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These stories were published Monday, Sept. 13, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 181
Jo Stuart
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Beach land
can be
a legal
A.M. Costa Rica graphic
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica has one of the best legal structures in Central America.  There are rules to protect the rights of the people in almost all areas.  However, these laws because of their comprehensiveness end up protecting the crooks, too.

One subject of special interest to investors and purchasers of property is the Maritime-Terrestrial Zone.  In the last five years, land close to the ocean has increased in value astronomically giving those in the fraud business more bait for their hooks.

The law of the Maritime-Terrestrial Zone was published in 1977, and the zone is composed of the first 200 meters starting from the high tide line. The zone is divided into two areas:

1.) The first 50 meters is the Public Zone. All the people of Costa Rica have rights to this land.  The Costa Rican government has complete sovereignty to protect the area for the people. With only a few exceptions, no person can argue rights of any kind in this area or eliminate public access to it.

Possession rights, as outlined in a previous story in this series, cannot be acquired in this area under any circumstances.  This means private beaches just do not exist in Costa Rica.

2.) The next 150 meters is the Restricted Zone.  This area can be leased or given in concession by the municipality that regulates it. Most municipalities have a Plan Regulador which outlines the rules, regulations and procedures to follow governing all land in the municipality, including the restricted area of Maritime-Terrestrial Zone.

In this area, persons can acquire the right to use but NEVER OWN the land. They can build houses or commercial structures, and even transfer the acquired rights to other persons or corporations.  However, the property can never be registered in one’s name.

If the municipality or national government wants the area back, they can get it back by paying an indemnity for the value of the improvements made.  This means they do not have to pay for any increase in value due to appreciation, as some people believe. They only have to pay for improvements, and the value of those improvements are accessed by a third party designated by the courts.

There are some exceptions: 

The Papagayo Gulf project located in Liberia and Carillo is administrated by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, Costa Rica’s tourism 

institute, and it has full control of the area, not any municipality. 

Activists and some who live nearby have repeatedly protested being excluded from camping on the beach, which is in front of a luxury hotel.

Some properties in areas like Jacó, Parrita and other beaches inside the Maritime-Terrestrial Zone were registered in a person or a company name many years ago by virtue of  a special law, and those properties in the Restricted Zone can be sold or mortgaged in some cases.

A few municipalities still do not have a regulator plan, so in those areas the rules, regulations and procedures still do not exist to control Restricted Zones.  In those areas, one needs to work with the municipality to create a regulator plan, which takes years.

Some beaches are not administered by municipalities but by the Ministerio de Ambiente, the environment ministry, and this body sets the rules.

A few, very few people still own land where the titles were signed by the Spanish Crown hundreds of years ago, and these documents are still recognized as valid by the Costa Rican government.

The nature and all the exceptions surrounding the rights and use of Maritime-Terrestrial land are confusing, and even honest people make mistakes when negotiating this kind of property.  Tricksters use the lack of clearly defined laws as a ruse to hoodwink the innocent.

It is possible to go to any beach area in Costa Rica and see FOR SALE signs on Public Zone and Restricted Zone property.

Are you interested in buying land close to or in front of the beach?  Be careful.  Do not accept anyone’s word you can do it outright.  Get someone to do the research you need to see if the property falls into one of the few exceptions listed above.

Costa Rica has many opportunities and good investments in real estate, but when it comes to the Maritime-Terrestrial Zone, dig deep when researching a project to avoid your dream turning into a nightmare. 
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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Some can get their deposits back from the Banco Elca starting today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some Banco Elca depositors will begin getting money back from the institution today under the auspices of the Asociación Bancaria Costarricense.

The association which supervises a guarantee fund for private banks, said that deposits less than 500,000 colons (some $1,235) would be distributed over the course of the coming month.

The association is dividing depositors up according to the first letter of their last name. For example, Those with names beginning with "A" or "B" can 

apply by calling the bank between today and Friday. Those with names beginning with "R’ through "Z" have to wait until Oct. 11 through Oct. 15, said the association.

This settlement of accounts is only for individuals and not corporations or other legal entities, it said. 

In addition there are forms to fill out and policies to follow, said the association. 

More information is available at the bank at 221-3355 and 258-3029, extensions 160, 161 and 162, said the association.

From our readers

We are accused
of being anti-Bush

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Perhaps you will publish this to add a little balance.

I am amazed at the slant that comes from you (Jo Stuart) and your paper.   I have been interested in moving to Costa Rica, not because I believe we have a corrupt or evil government. I believe that we are having to deal with terrorism as a result of evil people who do not like our way of life and resent our freedoms. 

I grew up overseas and lived in Islamic countries. After being bombarded with anti-American propaganda in these countries I have grown to appreciate what our country stands for and the fact that if necessary it will do unpopular things to preserve our liberty and promote the freedom of others. 

It takes much more courage to do what is right than it does to take the easy way out by being anti-everything that does not make you feel warm and fuzzy. 

One reason I am considering moving to Costa Rica is to escape the daily drumbeat from the left leaning mainstream media. (Of course the main reason is because I like other cultures and want to have a less stressful life.) So, it is with dismay to find that your generally fine publication is simply fomenting the same attitudes. 

I have never written an editor before but I was amazed to fine that most of the letters and editorials are anti-Bush and anti-Republicans. One would be led to believe that everyone in the U.S. hates their government and supports throwing Bush out of office. 

Maybe if Kerry is elected there could be a good argument for moving to Costa Rica.

Lyle Neigenfind 
Brentwood, Calif.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A.M. Costa Rica has yet to make an endorsement in the U.S. presidential elections, and we are not sure anyone would pay attention if we did.

Liberals will want
everything for free

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You can have the cry baby liberals. Just be prepared to support them, they sure can't support themselves. They will expect free food, free health care, free prescription drugs, free housing, free, free, free. 

Also be sure to provide them with a forum to vent their misery. A liberal is only happy when they're whining, or using the F-word five times in the same sentence. 

If they are a heterosexual couple, the female possesses the testosterone, and the male is similar to a eunuch. 

All good Costa Ricans I want you to realize that this debris is not considered a Gringo. They don't even like the United States. In fact they hate it. Good luck, 

Scott Livingstone and CR wife Grace 
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Weekend weather
nicer than prediction

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica dodged the bullet over the weekend. Instead of downpours, monsoons and landslides, Saturday and Sunday were general sunny.

Some flooding took place on the Pacific coast Friday, although nothing to the degree that the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional had predicted.

But the country is not in the clear yet. The weather experts still warn that Hurricane Ivan, on course for Cuba, can still cause extensive rain in Guanacaste, Tilirán, the central and south Pacific and the Central Valley.

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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A.M. Costa Rica
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James J. Brodell.........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas.... associate editor

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The patriotic celebration is about to begin here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is a week for patriots in Costa Rica. 

Wednesday is el Día de Independencia, and public buildings are being draped in the red, white and blue of the Costa Rican flag.

School bands are on the march getting ready for traditional independence day parades all over the country. 

However, briefly, politicians of all parties will put aside their differences and unite in Cartago for a governmental meeting in the nation’s first capital.

Sometime today a torch representing Liberty will cross the Nicaraguan border and head for Cartago. A local television channel and a radio station will be covering the event most of the time. Young runners will be carrying the torch, which originated in Guatemala, the Spanish seat of Central American government.

The path is the same as that taken by messengers who brought the word of liberty to Costa Rica in 1821. The country was a backwater of the Spanish crown until that time.

Traditionally Costa Ricans go into the streets at 6 p.m. Sept. 14, independence eve, and sing the national anthem. Sept. 15, is a national holiday and public offices will be closed.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Street vendors capitalize on independence, too with flags and faroles, the early 19th century lanterns school children carry.

A phrase for when you blurt out how you feel
Sin Pelos en la Lengua

Literally, this dicho means "without a hair on the tongue." Now, I don’t want to give anyone any ideas about starting a new fad for growing hair on the tongue. Pierced tongues are bad enough, thank you very much. This expression refers to people who do not hesitate to say what they think. Sometimes this is a virtue, but it can also be a fault. 

We all know someone who speaks her or his mind, and that is fine. Problems with this kind of behavior often arise, however, out of a bad sense of timing. I have a dear aunt who was particularly adept at saying the right thing in the wrong time. She may have been perfectly correct in what she is saying, but she often hurt the feelings of those within earshot. 

Because I grew up around this person who was always quick to speak her oft-malicious mind, I developed a talent for the instant retort. This talent has, at times, proven very useful, but it can also land me in a lot of trouble too. 

Sin pelos en la lengua is a saying that is often associated with Costa Rica’s dear president, and founder of the Third Republic, José Figueres Ferrer. Not the recent president Figueres, but his father. Don "Pepe," (as he was lovingly referred to), always said exactly what was on his mind, and usually that was good, though sometimes it did cause him problems. I very much appreciated this down-to-earth approach in a politician regardless of whether I agreed with his point of view or not. He was a man admired by all who knew him.

Why is it that some people seem able to get away with saying what’s on their minds while others simply cannot? Well, I think it may have something to do with gender perceptions. A smart man may say something and be considered very strong and wise, very "macho." Whereas a woman who says the very same thing may be considered pushy, opinionated, even "bitchy." It seems that there is nothing so threatening to many men as a strong 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

woman. But the important lesson behind sin pelos en la lengua is that no matter what the reaction, it is better to speak one’s mind openly and honestly than to hide our true feelings.

When I was a boy in high school we used to tease some of our classmates mercilessly (kids can be the unkindest creatures on the planet at times). One of our friends we referred to as cara de mula, meaning that she had a face like a mule. She was unaware of our little nickname for a long time, and the joke seemed harmless to us. 

One day, however, she overheard us using this unflattering moniker and confronted us. All our efforts to explain away our cruelty were to no avail. Our friendship with this really very good person was seriously damaged. To this day I avoid name-calling of any kind because I still cannot forgive myself for having hurt a friend with my thoughtless words. 

I became good friends with her again when we reached college, and I did apologize to her. But, I had learned the power that words can have for inflecting pain. That’s why sometimes it’s better to stop and reflect a moment before we speak sin pelos en la lengua.

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A.M. Costa Rica photos
San José Mayor Johnny Araya and Douglas Barnes, chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy, unveil a plaque, later blessed by the Rev. Randall Soto. In photo right, sculptor Roland Hockett speaks with a younger associate in the shadow of his creation.

Monument to Sept. 11 victims to endure a long time
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sculptor Roland Hockett promises that his tribute to the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, will be around for a long time.

The Florida professor avoided the use of iron or steel and constructed his towering work from copper. Given time, the work will assume the same color as the Statue of Liberty, he said.

Hockett’s work, which he donated, was inaugurated Saturday at what is now to be called Parque 11 de Setiembre de 2001.

Hockett said he made sure that even the joints on his work would be invulnerable to rust by using costly welding rods

The park is the place where two earlier anniversaries of the U.S. terrorist attacks have been held. A groundbreaking last year turned out to be in the wrong place. The monument now sits on the brow of a hill overlooking the entrance to the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Sabana Norte.

The work is rich in symbolism even though it represents the World Trade Towers that were two of the terrorist targets. 

"I didn’t want to reward the terrible act," Hockett said as he explained that swirls of copper rising from the work are not smoke and flames. In his mind they are the spirits of the victims rising heavenward from the disaster.

The bilingual morning ceremony benefited from clear skies and sun. The Rev. Randall Soto, a Catholic priest, told the group that Christian love was the only effective response to terrorism.

Fuerza Pública officers and the Cuerpo de Bomberos of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros presented floral offerings. Both groups have been active participants in Sept. 11 events because so many New York police and firemen were killed when the towers fell.

The work associated with erecting the memorial were from the centro, the U.S. Embassy, the Costa Rica-American Chamber of Commerce, the American Colony Committee and the Municipality of San José, among others.

After filing 252 complaints, Case Alianza gets a telephone threat
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

During the first half of the year, Casa Alianza has filed 252 denuncias against those who would misuse children.

The non-governmental children’s advocate reported this as it said office workers received another death threat by telephone Thursday. The call was believed to be related to a complaint that the organization has filed, but Rocío Rodríguez, the coordinator of legal aid, was hard-pressed to track 
down which of the many complaints prompted the call, said a Casa Alianza release.

The organization said that it has filed 252 complaints, including 130 alleging commercial sexual exploitation of children. Some 82 complaints allege the abandonment of a child, and 29 say that adults were using children to transport or distribute drugs.

Five of the complaints allege that children were mistreated by police, and six complaints are sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests, said the organization.

The office here is a regional one for Latin America, and it has been here since 1996.

Jo Stuart
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