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(506) 223-1327               Published Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 181            E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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tunnel takes form
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Those rotundas or traffic circles on the Circunvalación south of the downtown are going bye-bye. This scene is at the San Sebastián intersection where an underpass is being constructed. This is one of two jobs being
undertaken this year. The contractor, Constructora Sanchez-Carvajal, says it hopes to have the $3 million job done by the end of next month. That will leave the four-lane highway with just two circles to snarl traffic.

Hilton signs agreement for hotel near Liberia airport
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Liberia will be getting a Hilton hotel near the Daniel Oduber international airport.

The hotel will be a Hilton Garden Inn, described as the mid-price brand of the famous international, publicly traded Hilton Hotels Corp.

The Hilton Garden Inn franchise, the first in Central America, was signed with Hoteles Aeropuerto H.A.L., S.R.L., of which Enjoy Group and DWL are partners, Hiton said in a release. The hotel is scheduled to open next year.

Enjoy Group is also a partner in the Hilton Papagayo Resort and the Doubletree by Hilton Puntarenas Resort, deals signed as management agreements with Hilton Hotels Corp. in December of 2006. The two hotels are conversions from hotel properties that previously had been independently owned and operated by Enjoy Group.

Hilton Garden Inn Liberia Airport will be in the Solarium Technology Park, a mixed-use development with commercial, residential, office
spaces and industrial park also developed by DWL, said Hilton.

The hotel will feature 160 guest rooms including 10 suites and will offer a complimentary Wi-Fi, 24-hour business center, a full service restaurant, evening room service, a lobby which will feature a living room area and a shop offering a selection of ready-made meals and snacks, said the firm.

Rooms will feature a high definition television and a clock that allows guests to play their MP3 or portable CD player, the firm said. There also will be meeting spaces, a workout facility and a swimming pool, according to the company's plans.

Hilton Hotels Corp. owns, manages, or franchises four hotels in Central America, including Hilton full-service hotels in San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Managua, Nicaragua; San Salvador, El Salvador; and a Hampton Inn & Suites hotel near Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela. Two additional properties are scheduled to join the portfolio in December: a Hilton full-service hotel in Guanacaste and a Doubletree full-service hotel in Puntarenas, said the firm.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 181

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street repair crew
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Workmen use hand labor on Calle 9
City resurfacing campaign
is now in full swing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The  Consejo Nacional de Vialidad is resurfacing 47 blocks of streets in San José.

The project includes resurfacing all of Calle 11, part of Calle 9 and Avenida 2. Calle 0 is on the list, too.

Much of the work is being done in the night and from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. to avoid the afternoon rush hour congestion, said officials. The job is 220 million colons or $423,000.

Drug arrests draw reaction
from angry neighbors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This was not your routine drug arrest.

When the Policía de Control de Drogas took two suspects into custody neighbors launched an attack on the small police station where they were being held and the riot squad had to use tear gas to get the police and the suspects to a secure place.

The police delegation building was destroyed.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said the unrest happened in Ciudadela 25 de Julio en Hatillo Tuesday.

The suspects were identified by the last names of Soto Carvajal and Cerdas Castro. They were detained as the drug police and the Fuerza Pública raided their living quarters.

The ministry said that 60 doses of crack cocaine and 34,000 colons (about $65) believed to be proceeds from drug sales were confiscated.

The ministry said that neighbors of the suspects attacked the police station with the goal of liberating the prisoners. The Unidad Intervención Policial responded with the tear gas.

The ministry said the reaction of the neighbors was in contrast to those in the majority of communities who identify drug dealers with calls to the special confidential complaint number, 176, and help police when they make arrests.

Another victim of gunshots
found on Próspero Fernández

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another body turned up in a culvert on the Autopista Próspero Fernández in Santa Ana Tuesday. A similar find took place Sunday on the same highway in Escazú.

Police said that the male victim appeared to have been dead several days and that they are not sure if the crimes are related. The latest victim also showed signs of having been hit with gunfire.

Warning issued on fake bills

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

That 5,000-colon bill may be a fake, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

A spokesman said that fake bills are turning up in businesses in San José and in rural areas. He urged citizens to double check the authenticity of the bill with an ultraviolet light. The light brings out latent watermarks.

Election material readied

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones said that some 70 employees have been working since Saturday to package all the paperwork and materials that will be needed at some 4,932 polling places for the Oct. 7 referendum on the free trade treaty with the United States. There are 2,654,627 eligible voters.

The tribunal expected to have the job done and the packages on the way by Monday, it said.

Volunteers to take oath

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. Embassy spokesperson said that 35 new Peace Corps volunteers will be sworn in Friday to work with children, families and community economic development for two years in various locations in Costa Rica.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 181

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string of used cars
A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Sometimes they all look the same
Finding that decent used car might mean a lengthy search
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Pssst, buddy, wanna buy a car?

While the expat may not hear that offer as often as for other goods and services, the providers aren’t always much more reliable. The advice is to buy a used car from a real human being, not a hustler.

Used car salesmen have a poor reputation everywhere, but Costa Rica has complications the outsider won’t have encountered. There are many independent operators without a fixed location, making them more difficult to find when something goes wrong. Guarantees do exist, but you need to have your lawyer look it over to see if it’s worth anything.

More respectable dealers are common, with the Grecia area west of Alajuela home to many. But then you are really up against a pro when bargaining for a price, and bargain you will need to do. Without extensive research into the market, the foreigner is at a double disadvantage.

So you really want to look for someone who doesn’t sell all the time, who’s not so good at lying, and doesn’t need to work you over just to pay the bills. It’s time to hit the streets.

You might see a car you like with a “se vende” sign, usually just with the model year and a phone number. If no price is mentioned, it is absolutely essential to have a person with no accent call to ask how much. The later that you, the foreigner, show up on the scene the better. If they see your face, the price thrown your way may be 25 percent or more above the market. They are hoping you are wealthy, poorly informed, eager to buy, or just stupid. Don’t take it personally.

With real humans, this isn’t such a problem, but you don’t know yet. The creature that is harder to unmask is the independent operator. Anyone with some money and connections can import cars. Theoretically, an importer must be registered, but there are more than 2,000 legal importers, and anyone can have a car brought in and signed over.

Most of the hustlers are fairly obvious. When they start to rattle off the extras and tell you what great shape it’s in, they’ve tipped their hand. “Fool extras” is a favorite, though it’s unclear where in the English-speaking world that phrase comes from.

If buying from a repair shop, you can be quite certain the car has been crashed. With the low wages Costa Rican mechanics make, the damage it takes to total a car is substantial. Independent mechanics buy damaged cars to fix up and sell. The crash may have affected the car’s structure.

Any mention of financing is bad. Usury is bad.

The used cars circulating in the country have two separate sources: the dealers who import new cars directly from where they are manufactured (Japan or Korea mostly), and those who import used from the U.S. All brands have a local monopoly dealer, which might be important when buying parts later.

For many models, there is thus a “versión japonesa” and a “versión americana.” You are faced with the choice of a car that’s been on rough Costa Rican roads or possibly in the salt up north. Most of the auctions are in the southeast U.S., but these days the buyers range farther. Sometimes a sticker or dealer plaque still on the car can give a clue as to where it comes from.

Hurricane Katrina two years ago left a lot of damaged cars in its wake. Some have ended up in Costa Rica. A previous article shows how to check out the history of a U.S. vehicle.
not a good sign
Not a good sign!

The mileage shown on the odometer is of little use. All scammers have to do is disconnect the speedometer cable,  connect it to an electric drill, and go have a cup of coffee while the miles run off. A rough idea for a car in the U.S. is that it’ll be used 10,000 miles per year. In Costa Rica with shorter commutes the miles traveled should be less.

The availability and price of parts may depend on the car’s origin. It is important to ask elsewhere how available parts are — sometimes they’ll even need to know the serial number of the car. Certain versions might only have parts at the dealer at very high prices. The most common cars will have a large selection available in both price and quality.

The numerical license plates on Costa Rican cars provide some information. License numbers when imports were liberalized 10 years ago were about 250000. Now they’ve passed 650000, and anything after 500000 was imported fairly recently. Pickups have a different set of numbers as light trucks. Ten years ago corresponds to about CL 150000.

Some cars don’t have a plate at all and are “para inscribir.” This means that they have passed through customs and inspection but not been registered. The transfer tax is less if you are the owner who goes to the registry, but by definition you are dealing with an importer.

The mandatory vehicle inspection provides useful information, if it’s recent enough. Even a blank sheet with no defects hardly means there is nothing wrong with the car, but it does allow some confidence in the brakes, suspension, steering, and emissions. Taking the car to a trusted mechanic is well worth the trouble.
The internet has added more transparency to the market. The main site for used cars is The biggest advantage is they have to show the price. La Nación has traditional classified ads, and has started a glitzy Internet site also. A.M. Costa Rica also publishes ads mostly from expats.

Many of the photos have the license plate covered. They are not hiding anything. This is to prevent the car being “twinned,” with a stolen car of similar characteristics. Knowing details such as color and extras means thieves can duplicate the license plates and get legitimate documents by paying the yearly registration. While it’s nice to have someone do that for you, it likely will cause problems later.

Real human beings are usually less comfortable with the process and less available, but that’s the price. Don’t forget to allow about 4 percent for transfer taxes plus legal fees. Be sure to use your lawyer, not theirs.

The prize? A decent used car at a decent price. Now it’s time to buy insurance.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 181

Don't feed the street population, muncipal official tells would-be volunteers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Don't feed the street people, a San José municipal official has told potential do-gooders.

The Municipalidad de San José is seeking to get control of the problem of beggers and others who congregate on the street, and Mariela Echeverría, head of the municipality's department of Servicios Sociales y Económicos brought the word to some 55 members of social organizations over the weekend.

By providing food for those on the street, the volunteer
 efforts can aggravate the problem, she said. And simply providing food is not a long-term solution she said.

Instead those who seek to help the homeless or others on the street should join with the municipal program of  Cruzadas de Fe y Esperanza, which includes the use of professionals who can direct services to this group.

San José is trying to reduce the street population and has eliminated a number of the places where the homeless stay, such as overgrown vacant lots.  Several volunteer groups routinely provide meals and clothing to the street population.

Court convicts and sentences Judicial Investigating Organization agent on drugs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A court in Alajuela Tuesday convicted a former Judicial Investigating Organization agent for selling drugs, said a spokesman for the Poder Judicial.

The man, who has the last name of Castro, was also accused of providing information to a drug gang in El Infiernillo de Alajuela about anticipated actions of the judicial police.

Castro was arrested in 2005 after having been observed by
other agents for nearly a year. When he was arrrested, agents found 49 doses of cocaine in his possession.

Also convicted by the Tribunal de Juicio de Alajuela was a man with the last name of Villalobos, who was accused of selling drugs that police had confiscated.

It was unclear how the drugs got into his hands after having been confiscated by police.

The court sentenced Castro to 15 years imprisonment. Villalobos got eight years for drug trafficking.

Arias will participate in independence day activities despite his painful foot
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez will participate in independence day events despite a painful Achilles tendon, according to his agenda.

Casa Presidencial said that Arias will be in Cartago Friday night for a consejo de gobierno meeting where the torch of independence will be received from the last of a long line of student relay runners.
Saturday Arias will be at Parque Nacional in San José for the Día de la Independencia ceremonies that include placing a wreath at the Monumento Nacional.

Arias has been sidelined since Aug. 28 with a sore tendon. He has been receiving some international guests in his Rohrmoser home, and he has held meetings of the consejo, his cabinet, in his home. But public appearances are being conducted by his brother, Rodrigo, the mininster of the Presidencia, and other cabinet members.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 181

National soccer selection will seek revenge against Canada tonight in Toronto
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican national soccer team players meet their counterparts from Canada at 5 p.m. today in Toronto.

The game is characterized as a friendly one with no long-term importance, but the Costa Rican players are anxious to repay the Canadians for their loss in the Gold Cup competition.  Costa Rica is coming off a victory against Honduras Sunday in another friendly match.
The two teams played to a scoreless draw in East Hartford, Connecticut, and the encounter was decided on penalties.

The current round of friendly matches are warmups for the preliminaries for World Cup play.

And the friendly matches give Tico coach Hernán Medford opportunities to fine tune his team.

The game today begins at 7 p.m. Toronto time. 

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