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(506) 2223-1327           Published Monday, Sept. 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 175          Email us
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Digital push at Registro opens door to crooks
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Expats and everyone else holding assets in Costa Rica should check the documents pertaining to their properties as soon as possible to be sure everything is in order. Asset thefts are on the rise because of the digitalization of documents throughout the country. 

The problem is that as the government institutions digitalize the workers are omitting important information from the original documents.  One could wake up one morning and find the house stolen.

The new service provided by the Registro Nacional is great.  It is a fast way to get all kinds of Costa Rican certifications and other types of documents without having to travel to the Registro Nacional.  The service is relatively inexpensive, and most institutions will take the printed certifications without questions.

The system has hit a small roadblock because the Sala IV constitutional court has prohibited the Registro from accepting money, and online delivery of documents is on hold. The temporary ruling involved an appeal from a lawyer who objects to paying the money.

But either online or when issued in person, the digitized documents in many cases are just wrong.  The information in them is not always accurate because in either case the documents come from the digitized data base.

Take for example a certification of ownership and powers of attorney.  The Registro Nacional document may show no limitations when in fact there are very specific limitations. 

An old power of attorney may have given someone very limited rights, like the right to negotiate an easement with a water utility.  But because of Registro omissions, the individual could appear to have total control of the asset, an expensive property. That's enough control to sell it.

This is dangerous because unscrupulous souls are using the incorrect information and transferring assets without owners even knowing about it.  Is the Registro Nacional responsible?  Of course, but one would probably be dead by the time the lawsuit ends to get the asset back.

What every expat should do today is get a current copy of their information at the Registro Nacional regarding the assets and check it with the actual records.  If it is wrong, they should immediately contact a legal professional — a trusted legal professional. The keyword here is trust — to fix the problem.

Believe it or not, the people at the Registro do not like to mingle with normal people, just with those in the legal profession.  There is one great department called reconstruction — this department fixes Registro mistakes — and they are all good people and will talk to human beings.

It is not just assets like property changing hands illegally.  Other things are disappearing too, like easements and trust agreements, to name a few.
A paperless world would be great.  Digitalization and cloud computing also are super. However, these wonderful innovations are giving the bad guys the tools they need to steal.

The Registro Nacional is trying to make a rojo, a thousand colón note, like everyone else.  Soon everyone will have to pay for most of the documents they provide.  However, in the institutional haste to make money, the Registro is hurting individuals by providing information in some cases that is just downright wrong, and there is no really good system to rectify problems.

Here is the situation:  Tomorrow, someone finds someone else has misused incorrect information to steal his or her house.  The Registro Nacional says
go to the prosecutor’s office to file a complaint. 
Property theft

The prosecutor is busy with other matters of more importance, and one has to wait or beg to file the charge.  Once the paperwork is done at the prosecutor’s office, one goes back to the Registro and files the papers.  Since the Registro closes early, it will probably be closed.  Next day, one goes back and tries to find the correct person to handle the situation.

Well, once that person is found, he or she does not like these kinds of problems and to get them to move into action is like moving an elephant.   It is not their house.  Well, the story continues through tons of paperwork and talking to people that really do not want to hear about a Registro mistake.

The only way to go is to find a lawyer who knows his or her way around the Registro and moves fast.  If the mistake is not caught before theft advances into a resale, one gets caught up in the Costa Rican quandary of who has more rights:  The innocent third party – usually the crook in this case, or a friend of the same – or the victim.

Third party cases go to civil court and are full of years and years of legal mumbo jumbo.  Victim cases go to criminal court, which at this time is almost a complete meltdown.

The sad truth is if the crook gets to use inaccurate documents before one finds out, the honest soul will probably lose the asset or die in the process of trying to get it back.

In summary, expats should compare important documents that are published in the new digitized system with  the originals.  If the the new version is wrong, expats should get the error fixed by a trusted – again the key word here is trusted – legal professional. 

The urgency of this matter to the Costa Rican community— and especially expats, because they often are singled out in swindles — is paramount.
There is another strange situation expats should understand when the Registro again begins issuing documents online.

Most online documents and certifications are issued printed in blue. But the Registro supplies a download that can be printed multiple times.

The original document is created in portable document format (PDF) in the color blue, and most institutions expect them to be printed in blue.  Unless they are in that color as prepared by the Registro Nacional, many clerks and aides think they are not valid.  If one is planning to use one of the documents created by the Registro Nacional Digital, the document should be printed in blue to avoid problems.

Garland M. Baker is a 39-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at
info@crexpertise.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2011. Use without permission prohibited.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 175

Costa Rica Expertise



Sportsmen's Lodge

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.



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Our readers' opinions
Property kept off the books
robs country of tax money


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
I'm concerned with the whole issue of the new taxation of limited liability companies considering I own three of them.  I see it as a nuisance and a cost that I'd rather not deal with since the LLCs are not being used at this time. 

The concern is that I see a willingness of the government to tax those that are easy to find, that is those who have followed the rules.  Just think about all those here in Costa Rica who do not pay their taxes on real estate and income.  The Costa Rican system is extremely porous and relies on those who are willing to put their name on something.  My neighbors own a lot of land and it is considered to be under the heading of "possession" and not "title".  For instance, I talked to the old man down the road, and he says he has a piece of paper somewhere showing he bought his land back in the early 1970s.  I asked him about the taxes.  He has never paid taxes because he does not have title and has never attempted to get title. 

Obviously whoever does have title is not paying the taxes because they do not live there or work the land.  These kinds of situations are everywhere here in Costa Rica.  So many tax dollars have failed to appear because the system is structured all wrong and there is no attempt to find land owners. 

Because of the liberal no-fault socialist laws that rule the roost here no one can be at fault for anything.  Everyone is innocent of everything.  I spoke to a woman who has a home north of Moín on a island.  She wants to sell her very nice home.  She, too, has a piece of paper.  I asked her for her tax number or something in the national registry so I could look it up.  She knows nothing about this process.  She has never heard of the national registry, and she is a American that I presume is educated. She does have a attorney in Guápiles. He has her papers, has had them for five years, and the topic has never come up. 

Who is going to pay the back taxes on her land?  She bought it from a local. He says all these thousands of acres from Moín north to Nicaragua have no papers. There is no tax office, no police station, nothing but water taxies, farms and ranches. 

I think that there are vast parcels of land in Costa Rica that is owned by the wealthy who also have refused to follow the rules and register their land holdings.  Why?  Because they don't have to.  No one cares and no one asks. After all, its in a rural area. 

Could there be situations like this in our cities such as San José, Heredia, San Ramón?  Of course, and who knows just how many properties are in dispute or lack a owner who is willing to have a attorney register the property in the national registry. 

This could be a source of millions of dollars. Its a situation that is out of control and has been neglected.  I think our legislators are going at the tax situation the easy way and chasing those who they can find easily.  For those who do not pay their taxes I say “shame on you. you are contributing to the problem with your selfish ways.” 

The present system encourages the knowledgeable to cheat.  It's kinda like the thief who robbed a couple in Cartago.  He stole their jewelry, money and car.  The masked gunman got away but was soon stopped and arrested by the police.  When they made a court appearance on the charges of armed robbery, the judge let the suspect go because the victims could not identify his face due to the mask he was wearing.  Now do not forget the police arrested the robber with the mask, the gun, the jewelry, the money, and the car.  Oh well, let's feel sorry for everyone till the whole system collapses.
 
Bruce Simpson
Hone Creek, Limón/Miami, Florida

Pizza operation becomes
target for armed robber

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am an American who made his home here in Costa Rica 14 years ago and I must say that my "vista"  has changed,  This is due to the fact that my Pizzeria Papitos in Moravia was added to the long and growing list of businesses and persons who are assaulted with a pistol and a young reform school dropout. 

It is very difficult for me to say "Pura Vida" because I want to say "Pura Cacos," but I try not to say this for my wife of 10 years is a Tica. Ya!Ya! 

Almost all of the police say the problem is the law.  The law is too soft, and they do not have "three strikes and your out" etc.  I do not agree.  This problem is much more then the weak laws here.  Even though, the law is impotent to deal with this  growing major problem in Costa Rica,  it is clear to me that this problem of robbery at gunpoint is a result of young men using drugs. 

The solution will not be easy, and some people may have to die. 

Michael Perry
Moravia and U.S.A.

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 175

Prisma dental

Cabronero bridge
Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo
A large backhoe planes the hill above the new bridge to prevent slides
New bridge at Cambronero scheduled to be open this month
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic officials report that a new bridge at Cambronero on the Interamericana Norte will be opened this month.

Workers have been constructing it since January.

This is at the point where a culvert washed out last Sept. 8 and caused extensive road damage. There were detours, but a one-lane bailey bridge kept traffic flowing within a few weeks. Workmen installed a second bridge so that opposite lanes of traffic could flow unhindered.

The bailey bridges are being replaced by the new concrete and steel span. It is a $3.1 million effort. The bridge is 24
meters (79 feet) long and 15.6 meters (51 feet) wide.

The bridge spans the Quebrada Canejo which is frequently flowing. Workmen constructed a new culvert that empties into the quebrada. The culvert that blew out was of metal and had rusted. It was just not big enough to carry the slugs of water that heavy rain brought to the country last September. The new culvert is concrete.

The new bridge will carry three lanes because the highway at that point is scheduled to be widened to two ascending lanes and one going downhill. The Interamericana is national Ruta 1, which goes from the Nicaraguan border to San José. The new bridge also will have a pedestrian walkway protected by a concrete wall.


Fares for Paquera ferry going up today, ministry reports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the day fares go up on the Puntarenas-Paquera ferry operated by Naviera Tambor S.A. The rate hike was approved in May, said the transport ministry..

There will be no increase for passengers who walk on. These fares will continue to be 810 colons (about $1.60) for adults and 485 colons (about 96 U.S. cents) for children. Many bus passengers are in this category because they leave one vehicle at the Puntarenas dock and board another in Paquera.

Fares for nearly all vehicles are going up about 30 to 31 percent. Passenger cars go from 7,800 colons (about $15.40) to 10,200 colons (about $20,12).

There are similar increases for other types of transportation.
A tractor trailer will pay 41,100 colons or about $81.  All fares are for one-way passage.

The Naviera Tambor firm is putting Tambor III into service. It is a $7 million investment, and the new fares are based, in part on the new boat, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte that sets the rates.

The fare for the Puntarenas-Naranjo ferry went up an average of 24 percent for passenger cars last November.
Motorists also have the option of traveling to and from the Nicoya peninsula via the Puente Amistad that spans the Río Tempisque at the head of the Gulf of Nicoya. The ferries are also tourist attractions.

However towns like Naranjo, Paquera, Cóbano and Montezuma are far to the south over mostly gravel roads.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 175











The estimated 80 marchers included some municipal officials of Santo Domingo de Heredia and of Moravia, said organizers.

Rio Agra marchers
Photo by Comité Bandera Azul Ecológica de San Miguel et al.

Marchers seeking to protect wetlands surprise backhoe operator
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Marchers protesting work near the Río Agra said they were surprised Sunday to find a backhoe digging in a wetland near the river.

The Río Agra is the boundary between the cantons of Moravia and Coronado, and a consortium of private groups there have been protesting development work.

The organizations reported in a Sunday press release that a wetland that was there in 2005 and 2006 has been drained. They are asking national and local officials to stop the work and protect the remaining wetlands.

There were about 80 marchers, the organizations said. They also reported that they haled a Fuerza Pública patrol car seeking action against the operator of the backhoe. However, they reported, officers declined to take action because the backhoe had stopped digging.

It was not enough to have the testimony of 80 persons or the presence of Santo Domingo de Heredia municipal officials or videos taken by individuals before the police arrived, said the press release.

The river provides water for about 14,000 persons in Santo Domingo, the organization said. Marching were members of Comité Bandera Azul Ecológica de San Miguel, the Consejo de Distrito de Pará, the Asociación TASBAYAM and the Movimiento Comunal AGRAdecido con el Río Agrá, and residents of Tornillal de Moravia, of San Isidro de Heredia, of San Gerónimo de Moravia, of Coronado, of Santa Barbara, and of various districts of Santo Domingo, the organizations said. Also marching were professors, university
Digging in river
Photo by Comité Bandera Azul Ecológica de San Miguel et al.
This is the backhoe marchers spotted.

students and students from the Escuela Ecológica Braulio Carillo de San Gerónimo.

The organizations also said they replaced placards that had vanished from where they had been placed earlier.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 175

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Chile confirms the deaths
of all 21 on crashed plane


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chilean officials say all 21 people aboard a Chilean air force plane that crashed in the Pacific Ocean are dead.

The CASA 212 went down Friday after two failed attempts to land in difficult weather on the Juan Fernandez islands, about 700 kilometers (about 434 miles) from the Chilean mainland. 

Fishermen and rescue teams combing the waters have recovered the bodies of two women and two men.

Among those on board was popular TV host Felipe Camiroaga and a camera crew heading to the island to produce a program on reconstruction efforts following last year's earthquake and subsequent tsunami.


Calderón says fighting drugs
is only option for his nation


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's president is vowing to fight to the last day of his term against the drug cartels that have spread insecurity and taken over towns and police forces across Mexico.

In a speech to the nation Friday, President Felipe Calderón said if the government backed down from its military crackdown, the country would be totally dominated by the drug gangs.  He said the current strategy is the only way to end this cancer of drug trafficking and the ensuing violence.

A recent study by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that less than half of Mexicans believe the government is making any progress in its campaign against drug cartels. 

With the next presidential election taking place in July 2012, polls indicate the main opposition party, the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, is in the lead. 

The party held power for more than 70 years until 2000, when Vicente Fox, a member of the Partido Acción nacional, the same party as Calderón, was elected president. 

It is estimated that more than 41,000 people have been killed since Calderón launched his hardline offensive against drug cartels after taking office nearly five years ago.

Friday, a leader of Mexico's Gulf Cartel, with a $5 million bounty on his head from the U.S., was found shot to death across from the U.S. border town of McAllen, Texas.  Authorities say Samuel Flores Borrego also known as" Metro 3" and a police officer were found dead along a highway. Borrego was being sought on drug trafficking charges.

Last week, 52 people were killed in one of the worst single attacks against civilians, when gunmen set fire to a casino in the northern city of Monterrey.


Tropical Storm Lee causes
flooding in New Orleans


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The latest severe storm to cause problems for the eastern United States is dumping torrential rains on the Gulf coast states of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Tropical Storm Lee made landfall near the city of New Orleans Sunday, flooding the streets and recalling the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina six years ago.

The Louisiana city is under flash flood warnings while elsewhere, evacuation orders have been issued for low-lying areas. 

Before coming ashore, the slow-moving storm had been pounding other Gulf of Mexico communities with heavy rains.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Lee could dump up to 50 centimeters (nearly 20 inches) of rain over several states as it moves north into the Tennessee Valley.

It has been just one week since Hurricane Irene caused devastation along the U.S. east coast, killing more than 40 people and causing billions of dollars in damage in states stretching from North Carolina to Vermont.

U.S. President Barack Obama got a firsthand look at some of the damage Sunday.  He traveled to hard-hit New Jersey, touring the state's third largest city, Paterson, which was inundated by Irene's torrential rains. 

He pledged to people affected by Irene that he won't allow Washington politics to get in the way of bringing them federal help.

Another storm, Katia, is out in the open Atlantic Ocean and heading northwest but is not currently a threat to any land area.

The month of September is considered the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which has already seen 12 named storms.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 175

Costa Rica Reprot promo


Latin America news
murder victim
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Paul Gamboa
Judicial agent marks the plastic bag containing the body of Maureen Corrales Muñoz, one of two victims of a shooting off the Interamerican highway.

Pair left for short errand
and ended up murdered

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators are surprised that the bodies of two Desamparados residents turned up on a shoulder of the Interamericana Norte near Putanrenas Centro early Friday.

The couple, both victims of close-range shootings are Warner Canales Montoya, 25, and Maureen Corrales Muñoz, 39.

Agents reported that the couple's neighbors said the pair left on a motorcycle from their home in San Rafael Abajo de Desamparados for what was believed to be short trip.

Investigators suspect that the pair were lured to Puntarenas or taken there by force. They were killed at the place where their bodies were found because agents recovered shell casings. Each was shot four times. The motorcycle was not recovered.


U.S. celebrates Labor Day

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is Labor Day in the United States, a legal holiday and the traditional end to Northern Hemisphere summer.

The U.S. Embassy reported it would be closed today, as it is for all U.S. and Costa Rican holidays. The embassy said Labor Day celebrates the U.S., labor movement and the social and economic progress enjoyed by workers there. The day was celebrated first in New York City in 1882, the embassy said.

The day is in contrast with international labor day, celebrated May 1 in Costa Rica and much of the world every year. That is considered a celebration of socialism.


Bridge work continues

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workers were expected to be on the cursed bridge again this morning at least until 6 a.m. The Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transporte announced Friday that workers would be on the bridge over the Río Virilla every night through 6 a.m. today.

This is the bridge that defies fixing. Although rebuilt over Christmas holiday, the concrete deck continues to fall apart, and travelers on the General Cañas highway have been traveling over bare rebar instead of concrete. That is unless the route is closed and they have to detour through Heredia.

The ministry has announced an overnight shutdown at least six times in the last month, and each time was supposed to be the final one. This is on the main highway from San José to Alajuela and Juan Santamaría airport.

Air travelers with early flights frequently face extra delays in the early morning when going west.








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