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These stories were published Monday, Sept. 27, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 191
Jo Stuart
About us
Constitutional court ducks key decision on rights
By Garland M. Baker
special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Sala IV, the supreme court of Costa Rica, had a chance to decide who will be protected in real estate fraud cases. Much to the amazement of some in the Costa Rican legal community, the court decided not to decide. 

By deciding that two potentially landmark legal cases are "sin lugar," or without merit, magistrates have left the country hanging as to who to protect, the crooks or the innocents. 

Historically, the Sala III, the supreme court for criminal appeals, has protected the innocent and returned scammed property back to its original owners. 

On the other hand, the Sala I, the civil supreme court, has protected third parties in property fraud cases.  In many situations, the third parties are the same thieves or accomplices who swindled the piece of property in the first place.

In other words, the swindlers can steal property with forged documents, sell the property to someone else, and the civil court will protect the last owner in the chain.

On Sept. 13, 2002, someone filed an action in the Sala IV saying that the criminal court, the Sala III, was wrong and that third parties should be protected. 

In May of this year, someone else filed another supreme Court case against the Sala I, the civil court, stating original owners should be protected. The implications of a decision one way or the other were outined in a previous article. 

A small country like Costa Rica needs only one set of laws no matter in what court a legal action is litigated. For this reason, some in the Costa Rican legal community and property owners who have been defrauded were waiting patiently for the supreme court to give the country some direction.

Just like in almost every other country of the world, when the Supreme Court decides not to hear a case, it reaffirms what already is in place. 

So now, as before, property fraud cases will protect third parties if filed in Costa Rica’s civil court and protect original owners only if filed in Costa Rica’s criminal court.

There is no court commentary to determine why the magistrates decided not to decide. 

Justice has always been considered as a universal right, that consists in giving everyone equal treatment. The public institution with the duty to protect this right in a democracy has always been the court. Costa Rica’s Constitution, Article 41 grants that all people can protect their rights and interests based on the law.

The country court system is broken down into four different courts or salas only as a method to expedite matters, not to have different sets of rules for different processes.  The spirit of the legal system here is to have one congruent authority.

Several lawyers contacted had no idea of the recent ruling or even that these cases existed in front of the Supreme Court. The majority do not know there is a dichotomy in the law.

A supreme court that can’t make a decision and 

Italian Renaissance painter Raffaello Sanzio depicts King Solomon’s answer to a ticklish ownership dispute. But the Sala IV did the opposite: It declined to unite two different philosophies.

A.M.Costa Rica graphic
Costa Rica’s Court System

The Costa Rica court system is divided into four courts called salas. The court was divided to expedite appeals, not to have different sets of laws. 

The Sala I or Primera is the court of civil appeals.

The Sala II or Segunda is the court of family appeals.

The Sala III or Tercera deals with criminal appeals.

Sala Constitucional (IV or Cuarta) handles Constitutional issues.

attorneys that don’t realize there are important decisions to be made suggest that land purchasers should be wary.

The best defense against purchasing defective products or falling victim to fraudulent practices is to learn the facts. 

One goal is to stay out of the Costa Rica court system.  However, for those who have landed in the maze, professionals who understand the shortcomings can rise above the obstacles.

Garland M. Baker is a 32-year resident of Costa Rica who provides professional services to the international community. He can be reached at 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

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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The newspaper features a new page today. The real estate section has been divided into real estate for sale and real estate rentals.

The many ads and photos on the original real estate page was taking its toll on readers, mostly in Costa Rica where the best available service is dial-up.

Classified and display advertising selling property or businesses may be found HERE!

Rentals and the  popular section of accommodations wanted, may be found HERE!

Letters from readers
Reader doubts crises
exists in oil supply

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We hear nothing but oil shortages and prices going higher. It is the BIGGEST lie ever perpertraded by the U.S. government. The following is the proof of the Big Lie. 

In 1980, Lindsey Williams wrote a book, "The Energy None-Crises,"  based on his eyewitness accounts during the construction of the Trans-Alaska pipe line. As a chaplain assigned to executive status and the advisory board of Atlantic Richfield & Co. (ARCO), he was privy to detailed information. "All of our energy problems could have been solved in the '70s with the huge discovery of oil under Gull Island, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, Williams said. "There is more pure grade oil there than in all of Saudi Arabia. Gull Island contains as much oil and natural gas as Americans could use in 200 years." 

I read this back in 4/6/2001 in the Spotlight newspaper which is now The American Free Press. I tried recently to locate a copy of this book in all the major book stores and they listed it as unavailable. I finally acquired a copy from a local library, and they borrowed it from a Christian college. 

I would like to suggest that you look up the American Free Press. I have been getting that paper back when it was the Spotlight, that was 27 years. ago. 

Arthur Vincent
He wants investigation
of Bruce Harris' past

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I guess I was a bit too conservative in a previous letter, since I misread the La Nación article (in my previous letter I had thought Mr.[Bruce] Harris had a heterosexual relationship with the teenager).  Mr. Harris, as you know, was more perverted than I had assumed.  You may publish the following, if you dare:

It seems that Casa Alianza has taken their English-language Web site off the Internet, though I did find the Swiss Web site for Casa Alianza working.  It seems they are taking applications to replace Mr. Harris. (I wonder if being gay is a requirement?).  Their press release can be found  HERE. 

The big newsworthy question is whether or not Casa Alianza will make any real efforts to investigate the extent of Mr. Harris' sexual involvement with boys formerly under the care of that organization.  It must be a real quandry since if they do find that he was having sex with underage boys, they have an obligation to make all attempts to bring charges against him, both in the country of the crime and also in Britain under laws that Mr. Harris helped get passed into legislation against international sex crimes. 

Success in accomplishing that could torpedo the organization since Mr. Harris was such a big part of Casa Alianza.  It could also bring more attention than Casa Alianza might want [several lines delited here.].

At any rate, since we now know exactly what type of person Mr. Harris is sexually attracted to, it is clear that he must have been deriving sexual excitement from being around those disadvantaged young boys day in and day out at the least.  It is hard to believe that he never took advantage of any of them before this recently uncovered event, given he has been involved in Casa Alianza for 15 years. 

A thorough investigation is warranted, though a cover-up may be all the public ever gets.  If they do not investigate, then I think we can expect the various governments whom Casa Alianza has made such public efforts to embarrass to get deeply involved in an exploration of Mr. Harris' affairs.

Likewise your publication, which makes extreme efforts to publish hundreds of articles including every possible arrest of child molestation suspects in Costa Rica, events regarding sex tourism, anti-sex tourism conferences, massage parlor closures, even articles about TV documentaries regarding sex tourism and child prostitution (does the press really need to write about the press?  seems redundant to me), has an obligation to keep Mr. Harris and Casa Alianza in the spotlight. 

To not do so would be to condone Mr. Harris' hypocrisy and to bless Casa Alianza.  Casa Alianza in the person of Bruce Harris has for the past 15 years made money off exploiting the exploitation of children while at the same time engaging in (or at least wanting to engage in) the same exploitation that they have claimed to be opposing.  If that isn't newsworthy to you, then your publication isn't a news service but just more Internet disinformation not worth the "hits" it receives.

John McLaughlin 
San Jose, Costa Rica

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bruce Harris, who admits he paid for sex with a 19-year-old former Casa Alianza client in Honduras, has not been accused of any illicit action with underaged youngsters. However, reasonable people would have to endorse the writer’s call for an investigation while not agreeing with all his comments.

Legion commander
tells why he quit

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As past commander of American Legion Post 16, Costa Rica, I feel compelled to give my reasons for resigning as commander and telling of the ongoing problems with Health Visions. 

For the past couple of years, Health Visions claimed they would have a plan to help all veterans, not just service retired and service connected disabilities. Since Health Visions has not put forth a plan in all this time I have been working to help all veterans have a HMO "type" plan. I am working with Hospital Clinica Biblical on this plan. 

We want to see coverage for all vets not covered by the Foreign Medical Plan. This will and can be accomplished by a low-cost plan being constructed by Biblica. To complete this plan we need the vets interested to fill out Biblica's health plan questionnaire. Vets can call Biblica at 221-7717 and ask for John Cantrell, and he will supply the forms at no obligation or me, Howard Singer, at 266-0089 or 

The reason I resigned from Post 16 was conflict of interest caused by the executive committee. Most of the executive committee are working with Health Visions. The committee also made clear to me they would constrict all of my movements in the future. This is not acceptable as it would constrain my helping Biblica put forth there ALL VETERANS HEALTH PLAN. 

Howard L. Singer
past commander, Post 16 
Canadians change site
for Thanksgiving dinner

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Local Canadians will be holding their Thanksgiving Sunday, Oct. 10, at a new location this year.

Canadians have their Thanksgiving more than a month ahead of their U.S. counterparts. The traditional reason is that the harvest is earlier in Canada due to geography.

There is little change of snow or frost in Escazú at Big Mike's Dining Club, Bello Horizonte. The event will be a noon, and the cost is 5,500 colons per person, some $12.25.

From 90 to 90 person can be accommodated, said a spokesperson.

Reservations and further information are available from: Vicky Kieke, 203-3652,  or Elsa Miller, 228-1250, or Joan Villalobos, 260-5067.

The Canadian Club used to hold the dinner at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica. This is the first year it will be held in Escazú. The club points out that diners need not be Canadian. All are welcome, they said.

Canada’s Thanksgiving is the second Monday in October, so the dinner actually will be on Thanksgiving Eve. 

Dalai Lama to have lunch
with President Pacheco

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet and head of its government in exile, will have lunch with President Able Pacheco today and later visit the Asamblea Nacional, as is the custom for visiting dignitaries.

The religious leader arrived Saturday in this, his second trip to Costa Rica. He was here 15 years ago.
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James J. Brodell.........................editor
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Words to know when you want to use street slang

Pachucadas, is street talk. We say that someone is a pachuco(a) when their speech is laced with lots of common colloquialisms. For example one often hears Costa Ricans use the word tuanis as in ¡qué tuanis! when someone or something is nice or pleasant. It is believed that this expression is actually derived from English "you are nice," or "too nice." 

Chavalo is another one. This is an adaptation of the Spanish chaval  meaning a male child, young man, or a son. However, in Costa Rica we use it for both sexes; chavalo for males and chavala for females.

Mae is a similar such word. Though its derivation is uncertain, mae probably comes to us from Baroque Spanish (16th or 17th century). It is probably a bastardization of maje meaning foppish or silly. As it is used in Costa Rica today, mae is roughly equivalent to "dude" in modern North American English. However, mae can refer to either a man or a woman, whereas dude — to the best of my knowledge — always refers to a young man.

Costa Ricans also call this form of talk vulgares or vulgar, and some people find it very low class and offensive. But there are others, especially among the more, shall we say, jejune,who can’t seem to get through a sentence without inserting pachucadas every other word. For example: Ay mae, que tuanis está esa vara.  or "Hey, dude, that’s a nice thing." In standard Spanish it translates Hola amigo, que bonito está eso. 

Vara is an action or a thing we can’t describe or don’t know the name of. ¿Que varas las tuyas? means "What’s the matter with you?" Pacho is a useful one too. It refers to a funny thing or strange situation. So, ¡Que pacho! means "How weird!" or "How strange!"

If you’re feeling a little pachuco today you can go out and say to someone: ¿Que me dice mae? "What’s happening, dude?" ¡Pura vida¡ is the response your query will probably elicit, and, of course, by this time everyone knows what pura

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

vida means. But a word of caution is in order concerning mae. It is a word that one does not use with everyone, but only with people one knows well. 

Some women call each other mae, but it is considered quite low class to do so in society. And a man should never refer to a woman as mae. This would be considered quite rudely offensive.

Earlier this year I overheard a little piece of dialogue in which the word mae was used five separate times. Let’s see if I can remember:

¡Ay! Mae ¿Qué varas la de ese, mae? El cree que yo soy mae, pero más mae es el, mae. Meaning: "Hey! Dude. What do you make of that, dude!? That dude thinks I’m a dude, but he’s more of a dude than I am, dude."

Enough vulgarisms for one day. Now, I hope you don’t think that this is a license to go out and start calling everyone you meet mae. It’s more for you to know what someone else is saying when they refer to you this way. You can always respond by saying: ¡Ay! Más mae es usted.

Want to thank a very good reader in Canada who suggested some of these words.

Cuba travel gets an endorsement in U.S. House of Representatives
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to loosen the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba by easing restrictions on family travel to the island, and also on removing barriers to agricultural sales and student exchanges.

The vote to ease restrictions on family travel to Cuba passed 225 to 174.

The Bush administration implemented new restrictions on Cuba travel June 30, saying that Cuban-Americans could only visit their families in Cuba once every three years for a maximum of 14 days, and banning travel to see more distant relatives in Cuba such as cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, and nieces. Before the new rules were enacted, the administration allowed family trips to Cuba once a year.  The Bush administration is firmly opposed to the lifting of the Cuba sanctions.

A July 22 White House fact sheet said the administration's new rules did not affect individuals and non-governmental organizations "currently licensed to provide humanitarian assistance or support for the Cuban people (e.g., to civil society or religious groups) and they do not impose any more stringent requirements for obtaining such licenses." 

The House vote to ease the travel restrictions came in the form of an amendment to the Transportation, Treasury, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2005.

A House-Senate conference committee is expected to delete the just-passed Cuban provisions from the Transportation appropriations bill.

Meanwhile, more sweeping legislation by Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, to end the overall U.S. economic embargo on Cuba was defeated in the House by a vote of 225-188.

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From Russia with mole to steal your computer data
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Internet users are bombarded by all kinds of unsolicited commercial messages, including some for cut-rate software.

Many  computer users think that the low-priced software are from thieves who are simply copying standard software. But the truth may be far more sinister.

A local computer tech last week was asked to install a copy of Windows XP. A typical software package for home use sells for about $180. The tech was surprised to find a non-standard disk, and the computer user said he purchased the disk for $50 over the Internet.

The disk came from Russia.

Shortly after installation, the tech noticed the computer trying to connect to the Internet in high-speed mode.  The tech concluded that the disk also contained a Trojan program designed to steal the data that existed on the computer.

The data theft was foiled because the computer user had a dial-up connection that became overloaded with the data.

So it seems that the computer user, in addition to getting a cut-rate program, also provided the access for crooks to steal bank account information, credit card data and other vital personal information.

U.S. military would make visiting prostitutes illegal
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. departments of Defense and State are working together to devise strategies to stop the exploitation of women that often arises in areas near U.S. military installations. One plan is to make it illegal for soldiers to patronize prostitutes.

Ambassador John R. Miller, director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the Department of State, outlined initiatives under way in remarks delivered last week before the House Armed Services Committee and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Miller said his office has increased its efforts to work with the Department of Defense to reduce trafficking and prostitution wherever demand arises from the presence of large numbers of U.S. and foreign aid workers, humanitarian workers, civilian contractors, and uniformed personnel. Specifically, State and Defense are collaborating on anti-trafficking training programs for all military and civilian personnel deployed overseas.

The Defense Department, which has some 3 million personnel serving worldwide, has taken some groundbreaking steps, Miller said. For example, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz has 

issued a memo that outlines his department's stand on trafficking in persons and declares "zero tolerance" for activities surrounding human trafficking.

The Defense Department also is examining recommendations to change its Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military equivalent of the U.S. civilian criminal code. New measures under consideration, if adopted, would specifically address the act of patronizing prostitution. Miller said such an "abolitionist" approach would focus on opposing prostitution and related activities as a contributing factor to the phenomenon of trafficking in persons. According to Miller, "this would serve as an important, progressive measure, which many states are now considering as well."

Human trafficking, which often supplies many of the victims of the prostitution trade, "violates the universal human right to life, liberty and freedom from slavery in all its forms," Miller said.

Trafficking is often linked to organized crime and its profits help fuel other illegal activity, he said. Miller added that human trafficking contributes to the breakdown of law by undermining government efforts to exert authority and by threatening the security of vulnerable populations.

Jo Stuart
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