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Missing corporate books can lead to a freeze of assets
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Anyone with a company in Costa Rica is required to have legal books. The problem is the books are easy to lose or misplace.  It is impossible to do business or maintain a company without the books. If there are assets in a company with no books and no person designated to represent the company, what assets they hold are locked up and out of reach even to legitimate owners.

It can be a big headache to replace them, especially if for some reason no legal representative has been named for the company.

Many expats retire to Costa Rica in their golden years. Some of them die. When they do, it is not uncommon that they are the only representative of a company they set up to hold a home, property investment, business or other assets.

Legal books are bulky things. Some people throw them in a closet. Other do not know what they are and toss them in the trash. They are forgotten until the day arises when the assets the company holds need to be sold or transferred.

Whatever the reason, when they are needed and cannot be found, panic ensues.

Attorney Allan Garro of Garro Law found a catch-22 in the process to obtain new books and went to bat to clear up the confusion with the tax department and the Registro Público.  He succeeded, and it is now possible to so.

Recently, Garro also just won a major case against the Dirección Nacional de Notariado, the legal entity that supervises notaries. Attorney Garro has a reputation of going against the status quo when he finds confusion or injustice. Usually, he has to act alone.

He had found the Registro Nacional gave the power to replace books only to legal representatives and no one else, not even stockholders. Legal representatives can only be replaced with legal books, so if none exists and no representative is available, it would be impossible to replace company books.

Sociedad anónimas have three books and sociedades de responsabilidad limitada have two.

The books common to both company structures are: actas asamblea de socios or actas asamblea de cuotistas (stockholders’ or shareholders’ minutes), actas registro de socios or registro de cuotistas (registry of stockholders or shareholders).

The book that is unique to a sociedad anónima is the actas junta directiva or actas consejo administración, the director’s or administrators’ minutes.  This minute book records board of director decisions and is unique to this company structure because limited companies do not have directors, only a manager.

Before February 2013, the diario (general journal), mayor (general ledger) and inventario y balances (inventory and balances) were also required.

Here is the current process to replace legal books as clarified by the Registro Nacional. The best place to start is obtaining a certificación literal for the company.

1. Go to the registro’s digital service.

2. Sign up for an account or login.

3. Purchase a certificación literal de personas jurídicas.

4. Review the document to see who has
representación judicial y extrajudicial. This
A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Without books, assets can be locked up

means judicial and extrajudicial representation for the company.

5. If there is a person with such power, he or she can replace company books by going to a public notary. If no person with such power is available, here are the next steps..

6. Find the stockholder(s) of the company.

7. The stockholder(s) need to go in front of a notary with any documentation they might have regarding their stock ownership. With this documentation in hand, they must make a declaración jurada or sworn statement in front of the notary that they are the stockholders.

8. If the attorney is satisfied, he or she will proceed to replace the books.

9. Once the books have been replaced, the notary will proceed to change the representation of the company. This requires publishing another edict and filing a testimony from the notary with the new information on it at the registry.

The estimated total cost to replace books when a representative exists is around $1,000. The cost when one does not exist is about $1,500. The cost to start a new company is around $750. Prices vary among notaries.

Why would anyone in their right mind pay upwards to $1,500 to replace the books of an old company when a new one can be started for half that price?

The answer again are the assets, like the ownership of  a home, other real estate property, investments  or a business.

There are only two ways to transfer assets when they are in a company. One is by signing over the legal books to someone else. The other is by a legal representative transferring the assets in front of a notary. If no books or representative exists. The assets are stuck and cannot be sold.

In the case of heirs, they are double-stuck. To get to assets they need to start a probate action, get awarded the ownership of the company and then start the process to replace books.

When Costa Rican legal books are found lying around, expats should check to see if they hold assets. This is simple to do at the Registro Nacional’s Web site. If there are no assets, the correct procedure is to take them to a notary and have it unregistered. If assets exist, it is a good idea to check to see if the books are up-to-date and store them in a safe place.

In the case where assets are in a company with no books or legal representation, they should be replaced and the company updated. If they are not, heirs might suffer the consequences or an opportunity lost.

Garland M. Baker, a certified international property specialist, is a 45-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica. His firm’s team provides multidisciplinary professional services to the country’s 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 free reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2015, use without permission prohibited.

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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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Municipalidad de Nicoya photo            
Dancers from last year's celebration.

Nicoya festival will begin Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nicoya begins its annual festival Tuesday. The six-day event incorporates the holiday of the  Anexión del Partido de Nicoya a Costa Rica, which is Saturday.

The municipality said that marimba music will be heard each day at noon in the  Parque Recaredo Briceño in the center of the community. The park is the center of the festival.

This is the 191st anniversary of the decision that made Nicoya part of Costa Rica.

The  Colegio Técnico Profesional de Corralillo will be holding its tortilla contest Wednesday through Friday.  The woman of the area compete as they demonstration how to make tortillas by hand.

The municipality said that folklore groups will be coming from Perú, Lebanon, the Ukraine and Panamá.

The festival begins Tuesday at 5 p.m. There is a street parade and fireworks planned.

Municipal official say that the major streets have been illuminated with designs typical of Guanacaste.

turtle eggs
Ministerio de Seguridad Pública photo             
       Members of the  Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas count turtle
       eggs that were taken from a a boat off Playa Amor, Flamingo.
       The boat crew dropped off tourists on the beach but then decided
        to help themselves to the 165 eggs the found there, said the
        Ministerio de Seguridad Pública. The eggs will be relocated.

Fire station started in Miramar

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fire fighters have placed the cornerstone for a new station in  Miramar, Montes de Oro, Puntarenas.

President Luis Guillermo Solís participated in the ceremony Friday. The land for the station came from a donation by the municipality.

Miramar with its 14,000 residents now is served by fire fighters based in El Roble, some 15 kilometers distant. The Cuerpo de Bomberos  said that the new station will take about a year to construct, but that fire equipment and crews are being moved to the area to be housed in a temporary building until the new one is competed.

Our readers' opinions
Iran deal is best hope short of war

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I must take exception to your editorial regarding the deal with Iran. Simply parroting neo-conservative talking points does not address the serious issues at the core of this matter. These negotiations and the international sanctions which compelled them were not about regime change. Rather, this is about containing Iran's existing nuclear weapons program. That Iran is a bad actor is widely accepted. Nonetheless, we must ask what alternative exists on the nuclear issue short of more military involvement in the Middle East.

Keep in mind that the U.S. is not acting alone on either the sanctions or the deal. There are five other major world powers (economic and military) who are parties to this deal. To keep the sanctions in place if we decide to go it alone would be impossible. More likely than not, military action by Israel, Sunni Arab states, and/or the United States would be the only remaining option to stop Iran's nuclear weapons development. Is that palatable now when a peaceful path remains available?

Nixon opened the door to China, and Reagan made a weapons treaty with the evil empire, the Soviet Union, based not upon trust alone, but upon inspection and verification. Both were condemned as dangerous by the neo-conservative hard liners at the time. Look where those agreements led.

There will be extensive debate on the pros and cons of this deal in the next two months. This should be based on the facts of the agreement as written, not a bunch of scare tactics from the people who brought us the Iraq war (incidentally, based upon unfounded fears of weapons of mass destruction).

At present, 71 percent of Americans support a negotiated settlement to this confrontation. Those who desire regime change are more likely to be rewarded by an open and prosperous Iranian economy, than by an attempt to starve the population and lob bunker busting bombs at entrenched military facilities. We tried regime change tactics in Iran when the CIA toppled the elected government and installed the Shah in the 70s. Look what that got us. No wonder they don't trust us either.

Lost trust, on both sides, must be rebuilt by experience and time. Do we have the courage to give peace a chance?
Wes Light
Ostional, Guanacaste,
and Angel Fire, New Mexico

This expats prefers holding the euro

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was reading the lead article on the expats' advice on hard assets, and I'm wondering how on top of things is he ?

Yes, Costa Rica is a financial disaster, and Greece is in the headlines, but the worst kept secret is that U.S.A. is in worse shape, and the Federal Reserve is in more danger than any institution on the planet.

I agree with the authors suggestion to switch to hard assets and wish I didn't have colon CDs, but, I surly wouldn't switch into U.S. dollars. Why ? The Federal Reserve is leveraged at 77 to 1 and by this time next year the Chinese Yuan will be 25 percent of the International Monetary Fund's special drawing rights. This will basically begin the end of the U.S. dollar's reserve status and the Monetary Fund, which has a leverage of only 3 to 1 may take over the  world's reserve function..

Combine this with the newly created BRICS world bank and the U.S. dollar is in more danger then the colon. James Rickards (an ex-CIA analyst)  recently published a fantastic book that Sen. Rand Paul read parts of on the Senate floor. He points out that the end of the U.S. dollar reserve status has been planed. We all know that  Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner went public with Christine Lagarde, the Monetary Fund's managing director, by his side almost five years back and said the end needs to be managed and he wanted at least 20 years. Now five years has passed, and Mr. Rickards comments point out that that 20 years is too far out, and he presents solid evidence the plan is much sooner.

This will soon rock the U.S. markets and shave at least 30 percent off the dollars value. he suggests the much hated euro is much safer, and his logic is sound. It isn't leveraged and will soar to its historic heights. I strongly suggest that Costa Rica's expats move into the euro over the U.S. dollar. It is quite fortunate that Costa Rica's banks offer euro-denominated accounts and that the current Greek situation has driven down the euro.

Bob Shakerdge
Paso Canoas

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From A.M. Costa Rica

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From our retirement guide

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In the Spanish-language press

Today, July 20

Milanes trial suspended while his health is checked

La Nación: The fraud trial of the Cuban-American casino operator was suspended until Wednesday after he appeared two hours late to trial. He ran Savings Unlimited, a high-interest firm that failed in 2002.

Cruz Roja reported violent deaths during the two-week holiday

CR Hoy: The main cause of holiday deaths was car accidents. 15 persons died that way. The next leading cause was attacked with guns or knifes. Nine victims died that way. Seven drowned.

UBER services will cause controversy

La República: More than 80 percent of the executives contacts already use this app for personal transportation. In recent weeks the company has posted  job offers for operations manager and marketing manager. Taxi drivers are likely to object because non-licensed individual can become involved in transportation.

Interamericana Sur has restricted transit

CR Hoy: At Chonta travel is a little complicated due to a landslide that occurred on Sunday and took out half the highway.


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Third News Page

San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 20, 2015, Vol. 15, No. 141
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Public workers carry the question of personal data to the Sala IV
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV will get a chance to decide how much of a public employee's personal information should be public.

Employees of the  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said they have presented such a case to the constitutional court and that the court has agreed to consider the issue.

Employees of the  Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz also filed a similar case. In all, there are four separate cases.

The cases are in response to revelations by La Nación and Otto Guevara Guth of  Movimiento Libertario that showed public employees were making much more money than their private counterparts.  The disclosures are newsworthy because of the country's critical financial state.

The appeals are based on Constitutional provisions guaranteeing privacy of citizen information except at the order of a judge. Employees were unhappy that the salary data seems to have come from the monthly filings to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social

Many public officials and the editorial staff of La Nación, the Spanish-language newspaper, have said that this privacy rule does not apply to activities that involve public funds.

Manuel González Sanz, the foreign minister, went to far as to post his most recent salary information on the ministry Web page. He makes 2.4 million colons a month, about $4,500. But deductions, including anticipated income tax, take 441,621.28, about $837.

He said that citizens have the right to know the details of money that is paid from public sources.

Names and other identifying information are touchy subject in Cost Rica. Most police reports do not give the  full name of suspects, and official photos of arrests usually have the

Foreign minister's Facebook posting

face of any suspects and even those of police officers blurred or overprinted.

The courts, citing a new law on privacy, have been removing relevant names from civil decisions that are made public. Names of individuals or corporations also have been deleted from a data base that contains information on criminal and civil cases.

Access to such information is vital for anyone doing due diligence before becoming involved in business with firms or persons in Costa Rica, noted one private investigator.

Court case files also are closed except to the individuals and the lawyers involved.

On the other hand, information at the Registro Nacional is mostly open.

For years the names of juvenile offenders were kept secret, although they sometimes show up in Fuerza Pública reports.
Recently some Costa Rican agencies are keeping the names of juveniles secret even if they are crime or accident victims and are dead. Eventually the names will show up in the Registro Civil, which keeps an authoritative list of births, marriages and deaths.

The trend toward secrecy is not restricted to Costa Ricans.

Due to identity theft plenty of personal information that used to be public is now restricted, including the U.S. Social Security Death Index.

Government says $3.4 million was used to improve Nicoya ferry docks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The public works ministry says it has spent $3.4 million fixing up the docks where the Gulf of Nicoya ferries tie up. The jobs were done at Barrio El Carmen in Puntarenas Centro, at Paquera and at Playa Naranjo.

The docks are used by thousands of tourists each year. The announcement coincides with the approach of the Anexión del Partido de Nicoya Saturday when politicians make a point to report what they have done in the Pacific coast communities.

At Paquera, the ministry's División Marítimo Portuaria has installed two berthing dolphins. These are heavy wooden poles that provide a separation between ships. One was installed at Playa Naranjo, too, said the ministry.

The dikes that protect the landing spots also were reinforced at both Paquera and Playa Naranjo, said the announcement. In Puntarenas the terminal structure was repaired.
Paquera landing
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo
Dock at Paquera shows the improved access and dolphins.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica
Key Largo
A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 20, 2015, Vol. 15, No. 141
Real Estate
About us

Sharp decline in solar activity puzzles scientists who study nearest star
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

At almost regular intervals, the sun displays phenomena benignly called sunspots.  Actually, they are violent storms. 

Space scientists closely observe this activity because it may have adverse effects on communications, navigation and even power grids.  But the diminishing intensity of the last two solar cycles leaves them puzzled.

When gigantic electromagnetic storms occur on the sun, scientists see them eight minutes later, which is how long it takes the light to reach Earth.

It takes the first charged particles ejected by the storms 20 to 30 minutes to arrive. They are dangerous to humans, so if the storm is intense, astronauts aboard the International Space Station are advised to move into specially protected areas.

After a day or two comes the biggest part of the storm, the coronal mass ejection.

“That is billions of tons of solar material that’s blown away from the sun," said Alex Young of NASA's Heliophysics Science Division. "It’s traveling millions of kilometers an hour, but that is relatively slow.”

Several government agencies, as well as the U.S. Air Force, observe the space weather, as they call it, 24 hours a day. NASA does it in order to protect its astronauts and the sensitive electronics of its spacecraft, but also because many questions about the local star still need to be answered. One of them is why the sunspots follow a roughly 11-year cycle, from low to high activity.

"Also, sometimes the intensity is higher and sometimes it is lower," Young said. "The current solar cycle that we are in is much lower than the previous one.”

Another big question: Why is the sun’s atmosphere hotter than its surface?

“Particles are much farther and farther apart," Young said, "but the temperature — that is, how fast these particles are moving — increases very quickly, going from tens of thousands of degrees up to millions of degrees.”

Several satellites are constantly observing the sun, as well as the environment between the sun and Earth, sending pictures and other data. Young said scientists have been looking at the sun in incredible detail for only 30 to 40 years, and because the star is about 4 billion years old, that is only a tiny fraction of its long life.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

Click photo for another video

The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

 (as reported by the moving companies)
Visit many rental options to actually experience the price/amenity options available in more of the areas chosen by Expats for security, comfort, and quality of life.

Meet many Expats who are willing to share their experiences and how the tour has value long after the “lust” wears off.
See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!

Ask the others what you get for your money, and then compare the quality of accommodations, quality, quantity and variety of food and drink to measure the best value for your money. 

Learn how others “talk the talk” and learn who really can “walk the walk”

Please visit my Web site  to contact my references.
George Lundquist, retirement, relocation columnist, Guide & Developer/Builder.


Osas montage
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Cozy, opened in 2007 just 90 minutes from the capital, with good access. Go shopping or enjoy the evening entertainment. Hosting services, friendly, quality and comfortable, discreet under the concept of 100 percent family hotel, the reason we do not allow or endorse any activity related to prostitution or drugs. Natural beauty, recommended for tourists for a relaxing holiday. Nearby is Manuel Antonio National Park. Tours, canopy, fishing, rainforest, horseback riding, ATV, rafting, etc. 20 deluxe rooms equipped with 3 for disabled. All with air conditioning, cable TV, telephone, refrigerator, private bathroom, hot water, free wireless Internet, etc. Maximum 5 people. Main restaurant, pools (adults & children), jacuzzi, private parking, 24 hours security, pool bar, playground equipped. At front desk currency conversions, confirm your flight or coordinate tours. Address : Playa Bejuco, Esterillos, Costa Rica. Local phone (506) : 2779-2000. Email:   Web page

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A.M. Costa Rica
Real estate rentals
Real estate rental agents
Real estate for rent
Real estate wanted

Real estate rental services (paid category)

The vacation homes at Manuel Antonio Estates offers luxury, comfort and peace of mind. We have numerous homes from 2 bedrooms to 8 bedrooms ocean view with private pool,  all within walking distance of the town’s shops and restaurants and just a few minutes to the best beaches and the famous Manuel Antonio national park. While the homes are secluded and hidden among the rainforest, the surrounding area offers adventures like zip lines, whitewater rafting, mangrove kayaking and many more. All of the homes are available for short-term rentals, Fully equipped, Pool, concierge,  parking, cable TV, and Internet. We are happy to assist with all your need for the perfect Costa Rican vacation, Call us for your family vacation package.
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Real estate for rent (paid category)

Playa del Coco
Hear the waves and walk to the beach
Villa with separate studio apartment in north Playas del Coco. Two bedrooms and two baths in the villa. Fully furnished.  Laundry facilities. Yard fenced in. Pets Ok. Large covered terrace with views. A/C, satellite TV. Surrounded by gardens, palms and other tropical trees frequented by monkeys. Rent villa for $1,300/month or both for $1,500. Contact owner Linda: 2670-0779 or 8347-4705.

2-bedroom, 2-bathroom, fully furnished American-style apartments with elevator in a secure building in Barrio Amón. Cable, Internet, 
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water  included.  Shared laundry.  Convenient to Parque Morazán, hotels, restaurants, casinos, city government, National Registry.  $600 per month plus electric.  $300 security.  No lease. For photos and more information contact: 

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Beautiful Cottages for rent
Cottages located in the mountains of Los Angeles, San Rafael, Heredia. Surrounded by trees and nature, beautiful gardens. 45 minutes from San José. Bus line service, security. Pets allowed.
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Beautiful 2-bedroom 2-bathroom American-style apartments with an elevator to your front door in a secure building located in Gringo Gulch, the American section of downtown San José. Costa Rica.
apartment view
Located between the Hotel Del Rey, the Hotel Mona Lisa and the Sportsman's Lodge and The Zona Blue (AKA) Little Habana across the street from Harry's Poas Bar, and next to the Holiday Inn. There are 15 restaurants and American- style bars on this block and four supermarkets within a few
blocks. There are 5 casinos within 2 blocks and dozens of hotels around this apartment. Included in your rental price: fast Internet, the best they have in Costa Rica, cable TV with 80 stations, water, washer and dryer. All you pay extra for is electricity. You have your own meter and receive a bill from the electric company every month.  This apartment has a American-style hot water system, hot water in both bathrooms and the kitchen. There is a 25-foot balcony to sit on and watch the people in San José walk by. The neighborhood Barrio Amón is the safest in San José For photos and more information contact:   Call us: 506-2221-7161. 

Beautiful cottage in San Rafael, Heredia

 Surrounded by nature.
One or two bedrooms, 1 or 1.5 bathrooms. Bus line service, security. Pets allowed. $450 and $500 monthly. Phone: (506) 7019-9457,  8739-0638, 8993-5801. Or

Heredia cottage

house for rent
$800 plus electric
Two-bedrooms, two-bath house, fully furnished, INCLUDES internet, WiFi, cable TV, water bill. Inside private property, safe and secure. In the country but close to town. Santa Bárbara de Heredia. Email for more info and pictures. Long term. NO DOGS.

Apartment Lemur del Bosque for rent
San Francisco de Dos Ríos, El Bosque, furnished 2-bedroom, 1-bath apartment, quiet area, free cable TV, WiFi, large patio area, swimming pool, parking, security. Close to San José. $440/month.   Retired persons prefered. Call 8375-6838. Email:

Furnished apartment for rent  Available Now!
Impeccable newly remodeled villa in Villas de Cariari for rent day, week or month. Rates from US$85 per day. Utilities, washer and dryer, car parking,  24 hour security, Wi-Fi, close to airport and shopping. Long=term and corporate renters are accepted.
Contact: Chris English/Spanish U.S. phone: 1-804-699-8073
Costa Rica phone : (506) 6145-7003 Email:

Mountain home w/million dollar view near San Ramón
Beautiful home in the mountains near San Ramón with 180-degree view of the gulf of Nicoya. 7 miles from San Ramón, 1 mile from Interamericana highway. 3,200 foot elevation so temp is 65 to 75 year around. Electric gate, private drive. house built in 2010. 2 bedrooms, 1 baths, appliances included. High-speed internet installed, Direct TV via sling box on Internet.  Rent per month $750 plus utilities with free internet.  Price for Sale $179,000   Contact Mike:  Check out slide show HERE!

Tropical Homes of Costa Rica is offering the best selection of vacation homes, condos and long-term rental homes in Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero and Playa Brasilito on  the Pacific Gold Coast of Guanacaste. A wide selection of private residencies is providing an excellent choice for your stay in this beautiful part of Costa Rica.
We are offering homes for every budget and every need.
Please visit our Web page at or contact us at
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A.M. Costa Rica's   Fifth news page
Builder special

San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 20, 2015, Vol. 15, No. 141
Real Estate
About us

Cuba expected to reopen
its U.S. embassy today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States and Cuba are set to reach a milestone in diplomatic relations today. The two countries will formally reopen their embassies, a move that is part of a series of recent steps to reset relations that soured more than 50 years ago.

The reopenings are a culmination of behind-the-scenes negotiations between the two countries. Those negotiations led to a public declaration by President Barack Obama in December that the U.S. would work to normalize relations with Cuba.

The change is partly a result of foreign pressure, said American University Cuba specialist William LeoGrande.

“The Latin Americans had really become fed up with this old anachronistic, Cold War policy, and they let the president know at the Sixth Summit of the Americans in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2012, and said they would not come to the next one if Cuba was not invited,” he said.

Workers have already removed the old sign from the Cuban Interests Section building in Washington. The new sign, designating the building as the Cuban Embassy, will be unveiled Monday.

According to Cuba’s foreign ministry, today’s ceremony will be led by the Cuban foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla.  A delegation of high-level officials, including national assembly members, are among those who will attend.

Roberta Jacobson, the assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, will lead a U.S. delegation. Ms. Jacobson played a pivotal role in talks to re-establish ties.

The formal reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba will take place later when Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Havana. In a Friday briefing, a State Department official said the U.S. flag would not be raised at the Havana embassy until Kerry arrived, although the embassy would be fully functional.

However, early today, the Cuban flag was to be added to a State Department hall featuring the other national flags. Later in the day, Kerry and Rodriguez Parrilla were tto meet at the State Department and speak to the media.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. and Cuba continue to have discussions on a wide range of issues.

“We began a conversation that I suspect will continue on human rights, which we know is going to be a part of this new relationship,” said Kirby.

He also said the U.S. and Cuba had agreed to have conversations about fugitives and law enforcement.

The State Department official called Monday’s reopenings a symbolic step, but a very important step in the next stage of U.S. relations with Cuba.

The official said a tangible result of the changes is that more Americans would be able to travel to Cuba, and would do so with the support of the U.S. Embassy.  The official also said Cubans would have increased access to the U.S. embassy in Havana.

In the lead-up to plans to restore ties, the State Department removed Cuba from its State Sponsors of Terrorism list. U.S. officials said the move was separate from efforts to restore relations. However, the designation had been a major sore point for Havana.

Other restrictions under the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba will remain in place. A vote by Congress is required to lift the restrictions.

In a statement on the Cuban foreign ministry Web site, the Cuban government said the re-establishment of diplomatic ties and opening of embassies “completes the first stage of what will be a long and complex process toward the normalization of bilateral relations.”

The statement also said there could be no normal relations between the two countries “as long as the economic, commercial and financial blockage continues to be fully implemented, causing damage and scarcities to the Cuban people.”

However many Cubans have praised their government for enacting the changes and welcome the improved relations with the United States. Some have begun to sport clothing with the U.S. flag and other American symbols.

“The dam has broken,” said Marc Hanson, an associate for Cuba at the Washington Office on Latin America. “This has been tremendous. I don’t think that anybody expected that on December 17 whenObama made his remarks that this is where we would be only six to eight months in the future.”

But the warming of relations between the U.S. and Cuba is not without its critics. In a May hearing, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican presidential hopeful, raised concern about whether there was enough focus on Cuba’s human rights record.

“Their view of human rights isn’t just different than ours, they are flat-out wrong and immoral in their views,” he said.

American Enterprise Institute analyst Roger Noriega, a former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, also expressed concern about U.S.-Cuba engagement at a time when there are questions about Havana’s stance on human rights.

“I think we have had to lower our standards in order to raise our flag in Havana,” he said. “We are not defending human rights. We are not defending the very idea of representative democracy.”

U.S. officials have vowed to continue to raise questions about Cuba’s human rights record as well as other areas of concern.

American University's LeoGrande said he expected the warming of relations to result in a number of collaborative efforts between the U.S. and Cuba in the coming months. He said he expected the two countries to work more closely on issues including counternarcotics trafficking, law enforcement and the environment.

Right advocates see little
change despite rapprochement

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Leading human rights groups have stressed to U.S. lawmakers that historic diplomatic breakthroughs with Cuba should not shield it from rigorous American scrutiny of human rights violations.

“In Iran and Cuba, the United States needs to leverage its diplomacy to look at human rights issues and not separate its diplomacy to either look, in the case of Iran, solely at the importance of nuclear peace, or in the case of Cuba, treating diplomacy as an end in itself,” said Mark Lagon, president of Washington-based Freedom House, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“The U.S. decision to plow forward, full speed ahead, with the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba just as 100 peaceful activists were being detained sends troubling and mixed messages,” Lagon added.
Cuban-American Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat,  seized on the discussion in relation to Cuba, and chastised his congressional colleagues for their itineraries when they visit the communist island-nation.
“It’s pretty amazing to me that, when our colleagues in the Senate go to visit Cuba, they do not visit with human rights activists, political dissidents, independent journalists, because if they do, they get barred from a government meeting,” said Menendez.

The Obama administration maintains that restoring diplomatic relations with Havana will further the cause of civil liberties and human rights by boosting communications and exchanges between the two countries that had been estranged for more than 50 years.

When the thaw in relations was announced late last year, Cuba announced several rights-related trust-building measures, including agreeing to release 53 political dissidents, expand Internet access, and allow more visits by rights monitors.

But the Communist government continues to hold dozens more political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, and uses threats and intimidation to discourage government critics, according to activist groups.

At least 60 political prisoners remain behind bars in Cuba, including at least two dozen held on charges linked to peaceful political protests, according to a report this month by the independent Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Those figures are much lower than in past decades when Cuba was holding thousands of political prisoners. But activists warned that in some ways the progress was deceptive and reflects only a change in tactics.

For instance, there has been a sharp increase in the number of short-term, arbitrary detentions, according to the Cuban Commission of Human Rights. The group received over 7,100 reports of arbitrary detentions in the first part of last year, over twice as many as during the same period in 2013.

"Detention is often used preemptively to prevent individuals from participating in peaceful marches or meetings to discuss politics," according to Human Rights Watch's 2015 report on Cuba.

The New York-based group's report also slammed Cuba for severely limiting the right to freedom of expression. "Only a very small fraction of Cubans are able to read independent Web sites and blogs because of the high cost of, and limited access to, the Internet," the report said.

"Those who publish information considered critical of the government are sometimes subject to smear campaigns, attacks, and arbitrary arrests, as are artists and academics who demand greater freedoms," it continued.

President Barack Obama has argued that increased engagement with Cuba will help give the U.S. more, not less, sway in encouraging the human rights and political reforms.

Some rights groups agree with that assessment.

"President Barack Obama’s historic decision to overhaul U.S. policy toward Cuba is a crucial step toward removing a major obstacle to progress on human rights on the island," said a December Human Rights Watch statement.

"Rather than isolating Cuba, the embargo has isolated the United States, alienating governments that might otherwise speak out about the human rights situation on the island" said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

The London-based Amnesty International also expressed hope that the move will offer an opportunity to "forge an agenda for human rights."

"If the U.S. embargo on Cuba and its negative impact on the economic and social rights of Cubans is lifted as part of efforts to normalize relations between the two countries, it will mean Cuban authorities can no longer use the crippling sanctions as an excuse for lagging behind on its international human rights obligations."

In its latest report on the state of global human rights, the U.S. State Department itself kept up the pressure on Cuba, acknowledging that widespread abuses remain a serious problem.

Cuban paper say government
read to expand Internet access

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Cuban government has announced plans to expand Internet access by introducing Wi-Fi hotspots across the country and reducing the cost that Cubans pay to get online.

The move was announced last week in the Juventud Rebelde newspaper. The Cuban government had pledged to increase Internet access as part of talks aimed at normalizing relations with the United States.

A spokesman for Cuba's state communications company told the newspaper that 35 government computer centers will have Wi-Fi starting next month. He also said the price for one hour of Internet access will drop to $2, less than half the normal cost. The cost is still unaffordable for most Cubans.

Only a limited number of Cuban citizens have private Internet connections, which are not cheap. Foreigners can use the Internet at hotels, but also at steep prices

California looks to Australia
to find ways to handle drought

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

As California endures a fourth year of punishing drought, state officials are looking to arid Australia for innovative ideas to tackle its water problems.

Much like California, Australia was strapped for cash when it faced a megadrought, its worst-ever recorded, stretching across the 2000s.

Yet by the time the Millennium Drought was over, the government had transformed its water management system into one of the most efficient in the world.

The key reform used a cap-and-trade policy similar to those that have reduced greenhouse-gas emissions in many developed countries.

“The government didn’t have enough money to build more infrastructure, so it developed a cap-and-trade system,” said Giulio Boccaletti, who heads the U.S.-based Nature Conservancy's Global Freshwater Program.

Upgrades such as drip and computerized irrigation and aqueduct lining were built into the system and paired with urban conservation techniques such as storm water capture and recycling.

Grey water systems were introduced that recycle shower and washing machine water to irrigate gardens. Sprinkler use on lawns was banned.

“Their programs have reduced the average household daily water use to 55 gallons per person, compared to an average of 140 gallons in California between 2001 and 2010,” said Heather Cooley of the Oakland, California-based Pacific Institute, a non-profit environmental research group.

The reforms are catching the attention of water managers throughout the American West, 35 percent of which is in severe drought.

“They’ve done a lot of things we’ve been looking at as a model,” said California’s top water regulator, Felicia Marcus, who heads the state’s Water Resources Control Board.

Australia’s water revolution started with agriculture, which dominates consumption, as in similarly drought-prone California.

Rather than slash the water rights long held by farmers and other irrigators, the government ran a $2.4 billion buyback program to purchase water for the environment, coupled with a $4.5 billion infrastructure program.

“The most significant thing we did was embrace a better water rights system designed to ensure the transition to efficient water use and innovation,” said Mike Young, a professor at the University of Adelaide.

Restrictions on Australia’s water trade, in place since the late 1980s, were gradually eliminated. A national online marketplace now does nearly $2 billion in business each year.

“We basically copied the banks,” said Young, who received a national award for his role in developing improved water entitlement, allocation and trading systems in Australia and is now in the U.S. working on a similar blueprint.

“If you want to sell water to me, and we’re in the same hydrographic area, just log in and transfer the shares from your account to mine,” he said.

At the peak of the drought, nearly all of Australia’s rice growers and many dairy farmers — both are in highly water intense forms of agriculture — scaled back production and sold water at high prices to citrus and grape growers.

“The market facilitated a reallocation of water from low value to higher value use,” Boccaletti said.

Getting to that point was not easy.

Australia spent a decade measuring withdrawals from its major rivers before amassing enough data to move to a free market system.

California, where many irrigators still lack water meters, faces similar challenges.

“We don’t have that data yet,” Marcus said.

Another hurdle for California is sorting out competing claims among rights holders, some of which date back more than a century.

That’s difficult when most river systems in the state are not adjudicated.

With regulators emboldened by emergency drought legislation, tougher metering requirements are on the horizon.

California is saddled with the most complex water rights system in the U.S., a set of Gold Rush-era laws originally designed to protect the prospectors who panned the streams of the Sierra Nevada.

The arrangement is obsolete and inefficient, water policy experts say.

Like in most Western states, California water law grants those with the earliest claims legal priority to surface water, which becomes scarce during droughts.

But the regulations discourage conservation.

“It’s a use-or-lose system that prevents more economically efficient water use,” said Upmanu Lall, a leading hydroclimatology expert who heads Columbia University’s Water Center.

In Australia, state governments allocate surface water to irrigators throughout the year. The percentage depends on seasonal availability, and shareholders can either sell their allocation or trade parts of it away.

That kind of flexibility is impossible in California.

“If your water rights are for mining or agriculture and you lease them to someone in another industry you may lose them, since they’re tied to a specific, beneficial use,” Lall said.

California has had water trading for years, but activity is limited and the system more akin to in-person bartering than Australia’s computerized, highly efficient marketplace.

“A real concern is that we don’t know how much water is traded, formally or informally,  because no one is tracking it,” Cooley said.

On top of that, lawyers have already filed four lawsuits with multiple claims challenging last month’s announced cutbacks in surface water allocations for more than 100 senior rights holders in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and watersheds.

“This is our water. We believe firmly in that fact, and we are willing to take on the state bureaucracy to protect that right,” said Steve Knell, general manager of the Oakdale Irrigation District, in a statement.

Many of those with more junior rights, whose allocations have already been slashed, are being hit hard, forcing them to fallow thousands of acres of cropland.

Others are pumping groundwater at alarming rates.

As a result, parts of California’s San Joaquin Valley, America’s most productive farmland,  are sinking by more than 30 centimeters (about a foot) per year, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

“Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing,” wrote NASA’s Jay Famiglietti earlier this year.

State lawmakers finally passed groundwater pumping restrictions in 2014, last in the American West to do so. But water agencies in California’s most over-pumped basins are not required to submit their plans until 2020, with sustainability targets pushed out until 2040.

Australia’s 22 million inhabitants are mostly concentrated along the country’s southeastern coast, close to their water sources and serviced by a handful of integrated water management systems.

In contrast, most of California’s nearly 39 million people live in large urban areas hundreds of kilometers away from their water sources — often a disparate mix that the state’s 3,000 wholesalers and retailers cobble together.
Coldwell Banker

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Mafi Real Estate: Houses, lots and farms in Costa Rica
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WE HAVE A NETWORK OF OVER 500 brokers across the country to get what you are looking for.
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English calls: (Cristian Arce) Phone: 
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English calls :  (Luis David) Phone: 
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Español calls: (Luis G. Jiménez)  Phone:   
(506) 8707-4016
Grecia one
Big house for sale.
Great opportunity !!!

If you know about house for sale prices,  you will realize that this is a real deal.  Original price of  $400,000 now is $320,000.
Due to its characteristics and location, it can also be used for commercial purposes (boutique hotel, offices, medical center).  Large house, 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, one office, just 250 meters from Grecia downtown. High quality construction, built in 2009, high ceilings, balcony with beautiful views over central Grecia valley, elegant luxury furnitures included, network cabling 6 gigabits throughout the house, Giant TV flat projection system of 120 inches in the main room, sound system 7.1 channel. Air conditioning system, security system, and cameras, lighting system in open areas. 4-car parking space plus large garage, Recommended for large families.

Property Location: Central Grecia, Alajuela
Total area construction (two floors):
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Total area: 250 square meters
Construction Type: Concrete
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Grecias two
  Send us your request to our email:

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For those looking for quality properties and service at quality prices. Central Valley Rentals. Offering honesty, experience and knowledge. Your Villa Real Expert. Call us now  Toll Free (877) 845-4533. In Costa Rica 4030-5480 or 8339-2112.

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Real estate for sale (paid category)

San Rafael
Charming land for sale
Located in  in the mountains of Los Angeles, San Rafael, Heredia. Surrounded by trees and nature, beautiful gardens, and a small river.
Bus line service, security, 45 minutes from San José. Land with 3 houses (cottage type). The lot measures around 6.000 M2.
Sale by the owners, Offered at $750,000 USD. 
Phone: (506) 8739-0638, (506) 7019-9457, (506) 8993-5801,

Ringle resort
on one big lot in Esterillos Oeste, (Central Pacific)
Located on a breezy hill just 4 minutes walk to the beach, surf and tide-pools, only 20 minutes drive north to Jacó nightlife and shopping or south to the rural town of Parrita.

First, a 2-storey, 2-bedroom (sleeps 4), 1½-bathroom house with big kitchen and living room.  Full-width verandah with eating and sitting areas, overlooking lawn, pool and gazebo. Sitting balcony at upper, bedroom level.  Carport. and laundry. 

Second, a completely private single-storey. 2-bedroom (sleeps 4), 1-bathroom home with big back yard at a lower level on the same, big fully titled 1,100M2 lot.. Full security bars at all doors and windows, plus locking vehicle access and pedestrian gates at the street. In a very safe neighborhood, with private and natural surroundings

Well maintained, fully and tastefully furnished and equipped, hot water, local phone, cable TV/DVD and high speed wireless internet   The houses have been rented for both long-term and vacation for $100/$80 per day and $1,500/$1,200 per month respectively. See this place, you will love it! Then make an offer. E-mail or call (506) 8386-8825.  Rodney, asking $350,000.

Coffee farm
Organic coffee farm for sale
34,000 meters square zoned ARC. 130 meters paved road frontage. City water and irrigation runes through property. Year round spring. Bananas and many fruit trees on property. Approx. 1.5K from Sarchí Center, 40K from airport. Plans and permits ready for 2-bedroom house. Proposed subdivision plans are also included. @$15US per meter for total $510,000. Email or

Highway Restaurant & Bar
Golfito, Costa Rica’s paradise. About 5 acre, choice property on the highway. Ideal to build a drive-in restaurant and home. Asking Only $65,000.00 Agents inquiries welcome. Call Jens: 2775-0225 or

San Ramon
Mountain home w/million dollar view near San Ramón
Beautiful home in the mountains near San Ramón with 180-degree view of the gulf of Nicoya. 7 miles from San Ramón, 1 mile from Interamericana highway. 3,200 foot elevation so temp is 65 to 75 year around. Electric gate, private drive. house built in 2010. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, appliances included. High-speed internet installed, Price for sale $179,000    Contact Mike:   Check out slide show HERE!

Goetl in Palo Seco

Charming small oceanfront hotel for sale in Playa Palo Seco
Ideal oceanfront location with back up to a mangrove estuary. The
charming small hotel has a fully equipped kitchen, bar and restaurant and is exceptionnally well maintained. Located on a very private beach of the central Pacific Coast of Costa Rica 35 minutes north of Quepos-Manuel Antonio and 45 minutes south of  Playa Jacó. The main building is a two-storey house with 12 bedrooms. The lot measures 3,054 M2. Beautiful gardens around the large pool and exceptional flora and fauna. Well mentioned in tourist guides like Lonely Planet and Guide Ulysse. Offered at $1,250,000. USD
or call (506) 8707-1037  (506) 2778-8408

A beautiful American style suburban home just reduced.

A beautiful American style suburban home, 2,700 sq ft of living space with 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, front and rear living rooms, laundry area, kitchen and small attached library nook, arched windows and doors and connected hallways, exotic wood interior ceilings and trim, tile floors thru-out.  The lot is 835 m2 with mature landscape and orchid nurseries surrounding the house. There is an enclosed workshop and BBQ area in the back yard with lots of storage under roof, plus a nursery for an herb/vegetable garden.  This is a very well-kept property with many upgrades, a private feel but yet only 5 minutes from the center of town.  Pérez Zeledón is the commercial hub of the southern zone and considered to be one of the best places to live in all of Costa Rica, the perfect size town, not too big and not too small.  The beach is 45 minutes to the west and a short drive to the cool mountains is to the east. In between, this large valley has a moderate climate.  Pérez has plenty of modern goods and services, an excellent farmers market, private schools, private doctors and clinics, all you need without having to go to the crazy madness of San José.    Just reduced to $239,000.  Call  Jeff: 8824-8113 or 8725-8176.  Email:

Aerial Ocean and Volcano Views with Boutique Coffee! 33 Acres $725,000. Click HERE!

San Ramon rollover
Three-bedroom home with view near San Ramón
Beautiful house in magical setting in the hills above San Ramón in Costa Rica can be yours for $179,500! House was built 10 years ago with soaring 16-foot ceilings.  Enclosed area is 1,200 square feet with 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms, large kitchen, and utility room.  It is located at 4,000 feet with typical temperatures ranging between 75 and the low 80s during the day and the low to mid-60s at night.  The house is offered fully furnished, including all appliances (nearly new energy-efficient Samsung refrigerator). The front of the house features a large covered veranda (another 500 square feet), with a barbecue and outdoor patio furniture to seat 8, and hooks for a hammock. There are many tropical plants, flowers, and trees are on the half-acre property.  Set on the far western edge of the Central Valley in a small, pastoral community, it's only 10 minutes to San Ramón and its many small stores, restaurants, museums, a branch campus of the University of Costa Rica, and a weekly farmers' market.
See additional pictures at
Phone: (506) 7009-0364

For sale 5,200 m2 Escazú
Fantastic location for condo, hotel, restaurant.
Large lower lot, incredible views. Flexible zoning.
Easy to get liquor license. Low interest financing.
Toll free US phone 877-778-8515
In Costa Rica 8307-0164

private ranch home
Small private ranch for sale
This exceptional private ranch sits on a 9+ hectare lot and supports 15-20 horses. Only 2 hours south of San José, on the road to Puriscal. Roomy stalls all with drains, water hookup, lights and fans, grooming and shoeing área. Two-story house all furnished and cowboy house. Don't miss your chance on that turnkey operation.  Offered at $889,000.
E-mail:  or call (506) 8707-1037 
(506) 2778-8408 Web:

For sale: Titled beachfront lot 1/2 acre (1,750m2) near Jacó $89,000. Just one hour drive from San José.
Panoramic ocean view lot 1.25 acres (5,000m2) 25 minutes from Tamarindo  $25,000.
Panoramic ocean view lot  5,400 sq. ft. (500m2)  $6,500. Financing available.
For rent two-bedroom house  five minute walk to water $350 a month.
Call 6261-7932 Or email See this Web site:

Shangra la
Located in Jacó in the best and safest location possible, at Barrio Ricos y Famosos in Calle Europa, Casa Shangri La.

Main house: 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, 270 square meters, 2 condominiums 2 bedrooms, one bath, 110 square meters, plus one small apartment: One bedroom, one bath. Huge pool, carport for five cars. plus double garage, rancho with pool bathroom, gymnasium, laundry room, pool plumbing room, huge dog house in separate 500-square-meter garden with aviary for birds and other animals. 60 meters of river front of Río Copey with a 4-meter-high protective and retention stone wall. Eight surveillance camera CCTV system with Internet access from anywhere. Over 2-meter-high brick wall all around the property with two layers of razor wires on top, the safest place to be! Electronic entrance gate, door phone, Beautiful gardens with many fruit trees. Built in year 2005 to highest standard by German owner now 69 years old, who wants to downgrade. Room for two more apartments, plans approved. Only 6 minutes walk to the beach and or center of Jacó.  Price reduced for quick sale to $1,150.000 and still negotiable. All fittings and furniture included. Excellent quality and well maintained. Just upgraded and remodeled for $ 30,000. Owner financing available.  More photos on request HERE! Email:  Cell 8838-2081 or home 2643-2979.

ARenal property
Location: Near Arenal        Price: $2.7 million
Size: 113 acres
Web site:

The farm is at the highest point on a stunning ridge bordered by pristine Costa Rican primary forest on all sides of the property, with active wildlife all throughout the area. On each of its gently rolling terraced lomas you get a glimpse of Volcán Arenal from a distance. This property has four different lagunas, a working organic farm and nursery, mature fruit trees, sheep corral, ideal for grazing horses with stunning views from all the hillsides. The Northern Zone of Costa Rica is the country's best kept secret, providing a perfect home base location to travel the country's many destinations while still maintaining the best climate at 400 meters above sea level.

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Several profitable businesses, including a regional radio station, are for sale in Costa Rica. Certain purchases can provide the new owner with residency as well as a great lifestyle. So live your dream while making a profit. Contact:

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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 20, 2015, Vol. 15, No. 141
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News from the BBC up to the minute

BBC news feeds are disabled on archived pages.

Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Beam me up some dry weather, Scotty

Up here near Nuevo Arenal, we seem to have been transported to the
Ferengi homeworld.

For those of you who never watched Star Trek or ST-DS-9 (that’s Star Trek Deep Space 9 for the uninitiated), the Ferengi are a race froma
Victoria torley
world of perpetual cloud and rain. Ferengi have 137 words for rain and no word for crisp.

I like crisp. Crisp is good. I like green beans that snap when you break them. I like sweet corn that fountains sweet liquid when you push a
thumbnail in a kernel. I like sugar snap peas (there’s that word  
snap again)   that never make it to the kitchen because they are so darn good right from the vine. Is that what I get? Nope. I get 137 words for rain

Don’t get me wrong, rain is good. Rain makes things green. Right now I would like to send some of our rain to the areas of drought in the country because we have too much rain! A hundred inches in 6 months? Twice what we had in the same period last year? Too much rain.

Too much rain is a garden problem. It leaches nutrients from the soil so fast that the pelleted  works-for-three-months fertilizer needs to be applied every 6 weeks. It turns flat gardens to bogs and sucks your boots into the depths (as my friend Mary can attest). It washes out seeds and seedlings. It really requires raised or elevated beds. With lots of drainage.
The best raised beds I have ever seen belong to my friend Shirley. In restructuring her garden, Shirley has had a set of raised beds made with concrete block. The beds are about 1x2 meters and a meter tall. They are well drained (if they weren’t, the plants would float away), filled with rich, well-composted soil, and arranged in a formal garden.

Right now, since they are still new, they look a little raw and forlorn, but I am filled with envy whenever I see them.  Once they are filled with flowers, they will be an excellent place for a garden club meeting (so everyone else can turn green with envy).

As for Mary and I, I guess we will continue to slog along in the rain and look for things that like to grow in the rain. So far, my favorite rain crop right now is peanuts. They are growing like crazy.

A.M. Costs Rica/Victoria Torley
Plant of the Week

  This lovely trailing plant goes by the name Lysimachia aurea or golden Jenny. Although it is often featured as the trailer or spiller in hanging baskets, the plant does very well on embankments and can withstand light traffic.

 Planted outside, it spills up to 10 meters and can become invasive. Grow in sun to light shade and medium to wet soil for best results.

As you can see, the plant pictured here (courtesy of La Garita Central) has serious ambitions. Cut it back and replant the cuttings for quick results.

If you would like to suggest a topic for this column, simply send a letter to the editor.  And, for more garden tips, visit

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From Page 7:

Banks in Greece open after three-week holiday

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Banks in cash-strapped Greece opened today for the first time in three weeks.  Bank customers will be allowed to make a single withdrawal of $455 a week, instead of just $65 in daily withdrawals.  However, restrictions on cash transfers abroad will remain in place.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has again rejected proposals to write off part of Greece's debt, but says her government will show flexibility in new talks about how Athens structures its bailout repayments.

Speaking Sunday on German television, the chancellor also ruled out forcing Greece to leave the 19-nation eurozone.  She told German lawmakers Friday that a temporary Greek exit would lead to predictable chaos.

Referring to the limits on Greek bank customers, Ms. Merkel told German public broadcaster ARD, "That's not a normal life, so we have to negotiate quickly" in upcoming talks on a third European bailout of about $95 billion.

She also said Germany, the largest bailout lender, will do all it can to bring talks on the new relief to a successful conclusion, while gaining assurances that Greece meets new repayment terms.

In Athens, embattled Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces new parliamentary challenges this week as his administration seeks approval of the new wave of reforms demanded by European creditors in exchange for more loans.

The pro-government newspaper Avgi called Wednesday's vote a crash test for the ruling Syriza party that could determine whether the Tsipras government survives or whether the prime minister is forced to resign.

The Tsipras coalition holds 162 seats in the 300-member parliament.  But in a pivotal vote last week on new spending cuts, only 123 coalition lawmakers supported the measures, just three votes more than necessary to sustain a minority government.

Nearly one quarter of Syriza lawmakers failed to support that reform bill, which nonetheless passed when opposition parties joined in to approve further reforms.