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(506) 223-1327             Published Tuesday, June 19, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 120                E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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crocodile two
Photo by Steve Heinl
This guy is going below where he can read more of his biography

Some resources for those who would be expats here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Each week as many as a dozen persons contact this newspaper — mostly from the United States — seeking help in relocating here.

They range from the well-heeled retiree to the youngster seeking the first taste of overseas life.

The newspaper advice: it is not easy to live or work here. This is not South Florida. But living here usually is worth it.

For more than three years, the newspaper has been publishing articles that seek to provide the information for property buyers, to alert readers of current scams and advise expats here of legal necessities.

From the inception of the newspaper Aug. 15, 2002, editors and owners have been aware of property scams. Such crimes still exist, but ways expats can protect themselves has been widely published.

One good idea is the use of mortgage certificates, published first Nov. 15, 2005 as "A sure fire way to protect your property." The article by Garland Baker pointed out that a common practice among savvy Ticos when investing in real estate is to self-mortgage a purchased property.  But this is illegal. Instead he recommended mortgage certificates that can be used like currency to secure loans. But the certificates also can be used to get back property if a crook steals it.

Articles also have addressed fishy practices in real estate sales, such as double escrows or double closings, and inflated prices. Typically some hate mail arrives after such an article, mostly from real estate brokers. Editors and reporters try to make it clear that they love real estate deals but they want to give the new arrivals an even and fair break.

Reporters also have written about real estate brokers who are not legal residents and who have no right to work in Costa Rica. There probably is a reason they have not sought residency. One residency requirement is a police records check from the home country.

The Registro Nacional is a frequent journalistic target. Arnoldo Cob Mora recently reported that the Registro, which is where all the legal papers are stored, will seek to farm out its work to private companies.
For those who seek to go into business reporters have written about unique taxes here and pitfalls in buying and selling a business. There are special rules and requirements. And, yes, Costa Rica collects taxes.

Once in charge of the business, articles have cautioned expats not to be too nice to their employees. Generous favors can backfire as legal rights.

Many business owners have found out here in Costa Rica that if they give an inch their employees will take a mile. They must act fast to pull in the reins particularly after a landmark court decision, the newspaper has cautioned.

For finding that choice piece of dream property, articles also have outlined the use of the Google satellite shots that cover the country.

When the bureaucracy gets too tough or too deep, there also is advice for forcing officials to deal with your problem via a special citizen rights law that is supposed to cut red tape.

Finally, the newspaper has counseled expats on how to handle their last purchase. One article provided information on burial or cremation.

Many who contact the newspaper are concerned about crime. Crimes against tourists are epidemic, mostly because a lot of cocaine and heroin is dumped into the marketplace here creating addicts who steal. Editors and reporters try to publish articles that help expats avoid crime and avoid the common traps, like a punctured tire. Also published are reports of crimes so expats and visitors can see trends and be warned.

Unfortunately the central government still equates crime fighting with holding meetings. But the numbers of policemen has increased significantly, and a tourism police has been created. And they know reporters are watching what they do.

The newspaper's basic advice to any foreigner who seeks it is to come and visit and sample the many climates and living experiences in Costa Rica.

Also fielding requests for information is columnist Jo Stuart, who is at work preparing her weekly report on assisted-living residences in Costa Rica.

And columnist Daniel Soto Mayorga provides a weekly report on Costa Rican sayings or dichos.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 120

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Our reader's opinions
Gay adoption prohibition
flies in face of research

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
What a discouraging story it is that there are lawmakers who chose to focus on codifying irrational discrimination against an entire class of people, when there are so many pressing issues facing Costa Rica.

A number of professional medical organizations in the U.S. — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association — have issued statements claiming that a parent's sexual orientation is irrelevant to his or her ability to raise a child.

For the most part, the organizations are relying on a now conclusive body of research — over 60 separate studies — looking at children of gay parents and compiled by the American Psychological Association.  In study after study, children in same-sex parent families turned out the same, for better or for worse, as children in heterosexual families.

Moreover, a 2001 meta-analysis of those studies found that the sexual orientation of a parent is irrelevant to the development of a child's mental health and social development and to the quality of a parent-child relationship.

The notoriously anti-gay "Focus on the Family" group, in supporting a ban on adoptions by gay and lesbians, is advocating a position of bigotry.   Their conclusions are based soley on their religious views, not only without evidence to support their claims, but in opposition to established research, to the detriment of children in need of adoption. 

Shame on them, and shame on the Costa Rican lawmakers who support such a mean-spirited legal prohibition.   I hope that there are enough legislators who will be objective in evaluating the evidence in support of allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children.

Glen Love
Haverford, Pennsylvania
and Dominical, Costa Rica

Arias adopts Machiavellianism
in his decision on China

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

When I first heard the news Costa Rica had broken relations with Taiwan and begun relations with China, the first thing I thought of was that Presidente Óscar Arias was using Machiavellianism. So, I looked up the definition. I found two definitions (a) never tell anyone the real reason you did something unless it is useful to do so. (b) The political doctrine of Machiavelli, which denies the relevance of morality in political affairs and holds that craft and deceit are justified. 

China represents 15 percent of world economy. The USA represents 20 percent. (I have no figures on Taiwan). I have serious doubts Costa Rica will accept the trade agreement with the USA. Not that I don’t think the majority of the Costa Rica would vote for the referendum, but rather the Sala IV will find parts of the agreement  unconstitutional.  

There are several salas, and frankly not sure what is each one’s responsibility, but I believe the Sala IV is similar to the USA Supreme Court and its decisions are final and unpredictable.

For example recently, a legal decision was made that the head of immigration had no right to deny a visa to a person who had married a Costa Rican, even if he suspected the marriages were arranged to get residence status.  It is not unusual to read in the newspapers about poor Ticas being paid by enterprising lawyers to marry foreigners.

The young women are paid very little, sometimes less than $50. In many instances, the women have never even met the men.  They are told the marriage soon will be expunged. However, this is usually never done, and the women are soon forgotten and are not free to marry or receive benefits of unwed mothers. Incidentally, since this decision, the phone in the Costa Rica consular office in Cuba has been ringing off the hook.

Costa Rica’s Central American neighbors also believe Costa Rica will never have an agreement either, hence they have begun to sending representatives to encourage businesses to move to their countries. Perhaps, Presidente Daniel Ortega has discovered Machiavellianism.

There is other trade agreement on the table like the European Union and not sure how similar it is to the USA agreement, but the fact is Presidente Arias may have just decided to make Machiavellian decision with China and Tony Soprano would say it is not personal, it is  business.

Bobby Ruffín

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 120

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A good reason why one should never smile at a crocodile.
crockcodile one
Photo by Steve Heinl

Río Tarcoles is a great home for population of crocodiles
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Many a tourist has had an introduction to Costa Rican wildlife with a stop to see the crocodiles under the Río Tárcoles bridge. The crocs are there in the dry season, though tourists can be seen any time of the year.

The American crocodile, Cocodrylus acutus, is present around the Caribbean sea and on the Pacific coast of Mexico, Central America, and locally in Colombia and Ecuador. In many areas populations are depleted by hunting for hides and habitat destruction.

The population in the Tárcoles estuary was estimated at about 300 individuals in 1992. Other large mangrove areas at the mouths of the rios Tempisque and Térraba have healthy populations, with smaller estuaries on the Pacific coast also supporting a few individuals. Crocodiles are scarce but present on the Caribbean coast and inland along some of the larger rivers.

Nesting is in holes above the water line where the female lays 20-40 eggs. She will return to help the hatchlings out of the nest but does not normally guard the site as do other crocodile species. Hatchling mortality from birds, crabs, and even other crocodiles is high.

A big male can reach six meters (nearly 20 feet) though the largest in the Tárcoles estuary seem smaller. Crocs eat most anything that moves, largely fish but also birds and mammals either caught live or as carrion. Even large individuals can move very rapidly in a short dash after prey.

This crocodile can be dangerous to man, though much less so than African and Asian species. In May of this year, a boy was taken while swimming with friends in Tortuguero on the Caribbean. There are about five other records of fatalities in Costa Rica in the last two decades.

This year at a traditional lagarteada in Orotega, Guanacaste, two men were lightly injured by the quarry they and others pursued in a Semana Santa activity. After capture with sticks and their bare hands, the three-meter croc was trussed for display in town and then, at the insistence of the spoilsport environmental ministry, released back to the estuary. Locals claim the activity dates back more than 150 years.

It is possible to take a tour by boat through the impressive mangroves at the mouth of the Río Tárcoles, including one run by a local who feeds crocs by hand.
boat billed heron
Photo by Steve Heinl
Boat-billed heron prefers trees when crocodiles visit

Near Tárcoles at Carara National Park, one can see another species, Caiman crocodilus. Caimans in general are smaller, with this one reaching a maximum size of about a meter snout-vent length, i.e. not counting the tail.

The famous river trail at Carara goes about two kilometers  (about 1.25 miles) through magnificent forest to an oxbow lake on the left. Here a visitor can see boat-billed herons, other waterbirds like jacanas, and at least the eyes and snout of the caiman. Scarlet macaws are often in the forest, or can be seen early in the morning passing over the bridge while they commute from roosts to feeding areas.

The trail is about a kilometer beyond the bridge towards Jacó on the left. It’s better to first pay the park entrance fee at the station a couple kilometers further, as local guides have taken upon themselves to demand tickets and harass visitors who do not use their services. They can usually be found loitering around the park station. The trails near the station are poor compared to the river trail, though the latter can be very muddy in the wet season.

Many a tourist has also had to return to San José to get a new passport after a break-in at the Tárcoles bridge. This area is famous for its thieves, so much that the local police post was moved here to combat the problem. It is seldom manned.

Planned blackouts scheduled for sections north of downtown today, tomorrow
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The electric company will darken areas north of San José proper today and tomorrow, it said Monday.

The outages are for preventative maintenance, said the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz.

Today the outage is from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Alto de Guadelupe, Purral, Mozotal and Los Cuadros. Included are the urbanizaciones Eliconeas, El Rocío, Monte Sol, Las Veredas, Flor de Luz, Las Lomas, Los Nogales, La Melinda, Korobo, Villas de Alto, La Trinidad, Los Arboles, Kuru and Fila Verde. Businesses affected include 
El Guadalupano, Panaderia El Sabor, Muflasa, Abastecedor Emmanuel, Marisquería El Delfin, Super Canaan and Maderas San Juanillo

Wednesday a different section of Los Cuadros, Ipis, part of Mozotal, Los Ángeles and Vista de Mar de Goicoechea will be blacked out for the same period. Wednesday, the urbanizaciones listed are El Pueblo, Altamira, Santa Maria, La Mora, Florestra, La Lucha, El Hogar, Los Itablos, Bruno Martines, Nazareno, Mónica, Zetillal, La Facio and Los Ángeles de Ipis. Several dozen businesses also will be blacked out Wednesday, too, including Palí de Ipis, Jiménez y Tanzi, Costa Rica Fine Furniture and the Panaderia La Princesa, said the electric company.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 120

New representative from People's Republic makes first call
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Unlike the former ambassador from Taiwan, the ambassador-designate from the People's Republic speaks perfect Spanish.

The man, Wang Xiaoyuan, paid a visit at the foreign ministry Monday and spent an hour in a closed conversation with Costa Rica's foreign minister, Bruno Stagno. Later he met with local newspeople.

Wang was on his first official visit. Costa Rica broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan June 1 and agreed to Beijing's one China policy. The rupture in relations was announced June 6.

The Taiwanese ambassador here until June 1, Tzu-Dan Wu, was not as proficient in Spanish as is the representative of the People's Republic. Some feel that this may have
hampered his effectiveness with Costa Rican officials and might have been one reason Costa Rica's president, Óscar Arias Sánchez, opted to establish relations with the Communist regime.

Central America is an important location for the Chinese. There are many Chinese business interests in Panamá, particularly near the canal. The Communist Chinese news agency has had representation here for years.

And countries in Central America still support Taiwan, which China considers to be a breakaway province.

The arrival of the ambassador-designate does not mean more Chinese will be coming as residents. Mario Zamora, the immigration director reaffirmed Monday that China is what Costa Rica calls a tier 4 country for which visas are restricted. There also have been cases of human trafficking involving Chinese here.

Flooded-out homes in Belén destroyed by municipal officials
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The heavy machinery was in San Antonio de Belén Monday to tear down houses already heavily damaged by flooding there.

The homes were near the Río Quebrada Seca, the waterway that evicted hundreds from their homes Wednesday and again Saturday.

Municipal officials are trying to find land on which to relocate those who were displaced from their homes. Many have lived there all their lives.

Meanwhile, a new alert has been declared for Limón and the cantons of Paraíso and Turrialba in Cartago. The  Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that a low-pressure storm front was approaching from the Caribbean. The heaviest rain was supposed to be this morning.
José Luis Valenciano, a legislative deputy, and officials from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, toured Alajuela province over the weekend.

He reported Monday that many important bridges had suffered from water damage. Also on the tour were employees of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad.

Among those bridges singled out were the Poás-Sabanilla bridge, the Represa Carrillos, the Calle el Cerro de Poás bridge and the Santa Rosa bridge in Grecia, he reported.

The lawmaker also said he encountered a bridge in San Ramón that joins San Rafael, Berlín and Llano Brenes in the Distrito San Rafael which is at the point of collapse.

A.M. Costa Rica has reported on footbridges in the northern zone that have replaced vehicular bridges that were destroyed years ago and never replaced.

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