed the assembly.

At the meeting, Tony Mora Picado, president of the local committee formed to shepherd residents through the land titling process told about 30  landowners that the deadline still stands regardless of the status of the appeal.

“It is very important for each property owner to follow this process,” Mora told the group. “If you don’t apply for title before Nov. 11 this year you won’t have an opportunity in the future.”  In addition, Mora said the committee has recommended to the Municipal Board in Bri Bri that official city limits be established from Tuba Creek on the north to Kelly
Creek (or the entrance to Cahuita National Park) on the south and from the beach to the highway. A small section on the west side of the highway in the community of Leyland, just north of Cahuita will
also be included.

Mora said the committee has made arrangements with San José lawyer Annemarie Guevara Guth to represent each landowner at a group rate of $350 which will cover professional fees, travel, legal stamps, and publication in the legal newspaper.  Representation by Ms. Guevara is not required, but Mora said the committee interviewed five lawyers, each of whom were charging in the thousands of dollars.  In addition, the committee has garnered a group rate of 50,000 colons for the land survey required as part of the process.

In a telephone interview Ms. Guevara said she is asking people to gather together the required documents including the names of three witnesses who can testify to the lineage of the property for the past 40 years and most importantly, a recent survey, although just prior to publication she said the judges in Limón have agreed to take older surveys or drawings in order to begin the process.  Once all the documents are in order, she will travel to Cahuita to meet individually or in small groups with her clients.

“Everything (about this process) is new to us,” she said.  “We are putting together the pieces of the puzzle.”

Ms. Guevara said the time she anticipates for landowners to finally have title to their land will depend upon the time it takes to gather and file the paperwork and the status of the appeal in constitutional court.  “Maybe one year and hopefully less,” she said. 

Ms. Guevara said she took the case because she has been passionate about the Caribbean and its people for more than 10 years.

“Since the first time I went to the Caribbean, I was in love with it,” she said. “This is a difficult case that needs a lot of energy and work, but it is nice to be involved in a project with people that believe strongly in their rights and that are a very consolidated group.”  She said she has agreed to work free for the Cahuita school and other public institutions in the community.

Mora said this process is required for all people owning property in Cahuita that is within 200 meters of high tide, and that includes foreigners living outside the country.  Foreigners are advised to call Ms. Guevara at her San José office (506) 223-2040 or consult a Costa Rican attorney of their choice.

Residents fear that they will do all the work and lose the court case
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

“We always knew that having property this close to the beach was controversial,” said Jenny Dwyer a Canadian citizen, Costa Rican resident and Cahuita business owner who has lived in Costa Rica for 30 years.  “I just knew I’d never have title.”  Jenny’s business, Cabinas Jenny, is as close to the seashore in Cahuita center as you can get without swimming.

When Ms. Dwyer first came to Cahuita in the 1970s, it was a sleepy little village with only four businesses in town.  She started her business in one rundown building with virtually no capital but the support of many Cahuita residents. 

From the mid-80s to mid-90s more cabinas, restaurants and other businesses began to spring up — most operated by original Cahuita families, she said.

Ms. Dwyer said many people in Cahuita are frustrated because they formed a cohesive group to go to San José in support of the passage of the law granting Cahuita city status.  Then, when the law was passed they thought things would just happen — they would complete the paperwork, submit it and get their title. 

Now that there’s a court appeal, it’s possible that the paperwork will be done and then it will all be for nothing, she said. This is very frustrating to the people here, she added.

In spite of the frustration, Ms. Dwyer said Cahuita people know what they want and their experience as a group to get Cahuita legally declared a city showed them the beauty of working together. 

A.M. Costa Rica/Annette Carter
Jenny Dwyer and her daughter Sasha Johnson Dwyer in front of Cabinas Jenny in Cahuita and a stone's throw to the Caribbean.

“What Cahuita wants is for Cahuita to be Cahuita and  not become developed like some towns on the Pacific side — to be able to build and to get loans,” she said.  “Cahuita has worked together as a group to get its rights, and we continue to work together,” she said. 

“We got the law passed to become a city, and now we seem to be getting the real spirit.”

—Annette Carter

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Ticos also know that no good deed goes unpunished
El que se mete a Redentor muere crucificado

“He who puts himself in the position of being the Redeemer gets crucified.”  This dicho has much in common with last week’s, el que le sirve al Diablo con llevárselo le paga. They both have to do with situations where the good turns that one does for someone else go unappreciated.

In Costa Rica, when someone likes you they often want to do favors in order to please you. But North Americans, because of upbringing and cultural differences from Latin Americans, are often suspicious of this behavior. North Americans are brought up to be independent and self-sufficient, and sometimes forget about the old English adage “one good turn deserves another.”  Such cultural misunderstandings are innocent and can be easily rectified. Other similar situations, however, are a different matter:

When I was a boy a family of seven lived near to us.
Because they were poor, they used a wood-burning cook stove to prepare their meals. The stove made a lot of smoke. Once I complained to my mother about the fumes being an annoying nuisance. I felt that those people were polluting the neighborhood and should be forced to buy a gas or electric range to cook on. My mother, however, became very upset and told me that poor folks often cooked with wood in order to save money to buy food, in other words, so that they would have something to cook in the first place.

I felt very ashamed of myself.  But one day, while I was waiting for the school bus, a boy my age from this family came and stood near me. I decided this was a good opportunity to get to know him a little better. As it was raining, I offered to share my umbrella with him.

He asked me if my father’s name was Don Luis, to which I answered yes, but wanted to know why he was asking.

He told me that his father referred to mine as a very kind and generous man. It seemed that my dad had quietly helped the family out through some very difficult times when they did not have enough to eat. This was all news to me, because as far as I knew my father had never even mentioned the boy’s family let alone his providing them with financial assistance.

In any case, time passed. I went off to college and lost touch with the young fellow. When our paths next crossed he was a grown man. We chatted a bit and he told me that the family had moved to a fancy

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

address near where my grandmother lived in Barrio Amón. I asked him what he was doing and he told me he had recently received his law degree and was now running a lucrative import/export business with his father. Soon he also planned to marry. 

I congratulated him on everything, and that was that. When I got home I told my father about our meeting and he said that yes he was pleased that the family had finally made good. But it seemed they had got into the same line of business as my father and now, through some very predatory marketing strategies, appeared totally determined to run my dad completely out of business!

I was astonished at this news and asked my father if they knew who he was and he said yes, of course they did.

“But business is business,” he said. “And I am determined to survive.”

“But does that mean you will have to compete in a hostile business environment to win back your customers.”

“You bet,” he said. “I can’t let them ruin my business. It’s our family’s livelihood. What would happen to us if I failed? Personally, I think there is trade enough for both companies to survive, but at the moment they’re not interested in sharing the market.”

I’m happy to say that both companies did ultimately survive. Now I see those former neighbors of ours occasionally in San José. But, though it may seem rather small of me, I can never bring myself to speak to them. Their attempted crucifixion of my dad all these many years ago still occupies a very bitter corner in my heart.

Uribe, a U.S. ally, wins re-election in Colombian vote
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — President Alvaro Uribe has been re-elected by a landslide in Sunday's national election.

With 96 percent of the votes counted,  Uribe had 62 percent, surpassing the 50 percent he needed to win in the initial round of voting.

His closest challenger, Leftist Sen. Carlos Gaviria had
22 percent. Gavira conceeded defeat, telling
supporters it was time to recognize the victory of President Uribe. Sunday's voting was peaceful, with no reported rebel attacks on voters. Some 200,000 security personnel were deployed for the election.

Uribe gained popularity with voters by improving the economy and taking a hard-line stance against the country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

President Uribe took office in 2002 and has become Washington's closest ally in the region.

Horror story begins to unfold about pregnant woman and her relatives
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The case seems like something out of a dark television horror movie: A woman nine months pregnant is murdered and someone cuts the baby from her womb.

The woman, Cinthya Berríos, 22, was found dead April 13. She was hidden partially in the river bank. She vanished three weeks earlier when she left home
with her 3 year old for a routine visit to a clinic. Her daughter was found wandering the streets later that day.
Investigators last week detained the aunt and four cousins of the victim's husband for investigation. They live in Heredia. Agents think that the newborn might still be alive. However, information is hard to get from investigators because they still are gathering evidence. 

Jo Stuart
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