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(506) 2223-1327       Published Monday, July 20, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 141       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Culture magnifies impact of pesky pets on neighbors
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Among the myriad of problems one can find when moving to Costa Rica, there is one that takes longer to notice but it is no less serious: pets. Ticos consider and handle pets in a totally different way than Americans and not at all better. Pets are considered an optional responsibility by Tico pet owners. Therefore, should a pet do something that could be considered a nuisance or a threat to the health or safety of others, many Tico owners attribute it to the animal’s nature and accept it as such, disregarding any social norms or respect for others.

Being normally a subject of quarrels between neighbors –— rarely reported to the authorities because culturally, pets are considered free creatures by nature — Tico pet owners allow their animals to bark, poop, run around and bite whoever and wherever, and everybody has to be OK with it because they are only animalitos, as they call them. “They do not know any better, pobrecitos!

This ignorant attitude and lack of responsibility towards proper pet handling escalated to a level where Costa Rica was accused of violating human rights after police officers allowed the mauling of a Nicaraguan citizen by two rottweilers in 2005. The mauling happened in the presence of eight police officers. Athorities say the person was a burglar, but witnesses said he was a homeless person with permission to sleep an the auto repair shop located inside the property where the mauling took place.

The victim, 24-year-old Natividad Canda, was entering the property, when the two guard dogs took him for an intruder and attacked him in front of the property’s security guard. Since the man was not a paying tenant but a poor person who had been allowed to use the repair shop to sleep, the guard felt that defending the man or disciplining the dogs was not a big priority, according to later court testimony. His lack of action caused a lengthy public blood feast with neighbors, policemen, firefighters and a video camera surrounding the scene. Because the owner of the property did not allow the authorities to shoot the dogs, they did not! The man was bitten 200 times as a result and bled to death.

The inhumane incident opened two cans of worms that Costa Ricans had been concealing for decades: The open xenophobia and hate crimes against Nicaraguans and the lack of control and regulations concerning pets.

Due to the fact that no extensive or formal laws had been created for the proper handling of pets due to the cultural ignorance on the matter, the trial that followed the brutal murder favored the defense. The judges decided the dog owner and policemen should not spend any time in jail or compensate the victim’s family monetarily, claiming that there were no standard procedures for the policemen to follow and save the man’s life at the time, and that they believed the man was breaking and entering to steal.

Costa Rica was even accused internationally for human rights violations for this and other hate crimes against Nicaraguans, but there was insufficient evidence to sustain inhumane treatment specific towards Nicaraguan citizens. It is interesting that after the dog incident was videotaped in its entirety and plenty of witnesses attested that the man did not enter the property to steal — as authorities had said — the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found all that evidence to be insufficient.

Even though the case is now being appealed, the fate of the wrongdoers is in the hands of a system that is still in diapers concerning animal control. However, the case was big enough to stir the pot and wake some people up about the seriousness of regulating pets in the country, and now some actions have been taken.

After this and other pet-related homicides and serious injuries occurred, the state created the law for having dangerous animals, which defines dangerous breeds and prohibits their reproduction, among other guidelines, punishing their owners with fines, exterminating their pets, or in case of homicide, jail time. The criminal code was also updated, and now articles 130 bis, 229 bis, 385 and 398 regulate crimes involving pets.

In light of this regulatory progress, victims of less serious — but not less important — issues regarding pets, such as barking, feces accumulation and potential biting threats have been coming forward to the authorities, hoping to get regulated by a more comprehensive law. The latest addition to pet control measures is the Law 15460 for regulating pet control registration, which details the norms to follow for veterinarian clinics, pet shops and pet owners. It is unclear if this law has been approved yet, but at least it is another step forward. 

Problems typically suffered by expats in rural properties consist of neighboring animals (dogs, cattle, cats) breaking and entering, defecating and destroying property, as well as contaminating the  expats’ animals when not cared for properly by their Tico owners, or, even worse, attacking the 
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expats and their families. What expats complain most about is that even after talking to the pet owners repeatedly, the owners fail to control their pets because they think that foreigners are too finicky and make big deals out of everything, not knowing that by ignoring the problem they expose themselves to be legally sued. The criminal code penalizes pet owners for property damages with fines, taking away the pets, and with jail time if personal damages or homicide is proven. Moreover, the pet control and registration law states that pet owners are responsible for any damages done by their pets to any neighbor property.

Expats are not the only ones complaining, though. Some Ticos also have reported neighbor pet incidents. Common complaints have to do with neighbors caring for pets as spoiled children, letting them run freely on the street or in buildings not suitable for animals and letting them bark, jump on, threaten or bite anybody that passes by, expecting the scared and annoyed person to find it funny because they are just animalitos.

Some Ticos consider leashes an unnecessary restraint and muzzles a cruelty. They get into arguments or even fights with people who defend themselves against wild pets. A Tica was recently sued for animal abuse after she sprayed mace on a neighbor’s dog that was about to bite her. At the hearing, the judge ruled in favor of the defendant because the owner had let the dog run freely with no leash, which is considered animal negligence by the dangerous pet law and it is punished with jail time after failing to comply with a formal warning. Other complaints include feces left around properties or the neighborhood, which is penalized with a fine of an amount equivalent to a Costa Rican minimum salary. 

Excessive unsanitary conditions and barking can be reported to the ministry of health. Investigators can penalize owners with fines or by taking away the animals.

In general, all cases are determined by their circumstances, and their resolution depends on the integrity of the judge, but following the right steps is crucial when reporting pet problems:

If you live in a condo,

1. get as much proof as possible of the problem (pictures, video);
2. report the problem to management in a formal letter and provide evidence;
3. if the complaint is neglected, consult with a lawyer;
4. report the problem and the condo’s neglect to the authorities.

If you live in your own property,

1. get as much proof as possible of the problem (pictures, video);
2. write a formal letter to the neighbor, providing evidence;
3. if the neighbor ignores the request, consult with a lawyer;
4. report the case to the authorities;
5. file a lawsuit.

Taking the actions above will save victims a headache and will tilt the scale in their direction.  Judges respect proper procedure and behavior and have less room to justify an unlawful decision on their part if proper protocol has been followed. Moreover, a case well conducted by a plaintiff has a better chance of having success after an appeal if the initial trial court ruled against them.

By continuing reporting neighbor-pet problems, both expats and reasonable Ticos may gradually change the primitive pet mentality of Costa Rican culture, transforming it into a country with fewer pesky pets and owners.

Garland M. Baker is a 36-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2009, use without permission prohibited.

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Environmentalist critical
of private dock laxity

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An environmentalist who opposes private docks on the Pacific pointed out in an opinion piece that such an arrangement is helpful to drug traffickers.

The writer is Randall Arauz of the Programa de Restoración de Tortuga Marina, otherwise known as Pretoma.

Arauz points out in his July 18 article in La Nación that Costa Rican law says that all imports from outside the country have to come through public docks where there is control by customs.

However, public officials have allowed the development of private docks that greatly expedite the work of shark finners and traffickers, he said.

Arauz opposes shark finning and said that his organization since 2003 has urged officials to follow the law. Finning is when fishermen catch sharks and just remove the fin for export to Asia. Frequently the disabled shark is dumped back in the water.

Costa Rican law also requires fins to be beached with sharks, but shark finners have creative ways of getting around this rule. One way is by the use of private docks where there are no inspectors.

Arauz said that one of the person most active in opposing their campaign against private docks has been jailed for preventative detention. The investigation arose from the discovery by Mexican officials of shipping containers full of frozen sharks. Some one placed bags of cocaine in the shark stomachs.

Arauz was referring to Sigifredo Ceciliano Gamboa, the operator of a fleet of fishing boats.

Arauz noted that the private docks were closed in 2004 and 2005 but only for two weeks each time. He also noted that a Sala IV constitutional court decision supports his cause.

Armstrong says space race
was peaceful competition

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The first man to set foot on the moon has hailed the space race of the 1950s and 1960s as an example of peaceful competition between rival superpowers. Legendary U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong spoke at Washington's Air and Space Museum Sunday on the eve of the 40th anniversary of his landing on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.

Apollo 11 Mission Commander Armstrong will forever be remembered for setting foot on the moon and uttering the immortal words: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." In the four decades since, Armstrong has rarely spoken at length in public about the historic space voyage.

And so it was with great anticipation that hundreds of dignitaries gathered at the Air and Space Museum to hear presentations by Armstrong, along with crewmates Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin.

Armstrong paid tribute to American physicist Robbert Goddard, who pioneered liquid-fueled rocketry in the 1920s. As for the space race between the United States and the former-Soviet Union that began in the 1950s and culminated with the Apollo missions of the late 1960s and early 70s, he said the rivalry served a valuable purpose.

Armstrong said, "It was the ultimate peaceful competition: USA versus USSR. It was intense. It did allow both sides to take the high road, with the objectives of science and learning and exploration. Eventually, it provided a mechanism for engendering cooperation between former adversaries. In that sense, among others, it was an exceptional national investment for both sides."

Images of Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon were seen by more than half a billion enraptured viewers on Earth. To this day, the Apollo 11 mission remains one of humanity's greatest and most-celebrated technological achievements.

But while NASA relives its past glory, critics say America's space program has been adrift and unable to live up to the promise it demonstrated 40 years ago.  The Space Shuttle program is outdated and slated to be retired next year. So far, no successor-vehicle has been built. A planned return mission to the moon is years away. NASA's budget, which accounted for 4 percent of federal spending in the 1960s, stands at less than 1 percent today. And, the United States is no longer the world's top producer of mathematicians and engineers, leading some to question whether the nation possesses the brain power necessary to propel the next chapter of human space exploration.

Aldrin delivered an impassioned plea to revitalize America's space program and commit to sending humans to Mars.

The astronaut said, "America, do you still dream great dreams? Do you still believe in yourself? Are you ready for a great national challenge? I call on the next generation and our political leaders to give this answer: Yes We Can!"

Aldrin will have an opportunity to make his case to President Barack Obama today when he and his Apollo 11 crewmates meet with the president at the White House.

Astronauts complete task
of installing equipment

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station used a pair of robotic arms Sunday to install equipment ahead of today's spacewalk.

Crew members Dave Wolf and Tom Marshburn configured their space suits and tools, and reviewed procedures for further construction work.

But crew members found their efforts were hampered when one of the space station's two toilets malfunctioned. As a result, crew members of the space shuttle Endeavour are restricted to using the shuttle's sole commode.

Officials with the U.S. space agency, NASA, said the problem is not a big one, but could become serious if the toilet remains out of commission for more than a few days.

Astronauts completed the first spacewalk of their mission during a 5.5-hour operation at the space station Saturday.

Wolf and newcomer Tim Kopra floated out of the hatch Saturday to help install an external platform on the massive Japanese lab at the space station. The platform will allow scientists to conduct experiments in the vacuum of space.

Five spacewalks are planned during Endeavour's 11-day mission. With the shuttle crew's arrival, there are 13 astronauts aboard the orbital station - more than ever before.

Kopra is taking the place of Japan's Koichi Wakata, who has been on the space station since March.

Our reader's opinion
Not everyone who comes
is a wealthy U.S. citizen

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
It seems to me that most of the people writing in seem to think that all the Gringo/foreigners who move to Costa Rica are rich and move here because it is cheap to live here. (Not everyone is from California or New York.)
I, for one, am not rich and would be considered on the poor side by U.S. Standards. I would like to put things in to perspective as I see it.
It is not cheap to live here. I have a house in Missouri that is well insulated, heated, air-conditioned, on a half acre lot with a three-car garage and a carport. It cost $85,000.
My house here has no heat, no air, almost no lot and built against the houses beside it. It is worth $140,000.
Yes the taxes are cheaper here, but if my house here were in the town that my Missouri house is in it could not have been even built there at all and would have no value at all, thus no taxes. If it were built on a bigger lot and then insulated, heated, air-conditioned and had all the single-pane windows replaced and the doors replaced, it then would be worth something but nothing like it is here.
In Missouri I have good roads, services and schools. I can drive any day of the week and not be in a traffic jam.
In Costa Rica there are holes in the streets that would tear off a wheel if you fall in some of them, and you know the condition of the schools.
In Missouri I can leave my house unlocked, go to the grocery store leave the keys in my car and not worry. Here I have gate guards, big fences and still worry. My wife has been robbed three times. Once at gunpoint. Her son has been robbed at gunpoint. Two policemen tried to rob her brother, and I could go on and on.
Gas is over a dollar a gallon higher here. The price of gas in Missouri today is $2.1. Food in the stores here is from two the three times higher on most things.
Why am I here you ask. My wife is from here and has lots of family here. I love the country but not the way that the people treat it, and I love the Costa Rican people as long as they are not behind a knife, gun or a steering wheel.
Robert Woodrow

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 20, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 141

Chlor free
Your Costa Rica

Getting new eyes for old just requires a tiny plastic lens
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

What quick fix can a surgeon do that will knock 20 years off your age and even make you more handsome.

My vote is for installing intraocular lenses that make eyeglasses unnecessary.

As the North American population grows older, more and more individuals will face the reality of cataracts as their natural eye lens cloud over. The condition creeps up on those usually 55 and older. Seeing becomes a little less sure. More
light is needed, and then it takes an eye doctor about two seconds to see that the light reaching the inner eye is about half of what it should be.

The neat aspect is that because the eye surgeon replaced the cloudy natural lens for a special plastic one, there is no need for continued use of eyeglasses in most cases. An online source says between 80 and 90 percent of those who get the surgery can chuck their glasses, and most can pass a motor vehicle eye test.
eye diagram

It took a La Sabana surgeon to tell me that I had cataract problems. I thought my problem was eye strain from looking at a computer screen for nearly all of every night.  The right eye was worse, but the left was trying to catch up. So the logical treatment was to insert a tiny plastic lens in each eye after removing the cloudy natural lens.

Costa Rica is developing a reputation as a medical tourism destination. From what I saw as a walk-in patient at the La Sabana eye clinic, the reputation is well deserved. Treatment and sanitation were first class. The facilities and equipment were impressive.

The proof is that I now am writing these words without the eyeglasses I had worn for years.
Zlatko Piskulich Crespo needed a bit less than 30 minutes per eye. The opthamologist does his surgeries on Tuesdays.  Colleagues work other days. They may handle as many as 24 patients a day for various surgical procedures, said an aide.

The worst part is dressing in a blue hospital gown. Big guys like me need a gown front and back. Then there is the hair net. After that, everything is downhill.

Round after round of eye drops dull the ocular senses, and the patient is awake the entire time. There is little pain, just some stings as strong anesthetic is added.

Piskulich is not a talkative sort, so he did not provide a play-by-play of the procedure as I lay on the surgical chair. Typically a small incision is made in the cornea, the cloudy lens material is taken away and a rolled-up plastic lens is inserted. The cut is so small that no stitches are needed, but Piskulich said older procedures sometimes required up to five stitches.

You can tell the eye surgery patents as they hurry home with their eyes covered with plastic shields. Later I told the doctor in jest that I had a heckuva time driving home after the operation. Of course that would have been impossible because shapes and light are about all that is visible for a couple of hours. He was surprised that I was able to produce a newspaper for Wednesday following the operation Tuesday morning. But eyesight already was better, and it keeps improving. The big problem was blurring caused by repeated applications of drops that he ordered for the eyes. The paper was a bit late Wednesday morning because of my struggles. But 20 minutes is no big deal when they have cut into your eyes.

Not wearing glasses seems to take some years off the face. Shaving the mustache may take more, but a guy has got to know when to stop. As for the handsome part, the doctor provided a care package of medicine and these really cool sunglasses. They are much better than those clip-on sunglasses that eyeglass wearers have to use.

Oh, yeah, the price: $2,500 per eye, perhaps $1,000 less than at a Stateside clinic. That may have been a Gringo price, but one does not argue or negotiate with someone who is going to cut into the eyes.

Negotiations over Honduran presidency stalled despite Arias
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

The delegation representing the de facto Honduran government was not about to budge Sunday, so negotiations came to a halt.

The major sticking point was No. 1 in a seven-point list prepared by Óscar Arias Sánchez. He wanted José Manuel Zelaya restored as president of the country. He also suggested a national government of conciliation, but negotiations did not get that far.

The representatives of Roberto Micheletti really had nothing to gain. They already have full power in the country after having thrown out Zelaya in his pajamas June 28.

Arias said Sunday afternoon that he would take 72 hours to see if there is really a way to come to an accord.

The pressure on the de facto Honduran government comes from outside the country because every other nation in the hemisphere has condemned the coup that unseated Zelaya.

The Micheletti government has been skilled at presenting an alternate theory of what happened. Officials now claim that the country's supreme court ordered the arrest of Zelaya for violating the constitution. Arrest orders usually are served by prosecutors and not soldiers. Nor are arrested individuals loaded in a military plane in their pajamas.

But those who are unhappy with Zelaya's courting of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the Cuban regime are willing to accept that summary.

Arias said that his conscience has told him not to give up trying to negotiate for three more days, and this is what he proposes to do. He said he wanted to avoid the shedding of
blood in the country. Crowds backing both Zelaya and Micheletti have demonstrated, and one Zelaya backer was killed by soldiers in the initial protests.

Representatives of both sides of the controversy had met both Saturday and Sunday at the Rohrmoser home of Arias.

A spokesman for the Micheletti government said Saturday it would not allow Mr. Zelaya to return to power.

And a representative of Zelaya was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying he will not take part in a reconciliation government that includes people involved in his ouster.

Arias has proposed the seven-point plan that included Zelaya's reinstatement, new presidential elections in October, and an amnesty for all parties involved in Zelaya's removal from power.

Neither Zelaya nor Micheletti was present at Saturday's talks.

From Nicaragua, Zelaya said Friday he intends to return to Tegucigalpa and resume his presidency, with or without any agreement at the U.S.-backed talks.   The deposed leader declined to say when or how he would return to Honduras, where the interim government says it will arrest him.

Honduran military leaders and Zelaya's opponents say he was ousted because he was trying to illegally change the constitution to extend his time in office.

Earlier this month Zelaya did attempt to return to Honduras, but his flight was blocked by the military.

Zelaya has told his supporters they have the right to begin an insurrection to force the caretaker government to return him to power.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 20, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 141

An expat's guide to buying or importing a vehicle here
By Russell Martin
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

As would-be expats make plans to move to Costa Rica, a big decision will be whether to use the buses and trains to get around or whether to buy a vehicle. Both solutions have their advantages, but owning an automobile presents many factors to consider.

Many expatriates take a gander at car prices here and figure that they will save money by bringing a car in from overseas. This may or may not be the case:

• Expats still have to pay the import duties, which is the main reason cars are so much more expensive here. Plus insurance and shipping costs.

• The expat has to go through the process of clearing the car through customs, either by him or herself or with a customs broker (who will obviously charge for the effort).
• A new car guarantee is not valid here.
• The car may be damaged in shipping or have parts stolen in transit. Shipping insurance covers the vehicle being lost at sea or if the container is lost, not damage inside the container or during transit.

There are two specific cases that would override the drawbacks listed above:

1.) If it is a car that has been owned and cared for already, and if the expat can verify that it is a version that is popular here. In this case the expat knows what he or she has and that the vehicle can be repaired here without much trouble;

2.) If the vehicle is a special one that is not commonly sold here or has been specially modified. Modifications are not taken into account when calculating customs value, only factory options.

If the expat does ship in a vehicle, he or she will pay the following rates on cars, SUVs and pickups.

Less than 3 years old – 59.33 percent;

-5 years old 70.63 percent, and

6 or more years old 85.32 percent.

Brand new cars purchased at dealers here have about 30 percent worth of duties applied to the price. These rates are applied not only to the black book value of the car (regardless of the purchase price), but also to the shipping and insurance costs. If an expat would like to find out how much a particular vehicle will be taxed, he or she can check with the Ministerio de Hacienda.

The next question is what makes and models are the best for Costa Rica.

The three most common brands in Costa Rica are Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai. An expat can't go wrong by sticking with these brands, for several reasons:

1.) Parts are available nationwide (other brands such as Ford, Chevrolet, Saturn, Jeep only have parts available from the dealer or by special order. With some cars, an owner has to be careful about what country version he or she has. For example, a Ford Escort may be the European version. Nobody here has parts for such a vehicle, and an owner can't get them from the U.S. either!

2) Parts are cheaper than any other brand: (Other brands such as Honda, Mitsubishi, Mercedes, BMW, Land Rover have good quality parts that are available but they are much more expensive here. Often because they are higher quality parts, but often because of slack demand.)

3) These vehicles hold their resale value very well (Other brands such as Kia and Daihatsu have very low values on the secondary market)

4) Mechanics know these brands and have equipment to diagnose them (Due to computerization of recent models, the mechanic sometimes needs special equipment to diagnose the problem, and special tools to repair it. With less popular brands, like Volkswagen this can present problems, especially if the expat has trouble on a trip.)

Suzuki, Mitsubishi, and Honda are viable brands that are popular and solid choices. Mazda and Isuzu are pretty popular, but some models have problems with availability of parts. A driver has much more freedom if he or she plans to buy a new car from a dealer and drive it into the ground, but it still won't hurt to keep the above factors in mind. For example, Peugeot has entered the market here in a big way and will probably be first tier status within the next year or two.

There is no law in Costa Rica about rolling back odometers, so a buyer can't rely on the reading. He or she has to look at the car's condition. An inside industry joke: Client, “How many miles does this car have?” Dealer: “How many do you want it to have?”

The price of gasoline suggests that the expat should not buy a V6 or V8 engine if he or she is on a budget. Most sedans here have 1500 cc to 2000 cc engines. These motors
car dealer

have enough power to get up and down the mountains, but they won't bankrupt the driver at every visit to the gas station. If an expat is driving in rural areas often or wants a car that will withstand the potholes much better, then a diesel 4-wheel-drive SUV or pickup,is a good choice. Diesel fuel requires less processing and under normal circumstances is less expensive than gasoline. Diesel engines are more efficient and have a longer useful life. The new minivans and SUVs with CRDI or turbo diesel intercooler engines that are 2800 to 3000 cc displacement are excellent choices. The injection or turbo increases the acceleration and/or horsepower significantly, so the performance is comparable to what a driver will get with a gasoline engine.

Transferring title raises another question.

A lot of people have been told to use a corporation to buy the car, for the purpose of asset protection. This may or may not be good advice. Some lawyers charge $500 or more to set up the company, plus there are some disadvantages:

• A company owner may need an up-to-date “personería juridica” for a required inspection, to insure it or to pay the annual marchamo -or road tax. The driver must prove that he or she has the legal authority to do things in the company name.

• The company has to file a tax return each year in September and buy a stamp in March. This is obligatory, whether or not you have economic activity in the company.

•  Being in an S.A. protects the car in case the driver is sued, but the vehicle is more likely a source of liability (due to accidents) so a driver cannot escape the liability for damages anyway.

• Board members — you need to have different members of the board and a legal representative. This can cause problems later, for example, if the lawyer fires his secretary and she is on the board,. An unscrupulous or careless attorney can cause an owner to lose control of the company that will own the vehicle. A responsibilidad limitada (partnership or sole proprietor) rather than a sociedad anonima (S.A.) might be a better choice.

Are there advantages to having the company own a car? An owner may want to have the car in a company name if it will mean expenses can be declared for local taxes. It does protect the vehicle if the driver are faced with a civil suit for some reason not related to the car, so if it is a very expensive car and the driver is doing business here, he or she may want to have the vehicle in a company name. If a driver is arrested for criminal activities that carry fines in addition to jail time, then having the car in a company name would protect it. If an expat decides to use a company, make sure:

• The company should not own bank accounts or real estate, only the vehicle. (unless it is a business enterprise)
• The expat should consult with your lawyer or CPA about what documents must be filed for the company and when.
• A lawyer can provide a personería jurídica. The document also can be obtained when necessary from the service window at the Registro Nacional,.

At new car dealers, the sticker price is on the car or advertised in local papers, so a Gringo expat probably is going to get a fair price. At used car dealerships we have found that Gringos do get quoted higher prices. From $500 to $3,000 and more! Having a local ask for the price is a good way around this, either by phoning or sending the Tico to the lot to ask about particular vehicles.

Dealers generally have higher prices than individuals, however there are good reasons for this. First, the dealer must offer a 30-day warranty on the motor and transmission, by law. Second, they are bringing the vehicle in from Korea, or the U.S.A. — so this vehicle has not been exposed to the local road conditions which are not optimal.  That's a big advantage.

Finally, the dealers offer financing, accept trade-ins and have popular models, plus they offer assistance with the registration. These are true advantages for many buyers who are happy to pay $400 to $500 more to the dealer than when buying a comparable vehicle from a private party.

EDITOR”S NOTE: Since 2006, Russ Martin and his wife Kattia have owned, where for a fee they have been helping expatriates make their car buying experience as hassle free as it can be.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 20, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 141

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Despite concerns over cost
Obama pushes health plan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama is stepping up his campaign for health-care reform as concerns rise in Congress about the cost and scope of various proposals before the legislature.

Reforming the nation's health-care system is a priority for the president. He says it is mandatory for the nation's long term economic health.

"Even as we rescue this country from this crisis, I believe we have to rebuild an even better economy than we had before. That means finally controlling the health-care costs that are driving this nation into debt," he said.

But the legislative process has proven extraordinarily difficult, with lawmakers squabbling over the size and cost of reform.

Obama is stepping up the pressure with a series of direct appeals to the public and a formal press conference Wednesday, which is expected to be dominated by the health care debate.

He is also dispatching top aides to speak out on national television. During an appearance on the “Fox News Sunday” program, White House budget chief Peter Orszag sought to ease fears that health-care reform could cause the federal budget deficit to skyrocket.

"The president has said that the bill has to be deficit neutral," he said.

But congressional auditors say the Democratic party-backed proposals currently making their way through the legislature will raise the deficit without having an impact on soaring health care costs.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told NBC's “Meet the Press” this legislation is still a work in progress. 

The good news is the House and Senate are actively working and share the president's goal that overall costs have to come down for everyone." Sebelius stressed the stakes are high.

"It may be the single most important issue to get our economy back on track, and the status quo can not work," said Sebelius. "It does not work. It is bankrupting this country."

But Republicans in Congress warn the Democrats are reaching too far, too fast. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told “Meet the Press” that more time and thought needs to go into health care reform.

"This is the same kind of rush and spend strategy that we saw on the stimulus bill," said McConnell.

McConnell said the bills making their way through Congress are not good for the country. He warned they would result in far too much government interference in the health-care system in the United States.  

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 20, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 141

Latin American news digest
Hit by crisis Iceland seeks
helpful membership in EU

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Iceland has submitted its official application for European Union membership Friday, a day after parliament voted in support of the move.

Icelandic foreign ninistry officials say diplomats presented the formal request to Sweden, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency. EU accession would be put to a referendum, if the application is approved as expected.

Iceland's economy collapsed last year, with the country becoming one of the first casualties of the global economic crisis. Thousands of people in the tiny island nation lost their jobs and their life savings.

The collapse forced independent-minded Icelanders to consider seeking shelter in the EU, and possibly adopting the single European currency, the euro. 

Second murdered priest
mourned is Havana

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mourners gathered in Cuba's national cathedral Friday to honor the second Spanish priest killed on the island in five months.

Authorities said the Rev. Mariano Arroyo Merino was found dead Monday at his parish building in the Havana Bay area and that a suspect has been arrested. Cuban police said the suspect has confessed to murdering the priest.
Authorities have not released any more information about the suspect or a possible motive for the murder.

Church officials said Arroyo's slaying is not related to the case of Eduardo de la Fuente Serrano, another Spanish priest found dead outside Havana in February.  

Authorities planned to fly Arroyo's remains to Spain for another service in his honor following the funeral in Havana.

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