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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, June 19, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 120        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Overbuilding, speculation begin to take toll
Events up north put chill on real estate here

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The five-year real estate sales boom is winding down fast in the United States.  Costa Rica’s real estate market is slowing too.  Skyrocketing property values may be a thing of the past there and here.

Many speculators in the United States are now walking away from their deposits or trying to wiggle out of their contracts and losing substantial money in the process.  Others are stuck with their investments because they did not see the reversal coming.

As home equities soared up north, many owners borrowed heavily against their holding there to buy property in Costa Rica.  Usually this is the case in fast moving markets.  People get overconfident and borrow, margin, or otherwise overextend themselves to chase increasing values.

Buyers of property up and down the Pacific coast here found a feeding frenzy during the last few years.  Most of them were unaware that frenzies usually signal a top and that they should watch out and not dive into the coming quagmire.

Panamá and Nicaragua have added to the problem by diluting the real estate market in the region.  Land values are lower in Nicaragua and are attracting buyers who do not want to pay exorbitant prices for a parcel of land overlooking the water.  Panamá offers other benefits to expats, including different kinds of residency and tax incentives that draw new residents there.

Tourism markets follow the laws of natural growth.  They have a life cycle taking the shape of a bell curve.   The cycle begins with the intrigue of a new place. It continues through a growth phase and then reaches maturity, peaks and then declines. The Costa Rican real estate market is tied strongly to tourism.

Real estate values have increased for a variety of reasons in Costa Rica.  Here are a few:

One.  The real estate roller coaster ride of the United States and some places in Canada provided buyers with cash and/or equity to play the real estate market here.

Two.  The increase in tourism to Guanacaste because of Daniel Oduber international airport in Liberia and the Puente Tempisque Amistad Taiwan or Tempisque Friendship Taiwan Bridge jump started the growth phase of the tourism cycle in the region. 

Three.  Professional real estate investors, knowing the workings of markets, bought up land and turned it over quickly to newcomers artificially causing the feeding frenzy. They reaped incredible profits in the process.

How do the rich get richer and the middle class stay middle class?

Savvy investors are pulling out of real estate in United States and Canada for the time being, selling instead of buying.  They know from experience those second and third mortgages people used to buy property in Costa Rica will soon have an impact on the market here.  The rich get richer by waiting for those who over-extend themselves to sell, and then they gobble up the deals.

The seller's market is probably over here.  A buyer's market may replace it sooner than most people expect.

Too many factors point in this direction. 

Many people took huge hits in the stock market lately.  Interest rates are rising.  Many people used adjustable-rate mortgages to refinance or borrow. Fears of inflation are in every financial analyst’s nightmares.  The dollar is weakening, and there is talk that the euro will replace it for pricing oil in world markets ending its dominance.

Many tourists coming to Costa Rica last year said they would not come back because of the horrible roads, escalating prices of everything, not just real estate, and fear for their security.  Crime is on the rise 

Evidence for slowdown
is via word-of-mouth

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Real estate brokers on the front line of property sales are the first to feel the pinch of a down-turning market.

Several candid reports from the Pacific suggest that property sales have slowed down. One broker in a formerly hot section of the Nicoya Peninsula says he has not made a deal yet this year.

Another admits there were more condos than buyers during the recent high season.

A homeowner complains that she will have to make a giant cut in her asking price for a Costa Rica property because mortgage payments in the United States are killing her.

Another broker points to the investors who have purchased at the same time five to 10 condos for resale in anticipation that prices would soar. The condos remain empty.

Several persons involved with investment real estate said that the government shares some of the blame for the soft market. Expats and would-be expats are concerned by the proposed tax plans, particularly the idea of taxing income no matter from what country it originates.

Although officials have said some mechanism would be set up to avoid double taxation, they have not been specific. One tax plan has died and another is in the works but still is secret.

throughout the country.  This fact signals the turn over the top of the bell curve in most tourism cycles and the new direction is downward, directly affecting the real estate market.

The question is, will Costa Rica find a soft landing or crash and burn with a thunderous decline in real estate values.

The good news is property values as a whole over time have a positive trend. Today there are over 6 billion persons on earth, a number which could rise to 9 billion by 2050.   Population grows geometrically, rather than linearly which is why the numbers can increase so quickly.  The Costa Rican population is expected to grow 33 percent in the next 24 years.

As populations rise, finding one's place on earth becomes harder and harder.  Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panamá are attracting baby boomers finding property now for retirement to escape the hustle and bustle of the world.

These are arguments supporting a soft landing.  However, all markets that over grow usually overcorrect before returning to some normality.

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.  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, June 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 120

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

Click HERE for great hotel discounts

Our readers’ opinion
Just another love note
to our friends at ICE

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

ICE-communications experts of Costa Rica. GSM telephone connection for fast Internet. Free connection for almost three years – get what you pay for!

Again, as so many times in the past three years, I attempt to log on to my internet provider “ICE” and again I get “Registering your computer on the network,” but guess what? Nothing happens.  The current problem has been running for almost two months now.  You might be lucky to log on for 30 minutes here and there but in general, including all weekend long, NOTHING!  The problems seem to run in several week cycles, but this one is lasting longer than most.

Call the tecnicos at ICE and the first thing they like to tell you that its your phone. “What is your phone number?” “Are you sure its programmed right?” “Try turning  your phone off and on a few times.” “Try turning your computer off and on a few times.”  Well, let me tell you that my off – on buttons are about wore out and guess what,  NOTHING!

ICE hasn’t charged for the internet GSM connection for almost three years.  Do you know why?  They can’t charge you without providing a service.  They can’t charge you for the hundreds of hours you sit and try to hook up.  They can’t charge you for the numerous lost documents/Web pages that disappear about 30 minutes after hookup when your computer mysteriously disconnects. The old saying holds true, you get what you pay for!

Oh, and we also have one of those non-hard line hard lines.  You know, (if you live remote) the antenna that aims at the big cell tower (in the sky) on the hill.  Well, that is supposed to act like a land line, but guess what? NOTHING.  Calling ICE at least eight times over the last six weeks hasn’t done a thing.  I call and say this is the eighth time I called, and they act  like it was my first call. Duh, what happened to service?

ICE, no wonder you are afraid of CAFTA and some competition.  Anyone and everyone could give you competition. My dogs can get to the tower faster than your signal.

I can’t wait till they start trying to charge for the Internet connection, if they haven’t gotten it right in three years, why should #4 be any different. I have lived very many years in Costa Rica and understand most of the problems, but its time for all of the GSM users to make a complaint and get the system right. I know you are all having the same problem, at least if you live in the southern zone. CALL ICE NOW AND CALL EVERYDAY!

End of frustration for today, Thanks, just another day in paridise.

Bob Klenz
Dominical, Costa Rica

Soccer world not fair;
It's luck of the draw

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding Costa Rica’s World Cup soccer losses, as a U.S. fan, I can certainly sympathize with the Tico’s plight. Our team lost badly to a pumped-up Czech Republic squad and now faces major European power Italy.

Meanwhile, our biggest rival Mexico breezed to a nice victory over Iran and now faces lightly regarded Angola. All I can say is that the world is not a fair place
and a lot depends on the luck of the draw. So, from a big country to a smaller one, have another Imperial or whatever, and I will crack open an ice-cold Budweiser while watching the rest of the tournament with somewhat less interest than before.

Thanks and good luck in the future. Your on-line paper always makes interesting morning reading.

David N. Cook
Deardorff-Jackson Co
Oxnard, Calif.
Veneer of friendship
said to be a technique

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I’m convinced that of the many ways foreigners can be ripped off in Costa Rica — real estate fraud, doctoring documents at the national register — which Garland Baker and others have ably written about in A.M. Costa Rica, many are enabled by the disarming, false veneer of friendship Ticos often display to foreigners.
Tico friends have admitted that beneath the smiling, amiable front, most Ticos have a basic, fundamental dislike of foreigners.   Of course, not all fraud against foreigners is by Ticos, but they are, by far, the predominant players here.
I believe the front of disarming and seemingly genuine friendliness causes foreigners to be more trusting and lower their guards, making them an easier target for the kinds of abuse and fraud we all too often read about.
L.    Robbins
Atlanta, Ga.

Server down in afternoon

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The A.M. Costa Rica Web site was down about five hours Sunday afternoon because of problems at the server installation in New Jersey.

There was no word on the reason for the failure, but a number of servers and telephone service was down and speculation points to a local power failure.

The A.M. Costa Rica Web site will soon make the move to more secure server facilities in Los Angles where faster computers also have a backup power supply. The move should not be visible to readers, but the newspaper's Internet provider, Blue Who.com, promises faster access time to pages and more protection against failures. 
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, June 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 120

Some animal expressions that really relate to people
Una cosa es lo que me decís, pero otra es lo que me querés decir

This is not really a dicho, but it should be: "One thing is what you tell me, but what you want to say to me is something else."
The following is a list of Costa Rican vulgar Spanish expressions followed by their standard Spanish equivalents:

Vulgar Spanish
Standard Spanish
Es la cabra de alguien
Es la novia o amante de alguien
Está cabriado          
Está enojado
Parece un camaleon 
Cambia de parecer muy a menudo
Anda como un chancho   
Está muy sucio
Es una gallina 
Es muy cobarde
Se cree muy gallito     
Se cree muy valiente
Es como una garrapata 
Es muy apegado hasta que empalaga
Es un gato    
Es muy habil
Es muy mono   
Es muy simpatico
Es una mosca muerta     
Aparenta ser callado pero de repente saca las uñas

Es la cabra de alguien literally means "she is someone's goat," but the standard Spanish translation reveals something quite different. The real intent of es la cabra de alguien therefore is "she is someone's girlfriend
or lover." Cabra is often used in a pejorative sense to refer to an unpleasant woman, while a cabron  could be a sort of nasty person. A little child is a cabrito, for boys, or a cabrita, for girls. But in the case of children the meaning carries no pejorative intent, rather it is a term of endearment. In any case, the word cabra or the expression es la cabra de alguien should be used judiciously. For example, you might ask ¿es la cabra
(meaning "is that your girlfriend?") of your best friend, but with a stranger you just met at a cocktail party it's probably not the wisest locution to employ.

Está cabriado, as the standard Spanish indicates, means he or she is upset or mad. If you've ever been around an angry goat, this expression will make perfect sense.
Parece un camaleon. "He/she resembles a chameleon." The expression refers to a person who is constantly changing his opinion, in other words someone who
has no convictions. We often apply this saying to politicians, for example.
Anda como un chancho. Of course, a chancho is a pig. Literally translated this expressions says "he ambles about like a pig," which is as much as to say he's a slob, or he is very dirty. But it can also refer to one who does dirty tricks, like cheating on his wife, for example, or is dishonest in his business dealings.
Es una gallina. This little saying means he/she is a chicken, and its implication is exactly the same as its English counterpart, which is that the person being referred to is something of a coward.
Se cree muy gallito is another example of a little gender bashing. As we've already seen, a gallina is a person who is afraid of everything. But a gallito, or little rooster, is someone who is not afraid of anything. But, se cree muy gallito means "he thinks he's a little 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

rooster." This phrase might very well be followed with pero solo es una gallina.
Es como una garrapata. "He/she is like a tick," If you've done much hiking about in the woods of the U.S. East or Midwest, then you've probably encountered garrapatas at one time or another. They are nasty little blood-sucking insects that attach themselves to both animals and humans and are extremely difficult to dislodge. Well, as you may also know, there are people who are like that too. They always seem to be hanging around, eating your food, drinking your guaro, asking for favors, and generally making a nuisance of themselves by taking advantage of your hospitality. It's nearly impossible to get rid of these types. In short, they stick to you like a tick to old Rover's backside.
Es un gato. "He/she is a cat." That is to say "cunning" like a cat. They go around very quietly, so you never know they're around. These are the ones who always seem to be "up to something." As in English, we also refer to burglars as gatos because they are always soundlessly prowling around doing their dirty work right under everyone's nose.
Es un mono. Though literally it means "he's a monkey," this is an expression that we use for someone whom we like, someone who is usually quite pleasant to be around, a very dear person. But this type can also be, at times, rather ingratiating and overly fawning. So I guess one might also say "monkey is as monkey does." Or whatever.

Es una mosca muerta. "He/she's a dead fly." How many times have you been chasing after a pesky fly with your flyswatter and think you've got it only to have him take off again to continue zooming and buzzing annoyingly about the room? Well, there are people who are like that mosca muerta.

You think they've finally been rendered moribund and harmless, but as soon as you are no longer paying attention they instigate a slew of bothersome shenanigans apparently designed to drive you to utter distraction! We also employ this expression to refer to a person who presents himself in one way, but is really someone quite different beneath the surface. Like someone who always seems so modest and unassuming, but turns out to be an impish scalawag when you get to know him.

The standard Spanish version of this expression, which is, in fact, an authentic dicho in its own right, is really rather clever I think. It is translated thus: "He/she appears to be quite reserved, then suddenly the claws come out."

Libertarios trying to open up the awarding of liquor licenses in nation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa will be getting a proposed rewrite of the country's liquor law that seeks to end the secondary market in licenses and create more permits for restaurants and tourist locations.

The set of proposals is being promoted by Evita Arguedas Maklouf, leader of the Movimiento LIbertario in the assembly. She said that she hopes a new law will end the corruption that is caused by excessively complex procedures.

The current liquor law dates from 1936 and is antiquated, she said.

The proposed laws would call for a 10,000-colon payment to obtain a liquor license. That's about $20.
In San José where no new liquor licenses have been granted since 1987, such permits are rented to new establishments by private parties for as much as 70 million colons a year, some $134,000, according to Ms. Arguedas. The original owners, in turn, pay very little each year to the municipalities.

Ms. Arguedas referred to the secondary market as a black market, but the activity of renting liquor licenses is legal. She correctly noted that there are some persons in the country who own licenses, rent them and live well on the proceeds.

At the same time, the municipalities frequently only get a few thousand colons a year in license renewals.

However, sale tax is collected on the liquor transactions.

Young sex abuse victims will get a chance to testify without going to trial
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judicial branch will experiment with recording the testimony of young victims of sexual abuse.

The goal is to avoid the trama associated with testimony at trial, the Poder Judicial said.

The equipment being used for the recording was donated by the British government at the request of
Georgina Butler, the British ambassador here until recently.

The recording will be done in a judicial building in the presence of all parties to the case, including the defense.

The recordings will later be incorporated into a trial as if it were testimony given at the trial itself, thus avoiding the need for the minor to appear.

Stolen at gunpoint in
Desamparados Saturday afternoon
1991 Nissan four-door sedan
Plate No. 571158
Color blue

Last seen traveling Sunday from Guadalupe to Hatillo
If seen, call 911. Do not approach.

¢100,000-colon reward for information
leading to recovery.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 19, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 120

'Net neutrality' is new buzz word that means money
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A heated debate is shaping up in Washington about a concept some activists are calling Internet network neutrality, known more popularly as net neutrality.  At issue are calls for the U.S. government to regulate the Internet, and, in effect, opponents say, determine which companies get bigger shares of the profits.

Net neutrality refers to the idea that network operators must treat all Internet content equally.  In its specifics, though, the debate is also an argument over money.

Companies that provide Internet content, like Yahoo or Google, want the U.S. government to prohibit high-speed Internet broadband providers, like Verizon or Comcast, from charging more to guarantee service quality and access to all Web sites.

Proponents of net neutrality legal protections include Google's Vinton Cerf, a computer engineer, who helped create the World Wide Web decades ago.

"I am deeply, deeply troubled by the current situation, in which we may lose the openness of the Internet," said Cerf.

In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Cerf accused broadband providers of taking advantage of their market power to try to control public access to Web sites.

"They intend to charge providers of Internet service doubly, that is to say, they charge consumers for access to the broadband network, and they advertise it as broadband access, and then turn around and say, 'well you won't really have access to all of the 400 million servers on the Internet, unless some of those servers have paid us to carry their traffic over your broadband access," he explained.

Opponents of that argument accuse groups in the pro-net neutrality camp of trying to protect their profits.

David Cohen, of Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. provider of cable, entertainment and communications products and services, testified that computer software company Microsoft sounded alarm bells in 2002 over perceived threats to net neutrality, but that the threats never materialized.  Instead, he says, during that time, Web content providers made huge sums of money.
"From the time of the first net neutrality scare, Microsoft's annual revenues have grown by over $10 billion per year.  Meanwhile, the market cap of Google has soared from nothing, to approximately $117 billion.  Everyone should have these kinds of problems," said Cohen.

Cohen said he feels legislation mandating net neutrality, as proposed by some lawmakers, is not necessary, because his company has no plans to take any actions that would threaten it.  He added that he believes these regulations would also discourage his company from investing to develop new technology.

"Our position is, there is no way to predict what our business model and what the potential innovations on the Internet will be a year from now, three years from now, five years from now," he said.  "And that the risks of regulating the Internet to protect against a hypothetical harm, of drying up investment and of drying up innovation, are too great a price to pay.  Let's allow this market to evolve."

This position was echoed by a Senate Judiciary Committee member, Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, who said, at this point, net neutrality regulation would only be addressing hypothetical problems.

"I think, this is a legislation in search of a problem," said Brownback.  "Things have been phenomenally successful, in terms of expanding of opportunity on the Internet.  And it continues to happen and I would hope we wouldn't go in with a regulatory arm on this."

Sen. Olympia Snowe, who co-sponsored one net-neutrality bill, says its purpose is to preempt problems. She is a Repubican from Maine.

"Once problems develop, then ultimately it's going to be very hard to put the genie back in the bottle," she said.  "And that's the issue here.  We're trying to preserve the status quo, the Internet as consumers know it today, where 73 percent of adults utilize the Internet."

The U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month passed telecommunications legislation that did not include the provisions net neutrality advocates had called for.  The issue has now moved over to the Senate, which is scheduled to begin considering and voting on any amendments to a broader communications reform bill this week.

Communism to continue with or without Fidel, his brother, Raúl, says
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — Cuban Defense Minister Raúl Castro says the country's Communist Party will remain the source of political power with or without his brother, President Fidel Castro.

Raul Castro, the designated successor of the 79-year-old Cuban leader, made his remarks Thursday at an event to mark a military anniversary.

The younger Castro also described the Community Party as the guarantor of unity for all time.

Fidel Castro has criticized the Bush administration for creating a transition plan for a post-Castro Cuba. Last year, President Bush appointed a veteran congressional staff official, Caleb McCarry, to the post of transition coordinator for Cuba. McCarry is to coordinate U.S. policy efforts aimed at a peaceful
end to Communist rule in Cuba.

In a related development, Cuban parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon has denied reports that President Castro suffers from a disease such as Parkinson's. He told a convention of Hispanic journalists via satellite from Havana Wednesday that Castro is very strong and healthy.

Separately, Alarcon described as fairly exaggerated reports that his country had imprisoned more than two dozen journalists for speaking out against the Cuban government. Alarcon said those being held were working for the United States.

Alarcon made his remarks during a tense interview with Columbia University journalism professor and New York Times contributor Mirta Ojito. She left Cuba in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift that brought thousands of Cubans to the United States.

Press group says Venezuela's Chávez demonstrating his hostility to television stations
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

MIAMI, Florida — The Inter American Press Association Friday described as evidence of hostility towards the independent media remarks by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in which he ordered a review of broadcast licenses issued to privately owned television stations and warned that some might be cancelled.

“Such threats, which the media have become accustomed to, only raise concern and feed a climate of antagonism, especially during the run-up to elections when the press should be focusing on its important role as watchdog and analyst in order to offer the public a range of viewpoints,” declared Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the press association's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

“This provocation and intimidation of divergent viewpoints defies the commitment of democratic governments should have to what is enshrined in
Principle 7 of the Declaration of Chapultepec, which states that ‘…the assigning of radio and television frequencies and the granting or withdrawal of government advertising may not be used to reward or punish the media or individual journalists,’” added Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre.

He was referring to a tirade by Chávez against privately owned television stations, whose licenses are due to expire in 2007, charging that they broadcast content designed to divide the country. Presidential elections, in which Chávez will seek re-election, are scheduled for Dec. 3.

The Inter American Press Association will send an international delegation to Venezuela shortly to investigate violations of press freedom there, despite the fact that the Venezuelan Presidency has so far not confirmed that Chávez will meet with the delegation.

A.M. Costa Rica is a member of the Inter American Press Association.

Jo Stuart
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