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(506) 2223-1327         Pubished Friday, July 31, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 150        E-mail us
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This retrospective is required reading for investors
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

As some real estate projects falter and their investors get anxious, many say they wish they knew.

They should not blame A.M. Costa Rica. This newspaper has been publishing news articles about real estate and its problems since it was founded. The protection of expats is one of the priorities. That extends to their pocketbooks.

As the real estate market begins to improve, this retrospective should be required reading for those who would invest in real estate here.

There are plenty of good lawyers, developers and real estate agents. The problem in Costa Rica is telling them from the vipers of which there also are many.

Note that the following are in chronological order and the link contains the date:
 

Phone room invites North American buyers
Mass marketing techniques for real estate here

The Pacific beach area seems to be getting the same kind of mass marketing of real estate experienced in the past by Arizona, Vail, Colo., Las Vegas, Nev., and even Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

A phone room in Florida is inviting North Americans to visit Costa Rica and to consider the area as an investment and/or retirement.

http://www.amcostarica.com/120704.htm


Heavily promoted land deal has skimpy contract

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

North Americans who purchase heavily promoted property in Parrita are giving the seller 12 months to put in roads, electricity and water. That time period is contained in the unusual and skimpy purchase agreement presented to would-be buyers.

http://www.amcostarica.com/123004.htm


Paragon lawyer says stories were malicious

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lawyer for a firm aggressively marketing lots near the Pacific coast community of Parrita said Tuesday that news stories in A.M. Costa Rica about the project were false and malicious and denied that a one-page sales contract for North Americans was skimpy.

The lawyer is Michael J. Fingar of Hallandale Beach, Florida. In an e-mail to the newspaper, the lawyer, a real estate specialist, said he was speaking for the company, Paragon Properties of Costa Rica S.A.

The lawyer also said that "any unhappiness on the part of local real estate professionals is easily understood in terms of their own greed." 

http://www.amcostarica.com/010505.htm


Some questions about buying undeveloped land

By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Purchasing property in a proposed subdivision is risky at best. Even the best-intentioned developer can become the victim of economic forces.

A prudent land purchaser should ask the following questions:

1. What governmental approvals are necessary for this development and which ones already have been granted?

Land without a platted subdivision is just raw land. Here and elsewhere the subdivision process is expensive, long and filled with official obstacles

2. Who actually owns the land?

Frequently a developer will begin a project with just an option to purchase the land at a later date. The developer’s degree of commitment is an indication of the chances the project will be finished.

http://www.amcostarica.com/010505.htm


Meanwhile, prices are soaring
Year-long series puts focus on real estate here


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For nearly a year, A.M. Costa Rica has been trying to explain the dynamic and important real estate market to English-speakers.

The series originated in the e-mails and telephone calls from readers. Some had lost money in scam real estate investments or through outright theft.

http://www.amcostarica.com/033005.htm


Paragon Properties worker had run-ins with feds in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Florida newspaper says that Paragon Properties has hired a notorious phone room marketeer to assist it.

Paragon is the company that is using telephone sales techniques and Internet ads to sell interests in real estate near Parrita.

The employee at the firm’s Hollywood, Fla., location is Stephen Tashman, according to the New Times weekly in Fort Lauderdale.

http://www.amcostarica.com/042805.htm



A.M. Costa Rica news stories for the last eight years can be searched by keyword and date.


See the archive page here:

http://www.amcostarica.com/earlier.htm#1

Searchers should be specific because phrases like real estate will generate thousands of hits.

No provision for financial oversight
New Paragon contract is better than earlier document

By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Premier Realty Sales of Costa Rica, Ltda., has changed the sales contract for its many real estate developments, but the document still seems to be flawed.

The company’s lawyer called A.M. Costa Rica "malicious" when the newspaper questioned the firm’s original sales contract. The new agreement seems to be more consistent with contracts in use in the United States.

http://www.amcostarica.com/052305.htm


Costa Rica Consular Information
by the U.S. State Department

Issued: May 26, 2005

Land Ownership, Expropriations, Squatters, Shoreline Property: U.S. citizens are urged to use caution when making real estate purchases, and should consult reputable legal counsel and investigate thoroughly all aspects before entering into a contract. 

http://www.amcostarica.com/consularsheet.htm


Have the rats and vultures got a deal for you!

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

Vultures and rats are stalking the innocent home sellers to make a quick buck.

The game is the use of Article 1049 of the Costa Rican Civil Code and property flipping.  The rules are everything goes and the best trickster wins.

http://www.amcostarica.com/050806.htm


Former Horseshoe Casino owner
Internet real estate chief snagged in online scam case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law officers arrested the president of a Costa Rican real estate Internet marketing operation Friday on a U.S. fraud charge related to other online activities.

He is Jaime Ligator, 65, president of World Wide Land Investments which has offices on the third floor of Mall San Pedro.

http://www.amcostarica.com/052107.htm


Shades of Villalobos et al.
Mortgage scam traps expats seeking a good return

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

Looking for high interest on money? There are loan brokers in the local market with customers looking for cash.  Some of these brokers are even lawyers representing their clients.

Watch out.  There is a scam which preys on anyone willing to lend their hard-earned savings.  It is a trap for those blinded by money and eager to beat the interest they are getting at the bank or on certificates of deposit. 

http://www.amcostarica.com/092908.htm


Buyers of stalled condos worry about down payment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's real estate market is grinding to another crisis as developers find they are unable to perform on their promises.

In beach towns and in the Central Valley condo buyers gave money to developers as down payments in anticipation that a building would be erected. Now many structures do not exist or stand unfinished, and the buyer's legal problems are just beginning.

http://www.amcostarica.com/013009.htm


Developer sold North Americans 2,509 lots
Paragon head promises firm will keep its promises

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite what he calls a tough situation, the chairman of Paragon Properties of Costa Rica, S.A., renewed his promise Monday that he would complete the infrastructure on the company's many projects here.

http://www.amcostarica.com/020309.htm


An analysis of the news
System in need of change to protect honest people

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While judicial officials worry about organized crime and drug smuggling, frauds and scams continue unabated.

Lawyers ignore ethical boundaries to appropriate the properties of clients.

Fake business people sell mythical goods to the world.

Jungle properties are offered electronically as retirement homesites.

http://www.amcostarica.com/070909.htm


Real estate shortcomings are beginning to surface

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They came with papers in hand and with uncertainty mixed with fire in their eyes.

They are U.S. investors who bought the problem of their lives on the Central Pacific coast. They are emblematic of the slow tragedy that is sweeping Costa Rican real estate.

http://www.amcostarica.com/072909.htm


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 31, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 150

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

Puriscal Properties
sportsmens update
Click HERE for great hotel discounts

Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Appraiser

BEFORE YOU BUY and OVERPAY
Angela Jiménez
ask Angela Jiménez
Architect/Certified Appraiser
23 years experience
for Costa Rica Banks

• building inspections
•¨property management
• construction management

www.orbitcostarica.com/
certifieda.htm
5302-12/12/09

Insurance brokers

Financial Planning & International Health Insurance
Disney Financial Group
Along with specializing in complete financial / estate planning and transfer, Disney is now offering the Finest
Michael Disney
Michael Disney
in International Health and Travel Insurance to Expats living and traveling worldwide.  International health insurance may now be submitted over the Internet.

We also have annuities offering a 25% up front bonus and 5% guaranteed compounded interest.  We handle life insurance policy buy outs. ** All financial products must be finalized within the boundaries of the United States.
Michael Disney, Disney Financial Group. 001.602.464.3729, 001.602.821.5050
E-mail:  DisneyFinancial@Aol.Com
www.DisneyFinancialGroup.Com
www.JoinDisneyOnline.Com
Disney Financial Group is licensed in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.
5374-10/10/09

Residency experts

Residency in Costa Rica
A full service immigration agency
U.S. and San José offices
Getting and authenticating documents can be a chore —

we know how to do it. Experienced with many nationalities. Up-to-date on
Costa Rica's evolving immigration law.
Pensionado and rentista. Your first stop for smooth, professional service and a positive experience. Javier Zavaleta jzava@pacbell.net
www.residencyincostarica.com
Tel: (323) 255-6116
5055-8/26/09

Business consultant

Vision: Empowering small and medium business to their highest potential by setting The standards.
handshake
Services we offer:
Financial Management, Planning & Development,
Business English, Business Technology, Professional
Networking,
Costa Rica-North America Specialists
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http://www.rushconsultoria.biz/
5279-12/1/09

Physicians and surgeons

Dr. Marco A. Mora Aguilar, Neurosurgeon
Dr. Mora
Dr. Marco A. Mora
Available for surgery in any of the private hospitals in San José.
                
Stroke, Brain Surgery, Spine Surgery, Scalp and Skull Repair, Craniotomy
 
http://www.drmarcomora.com
E-mail: info@drmarcomora.com
Or use our Contact Form on the site
Emergency tel: 8879-1818, 8395-1818
Accepting VA's Foreign Medical Program
5267-6/28/09

Psychiatrist

Dr. Luis Carlos Sancho Torres
  bilingual psychiatrist (UCR)
Dr. Sancho
• consulting • depression  • schizophrenia 
• psychiatric disability VA Affairs

• evaluations for gun permits 
 
• bipolar disorders  • addictions 

• methadone

• Transmagnetic stimulation
for depression and stroke

Available 24-hour a day

office: 2246-3458 or 2246-3459
soon: www.psiquiatriacostarica.com
 lucasancho@yahoo.com
5128-7/14/09


Dentists and dental surgery

Dental Cosmetics Costa Rica
Our office offers a wide variety of cosmetic and restorative treatments at very affordable prices. Fillings,
Dental Cosmetics
crowns, bridges, veneers, tooth whitening, implants, smile makeover orthognatic surgery, scalling and polishing.
www.dentalcosmeticscr.com
5372-10/9/09


Marco Cavallini & Associates
Dental Implants $500, Crowns $250

Dr. Marco A. Muñoz Cavallini has placed and restored
Dr. cavallini
Dr. Marco A. Muñoz Cavallini
over 10,000 dental implants since 1980. The Dr. Marco Muñoz Cavallini Dental Clinic, is recognized as one of the best practices in Dental Reconstruction,
Dental Implant placement and Cosmetic Dentistry in Costa Rica and the World. 
For more information,
visit us today at: www.aestheticdentistrycr.com
5346-8/26/09

Hearing consultant

English-speaking hearing consultant
We can professionally evaluate your hearing problem at Clinica Dinamarca off Paseo Colón or at Hospital CIMA.
• Natural sound
• Lowest prices
• No more background noise, feedback or echoing
• American hearing consultant from D.C. & Atlanta
• Nine clinics including Hospital CIMA
• Authorized provider  to the U.S. veterans
• The worlds leading provider of hearing aids
      Widex hearing aids since 1956

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Allan Weinberg
We service the U.S. veterans/Foreign Medical Program. Please contact me, Allan, at allan9000@gmail.com or at 8891-8989.
5403-8/23/09

Acupuncture physician

Acupuncture (disposable needles),
& Auriculotherapy (without needles) 

Immediate results guaranteed
for sport and all injuries; Back, neck, shoulder, elbow, carpal tunnel, knees, sciatica, 
Eugene McDonald
Eugene Mc Donald A.P.
migraine, T.M.J., kidney stones, intercostal neuralgia, and all painfull conditions  without drugs. Excellent results for stress, tension, anxiety, depression; and many other medical conditions and health maintenance.  Acupuncture works even if other therapies had little or no results. Free consultation, U.S. license, 19 years experience, Eugene Mc Donald, A.P (acupuncture physician) Escazú, 8352-0661. acutherapy0@hotmail.com
http://acupuncturecr.blogspot.com/
5073-9/20/09

Accountants

James Brohl, C.P.A. & M.B.A.
US Income Tax,  US GAAP Accounting
& Business Consulting

• US Tax return preparation  for
individuals and businesses
• eFile returns: secure with faster refunds
• Assist with back reporting and other filing issues
• Take advantage of the Foreign
Income Tax Exclusion (up to $
87,600 in 2008)
• Business Consulting to facilitate working in Costa Rica
• Accounting for US and International Financial Reporting


Telephone 8305-3149 or 2256-8620
E-mail jrtb_1999@racsa.co.cr
5097-3/30/10

U.S. Tax International

Plus Costa Rican taxes, accounting, and legal services
Over 15 years in Costa Rica
(English Spoken)
C.R. 2288-2201   U.S 786-206-9473
FAX: 2289-8235
E-mail: ustax@lawyer.com
Web page with vital U.S. tax info HERE!
5422-8/13/09

Real estate agents and services

Latitude Nine real estate graphic
Latitude 9
Real estate, development, Investments.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
506 2777-1197

Over 25 years experience in Costa Rica

www.latitude9.com
5349-11/25/09


MARGARET SOHN
with Great Estates of Costa Rica

20 years Costa Rican
real estate experience

Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000

Member of
Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce

samargo@racsa.co.cr
info@realtorcostarica.com
www.realtorcostarica.com
(506)  2220-3729 &  (506) 8382-7399 cell
(506)  2232-5016 (phone/fax)
5406-1/6/10

CENTURY 21 Jacó Beach Realty
A Name You Trust & Professional Service


Buying? Selling?
We Can Do It!
TOLL FREE FROM THE US
1 (877) 746-3868
  Tom Ghormley - Owner/Broker - in CR since '79

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www.c21jaco.com
2643-3356
Info@c21jaco.com
4401-6/9/09v


7Legal services

CONSULTORIA JURIDICA EMPRESARIAL CA, S.A.
Attorneys & Notaries
 Tel.  2280-9692 / 2225-9322      
e-mail: info@conjuridica.com  Web:  www.conjuridica.com
       We offer the highest professional standards with very competitive rates. All our official documentation and Notary deeds are always translated in English for better comprehension, client satisfaction and safety.
consultoria logo
• Immigration Law.
• Real Estate Law.
• Corporations, Foundations
       and Associations. 
• Trademarks & Intellectual
       Property.  
• Notary public services
• Criminal Law
•Civil & Commercial 
       Litigation
Our Law Office is conveniently located near Mall San Pedro,  350 meters south from the Subaru dealer, Los Yoses, San José.
5290-12/2/09

KEARNEY-LAWSON & Asoc.
Lic.Gregory Kearney Lawson.
Attorneys at Law and real estate brokers
Relocation services, Wedding Planning
Greg Kearney
*Investments  *Corporations
*Tax Shelters *Immigration
*Real Estate Sales in Costa Rica
*Name & Product registration
*Business procedures 
*Family and Labor Law
*Locate People   *Private Investigations
Phone/Fax: 2290-8117, 8841-0007
New location on Rohrmoser Blvd.
 Phone: (506) 2232-1014

Olympics of surf begins today
on the central Pacific coast


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The World Surf Games kicks off today in Playa Hermosa south of Jacó, and the sporting and commercial sectors are thrilled to have a world-class event on the central Pacific.

The extended weather forecast for the area could not be better. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicts some isolated downpours Saturday, the first day of real competition. But the following three days are supposed to be partly cloudy. Today the weather institute said that a low pressure front was moving through and there were chances of showers in the central Pacific this afternoon.

Surf specialists have announced the arrival of a new south swell that will keep the action up for the days to come.

Game sponsors said Thursday that 34 national teams have arrived, a record for the event. The last team, from the Dominican Republic, arrived late Wednesday. Each full team has eight contestants, men and women who compete in an open class and in longboard. Sponsors said there are 211 competitors.

The competition begins Saturday at 7 a.m.

The International Surfing Association has established a Web site where certain aspects of the event will be shown, among them, the opening ceremonies and Parade of Nations through Jacó this morning at 10 a.m. 

Among those who are competing are Australia's Mick Campbell, a professional surfer ranked 13th in the world and International Surfing Association Gold Medalist in 1998, California's Courtney Conlogue, a silver medalist and winner of last week's U.S. Open, Costa Rica prodigy Carlos Muñoz, who recently won the open, junior and under-16 divisions in the National Surfing Tour, and Sofia Mulanovich, 2004 International Surfing Association world champion. They all spoke at a press conference Thursday.

“All the members of the panel are very happy to be part of an event in the warm water and perfect Costa Rican waves,' said Fernando Aguerre, the International Surfing Association  president, "This is the first time a World Surfing Games has been held in Central America, we have been all over the globe, but never here. Being in Costa Rica is amazing.”

“It is a real pleasure to be able to host these championships, since they are considered the Olympics of the Surfing, said Jose Ureña, president of the of Costa Rican Surfing Federation. “I want to publicly thank Billabong and the ISA, since without them it had been really impossible to even dream of this event. And now we have it here, where everything we want to share it with the world we can – to show how agreeable Costa Rica is and how to enjoy to the maximum all Costa Rica has to offer.” Clothing manufacture Billabong is the principal sponsor.

“This is one of the only opportunities to see the best competitors from each country surfing for their flags and the pride of being members in their national surfing teams” concluded Aguerre as the conference closed. “This is a rare chance, one that we all love about surfing, to enjoy this special experience together. I invite them all to enjoy it.”


Turtle caught by mistake
Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas photo
Dead turtle is found among catch in a trawler net.

Sala IV orders oversight
for turtle-killing trawlers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The constitutional court has ruled that the nation's fisheries institute has the obligation to guarantee that commercial operators do not use practices that affect other species.

The decision is a direct reference to shrimp trawlers killing sea turtles by catching them in their nets.  The United States has stopped the import of Costa Rican shrimp because of the lax supervision of the shrimp boats.

On the spot with the Sala IV ruling was the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura. The case was brought by the Asociación Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, known as PRETOMA.

The environmental organization has been fighting the unintended killing of turtles since 2004. The court said that shrimp fishermen should use apparatus to prevent the capture of turtles. The turtles, which breath air, get caught in the nets and drown.

There are turtle excluders that are in use that allow trapped turtles to swim free of the net without allowing shrimp to escape. However, Costa Rican fishermen have been slow to adopt this technology.

The court ruled that it was the obligation of the fisheries institute to take steps to see that this is done.

The court said that the shrimp trawlers sweep up a lot of unintended species.

The U.S. State Department blamed Costa Rica’s ineffective enforcement mechanism for the new ban on importing shrimp.

The United States decertified Costa Rica as a turtle friendly country May 1.

Margaret F. Hayes, acting deputy assistant secretary for oceans and fisheries in the department, said at the time that Costa Rican officials did not comply with their promise to take steps to sanction shrimp fishermen who do not use turtle excluder devices.

For several years she said her agency has been accumulating data, both through certification visits and from credible third-party sources, suggesting that Costa Rica's program did not provide sanctions that served as an effective deterrent against the failure of fishermen to use the excluder devices.

"In meetings with senior Costa Rican fisheries officials during the December 2008 certification visit, the State Department representative stressed that without rapid remedial action Costa Rica's certification might be compromised," she added. "Costa Rican officials were aware of the issue and promised to resolve it early in 2009. However, the United States Embassy in San José reports that since that December visit Costa Rican authorities have not taken all the action they promised."

The meetings were with the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura.

The excluder devices are like trap doors built into shrimp trawl nets that let trapped turtles swim away. The State Department did certify 15 nations that mandate the use of excluders. The Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas said this is the fourth decertification for Costa Rican shrimp since 1999.

In August of 2003, Costa Rica lost its certification after a scheduled inspection by the U.S. Departments of State. In February 2004, Costa Rica was recertified by the State Department because the government here, in cooperation with the fishing companies, took steps to improve enforcement and compliance with fisheries laws, said the department at the time. The State Department last certified the country May 1, 2008.

Costa Rica has exported at least 20,000 pounds of premium shrimp a month to the United States. That is shrimp with a retail price of nearly $200,000, according to news files.

During recent periods of decertification there did not seem to be any change in the price of shrimp here.

Political party rallies need
prior official approval


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone planning a big display of support for a presidential candidate better plan ahead. The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones said Thursday that any parades, general meetings or public displays of support need prior approval and that the deadline for seeking such approval is Sept. 30 at 4 p.m.

The regulations cover the two months preceding the Feb. 7 presidential elections. There is a department set up in the tribunal that issues approvals.

The election code prohibits competing political parties from holding such events in the same district on the same day. There also are prohibitions against holding meetings on bridges, at intersections, in front of churches, in front of fire stations or within 200 meters of hospitals.

Only political parties that actually have candidates on the ballot may hold such demonstrations of support, according to the rules. In 2006 there were 601 such requests.

As a footnote, the sale of alcohol is prohibited in districts on the day in which there is a public meeting, according to the current election laws. For example, when a political party holds an event on Avenida Central in downtown San José, many of the bars that cater to expats within a several block radius are required to close.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 31, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 150

Chlor free
Your Costa Rica

No plans to close Caribbean police stations, ministry says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry said Thursday that there are no plans to close police stations on the Caribbean coast. Tourism operators and business people had petitioned the ministry after health officials served notices on the police.

There are problems, based on the ministry announcement, but they do not involve the complete closing of police stations. In the case of Tuba Creek Ministerio de Salud officials closed the sleeping area and the kitchen, said the ministry. But the rest of the station is in operation and police officers assigned there are sleeping in the Cahuita station, the ministry said.

Police in Puerto Viejo continue on the job, said the ministry, while officials try to make repairs ordered by health officials, said the announcement. Among other things, windows need to be changed, a door must be
replaced and electrical improvements have to be made, according to the ministry.

Tuesday the Cámera de Tuirsmo Caribe Sur released a letter that its vice president, Luis Videla, sent to Janina del Vecchio, the security minister. He said the closure orders would leave the area without a police presence. The Ministerio de Salud issued the order because of what it said were the unhealthy conditions of the structures, he noted.

Videla said that residents were trying to help the police but that in some cases stalling by officials keeps the jobs from getting done. As an example he cited a pump and a 1,000-liter pressure tank that has been donated to the Puerto Viejo police station. That was in May but so far the water supply system has not been hooked up, he said.

It is no secret that some police stations around the country are in disrepair. And health inspectors make periodic visits.


Tunnels are an unexpected find during museum construction
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
 
Construction at the Museo Nacional has turned into an archaeological dig because workers have uncovered tunnels and a small room.

The museum is in the former Bellavista fortress, which was constructed in 1918, although many tourists think that it is much older.

Myrna Rojas, chief of the Departamento de Antropología e Historia, said one goal is to verify the condition of a tunnel that runs under the main patio of the museum.
There have been news stories and television shows in the past about tunnels at the former fortress. At least two cross under Avenida Central to the legislative complex that used to be the presidential mansion. There are entrances to the tunnels at the legislative building known as Castillo Azul, but much of the corridors are filled in with rock and dirt.

Workers are finding military objects during the digs at the museum.

The museum is constructing a ramp to provide disabled access from the west and Plaza de la Democracia. So a lot of soil is being removed.


A country whose system has been working well for years
Not everyone who has moved to Costa Rica is happy about their decision.  They are disillusioned by the potholes, the proliferation of guns, the growing incidences of crime and even what they consider the ‘disrespect’ of the Costa Ricans. Then there are the prices (“no cheaper than the U.S.”) and the increase in traffic without the infrastructure to handle it is proof that Costa Ricans do not know how to plan ahead. 

In some cases, the disappointment between what people expected and what they are experiencing makes them very angry.  Sometimes it just boils down to dismissing it with  “there is no logic in this country.” Or “Everyone is corrupt and on the take.”

Even those of us who are still happy (We moved here and are content to stay) deplore some of the changes that have occurred.  Some of them could make us crazy if we dwelled upon them, if we forget that Costa Rica is not the country you came from only better. It has its own culture shaped by its own values and has its own logic that has been working for its people about as well as any culture and national logic works for its people.

My friend Sandy and I, who both have been here about the same length of time, were discussing this the other day, She was reminding me (apropos of Costa Rican logic) about ICE, Costa Rica’s  monopoly power company. Over a year ago when Lake Arenal was at its dry-season low, customers were informed that they should conserve electricity and to encourage them to do so, those who went over a certain number of kilowatts would be charged considerably more per unit.  We, like many others, got more conservative with our use of electricity. 

Then the rains came, and the lake filled up, but people did not go back to their old wasteful ways. 

Recently, Sandy said, there was a full-page ad in La Nación (the daily Spanish-language newspaper) making the case for not lowering the electricity rates as the regulatory authority has proposed because consumer usage has dropped so much that ICE is losing money. That is when one is left wagging one’s head, wondering.
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart


On the other hand — another story from Sandy — is the nurse who has been coming to her house and tending the infected wound Sandy had.  Under the nurse’s care, the wound was healing and closing up.  Recently, when Sandy paid her the regular amount at the end of her visit, her nurse gave her back three thousand colons.  When Sandy asked why she returned money, the nurse replied,

“The wound is so much smaller now, I don’t feel it is right to charge you the same price as when it was bigger.”

We both found this kind of logic rather endearing. 

My other Sandy friend avoids road rage that can erupt from the combination of too much traffic for the infrastructure and drivers who don’t have the long experience most North Americans have.  She does three acts of kindness towards drivers of other cars each day she drives.

What has worked for me in the various places I have lived is that I believe that people tend to behave the way I expect them to.  In order to encourage this, I try to be on my best behavior myself.  And, of course, there is that belief that wherever you go, there you are — with all of your baggage.

Of course, a lot depends upon expectations.  Mine were and are such that I have been walking around smiling this week because I found grapefruit at the feria and the house just around the corner that used to be a furniture store is being refurbished into a restaurant!  I have walked by it day after day thinking what a great building it would be for a restaurant. And now it will be.  Well . . . the worker who said it was may just not have wanted to disappoint me when I asked him so hopefully.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 31, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 150

Organic foods are no better nutritionally, new study reports
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A new report says that a survey of 50 years of scientific studies concludes that organic foods are not nutritionally better than conventionally produced food. But there is a catch. The researchers did not review studies of contaminants or chemical residues in foods from different agricultural production methods.

The results of the systematic review of literature  was published this week in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Consumers appear willing to pay higher prices for organic foods based on their perceived health and nutrition benefits, and the global organic food market takes in billions of dollars a year, the researchers noted.  Some previous reviews have concluded that organically produced food has a superior nutrient composition to conventional food, but until now there has been no systematic review of the available published literature, they said.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have now completed the most extensive systematic review of the available published literature on nutrient content of organic food ever conducted. The review focused on nutritional content and did not include a review of the content of contaminants or chemical residues in foods, the report said.

More than 50,000 papers were searched, and 162 relevant articles were identified that were published over a 50-year period up to Feb. 29, 2008, that compared the nutrient content of organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. To ensure methodological rigour, the quality of each article was assessed, said the researchers. To be graded as satisfactory quality, the studies had to provide information on the organic certification scheme from which the foodstuffs were derived, the vareity of crop or breed of livestock analyzed, the nutrient or other nutritionally relevant substance assessed, the laboratory analytical methods used, and the methods used for statistical analysis. Some 55 of the identified papers were of satisfactory quality, and analysis was conducted comparing the content in organically and conventionally produced foods of the 13
 
most commonly reported nutrient categories, they said.

The researchers found organically and conventionally produced foods to be comparable in their nutrient content. For 10 out of the 13 nutrient categories analysed, there were no significant differences between production methods in nutrient content. Differences that were detected were most likely to be due to differences in fertilizer use (nitrogen, phosphorus), and ripeness at harvest (acidity), and it is unlikely that consuming these nutrients at the levels reported in organic foods would provide any health benefit.

Alan Dangour of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Nutrition and Public Health Intervention Research Unit is one of the report’s authors.

"A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance," he said. "Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority. Research in this area would benefit from greater scientific rigor and a better understanding of the various factors that determine the nutrient content of foodstuffs."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has implemented uniform standards for organic agricultural products sold in the United States. Organic farming has been one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture for nearly a decade. All food is organic, but the term "organic food" means food that is produced without use of most conventional pesticides, petroleum- or sludge-based fertilizers, bioengineering or ionizing radiation, according to the department. Organic standards completely prohibit antibiotics in livestock.

Costa Rica has a strong organic farming sector, too.

Most of the proponents of organic agricuture have major concerns about the various chemicals that work their way into the end product.

But this was an area avoided in the current study.


There may be some thawing on Zelaya in Tegucigalpa
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The mediator in the political crisis in Honduras says interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti is interested in further negotiations on ending the country's month-long leadership standoff.

Costa Rican President Óscar Arias Sánchez said Micheletti has asked him to send an envoy to Honduras to help build political support for a solution. He says Micheletti suggested a former head of the Inter-American Development Bank, Enrique Iglesias, for the job.

News reports quote a source close to the interim government as saying Micheletti has expressed willingness to support a compromise plan that would allow ousted President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales to return to power under certain conditions.

The military threw Zelaya out of the country June 28 and flew him to Costa Rica, saying he was illegally trying to change the constitution in order to extend his term. His efforts to return to Honduras have been unsuccessful.
Zelaya is believed to be in Nicaragua near the Honduran border. Some reports quoted him as saying he would raise a peasant army to win back his job by force if he did not get a concession from the interim government. Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega supports him.

A clash between Nicaraguan and Honduran troops could be a bloody affair, and it is this as well as street riots that Arias is trying to prevent.

The mediation plan calls for Zelaya to finish his term, which ends in January, abandon any effort to change the constitution, and agree to a coalition government.

The de facto government has previously threatened to arrest Zelaya, if he returns. Zelaya has tried twice to enter Honduras but it appeared he did not see the popular support he expected.

No countries have recognized Honduras' caretaker government and many, including the United States, have called for Zelaya to be reinstated and democratic order to be restored.


Peace center plans discussion Tuesday on political situation in Honduras
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Quaker Peace Center will host a British resident of Honduras and a Costa Rican diplomat for a discussion of the political situation there.

The session will be Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the center on Calle 15 between avenidas 6 and 8. That is just west of the Tribunales de Justicia in downtown San José.

The resident of Tegucigalpa is Bryn Wolfe, who has lived there four years. He will discuss the political situation and life in general in Honduras, the center said. The native of Wales has had broad experience in non-violent conflict
resolution, said the center. He worked in Sri Lanka, Geneva and Britain coordinating relief, development and health education, the center said.

The second speaker is Francisco Cordero, a past president of the peace center and now an adviser to the president of the Costa Rican Asamblea Legislativa. He has been with the Costa Rican foreign service for 35 years and has served in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The center said he was involved in the Nicaraguan revolution against Somoza.

The discussion will be held in English, said the center. More information is available at 2222-1400, or 2233-6168. or by e-mailing  wwd_read@yahoo.com.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 31, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 150

Casa Alfi Hotel

México's Tijuana poor
rely on U.S. charity loans


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The city of Tijuana, across the U.S.-México border from California, is coping with a recession and drop off in tourism.  Small loans from a U.S.-based international charity, typically several hundred dollars, are helping some residents weather the downturn.

The once-crowded streets of Tijuana are now mostly empty.   Tourists have been kept away by news stories of crime and drug wars in this Mexican border city of more than 1.5 million people.

Tijuana was not seriously affected by the epidemic of swine flu that struck other parts of Mexico earlier this year, but television images from far-off Mexico City have also scared off tourists.
 
In Tijuana's poorest neighborhoods, known as colonias, people like Socorro Villavicencio struggle to earn a living.  She is a Mixteca Indian from Southern Mexico, 39 years old, with seven children. 

She sells beaded necklaces and bracelets to tourists, buying her materials with loans from the Christian charity World Vision.
 
She says sales are down and fear of crime has kept away customers.

"How shall I say it?  There are a lot of thieves," said Socorro Villavicencio. "That's why the police in the U.S., I see on the news, that they don't let the Americans cross the border because they say Mexico is dangerous."

Americans officials have urged caution, but no one is stopping tourists from coming here.   The fact is, most do not want to.

In another dusty colonia, Maria del Refugio Salazar is part of a woman's cooperative, also set up with small loans from World Vision.  Inside a small house in this hillside neighborhood, she and her neighbors are struggling to keep their business alive.

"Hemming pants, sewing zippers on garments and other sewing projects, but to date we have done everything little by little," said Ms. Salazar. "But what has given us the most results and the biggest economic gains has been the work we have done with sewing. "

In another part of town, Tijuana auto parts dealer José Juan Ramírez Bribiesca is also under pressure in the economic downturn, relying on small loans, which keep him in business.

"Sales are down," said Ramírez. "There is some debt that comes from buying merchandise.  We take out credit.  Sales are down, and people take their time in paying."

There have also been cutbacks in manufacturing at local production plants known as maquiladoras, operated by international companies using Mexican workers.  Many of those companies have shifted production to Asia.  

It all adds up to hardship, says Noe Martínez Vidal, director of the border project for World Vision.  He said this small colonia, and many others like it, have soaring unemployment.

"We can probably say that out of approximately 1,000 families, at least 30 percent of them have lost their jobs in the maquiladoras, service jobs, and different jobs because of the economic situation which has affected these families," said  Martínez.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 31, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 150

Latin American news digest
Intimidation of newspeople
draws request for probes

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has called on officials in Bolivia, El Salvador and Venezuela to quickly investigate the acts of violence and intimidation reported in recent days against journalists in those countries.

In Bolivia, cameraman Marcelo Lobo of Gigavisión TV in La Paz was attacked as he was leaving work Saturday at 6 a.m. by unidentified assailants who slashed his face and tongue. While the motive for the attack was not immediately known the channel’s director, Alex Arias, told local media that he did not rule out that it was linked to Lobo’s work on public safety and terrorism issues.

In El Salvador, Radio Victoria reporters José Beltrán, Ludwing Iraheta and Vladimir Abarca in the northern central province of Cabañas received death threats that led them to request official protection. The trio had recently covered the murder of Gustavo Marcelo Rivera, a well-known local environmentalist missing since mid-June. In phone threats, the reporters had been warned “you will be next.”

In Venezuela, David Natera Febres, editor of the newspaper Correo del Caroní in Puerto Ordaz, Bolívar state, and president of the Venezuelan Press Bloc, reported that on Tuesday he was harassed by the national guard when he was the only passenger stopped and searched by guard officers upon landing in Puerto Ordaz from Simón Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetía.

Enriqueantos Calderón, Inter American Press president,  and Robert Rivard, chairman of the organization's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, expressed their objection to “this development which shows all the signs of being an obvious attempt to intimidate a public figure known for his critical and independent editorial positions.”

Natera is also regional vice chairman of the organization's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and is responsible for drafting the report on his country submitted at the organization's biannual meetings. 

Editor's Note: The corporation that owns A.M. Costa Rica is a member of the Inter American Press Association.




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