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(506) 2223-1327        Published Monday, Aug. 18, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 163       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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This funny word can get a foreigner the money here
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Expats living in Costa Rica may be interested to know that certain foreign judgments are enforceable in Costa Rica by means of a process called an exequatur.  Going through the process to get an exequatur can mean collecting monies due when they were otherwise lost or collecting child support from a deadbeat spouse hiding in this country.

The court here can even order judicial liens over assets — called embargos in Costa Rica — to protect assets in this country during litigation in another country.

An exequatur, which is the same word in English or Spanish, is a judgment or other legal act issued by a Costa Rican court that states that a decision issued by a foreign court is legally executable or enforceable in this country.  The Sala Primera of the Corte Suprema de Justicia — the first division of the supreme court of Costa Rica — decides what foreign judgments are legal here and which ones are not.  The articles governing this process can be found in the civil procedural code, articles 705 through 708.

This is how they work:

Once a foreign judgment is obtained in another country, the interested party represented by a lawyer in Costa Rica petitions the Sala I to enforce it in Costa Rica.  The court here does not re-try the case, it just approves or denies the exequatur.  The lawyer must supply the following information to the court:

1.) The judgment from the foreign court translated and authenticated,

2.) Proof the defendant was properly served with the legal action or declared en rebelde — not locatable or in hiding — in accordance with the laws of the country from which the case originates,

3.) Proof the defendant was properly served with the final judgment,

4.) Evidence the legal matter is not exclusively a Costa Rican one,

5.) Proof the judgment is enforceable in the country from which it comes,

6.) A document showing that the judgment is not against Costa Rica law.

Exequaturs can be broken down into two major types: 1.) Exequaturs of private interest and 2.) formal requests from a foreign court for assistance in a legal matter also known as letters rogatory.

Most private interest exequaturs have to do with family matters.  95 percent of them have to do with divorce or approving other martial affairs.  The other 5 percent have to do with adoption or childcare, like child support.

Here is an interesting example of an exequatur sought and granted in Costa Rica:

A Costa Rican woman and a Japanese man were married in Alajuela on Oct. 28, 1978.  The marriage was properly registered in the national civil registry in this country.

A divorce by mutual consent is not difficult to obtain in Japan.  The parties presented themselves in front of the mayor of Kanagawa, Japan in 2003 and requested a divorce.  He granted the divorce, and they just had to sign in his book to make it legal.

In 2005, they filed for an exequatur in Costa Rica to recognize the divorce.  The Sala I granted their
money in the blanace

request in November of the same year stating they followed the correct procedure in Japan to divorce and it should be upheld in Costa Rica because the act did not violate any Costa Rican laws.  The court ordered the exequatur which meant registering the divorce with the civil registry here.

Another example is an adoption case.   An expat man took his wife and her child to the United States so he could adopt the child because the process is easier there.  He obtained the adoption and filed for an exequatur in Costa Rica.  It was granted, saving a couple of years of court proceedings in this country to accomplish the same task.

In other cases of divorce and adoption, the actions were denied and no exequatur was issued because the situations were not consistent with Costa Rican law.   In one example, a divorce was granted in Nicaragua where the woman was not properly considered in the action.  The Sala I denied the exequatur to register the divorce in Costa Rica because in this country the two parties to a divorce have a say.  Unilateral divorces are not permitted here.

Letters rogatory usually pertain to process service, taking in evidence, and in Costa Rica attaching assets with judicial liens while a legal process is going on. 

Many attorneys do not know how to use the power of letters rogatory.  This includes attorneys in Costa Rica and other countries.   Letters rogatory are governed by Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory of which Costa Rica is a signatory.  The text of the convention can be found at this link.

Court settlements and arbitration judgments are also enforceable using exequaturs.  The law in Costa Rica supports out-of-court settlements strongly, and in the case of an out-of-court settlement from another country where there are assets in Costa Rica, an exequatur can be sought to collect if the settlement or judgment does not violate Costa Rican law.

Many foreigners while living in Costa Rica believe they are untouchable from the laws of their home countries.  Some are running away from debts, wives, and child support payments.  The truth is, some of the bad deeds from home can follow a foreigner to Costa Rica and legally be enforced by the authorities here.

Garland M. Baker is a 36-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2008, use without permission prohibited.

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Woman caught at airport
will face smuggling charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police have detained a woman from Panamá they said was carrying almost six kilos of cocaine.  They also apprehended a pair of Costa Ricans who attempted to transport $30,000 from the Panama border. 

The 31-year-old Panamanian with the last names Ruiz Oporta was captured late Friday night by the Policia de Control de Drogas in the Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela.  Ms. Ruiz entered Limón from Bocas del Toro, Panamá, about two months ago, officials said. She was going to board a flight to Mexico City and then to Paris, France, they added. 

The woman was surprised by the anti-drug agents who discovered secret compartments in her backpack and wallet where she was carrying five kilos and 747 grams of cocaine, agents said.  The woman could face up to 20 years in prison on the international drug trafficking allegation, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. 

Ms. Ruiz is the first Panama woman to be detained this year for international drug trafficking in the Santamaría airport.  There was another case on Aug. 1 where a Panamanian man with the last names of Quintero Castillo was detained on the allegation he was carrying three kilos of cocaine and three assault riffles.

Two Costa Ricans, a 31-year-old man by the last names of Mata Solano, and a 19-year-old woman by the last names of Crespi Guzman, were detained by the anti-drug police late Saturday in Ciudad Neily. 

The pair was traveling in a Honda in Paso Canoas on the border of Panama.  As they were entering Ciudad Neily, they were stopped by police who said they found the pair carrying $30,000.  The money and car were seized while the pair was detained.  According to the law, any amount of more then $10,000 must be declared at the border.

Our reader's opinion
Capital needs a clean up,
just like in New York City

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I've just read Jo Stuart's column entitled, "The  'broken window' theory and the proliferation of crime." I couldn't agree more.

I visited Costa Rica during the last two weeks of July, and spent several days in San Jose. My husband and I had time to explore the city on foot, and saw the conditions Ms Stuart spoke of: graffiti, broken sidewalks, litter-strewn streets and broken windows. These conditions led me to think that San Jose was seedy and dismal, despite the loveliness of many of the old buildings and the friendliness of the people.

I had wanted to move to Costa Rica for years, and brought my husband to take George Lundquist's retirement tour. After seeing San Jose, my husband began to think I was crazy. Fortunately, once we began George's wonderful tour of the Central Valley, he changed his mind.

However, while we were staying in San Jose, I was reading Malcolm Gladwell's best-selling book called "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference." In this fascinating book, Mr. Gladwell traces the improvements in New York City that led to an amazing reduction in crime. He referred to the "Broken Window Theory" cited by Ms Stuart. A huge effort was made to improve the city: cleaning up the graffiti; fixing broken windows; removing piles of trash from the streets, and prosecuting petty "quality of life" crimes. The results were swift and lasting.

I couldn't help wondering what would happen if the same things were done in San Jose. I can't believe that the effects would be less than those achieved in New York. I certainly hope that some of the $850 million that will be used in Costa Rica will go towards making these improvements in San Jose.

Myra Nelson
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

He's unhappy with Amnet

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I want to make public my frustration that Amnet Cable is not showing the 2008 Olympic Games.  It is outrageous that Amnet Cable subscribers are paying almost $30/month minimum for such third-rate service.  Are any other
cable companies showing the Olympics live here in Costa Rica?  Please let me know and I urge all Amnet subscribers to switch to the alternative.
Matthew Cook
San Pedro

EDITOR'S NOTE: Alas, cable subscribers do not have a choice. The companies have franchises in specified areas.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 163

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She's up early to pick up all the trash we dumped in the street
Photos by Elise Sonray
cleanup in city one
Anabelle Rojas Fuentes on the job
By the time most locals make it downtown the garbage is not so noticeable.

Municipal workers like Anabelle Rojas Fuentes begin the day at 6 a.m. sweeping the pedestrian boulevard clean. Every night the boulevard gets buried in trash. From fast food wrappers to rotten fruit, from the paper cups to plastic bags, all soak in puddles and blow gently around the feet of passers-by.

“It's usually worse,” said Ms. Rojas who works six days a week cleaning up after people downtown. “I think people litter because they don't have education or manners. But if you think about it, it gives us a job, so in a way it's good.”

Ms. Rojas said the weekends are usually worse and there are only two to four people to clean up the mess. On weekdays there are groups of nine, she said. The groups work in shifts from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and noon to 7 p.m., she said. Ms. Rojas who works for Municipalidad de San José has been keeping the streets cleaner for six years, she said.
city trash one
Trash . . .
city trash three
. . . and more trash

Pacheco and Casas draw focus of press freedom analysis
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica fared better than six other Latin countries in a new report on government interference with press freedom.  But former president Abel Pacheco and the Arias administration drew criticism for trying to manipulate the media with money.

The report, "The Price of Silence: The Growing Threat of Soft Censorship in Latin America," also catalogs abuses in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Peru, and Uruguay, including the widespread use of public funds to reward or punish news coverage.

"Millions of dollars are tossed around by government officials trying to buy favorable coverage — a situation made worse by low salaries and lack of job security for many journalists," said Darian Pavli, one of the report's authors and an attorney with the Open Society Justice Initiative.

"This ‘soft' censorship can chill entire newsrooms and yet remains invisible to the public," said Roberto Saba, executive director of the Asociación por los Derechos Civiles in Argentina, the report's co-publisher. "Immediate reforms are necessary, including a commitment at all levels of government to reform advertising laws and stop blackmailing the media."

The report addressed four main types of soft censorship: the abuse of government advertising to directly influence content, direct payments to journalists, discriminatory allocation of advertising to political allies, and the use of advertising for propaganda purposes.

For Costa Rica the report urged passage of a comprehensive law on access to information held by public bodies, based on presumptions of openness and maximum disclosure to the public.

Even though the Costa Rican Constitution mandates free access to information on public matters, the report's authors found out that this is not always the case.

"The president’s press office, the electric company, and two public banks (Banco Nacional and Banco Popular) all failed to respond to inquiries, a summary said. Only the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social replied, providing requested information on government spending and practices in a timely fashion, it added.

Some of the research in Costa Rica was done by the local Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresion.

The report described how former president Pacheco decided in 2004 to withdraw advertising from the daily La Nación and other publications belonging to the same media group because he was unhappy with the news coverage.

In Costa Rica, the report noted, government advertising is decentralized because many agencies and institutions, like the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, control their own budgets. In contrast, in Honduras, where many more abuses were found, most of the government advertising is placed through the office of the president, the report said.

Most of these Costa Rican agencies appear to use marketing criteria, based on target audience and circulation or rating information provided by ad agencies, the report said. However, journalists and a former government aide assert that under former president Abel Pacheco, government advertising was often politically motivated and given to friends of the government, especially in the case of regional media in the interior or individual journalists with radio programs, it said.

According to journalists and a former presidential aide, such abuses persist today, although to a lesser degree, said the report, adding that Mishelle Mitchell, the press director for Óscar Arias Sánchez, did not reply to a detailed written request for comment on these practices.

Typically advertising placement is not done by bids.
The report also discussed the infamous memo produced by Kevin Casas when he was vice president. Among other ploys to win referendum votes Oct. 7 for the free trade treaty with the United States, the memo suggested  using government advertising contracts to secure favorable coverage, mainly on radio stations. Casas resigned in the wake of the memo's disclosure.

Said the report:

"According to Armando González, managing editor of La Nación, this case shows that the mechanism for using government advertising to condition content exists, and nothing has changed since President Pacheco ordered his government to withdraw advertising from La Nación in 2004 in retaliation for critical coverage . . . . 'That they are not doing so today with La Nación is good, but what is worrisome is the principle. Today La Nación was a circumstantial ally of the government on the free trade agreement, but what is going to happen when the first corruption scandal erupts, that logically we are going to cover? No one knows,' González said. 'This mechanism of pressure exists and is available to government officials. It is a constant threat.' Mishelle Mitchell, press director for the president’s office, did not reply to our request for comment on this case."

At the same time Jary Gomez, deputy general director of Diario Extra, told a report interviewer that the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad increased its advertising with that paper during the debate over the free trade treaty. The telecommunications company did not favor the treaty, and Diario Extra published a substantial amount of anti-treaty views.

Some Costa Rica newspeople also reported calls from government officials that attempted to change the content of news stories before they were published.

The study reported on a content analysis of government advertising in San José newspapers from May 14 to 29, 2007. Said the report: "The four state banks published 41 percent of the total for the period, followed by other autonomous agencies (29 percent), the four public universities (13 percent), the judicial branch (6 percent), the executive branch (6 percent), and municipalities (3.5 percent).

According to the study, governments across the region abuse regulatory powers to manipulate the news. In broadcasting, in particular, governments have routinely abused licensing laws to benefit political cronies and keep independent voices off the air. For example, Uruguay is only recently coming to terms with a long history of political favoritism that affects the distribution of broadcast licenses, the report said, adding that authorities also retaliate against critical coverage.

In Honduras, officials suspended telephone service to a national radio station, while local Argentine authorities shuttered a printing press, it said, adding:

"In several of the countries covered by this report, we found governments paying individual journalists for either favorable coverage or editorial silence on difficult issues. Laws do not ban such payments, and it is common for journalists to solicit advertising from government officials. In Honduras, for example, government officials even require journalists to sign contracts that include a clause stipulating that the journalist will provide favorable coverage of government activities. This system is also possible because local officials forego competitive bidding procedures and contract directly with the journalists of their choice. If the favorable coverage expected is not provided, officials often simply stop making payments to the journalist in question.

The report offers several recommendations to governments, media outlets, and journalist associations to combat the problems, including increased transparency in government advertising. Other recommendations include empowering auditing agencies to investigate unlawful financial practices.

The 200-page report is available online.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 163

Legislator Zomer gets the nod to serve as housing minister
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Oscar Arias Sánchez announced a replacement Friday for the housing minister who resigned under fire nearly two weeks ago.

Arias made the announcement as he dedicated a new, $5.75 million section of the Hospital de las Mujeres in Paso Ancho on Costa Rican mother's day.

The new minister of Instituto Nacional de Vivienda y Urbanismo is Clara Zomer Rezler, a current legislator, he said. Arias spoke highly of Ms. Zomer and said she had a bounty of relevant experience for the position. 

The former minister of housing, Fernando Zumbado, who went on leave July 9 over the Arias administration's  financial scandal, formally resigned Aug. 5.

The allegation against Zumbado is that he used donated money to hire a series of consultants and paid for a contract with the Centro Internacional de Derechos Humanos, an organization that he founded and used to head. This is the case of the $1.5 million donation from the government of Taiwan to help those poor families flooded out in Pavas. Taiwan was supposed to donate $2.5 million, but President Óscar Arias Sánchez pulled the plug on diplomatic relations in favor of the People's Republic. No money went to the people in Pavas.

In his resignation letter, Zumbado said his job was not
complete and that he would meet with residents of Rincón Grande de Pavas to give them the explanation that they deserve.

In July President Arias lamented the resignation of Zumbado in a press release .

The new minister, Ms. Zomer, served as executive president of the housing ministry in the 80s, according to the presidential release. She graduated from the Universidad de Costa Rica in civil engineering and received her master's degree and served in the engineering faculty at the Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje, according to the release. President Arias said he was honored and happy that Ms. Zomer had accepted the position.

Arias also announced that the minister of health, María Luisa Ávila, will now be in charge of the Sector Social, a responsibility held by Zumbado. He also said the vice minister of heath, Lidiette Carballo, resigned due to personal reasons.

The woman's hospital is a facility of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The addition is 5,300 square meters or a bit more than 57,000 square feet. The new addition will house areas for emergencies, gynecology, obstetrics, neonatology, nutrition and storage.

The Caja will spend $2 million more to equip the new section, according to Casa Presidencial. Some 100 new positions will be added and 60 more are being considered.

Fumigation chemical sickens residents in Puerto Viejo area
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nearly a dozen people were hospitalized last week after a chemical explosion in Puerto Viejo, said a fire chief in Limón.

Firefighters said owners of a house in Cocles, Puerto Viejo attempted to fumigate with the chemical, aluminum phosphate. “They didn't know much about the substance, or that it was a toxic product,” said Mario Araya Nuñez, subdirector of the fire station in Limón. The owners encased the house in a plastic material during the fumigation and removed it days later, said Araya.

Although the explosion is believed to have occurred Aug. 10, firefighters did not know of the problem until Tuesday, said Araya. Two fire units, one from Limón and one from Siquirres arrived at the scene after neighbors had called in to complain of nausea, dizziness, and other symptoms, said Araya.

Aluminum phosphate is also known as phosphoric acid or aluminum salt.  It is in a group of chemicals that can cause
  acute pulmonary edema, alveolar damage, or chronic respiratory damage through the general mechanisms of cellular damage or fibrosis. “At sufficient doses, these effects can be permanent, disabling, and life-threatening,” according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor website.

It is not unusual for effects of aluminum phosphate to be delayed if inhaled, according to U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Effects of inhalation may include chronic bronchitis, coughing, wheezing and or shortness of breath, according to various studies.

Araya who did not go to the scene himself, said that owners had reportedly removed the plastic encasing the house soon after people began to complain.

The Ministerio de Salud will deal with the legal ramifications of the owners' actions, said Araya.

Araya said he believed there were at least eight victims. Some were U.S. citizens. Other reports list as many as 11 victims.

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Minority to be majority,
U.S. Census Bureau says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Census Bureau is projecting that by the year 2042 minorities will become the majority of the U.S. population. Hispanics, now 15 percent of the population, are expected to double their share of the population, to 30 percent. The new numbers suggest a nation more racially and ethnically diverse, and much older.

In the Missouri town of St. Joseph, Hispanics could soon become the majority. Census Bureau data shows that between 2006 and 2007 the Hispanic population in the region jumped by close to 25 percent.

Lucy Timmerman came to St. Joseph three years ago. She ended up opening a business. She says she can see the difference.

"I think Hispanics are here and they are not going to go anywhere," said Ms. Timmerman. "We are going to see more coming."

The trend is national. The U.S. Census Bureau says minorities, now roughly one third of the U.S. population, are expected to be the majority by 2042. By 2050, minorities — including Black Americans, Hispanics and Asians — will make up 54 percent of the population. Hispanic people — because of immigration and high birth rates — will be 30 percent of Americans.

An estimated 62 percent of the nation's children will be from minority groups.

While the rest of the population is rapidly aging, minority populations are growing due to high birth rates.

The bureau forecasts a population that is rapidly aging. By 2050, people 65 and over will number some 88 million. They will be 20 percent of the overall population.

Experts say that historically, it takes a generation to absorb the changes. So it will take time until immigrants are less in need of city services and are beginning to run those cities.

"In places like Los Angeles, where Hispanics have been for a while, they have a big impact on policy," according to William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. "They matter. We have a Latino mayor in Los Angeles as a result of all the power they have."

Other cities could experience big changes in the next few years, including Scranton, Pennsylvania, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Denver, Colorado, where minorities are expected to become majorities.

"We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg when we look at today's younger population," says Frey. "In 10, 20 years, that is going to be America."

If the trend continues, the U.S. will become more ethnically and racially diverse, with Hispanics playing a more dominant role.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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