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(506) 223-1327           Published Friday, Sept. 8, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 179            E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Have friends,
will travel

Gerardo Rodríguez, who travels San José seeking waste paper, just cannot pass up a good thing. So he has decorated his cart with recycled dolls who lighten the mood of his daily labor.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

Protection urged for murder trial prosecutor
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national association of prosecutors has put its support behind Giselle Rivera Chacón, who is representing the state in the Parmenio Medina murder trial.

The woman may have been targeted by assassins because of her job.

The murder case, involving a Roman Catholic priest, a successful businessman and others is taking place now.   Parmenio Medina Pérez was a popular radio commentator who was gunned down near his Heredia home in 2001.

The organization, Asociación Nacional de Fiscales y Exfiscales de la República, said it is giving its full backing to Ms. Rivera.

Those who might be considering an attack on her life are not only cowards but are slowing the process of justice, the organization said. Fiscal is the Spanish word for prosecutor in this sense.
The woman, a lawyer, works for the  Ministerio Público, which is the independent prosecutorial arm of the judicial system.

The association called on the judicial system to guarantee the security of the woman. The case is high profile. The Rev. Minor Calvo, the Catholic priest, and businessman Omar Chávez are the prime suspects in the case and are considered the intellectual authors of the murder. Others are considered the triggermen and intermediaries.

Both the priest and the businessman were involved with Radio María, a Catholic radio station that Parmenio Medina accused of irregularities and financial lapses. The Catholic leadership closed down the station shortly before his death.

The daily newspaper Al Día reported the situation in its Thursday edition, saying that a note with a description of the woman and her schedule was found on a suspicious man when he was arrested in an unrelated case.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 179

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Our readers' opinions

Shark stories include
some untold information

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

For the last several years I have followed the shark stories with interest — and quite some amusement. There a few facts that remain largely unsaid.

One: the chief shark -fishing nation is probably, if not certainly, Taiwan. Costa Rica kisses Taiwan's collective ass because it invests in Costa Rica, loans money to Costa Rica, donates money to Costa Rica, and buys Costa Rican products. So who gives a damn if they wipe out the shark population in our territorial waters and wherever else they can get away with it? Sharks are considered by many to be an animal worthy of extermination.

Two: All this crap about leaving fins attached so they have to utilize the whole fish is a bunch of hooey. All they have to do is cut the fins off after they land the sharks and dispose of the carcasses then. That eventuality brings some possibly ugly scenes to  mind.

Fact: Of the many different species of shark that exist in the world's oceans, only a few types are considered edible. I know of four, the mako, thresher, spiny dogfish, and reef blacktip. There are probably a few others. Most sharks have such a high urea content in their flesh that the meat is totally unpalatable. If you cut one open and leave it for a few hours, it begins to smell like ammonia. Apparently though, this does not hold true for the fins.

The State of California Department of Fish and Game undertook an experimental shark fishing program for several years in the late 80s and early 90s. The fishery made use of longlines that were soaked for 24 hours. The chief catch was blue sharks with a few makos and threshers. The fishermen in the program totally failed in their efforts to find and develop a market for the meat of the blue shark, and during the course of this experimental fishery they practically eradicated blue sharks from the southern California nearshore waters. They were killing huge numbers of blues to catch a few makos and threshers, so finally the state terminated the program.

The shark fin fishers are finning every type of shark they catch — mostly the reef sharks as they are the easiest to target. Whitetips, blacktips, hammerheads, bull sharks, nurse sharks — whatever. So in reality, the only way to avoid the slaughter of sharks is to impose realistic limits and restrictions on the type and number of fish landed and levy large fines on offenders and seize their boats. There will have to be an immediate moratorium on any shark fishing until the populations of sharks recover.

Are sharks worth the effort? That is a moral issue that the government has so far avoided, but how can any civilized country condone cutting parts off of a live animal and then returning the animal to the sea to suffer a slow and painful death?
Peter Todd

Market here has never
been stronger, he says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have read with interest some of the recent articles — some very negative — on Real Estate in Costa Rica.
In reality, the market has never been stronger with some major players in the development field now buying properties to develop as opposed to just speculative purchases, particularly on the beach areas.

The market is approaching some real maturity with some quality product out there at last.  European buyers are on the increase with a good exchange rate against the U.S. dollar.

Western San José continues to and will always remain strong due to the level of services in that area.

While it is true that some residential properties in  western San José may not have sold for awhile, this is usually due to overpricing of very average real estate in poor condition by sellers who just don't realize they asking too much for their properties.

Well priced properties in good locations and condition do and will continue to sell. Demand is strong.  I believe the boom is only just beginning. On a scale of 1 to 10, we are at 1.5

I have worked in this market in both sales and development for a number of years since the late 80s.

Mark Jackson
San José

His sales have doubled
each year for five years

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I must agree with Mr. Wellingham's comments as our sales have more than doubled every year for the past five years. Values are rising rapidly in general, and even more so in areas where development is just

Yes using responsible brokers, attorneys, and title companies is very important. Even more so here with the lack of enforceable licensing and the practice of over-pricing which is both common and acceptable in C.R.

In the States this is known as "net listings" a good way for you to loose your license as it is considered both illegal and fraudulent.

Just like the Wild West, there are a lot of opportunity here but you must do your homework!

When you speak of a declining market in your articles, I assume you are in reference to Guanacaste where prices have been driven up which has had a direct effect on the slower sales market there in the past few months. Mid Pacific however and some other target areas are blossoming with lower prices and rapid growth over the same period.

As with everything, everyone has different ideas but I feel the over all market in Costa Rica is strong and growing rapidly. This trend will continue with the baby boomers which is the next opportunity for a strong future here.

Costa Rica does need to address the immigration issue like Panamá has done with exemptions on duty for household goods cars, and easy processing of residency for this group. These are just my opinions and I hope I have not offended anyone in the process.
Tom Roucek
Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 179

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The last time Costas Rica went to war . . .
It sincerely worries some people that Costa Rica has no military.  This fact simply annoys others.  How, they ask, will Costa Rica defend itself should someone invade them?  Others (usually U.S. citizens who are really annoyed) suggest that Costa Rica would come running to the U.S. for help. 

A recently published book, “The Undeclared War,” gives one answer.  The author, Juan José Echeverria Brealey, was minister of public security during the presidency of Rodrigo Carazo (1978-1982) and was very much involved in what he says was a state of undeclared war between Nicaragua and Costa Rica from December 1978 until July of 1979. 

The border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica has long been the site of conflicts.  One of the reasons is that it is not very clear where the border is.  When Nicaraguan Dictator Anastasio Somoza found himself facing a revolution led by the Sandinistas in 1978, he and then-Costa Rican president Daneil Oduber made an agreement to jointly prevent Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica and Tico sympathizers from crossing the border to join the Sandinistas.  Costa Rica’s Guardia Civil would work with Somoza’s military. 

When Carazo became president, he cancelled that agreement because, he said, such activity did not conform to the constitutionally decreed neutrality of Costa Rica.  Somoza felt that Costa Rica was a bad example for the world. 

On Sept. 12, 1978, Nicaraguan planes and a helicopter flew over Costa Rica and strafed a pickup truck carrying Tico students and teachers who were returning from the border after coordinating the activities for the following day when they would receive the Torch of Liberty from their Nicaraguan counterparts and then carry it on to Cartago.  A teacher and a student were wounded.   

Other incidents followed.

There were many Sandinistas living in Guanacaste. They had assured government that they would not illegally use the border to return to Nicaragua. For the most part, the Sandinistas honored the agreement, and the Ticos looked the other way when they did not. Somoza felt he had the right to enter the territory along the border and attack at will.  On Nov. 19, a Costa Rican patrol was attacked and three policemen were wounded, then kidnapped and taken to Nicaragua.  Later one died. 

After each incident, Costa Rica resorted to diplomacy in order not to escalate the situation.  It also appealed to the Organization of American States.  Venezuela and Panama offered their help. The U.S. historically had supported Somoza.

In December 1978 Somoza decided to invade the northwest corner of Costa Rica, attack the Sandinistas

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

from the south and thus internationalize the conflict.  Echeverria informed the American ambassador to Costa Rica that if Somoza did this, Venezuelan bombers were at the ready in Maracaibo, Venezuela, to fly to Nicaragua and bomb the bunker of the Nicaraguan government. 

He was warning the ambassador, he said, because the American Embassy was close by the bunker and a stray bomb might do it damage.  

Shortly thereafter, Somoza said he had been misunderstood and that he had no intention of invading Costa Rica.

In March. President Jimmy Carter sent a message to Presdent Carazo via his ambassador saying he regretted Costa Rica´s support of the Sandinistas.  Before the message could be completed, Carazo, in effect, told the ambassador to tell the American President to go to hell. A Costa Rican President was not going to be reprimanded by anyone, he said. 

In May Mexico broke diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. 

In June 1979 the Organization of American States publicly condemned Somoza for his human rights violations and told him he had to leave Nicaragua.  July 19 Somoza left Nicaragua to be given asylum in the United States. (Later, Somoza moved to Paraguay where he was murdered.)

The state of war, which had existed between December 1978 and July 1979, was over.  Resorting to diplomacy and with a little help from its friends the government of Costa Rica managed to restore a state of (sometimes uneasy) peace between the two countries.  It also helped that Carter finally saw Somoza as other than an ally against communism.  He was not a good person.

I chatted with Echeverria about his book and his involvement during this time.  He said he felt that this was a part of Costa Rica’s history that should be known.  At the time, the danger of the crisis was downplayed because of the effect it would have had on both the psyches of the people and Costa Rica’s economic development.

“The Undeclared War,” is published by EUNED (Editorial Universidad Estatal a Distancia) and is available in their libraries and in the library in the Teatro Melico Salazar. 

The story is interesting and told in direct and simple language for the layperson, so I found it easy to read and yet a great book for practicing and improving my Spanish.

Another sportsbook executive grabbed entering U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Note to sportsbook executives: When you travel, you probably do not want to go through the United States.

Yet another sportsbook executive has been detained in the United States. Police in New York's JFK Airport arrested Peter Dicks late Wednesday on the strength of a warrant from the State of Louisiana.

He is associated with SportingBet P.L.C., a British company with operations in Costa Rica.

The company said that Dicks, 64, was visiting the United States on non-company business. He was identified as the "non-executive chairman" of the firm. The firm said that it asked for the suspension of trading in its shares of stock on the London Exchage pending clarification of the situation.

The company's brands include SportingBet, SportingOdds.com, Sportsbook.com, ParadisePoker.com, Miapuesta, SportingBetUSA, BingoBilly and others. Some are in non-English languages, including Chinese and Czech.

The arrest is believed related to a charge of illegal gambling via the Internet.

The company has over 2.5 million registered customers in 200 countries, who place over 1 million bets (casino, poker, sports and virtual games) per day, said the firm's Web site..

Total bet volumes show the group now takes 14 bets per second and deals over a million games of poker every day on the Paradise Poker site, it said.

The company said it was a  1.2 billion pound ($2.24 billion) enterprise.

David Carruthers, chief exeuctive of BetonSports, was detained July 16 when he flew through Texas. Others also were named in an indictment. The firm closed its operations here.

Three sportsbook operators in Costa Rica are facing another U.S. federal indictment involving a gambling operation on the Internet that was known as www.bettheduck.com. That Web site, too, has been closed down.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 179

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Five robbery suspects will spend next six months jailed for investigation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five men who are suspected of staging at least 24 robberies in upper class homes while parties were being held there have been jailed for investigation for six months.

The action was taken by the Juzgado Penal de San José. The men face 24 counts of robbery and one
count of conspiracy. Robberies were reported in Curridabat, San Francisco de Dos Ríos, Guadalupe, San Pedro and Escazú.
The men are are accused of having staged the last robbery at a home in Curridabat Tuesday. They were arrested Wednesday morning. The Poder Judicial identified them by last names: Gómez Carvajal, González Salas, Delgado Chinchilla, Robles Arley and Fenollas Obregón.

The case was unusual because only upper class homes were hit and usually those on the corner of an intersection. The crimes took place while parties were in progress, and at least 100 persons were victims, officials said.

Police were up early

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers and Policía de Migración began work early Thursday in downtown San José.

They started making arrests at 5 a.m. and located nine persons sought on warrants and four sought for other court appearances. In addition, the officers detained 23 foreigners who did not have correct paperwork. They included Colombians, Nicaraguans, Dominicans and Africans, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Nation has television date

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country will be featured on CNBC Saturday and Sunday, according to Christopher Howard, the local author who helped the camera crew.

"The story was filmed a couple of months ago," said Howard. "I took the CNBC World crew around and they interviewed me and other residents about living here. We did part of the shoot at the Cariari Country Club, another part at a resident's home and a short take at the Association of Residents of Costa Rica."

He said the visit included a chat with Óscar Arias Sánchez, the current president, who fielded questions about retirees.

Howard said the show will air Saturday at 3:30 and 9:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. local time. Sunday the segment can be seen at 2 and 7:30 a.m. and 1 and 3:30 p.m.

Marijuana crop burned

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police officials said Thursday that anti-drug agents had chopped down and burned 179,316 marijuana plants in the Talamanca area. The Policía de Control de Drogas officers were assisted by the Unidad de Intervención Policial, the Sección de Vigilancia Aérea the Unidad Especial de Apoyo and local officers. The area is remote and mountainous.
Gold firm buys property

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Glencairn Gold Corp. said Thursday that it has acquired a 100 percent interest in the Mestiza property in Nicaragua. The property is 70 kms. (43 miles) by road east of the company's Limon Mine.

The property represents a key block of ground containing the gold-bearing structure known as the Tatiana Vein. The remainder of the Tatiana Vein is on the La India property already held by Glencairn. Glencairn has agreed to pay the Mestiza property owners approximately $2.4 million over 42 months, it said.

The Mestiza property is 200 hectares and now comprises part of the larger La India land package of 9,680 hectares.

"We view Tatiana as potentially providing high grade feed to the Limon mill, at a target rate of 300-400 tonnes per day," said Glencairn Chairman Kerry Knoll.

"This has the potential of adding another 20,000-35,000 ounces a year to Limon's output." Limon is estimating production of 38,000 ounces in 2006 and 52,000 in 2007.

Glencairn also operates the  open-pit  Bellavista Mine in Miramar, Costa Rica.

They'll surf against tuna

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who opposed an undersea tuna farm in the Golfo Dulce plan a surf championship Saturday near the community of Pavones in southwest Costa Rica.

The environmental groups sponsoring the event oppose the project proposed by Granja Atunera de Golfito S.A. and have appealed permits to the Sala IV constitutional court.

The opponents object to the mess that would be created by raising yellowfin tuna in two-kilometer-long cages beneath the pristine gulf.

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Jo Stuart
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