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These stories were published Monday, Aug. 16, 2004, Vol. 4, No. 161
Jo Stuart
About us
Years later, they are getting act together
Tax, court and register workers improving
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

What do entropy and the Big Bang Theory have to do with the Registro Nacional, Costa Rica’s public registry center, Tributacion Directa, the country’s tax authority and other public institutions in Costa Rica?

Entropy is a measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system, and The Big Bang Theory is the dominant scientific theory about the origin of the universe. According to the big bang, the universe came into existence from a cosmic explosion that hurled matter in all directions. 

In the simplest of terms, some theorizers believe order comes from disorder as with the universe.

This may also be true at the Registro Nacional, and in other government offices.  Order may be finally coming from all the disorder caused by the introduction of computers into the country. 

The registry’s computerization in theory is 10 years old. However, no real progress was noticeable until the last six years after the new registry law went into effect Nov. 22, 1998.

Now it seems this year, more than any in the past, the people looking at their computers in the registry are actually very confident as to their use.  They can provide information quickly and efficiently and direct people to other departments where the same is true.

Numerous interviews with registry workers this past week revealed that the real property information listed on the Internet website is very close to the actual information on the internal registry computers.  It is important to note, not exactly the same, but very close.

This is not true for mercantile information, held in a separate department and thus a separate computer system.  However, everyone at the registry is working very hard towards the same objective.  The mercantile system manages incorporations and powers of attorney to name two of the most important elements.  The information on the Internet is very different from what is actually on the internal computers.  Information on the Internet may show a company registered when, in fact, it is not.  The only way to be absolutely sure what a company’s constitution states is to make a complete microfilm of all the presentations to the National Registry. That requires an in-person visit.

The organization from disorganization is also apparent at Tributacion Directa.  This year it is clear workers there know how to use the information coming out of their computers and are acting on it.  They are sending agents to local business operators demanding payment of long-past-due taxes.

Other examples of order from havoc is San José court system in Circuit II located in Goicoechea, Guadalupe, where every case file is now computerized and available on the Internet via the website.

Why are these advances important? 

Over the past months of 2004 property values once incorrect are now being systematically updated at the Registro Nacional to the values stated in old legal instruments and/or being verified through the tax computers as to their real values 

A.M. Costa Rica graphic
From chaos comes order, it seems

However, these values in some cases are over stated, and it is important to correct any errors now and not wait until the day one decides to sell a property.

Corporations need to verify the accuracy of the information at the registry, so old information should be corrected or brought up-to-date.  Someone long gone from a company may be listed as having a directorship position or worse — be listed as having a full power of attorney with the ability to transfer any assets when the person no longer is involved.

Tax files should be checked at Tributacion Directa to be sure no past due taxes are owed before the agents show up at the office.

All this computerization has caused another computer world problem.  If it is on the computer, it must be true, and to convince some public employee otherwise is impossible.

Expats will find it better to act in advance and proactively fix any information that needs fixing.  They should determine what assets and companies they have listed in Costa Rica and check the information at the Registro Nacional and Tributacion Directa as soon as possible.  They should know who owns their property and, if property is held in a company, they should know exactly who are the directors and what powers of attorney may have been signed and registered. 

Expats also should know what they owe the tax people and make sure it is paid. If someone knows there is a tax claim pending, but he or she has not heard about the debt for some years, a status check is necessary.

Once Costa Rica has everything in order and the systems run smoothly, expats can hope that it stays that way.  But the theory about the universe suggests it will explode  again and revert back to confusion.

Garland M. Baker is a 32-year resident of Costa Rica who provides professional services to the international community. He can be reached at info@crexpertise.com. Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica. Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review and can be reached at crlaw@licgarro.com.


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Costa Rica gaining
as U.S. tourism recovers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica appears to have picked up some tourists at the expense of the United States.

Meanwhile, U.S. tourism has yet to return to the pre-Sept. 11, 2001, level, and fear of terrorism continues to play a role.

Tour operators here say they are seeing more activity from groups who ordinarly would go to U.S. locations such as New York, Las Vegas and the two Disney amusement complexes.

Fairly obvious are groups of Puerto Ricans who come each day to Juan Santamaría Airport on a chartered flight. These are individuals who traditionally would be headed to the Uniited States. However, Costa Rica is an attractive option, in part because of the similarity of language, said tour operators.

Some 24 million tourists from countries other than Canada and México visited the United States annually prior to Sept. 11, 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

During the first five months of this year, some 7.7 million visitors arrived, a 17 percent increase over the same period in 2003, and commerce officials predict 19 million visitors for the whole of 2004 if the trend continues. This does not count the 5.5 million who arrived this year from Canada or the 1.5 million visitors from Mexico.

The 19 million projection compares with just over 18 million in 2003, 19.1 million in 2002 and 21.8 million in 2001.

The Commerce Department report, isued July 29, does not make clear if in-transit foreign passengers who now must have a U.S. visa are being counted in the arrival numbers.

The United States is requiring visas from more foreigners who simply pass through U.S. airports enroute to another location. Costa Ricas are among those who must obtain U.S. visas simply to touch down in Miami or other major transportation hubs in the United States.

These rules, instituted as a security measure against terrorism, have caused some airlines to alter flight routes to avoid the United States.

Brazil maps DNA
for coffee plants

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

The idea was to make a better cup of coffee.

Two years and $6 million later, Brazilian  coffeemakers have mapped some 200,000 coffee DNA sequences, and identified 35,000 genes which make coffee the way it is.

Researchers say they will use the government-run database to develop, through natural means, a "super coffee" that tastes and smells good, while doubling the country's coffee crop and cutting production costs by 20 percent.

Currently, the DNA database can only be used by the Brazilian government and applied to the country's coffee production. But five or six years from now, researchers say the information will be open to all Brazilian companies. Foreign competitors may be able to use the information then, for a price. 

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Guess who is the center of Costa Rican family life
Madre, Solo Hay Una

Sunday was Mothers’ Day in Costa Rica, and the holiday brought to mind some sayings involving the word madre or mother. One would think there might be many nice ones, but at least two of those I came up with are not particularly flattering, for example: Sos la pura madre.  Literally translated this means You are the pure mother. Now that sounds innocuous enough on the face of it, but what is being implied here is that the person this remark is directed at is really the source of all calamity and unhappiness. It is often used when scolding a child or recalcitrant adult.

¡Que madre! is another expression one hears when something goes wrong or someone does something wrong. Literally, of course, it means What a mother. It is considerably more offensive than the previous saying. One might employ this dicho as a sort of expletive when one bangs one’s finger while hammering a nail into the wall to hang a picture. It’s actually a sort of euphemism to take the place of several other expletives that are unprintable here, if you get my drift. You’ll often hear this one with the "a" in madre receiving special emphasis and drawn out sort of like ¡Que maaaadre!

The last expression I want to mention is the one that forms the title of today’s column, and it is the one I like the best. Madre, solo hay una translates as Mother, there’s only one, and it is meant to honor our mothers. It’s not uncommon in Costa Rica for fathers to have more than one family, while, in most cases, a child remains with its mother. She is the one who nurtures and protects us while we are growing up. 

I have a couple of short little story to illustrate how to use or not to use Madre solo hay una.

One particular Mothers’ Day some of my mom’s co-workers dropped in for a social call. My twin brother was there, and asked if he could help her entertain her friends. So, she asked him if he would prepare and serve some soft drinks whereupon he announced, "Mother, there’s only one." All the ladies smiled and cooed what a wonderful son my mother had to say such a sweet thing to her on Mothers’ Day. 

Then my brother repeated himself, only this time he added something to the sentence: "Mother there’s only one Coke," he said. This became a family joke, so in our family we had to change the expression around a bit so it went: Madre, solo una hay. It means the same thing, but with this word order it’s impossible to tack anything on the end. 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

In Latin America our mothers are at the very center of family life. Madre, solo hay una, demonstrates to children how dear their mothers are to them and how important it is not to disappoint them by misbehaving in school or in later life.  It also teaches us to honor and protect our mothers because, after all, we only have one.

Once, as a young child, I cut my finger very badly, and my twin brother tried to heal it, but rather than getting better the cut got worse and became infected. So, I ended up having to go to the Clinica Biblica, where my mother worked as a nurse. The doctor had to clean the wound, and he told me it would hurt. Indeed it did! I screamed and cried until my mother appeared in the doorway in her nurse’s uniform. She soothed me and told me to be a brave soldier. Of course, I always wanted to please my mother, so I did the best I could not to cry out any more. 

Over the next few weeks the wound began gradually to heal. But in the back of my mind I kept telling myself "Madre, solo hay una," and that would help me not to cry when she needed to clean the wound and prepare fresh bandages. My mother was teaching me to be strong and have courage, a lesson that would serve me well in later life.

Today I look at my finger and am reminded of my mother and how hard she worked so her children could have an education and a good life. But I am also reminded of her love and care. I remember that woman with love and respect, and yes, even a little fear. She was one of a kind. Madre, solo hay una.

Daniel Soto divides his time between Indiana and  Costa Rica, where he owns a home in Santo Domingo de Heredia.

Chavez wins big in fight against being recalled
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela —  President Hugo Chavez appears to have scored a smashing victory over those who were trying to recall him.

The Venezuelan election council issued a preliminary report at 4:11 a.m. Caracas time (2:11 a.m. San José time) saying that with 94.5 percent of the vote counted, Chavez mustered 4,991,483  or 58.25 as a no vote against his removal.

Some 3,576,517 or 41.74 percent of the votes were cast in favor of recalling Chavez. The totals were in a statement by Francisco Carrasquero, president of the council.

Two members of the election council dissented and said that the vote totals still were unofficial. Nevertheless, Chavez made an appearance at a balcony in Miraflores Palace, the Venezuelan White House, in front of thousands of supporters who were gathered below.

Chavez made signs of victory as did his family and others brought to the balcony by the president.

Chavez now has two more years in office.

Earlier story follows:


By  the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Supporters of both President Hugo Chavez and those who would oust him were in the streets this morning celebrating what they hoped would be a victory.

Neither group could be sure because votes for the presidential recall election were still being counted at 2 a.m. Caracas time (1 a.m. in San José).

Vast crowds and long lines resulted in officials extending the time to vote twice. Finally at a few 

minutes after midnight this morning, the voting was officially declared over.

The Venezuelan Electoral Council extended voting hours and promised that everyone who wanted to would be able to vote either for or against the removal of Chavez. International observers say that, in spite of the delays, the process is going well. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and César Gaviria, general secretary of the Organization of American States, left the election council building at 2 a.m. without saying anything to newsmen.

Most of the delays in Sunday's referendum were caused by devices to read voter thumbprints to verify their identity. But another factor was the overwhelming turnout. Tens of thousands of voters lined streets in Caracas before dawn and waited patiently for hours in order to cast their vote.

Carter, who is here at the head of the Atlanta-based Carter Center's delegation, says he is impressed by what he saw at the polling stations.

"All of those that we have visited have begun in a timely fashion and in a very orderly way. I have participated, the Carter Center has, in more than 50 elections around the world. This is the largest turnout I have ever seen. Thousands of people are waiting in line patiently and without any disturbance," he said.

In an attempt to stem potential violence, no exit polls or extra official reports on results are allowed in this election. But the Electoral Council has promised to have at least partial results within hours after the polls close. Given the delays, however, there is not likely to be a full accounting of results until sometime later today.

Both supporters of President Chavez and the opposition expressed confidence of victory going into the election. But President Chavez had said that, if he loses, he will turn over power to the vice president and then run again.

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Belly dancing is an option at the Newcomers Interest Fair.  Current dancers are Erika Zya-Buzan, Isabel Gambino, Gaby Kung, Ona Jimenez and Marie Escobar. 
Newcomers plan fair to display range of interests to residents here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

New residents will have a lot of choices at the Newcomers Interest Fair next month.

Possible courses include belly dancing, yoga, Tai Chi and computer. And much of this will be demonstrated Tuesday, Sept. 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Nare Restaurant in San Rafael de Escazú.

The Newcomers organization coordinates many such groups, and not all requires as much exertion as belly dancing. An announcement from the organizers of the fair listed these other groups:

Cooking (a couple of groups here), out to lunch, out to dinner, Horseback Riding, pottery, and Spanish conversation. There also is interest in a book reading group, a South Beach Diet group, game nite, shopping and cultural discoveries, theater (or acting) group, bird watching, beginning bridge, golf, hiking, and photography.

The interest fair this year will have a five-minute welcome and then coordinators of the various 

interest groups will be at tables to answer questions and help people sign up. Also there will be a membership table. Visitors will be able to join Newcomers for 5,000 colons, about $11.25. Membership in Newcomers is required for associating with an interest group, said a release. 

Contact persons for this event are Pat MacKinnon, Interest Group board member, at 285-1276 or Pat Bliss, Newcomer board member at 289-8638. 

The Out to Lunch Interest Group will welcome new members to join them for lunch immediately following the Interest Fair at 11:45 a.m. The food will be a Korean buffet with Japanese miso soup, a typical Korean appetizer, and a fruit drink for 4,000 colons complete, said the announcement.

Those staying for lunch should make reservations with Ms. MacKinnon at macpat@racsa.co.cr or  285-1276. 

Nare Restaurant is 600 meters from Scotia Bank going up the hill on the main road to Escazú Central. Parking is available in a lot reached through an open gate just north of the Restaurant.

Chances for gold at the Athens Olympics seem to be fading fast
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff 
and wire service reports

Costa Rica did not have the best of days at the Athens Olympics Sunday. Claudia Poll, the standout swimmer, failed to qualify for the finals in the 400 meter women’s free style by a little more than half a second.

And the Costa Rican soccer team lost to Iraq 2-0.

Ms. Poll clocked 4:09:75, not enough to beat Sachiko Yamada of Japan, who qualified with 4:09:10. Ms. Poll was ninth in the event, and the finals are for the top eight.

She has another chance early Monday in another swimming event. She won a gold medal in 1996.

The soccer loss put Costa Rica at the bottom of a four-nation group. The team plays Portugal Wednesday. To stay in competition, Costa Rica has to win and Morocco, the other cellar-dweller, must lose to Iraq.

The day, the second of full competition at the Olympics, produced 12 gold medal winners.

The U.S. men's Olympic basketball team was not playing for a medal Sunday, but it became a part of Olympic history in its first game. Puerto Rico upset the defending gold medalists, 92-73. The U.S. team had been undefeated in 25 previous Olympic games when using National Basketball Association players.

Udomporn Polsak became the first woman from Thailand to capture gold, winning the 53-kilogram weightlifting event with a total lift of 222.5 kilos. Raema Lisa Rumbewas of Indonesia was second (210 kg) while Mabel Mosquera of Colombia placed third (197.5 kg). Turkish weightlifter Halil Mutlu won gold for the third straight Olympic games by lifting a total of 295 kilograms in the men's 56-kilogram weight class.

With a late burst of power, cyclist Sara Carrigan of Australia sped away from German Judith Arndt over the final 10 kilometers to win the Olympic road race title. Carrigan completed the race in 3:24:24. 

Defending champion Timea Nagy of Hungary held on to the fencing gold medal in the Olympic women's epee competition. She defeated Laura Flessel-Colovic of France, 15-12, in the final. Another Frenchwoman, Maureen Nisima, took bronze with a (15-12) win over Hungarian Ildiko Mincza.

Matato Uchishiba took Japan's third gold medal with a victory in the men's 66-kilogram judo event, beating Jozef Krnac of Slovakia. Xian Dongmei of China stopped Yuki Yokosawa of Japan to win the women's 52-kilogram category.

In the pool, South Africa captured the coveted men's four by 100-meter freestyle relay gold in a world record time of 1:13.17 seconds. The Netherlands took silver while the once dominant United States settled for a surprising bronze.

Japanese swimmer Kosuke Kitajima splashed to Olympic gold in the men's 100-meter breaststroke with a time of one minute, zero-point-zero-eight seconds. American Brendan Hansen followed (1:00.25) while Hugues Duboscq of France took the bronze (1:00.88).

Among the women, Australian Petria Thomas claimed her second gold medal of the Athens Olympics by claiming the women's 100-meter butterfly crown in 57.72. Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland was second (57.84) while the bronze went to world record-holder Inge de Bruijn of the Netherlands (57.99).

Laure Manaudou earned just the second Olympic gold medal ever for France with a triumph in the women's 400-meter freestyle with a time of 4:05.34. Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland placed second (4:05.84) while American Kaitlin Sandeno was third (4:06.19).

In shooting finals, Olena Kostevych of Ukraine won the gold medal in women's 10-meter air pistol after beating Jasna Sekaric of Serbia-Montenegro in a shoot-off to take the final. Maria Grozdeva of Bulgaria won bronze. Russian Alexei Alipov shot all 25 targets in the final to finish with an overall score of 149, tying the Olympic record in men's trap. Italyian Giovanni Pellielo won the silver, three points behind. Adam Vella of Australia took the bronze with a 145.

The U.S. women's softball team, seeking its third straight gold medal in the eight-team tournament, has won its first two games by a combined 17-0 score, with both ending on the five-inning 'mercy' rule. The latest Sunday was a 10-0 win over Australia. The Olympic tennis tournament also got underway.

China tops the medal table after two days with five gold medals and seven overall. Australia has eight overall, but just four golds. Japan also has four golds, and is currently third with five overall. Italy, Ukraine and the United States follow in the early standings. 

Jo Stuart
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