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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Wednesday, July 25, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 147                          Email us
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Real estate project sale leaves U.S. buyers in the lurch
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Hacienda Matapalo real estate project has changed hands, and those who gave money to the previous management are wondering if they are protected.

The change in ownership was contained in a .pdf file on the firm's Web site, addressed to “To Holders of Agreements to Purchase Home Sites and Condominiums at Hacienda Matapalo.”

At the same time the local CBS television station in Miami aired a story interviewing residents there who had given the original management money in anticipation of construction, which has not taken place. A former employee of the former management was quoted saying that perhaps as many as 200 would-be purchasers sent $21 million to the firm,  Pegasus Star Ltd., a subsidiary of the U.S.-based  Centam Partners, LLC.

The announcement of the purchase was by Giovanni Varela, who was identified as the legal representative of  Gestion Integrada De Residuos SRL, called GIR. Said the announcement: “Varela is one of the principals of INDECA, the premier architectural and design firm in Central America. However, we stress that GIR has no development arrangements or agreements in place at this time.”

Apparently many of the would-be purchasers gave a down payment and continued to put money into what they thought was a trust account.

The announcement of the ownership change identified the previous operators and managers as  David Matluck, Ed Sklar and Brian Albury.

The announcement also said that the Matapalo property is subject to a secured loan with a firm identified as  UTA Capital LLC. The announcement said that  Gestion Integrada De Residuos took over the management in lieu of foreclosure and that additional resources were provided.

Said the announcement:

“You can expect a new philosophy and different set of priorities moving forward. GIR is not a marketing company, nor a sales-driven organization. Do not anticipate the numerous emails, solicitations, marketing materials or various electronic updates to which you had become accustomed with the former owner. GIR is focusing squarely on the necessary steps to complete the infrastructure that will allow for lot closings and for vertical construction to begin.

“GIR has chosen to direct the bulk of its resources towards producing tangible results. GIR is effectively transitioning to the construction phase of development.

“In anticipation of taking ownership of Hacienda
Matapalo

Matapalo, GIR had been systematically laying over the past several months the preliminary groundwork necessary to move the project forward, with funding support and encouragement so far from UTA Capital LLC. The long awaited HOA documents are now complete and filed with the proper governmental agencies.

“The individual surveys for the single-family home sites have been completed and we expect to receive the final governmental approvals for lot closings in August. In combination with those surveys, the other required preliminary steps to facilitate single-family home site registration for inclusion in the National Registry are also nearly complete.

“All of the crucial permits and approvals have been secured including, but not limited to, the water concession and sewage treatment plants. Hacienda Matapalo has continued to successfully pass all the necessary environmental inspections from Setena and Acopac, two important Costa Rican governmental agencies. In the second half of July you can expect to see work resume on infrastructure, the entrance way and the guardhouse.”

Acopac is the Área de Conservación Pacífico Central, and  Setena is the Secretaría Técnica Nacional Ambiental.

The announcement also said that some former employees of Pegasus, Michael Starkey and Nathan Posey, are being retained in the United States to serve as liaisons between the new owners and those who are purchasing property.

“In the coming months you can expect to be systematically contacted by Michael or Nathan as they will be assigned to assist the new owner in two very important specific tasks: (1) execution by prospective buyers of new purchase and sale agreements with GIR, and (2) determining which individuals who signed appropriate purchase option agreements with Pegasus are prepared to close and have the necessary financial resources to meet the closing obligations of the GIR agreements.”

In short the announcement probably means that those who gave money to Pegasus have lost their cash because  UTA Capital has taken over the property and that anyone who wants to do business will have to start all over with the new firm. To get their money they will have to start legal actions against Pegasus.

The 665-acre project was at Playa Matapalo, which is on the central Pacific coast between Quepos and Dominical. The Web site called Matapalo the No. 1 real estate development in Costa Rica.

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Our reader's opinion
Where is the U.S. outrage
over loss of basic liberties


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I'm not sure if I should be amused or troubled by the conclusion of your July 24 article entitled "Despite Colorado killings, there is little debate on guns" that "most analysts agree that politicians are unlikely to support additional gun control legislation, particularly ahead of this year's national elections, even in the wake of the recent shooting in Colorado." 

On the one hand we have a society in the United States in which a large number of citizens become apoplectic when anyone even suggests that the Second Amendment needs to be reinterpreted in the context of the modern world. 

At the same time, an even larger number of American citizens seem to be completely unaware that the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth amendments have been essentially eviscerated over the last decade.  Authorization of the military to indefinitely detain American citizens without charges, evidence, or trial if the citizen is suspected of terrorist activity (as determined solely by the executive branch of the government), extrajudicial assassination of American citizens at the discretion of the President and warrantless wiretaps, searches and seizures are now the new legal standard in the United States. 

Where is the outrage?  Where is the resistance to the loss of civil liberties?

That we experience so much passionate debate concerning the sanctity of gun ownership yet hear almost nothing regarding the virtual destruction of the fundamental principles on which the country was founded speaks volumes about the values and character of the American people.  Clearly for most, the Second Amendment is being interpreted in terms of how it affects "me" while the other, now irrelevant parts of the Bill of Rights are about "them." 

Perhaps this is a good time to recall the prescient words of pastor Martin Niemöller who chastised the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power when he said:

"First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me."

Steve Roman
San Antonio de Belén

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
 HERE!
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A.M. Costa Rica

Third News Page
Pacifico Radio
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 25, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 147
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Major increases approved for AyA water and sewer rates
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's price regulating agency has approved a 25 percent hike in water and a 77 percent hike is sewer services. A family using an average amount of water will face an increase in both categories of 5,868 colons,  about 77 percent in total.

The increases are far less than what the Instituto Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados sought. The company wanted a 48 percent increase in water and a 150 percent increase in sewer service.

The price fixing agency, the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos said the increases were to give the company money for infrastructure upgrades and also to make consumers save water.
The sewer fees are based on water use. Additional increases were approved for July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014, said the authority.

The national water company also was instructed to present a proposal within one year for an environmental surcharge.

The water company, known as AyA is the nation's major water provider. The increase will have varying impacts on other water systems depending on how they obtain the fluid. Some regional systems have their own wells.

Others buy the water from  AyA.

The new rates go into effect when the legal order is published in the La Gaceta official newspaper, probably before Aug. 1.


Nicoya installs some new lights to mark today's holiday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The city of Nicoya has installed neon lights along a principal street to mark the 188th anniversary of the  Anexión del Partido de Nicoya. The lights cover three kilometers in the municipality.

The project was done by Iluminaciones Cavica with the support of Banco de Costa Rica, the municipality and the local Comité de Cultura.

Nicoya is the principal place where today's national holiday is celebrated, and it is there where political leaders agreed in 1824 that the Nicoya peninsula and what is today Guanacaste would become part of Costa Rica instead of Nicaragua.

There is a fiesta, the VI Festival Nacional Cultural de la Anexión, that continues  there today, but the lights were inaugurated earlier in the month. Some carry the slogan  De la Patria por Nuestra Voluntad, meaning “Of the country by our own will.”

President Laura Chinchilla will be visiting Nicoya today.
neon lights in Nicoya
Municipalidad de Nicoya photo
This is an example of the illuminations.


Public offices and some private firms will be closed to honor the holiday.

A.,M. Costa Rica's office is closed, but the newspaper is being published today and also Thursday. Local schools have holiday activities.


Nine-hole golf course opens for public in the Cartago area
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Eagle Eye Golf Costa Rica, the first golf course for the Cartago area, is open to the public, and its operators say it has the goal of bringing affordable golf to all in a comfortable atmosphere.

“We are breaking the myth that golf is expensive or golf is only for the elite,” said Angela Berrocal from Eagle Eye.

The nine-hole golf course was the vision of owner Viviana Arrieta and manager William Campbell. The course opened July 14 after three years of construction.  It is located in a countryside town called Bermejo in the Cartago providence.

Around 100 people attended the opening and 25 people played golf.

Directors at the golf course said that their market is U. S. expats who live in Costa Rica or who are planning to come to Costa Rica.  They want to provide a place that is comfortable for those who may not be golf experts or for those who feel out of place because they aren’t considered upper class.

“If I speak to 100 people and ask if they want to play golf, 98 of the people say ‘No, I don’t want to play. It’s expensive,' or 'I like to play, but I don’t feel welcome because of class differences.'  It’s sad but it's true,” said Ms. Berrocal.

“At our course you can be able to come and play at an affordable place. We give you lessons, and you can bring your children. People are going to be comfortable, and it’s going to be quiet and peaceful,” she added.

“In the mountains of Cartago you have a beautiful view, nice weather, very fresh atmosphere that is very good to play golf,” said Ms. Berrocal.

A unique feature about this golf course is the use of three
EAgle Eye Gold course
Eagle Eye graphic
The nine-hole course is a par 31.

grasses, bentgrass, ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass.  This is the first golf course in Latin America to use them.

“We have the different colors which gives it a nice effect,” said Berrocal.

It is also the first semipublic golf course in the country.  Campo de Golf Monterán in Tres Ríos is the closest to the area and it, like most of the others in Costa Rica, are private, and patrons pay memberships. 

Eagle Eye offers golf lessons, rents equipment and sells clothes and gear in a pro shop.  There is a restaurant and sports bar in the works to be built, and, eventually, the golf course will be expanded. Beginner lessons are $30 for one and a half hours.  It is also $30 to play a nine-hole game.

“If we compare our prices with the rest of the golf course, we are more affordable.  Our course is very attractive because you get the same features as the other places,” said Ms. Berrocal.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 25, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 147
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National insurance company creates special low-income policy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The  Instituto Nacional de Seguros has created a special, low-cost fire insurance for low-income residents. For example, a family can obtain 3 million colons ($6,000) coverage on a home and 750,000-colon ($1,500) coverage on contents for just 444 colons (89 U.S. cents) a month.

Coverage of 25 million colons (about $50,000) on a home and 6.3 million colons ($12,500) on contents is available for 789 colons ($1.68) a month, the former insurance monopoly said.
These types of homes, probably built with spare lumber and with sheet metal roofs are the ones that frequently are involved in fires due to the creative types of electrical wiring.

When a fire does break out, these types of homes burn rapidly, and the fire spreads to neighboring dwellings.

Such was the case Sunday morning in San Antonio de Escazú when fire broke out in a small store. Eventually the flames took three adjacent homes, and the residents were left in the street with only the possessions they could carry out.


Costa Rican detained in fallout from European child porn ring
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents here detained a man in  Ciudad Quesada San Carlos Tuesday morning because he appears to have been involved with a child pornography ring that was dismembered in London and Bellorussia.

Agents also conducted searches in  Liberia, Puntarenas, San Carlos, Cartago and Pavas, although the exact purpose of these actions could not be determined.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the European ring had a system of images connected to a Web page where
those interested in viewing child porn could pay money and access the site.

Agents said that the credit card of the 51-year-old man showed up during the European investigations. Judicial agents may have the numbers of other local credit cards.

The Judicial police said that the man was being investigated for distributing pornography, although the crime appears to be possession of child porn. The judicial organization said that there might be more arrests.

Agents confiscated computers, compact discs and other electronic devices during the arrest, they said.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 25, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 147
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Amelia Earhart expedition
fails to locate proofs


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A team of scientists and salvagers has ended its expedition without finding any dramatic or conclusive evidence to determine what happened to missing U.S. aviator Amelia Earhart 75 years ago.

​​The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, which led the search, said on its Web site this week that it was returning from the field with more questions than answers. It now has what it calls "volumes of sonar data and many hours of high-definition video" to review before knowing the expedition's result.

The team set sail earlier this month from Hawaii for an island near the remote South Pacific nation of Kiribati. It was searching for clues into Ms. Earhart's disappearance while she was flying from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island during her quest to fly around the world along the equator.

The team believed Ms. Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan landed on Nikumaroro Atoll and briefly survived, based on evidence gathered from the island during past expeditions. The $2 million expedition, financed entirely by private donations, searched the waters off Nikumaroro for the wreckage of Earhart's Lockheed Electra twin-engine airplane.

The team had anticipated 10 days of search operations, but due to equipment problems attributed to the underwater environment, it only had five days on site.

Ms. Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, accompanying a team of male pilots. Four years later she became the first woman to fly the Atlantic solo, and in 1935, she became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean. Ms. Earhart also set a number of altitude records.


Moody's cuts German rating
and prompts more fears


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Stock markets and the euro currency dipped Tuesday after the international financial-rating agency Moody's lowered its credit outlook for Europe's strongest economy, Germany.  New jitters are also surfacing over two shakier European economies, Spain and Greece.

By lowering Germany's credit outlook from stable to negative — along with those of two other top-rated countries, Luxembourg and The Netherlands — Moody's is signaling that the eurozone's crisis is affecting even its strongest economies.

The move is the first step to a possible downgrade of Germany's sterling AAA credit rating.  Europe's second-largest economy, France, lost its AAA rating earlier this year.  So did Austria.

Explaining its warning, Moody's said Germany was vulnerable to a possible Greek exit from the eurozone and the need to increase financial support to other ailing countries like Spain and Italy. 

Analyst Benedicta Marzinotto, of Brussels-based think-tank Bruegel, says it also reflects larger fears.

"I think the decision to reduce the rating on Germany is a sign that the rating agencies are considering the possibility of a eurozone breakup which would have consequences also for Germany," Marzinotto said.

Another analyst, Stewart Fleming of London-based Chatham House, said he was surprised at Moody's move.

"The German economy is fundamentally very, very strong," he said.  "Far stronger than the United States economy, the British economy, the Japanese economy.  So I certainly do not see this as an indication that the crisis is about to spread to Germany.  It is not."

It appears a June European Union summit aimed to ease market fears about the eurozone has had limited impact.  Borrowing costs are soaring for Spain, despite an EU agreement to bail out Spanish banks.

And Greece is having a hard time paying back its debt and enacting its austerity promises.  Creditors are in Athens now to assess its progress.  But with the Greek economy shrinking faster than expected, expectations are again mounting that that the country may exit the eurozone.

Fleming believes a Greek exit would be disastrous.

"Leaving the eurozone in the middle of an economic, financial and political crisis is of no advantage to Greece or its people," he said.  "So efforts will be made to keep Greece in the eurozone, to hold Greece's feet to the fire.  And try and get Greece to take reforms, economic, political and social reforms, which it should have undertaken any time over the past 20 years."

Eurozone leaders are not expected to meet again for several weeks.  But as the summer goes by and their problems mount, analysts say they may need to take action sooner, rather than later.


Record number of whales
traveling along Australia


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A record-breaking number of whales is expected to pass along Australia's east coast in the coming months, during the annual migration from Antarctica to tropical breeding grounds. Whale watching companies say populations of humpback whales have been rising steadily in recent years, attracting large numbers of tourists.

Australia has been at the forefront of efforts to conserve whale species and to stop Japan’s annual hunt in the Southern Ocean.

Will Ford is a director of Whale Watching Sydney, a tour company that closely tracks the annual migration.

“One of the main arguments against commercial whaling is that the whale watching is a far more sustainable and far more profitable business. It is a pretty amazing migration," he said. "They start down in the Great Southern Ocean around Antarctica, which is where there feeding grounds are in summertime, and over two or three months they will swim all the way from that area all the way up to the tropics, so almost a quarter of the Earth’s circumference, just about. The amazing thing is most of the whales won’t eat on that whole migration, so they are doing it all basically on an empty stomach.”

Tour guide Jonas Liebschner says each year the number of whales spotted has increased by around 10 percent, signs that endangered populations are rebounding because of commercial whaling bans.

The humpback whale migration continues through August, before the population begins making its way back to feeding areas in the Antarctic.
 
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Latin America news
Emergency officials seek
to move those below slide


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are 9,000 persons living in Desamparados under the threat of being swept away in their sleep.

The national emergency commission presented a study Tuesday to the Concejo Municipal  outlining the problem that comes from the peak Tablazo. An unstable mass covers more than 2.2 hectares, some 5.4 acres. It is above 2,454 homes in Higuito Centro, Calle Valverde, Calle Rodilla, Urbanización Veracruz y Urbanización Santa Bárbara.

Heavy rains or an earthquake could trigger a slide similar to the one that killed residents of Calle Lajas, Barrio El Carmen, San Antonio de Escazú, in 2010. That material came from Pico Blanco. The Cerro  Tablazo generated a slide at the same time, but there were no deaths.

Representatives of the  Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said there are few technical solutions to the problem. Instead they suggested the immediate relocation of persons living along the  Los Reyes waterway, which is the area of the greatest risk.


Millicom officially announces
name change for Amnet

 Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Millicom International Cellular S.A. officially announced Tuesday that its cable business in Costa Rica, which has been operating under the brand name Amnet, has been rebranded to Tigo. It joins Millicom’s three other cable businesses in Central America already operating under the Tigo brand in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Tigo is Millicom’s brand across all its markets in Latin America and Africa. Tigo Costa Rica is, in conjunction with the rebranding, also launching new services.

“The Tigo brand is derived from the Spanish word contigo, which means ‘with you,’" said Mikael Grahne, Millicom’s president and CEO.


U.S. donates hangar

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. government has donated an aircraft hangar valued at $2 million to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The hanger is based at the Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia. It will be used by aircraft of the ministry's Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea.















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