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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, Oct. 2, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 195       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Another Gringo gets a property surprise
The speedy, magic way to create a public road
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Why take the long way around when you can get three witnesses to say a driveway is a public road, and voilà, like magic, it becomes public. 

Then bulldozers do a great job of tearing down private entranceways.

This is what happened a week ago to one U.S. citizen from Chicago.  Four years ago the man fell in love with Costa Rica, as many foreigners do, and bought a farm in Cartago.  The title to the property was squeaky clean and had no annotation of easements or any other restrictions.

He invested thousands of dollars to build two houses and a huge trout fish lake.  He also rebuilt all the internal roads inside the farm area.

Locals use to take shortcuts through the property to get to other tracts because the alternate public road was longer and in bad shape.

Normally, people can get an easement through another person's property when one property is boxed in and has no access.  The term used in Costa Rica for this type of property is fundo enclavado.  It means a landlocked property in English.

Article 395 of the Costa Rican Civil Code states the owner of a landlocked property has the right to request the courts to award an easement for a right of way.  This is similar to the United States where parcels without access to a public way may have an easement of access over adjacent land, if crossing that land is necessary to reach the landlocked parcel.

A property owner forced by the courts to give an easement to another is entitled to compensation for the access and any damages caused to bordering property.  In some cases, where land is expensive, an easement can cost a bundle.

There is one exception to this rule.  If a person subdivides off a landlocked property and sells it to another, an implied easement goes with the deal at no extra charge. 

There are many kinds of easements.  Requesting the courts to award an easement because it makes access more convenient is also possible but it could have a price tag.

Wait! Why go about getting an easement the legal way, and paying for it, when there is a speedy way of accomplishing the same objective?

This is what happened to the expat.   

One day strangers started walking more frequently through his property.  The U.S. citizen decided to keep the gates closed and locked at all times.

This made the people using the access mad.




Instead of filing for easement rights, they filed a petition in front of the local municipality to apply obscure articles of the public roads law.

This law, created in 1972, in its articles 32 and 33, states that an access that has been used by the public for more than one year must remain open to the public until a property owner can get a judicial decree stating otherwise.  Any legal fight in Costa Rican can take years.  In this case, the entrance to this owners home will remain public. And that is why a municipal bulldozer showed up Monday and demolished the man's ornate entrance gate.

To apply the law, all one has to do is request an audience with officials of the municipality governing the area and bring three witnesses to declare that different people used the access for a year.

That is all. Presto, a public road is born. In Costa Rica, getting three witnesses is a pretty easy thing to do. Everyone has friends

The expat, through his lawyer, is filing a Sala IV case against the law and the local municipality.   The case attacks the articles of the public road law as arbitrary, confiscatory and clearly in violation of due process of law.

The moral to this true story is that property owners should keep gates to properties locked and not let strangers transit freely. Otherwise, the bulldozers may appear unexpectedly at the front door.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at crlaw@licgarro.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.  Copyright 2004-2006, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 195

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Fuerza Pública director
says he is the victim

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The director general of the Fuerza Pública was to meet with the government's ethics panel, the Tribunal de Etica, Friday.

The director general, Osvaldo Alpízar Núñez, said that he is the person who is a victim of a growing scandal involving anonymous telephones calls made to an Alajuela man.

Alpízar took over the top job in the Fuerza Pública in May as part of the Arias administration team.

Alexis Ugalde, the Alajuela man, is a former policeman who said that he had been harassed for three months by anonymous telephone calls that contained death threats and suggestions that he kill himself. He also said that masked men appeared at his home.

Ugalde filed a complaint in the case, and the Judicial Investigating Organization said that the calls came from cell phones owned by the government and assigned to Alpízar.

A statement from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that Alpízar wants a full investigation to show that he has been subject to persecution.

He claimed that he had been insulted, defamed and slandered as a result of the case.

The three-person ethics panel can call others to testify, although it does not have the power of a court. The panel, however, can recommend that a public official be ousted from a position.

Ugalde went public with his complaint and has played tapes of the telephone calls for reporters. The voice seems to be distorted and cannot be identified as that of Alpízar. Tricksters also can clone cellular telephones so calls appear to come from a legitimate number.

More boats in service
on both coasts of nation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas is getting more boats into service and doubling its presence on the Pacific and Caribbean.

Four boats that have been out of service are getting new motors, the result of a donation from the government of Taiwan. A fifth inflatable boat is being purchased by funds from the Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas.

Yet a sixth boat is one that was confiscated from drug smugglers.

The Instituto Costarricense de Puertos del Pacífico is providing land for a future headquarters for the coast guard and the Fuerza Pública in Puntarenas. The port facility also is providing funds for weapons for the coast guard.

Carlos Alvarado, director of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, noted that the country's waters are 10 times bigger than its land area and that many tourists make use of the waters each year.  Some 40 persons already have been rescued this year, he said.

He said the new equipment would allow the service to double its activities in both oceans.

The donation from Taiwan is about $2 million and involves motors of 200 horsepower and 150 horsepower.

Parque Volcán Barva
is new addition as park

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica got a new park Friday. It is Parque Volcán Barva, which is north of San José and adjacent to Parque Nacional  Braulio Carrillo.

A host of officials attended the inauguration ceremony. The area is being called a model park because many ministries have participated in its development, including the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte that put in a 300 million-colon ($576.000) stretch of road of four kilometers.

The Fuerza Pública will have a headquarters there, as will the Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje, which will train students in aspects of tourism.

Memorial service Thursday
for expat Joseph Hamilton

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A memorial service for long-time Costa Rican resident Joseph Hamilton will be Thursday at 11 a.m. in the International Baptist Church in Guachipelín, Escazú

Hamilton died in August and is probably best known as the owner of the Finca Santa Elena and the subsequent expropriation case that lasted for years.

He was a World War II Navy pilot and came to Costa Rica from Greensboro, North Carolina where he was in the textile business.

Multicultural festival
planned for next Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The third Festival Multicultural is being organized for Sunday on the pedestrian walkway on the east side of the Museo Nacional and inside the museum.

Organizers plan for the participation of representatives of more than 20 nations, as well as food and crafts. In addition, some of Costa Rica's Indian groups will attend.

The event will start at 10 a.m.

Marble statue of pope
installed at cathedral

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Catholic Church officials have unveiled a marble statue of Pope John Paul II at the southeast corner of Avenida 2 and Calle Central on the grounds of the Catedral Metropolitana.

The 25-ton statute by Jorge Jiménez Deredia actually was on television when it was moved to the site a week ago, so its appearance was no surprise. The white statute depicts the pope with a child and a woman in his care.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 195

Bishop's criticism ignores realities
Jailed FARC official is reason enough to increase security

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and special reports

When President Óscar Arias Sánchez showed up in San Carlos last week to celebrate a church anniversary there, the local bishop criticized him for bringing along too many policemen.

Officially, the 100 or so policemen and a vice minister of security were there to keep Arias safe from the dozen or so free trade treaty protesters who also showed up.

The bishop, the Rev. Ángel San Casimiro, generated smiles among the press corps for his criticism. He likes to get on television, said a reporter who has followed the bishop's career. The bishop said that the display of force was very un-Costa Rican.

At other functions, it is clear that security around Arias has tightened, and there are more men with guns, a contradiction for Arias, who lobbies against guns whenever he can.

The bishop probably did not remember that a leading lieutenant of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolutionarias de Colombia is in a Costa Rican prison. This Colombian rebel-drug smuggling ring is known as FARC, and they are not gentle people.

The man is Héctor Orlando Martínez Quinto, 38. Colombian officials say he was serving as the administrative liaison for FARC in Central America where the organization traded guns for drugs, Martínez, himself, is awaiting return to Colombia to face allegations that he participated in an armed attack against a village in the Chocó section of Colombia near the Panamá border where 85 persons, including 46 children, died and about 100 persons suffered injuries. He also is accused of killing 45 policemen in another confrontation.
Martínez was living in Puntarenas when he was arrested Aug. 10. The FARC has held many hostages for years and now is engaged in discussing the possibility of a trade for its troops held by the Colombian government.

Some kind of action to free Martínez is what worries some security officials.

Now from Washington comes word that Hezbollah, the Middle Eastern terrorist group, is forging ties with FARC to augment its existing networks in Latin America.

The FARC engages in bombings, kidnappings, murders of Colombian peasants and torture as well as drug trafficking and arms dealing. Last year, intelligence sources said the FARC created a plan to kill U.S. President George Bush when he visited Cartagena, Colombia.

When the president's wife visited Costa Rica in May for the inauguration of Arias, the U.S. security took over from Costa Rican officials and treated the situation as if there were terrorists on every corner.

It was Frank Urbancic Jr., principal deputy coordinator of the State Department’s Counterterrorism Office, who told a congressional committee that Hezbollah has supporters and sympathizers throughout the Arab and Muslim communities in Latin America. These individuals primarily do fundraising for the group. 

Latin American Hezbollah supporters and sympathizers “are also involved in a number of illegal activities,” he continued.

For this reason, Urbancic said, the United States is “very, very concerned” about a potential connection between Hezbollah and the FARC in South America, which could provide necessary funding for operations in the United States and the Middle East.

There can be a reaction when someone puts in their two cents
Meter la cuchara

“Put in the spoon.” This dicho refers to “putting in your two cents worth,” or, in other words, entering into a conversation that doesn’t concern you with people you may not know.

In my experience, these kinds of situations are quite likely to occur on a bus.

The scenario goes something like this: Two women — or men, as the case may be, since the adoration of gossip knows no gender bias in Costa Rica — are sitting at the back of the bus and, though they appear to be carrying on a private conversation between themselves, are talking loudly enough that everyone else on board the coach can hear what is being said. Suddenly another passenger chimes in with a comment concerning the topic under discussion. The pair may appear rather miffed at the interloper’s intrusion, but, hey! Any conversation that takes place onboard public transport in Costa Rica is quite often anything but private.

Once, on a bus ride between San José to Alajuela, I overheard two woman loudly gossiping about some poor wretch of a young girl who had become pregnant out of wedlock — a favorite topic of what I call “bus buzz,” by the way.  The ladies were savoring every lurid detail of this little scandal, especially the fact that the girl’s mother was still unaware of her daughter’s plight.

This conversation was making me increasingly uncomfortable until, finally, I could take it no longer and had to meter la cuchara.

Since they were sitting directly across the aisle from me I leaned over and told these two vinas that I thought it was disgraceful to talk about such things so openly in a public place. They should at least keep their voices down! What if a member of the girl’s family were aboard the coach. How dreadful it would be to learn such disquieting news by way of common bus buzz among one’s neighbors.

They instantly both shut up and looked over at me scornfully.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

“Well!” one of the women harrumphed. “Maybe you’re the father.”

No meta la cuchara,” the other shrew disdainfully rebuked.

This, of course, infuriated me. But, not wishing to create more of a scene, I held my tongue and turned my eyes toward the window, away from the women. Then, seeing the two gossip mongers’ unappealing faces reflected in the glass, I suddenly realized that I knew one of them.

When the bus stopped in downtown Alajuela, and the pair rose to disembark, I stood up as well, tipped my cap and said: “Well good-bye Doña Carmen. Be sure and say hello to Ligia.”

She shot me a startled glance, and in that instant I could see that she recognized me and knew I undoubtedly remembered that her daughter Ligia had also been an unwed mother. Ah! How delectably sweet revenge can be sometimes.

Doña Carmen lowered her eyes, mumbled a quick Buenos dias and almost tripped hurrying off the bus.

So, if you’re inclined to meter la cuchara, you’d better be prepared to accept the oft indignant consequences. But, by the same token, it can also be wise to keep one’s mouth shut in public places. You never know who might be listening. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 195

Brazil's da Silva is forced into a presidential runoff election
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is headed for a runoff election Oct. 29 because he failed to get 50 percent of the vote in the Sunday balloting.

Late results from nearly all of the election districts showed da Silva with just under 49 percent of the vote. A candidate needed 50 percent to win in the first round. There were four major candidates, but da Silva's main rival, former Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin of the Social Democracy Party, has won 41 percent of the vote.

A late-breaking scandal is being blamed for da Silva coming up short. Local news reports said that the da Silva campaign tried to buy damaging information on another candidate.
The scandal does not directly implicate da Silva, but six close aides of his leftist Workers' Party face investigation.

Many Brazilians continue to support da Silva as the champion of the country's poor, crediting him with Brazil's stable economy and social programs.

Da Silva was first elected president in 2002. He has generally behaved as a moderate instead of the fiery leftist many expected. And he has tried to steer a course between the Bush administration in Washington and the populist Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

Some 125 million people were expected to participate in the balloting. They also selected governors and members of congress.

Trade treaty money will go to labor and environment projects
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States will commit $39.6 million to enhance the labor and environmental protection practices of the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade countries to ensure that a broad spectrum within these societies benefits from the trade agreement, according to the State Department.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday that the United States will pay for both local and regional projects that have been identified in consultation with governments involved in the treaty to ensure support for priorities.

Of the 2006 funding, $21 million will be devoted to labor issues, including support for programs to strengthen labor ministries by professionalizing labor inspectorates and to increase the efficiency of complaint handling within labor
ministries.  Funds also will be allocated to enhance the effective enforcement of existing labor laws by judicial systems in treaty nations.  Other funds devoted to the area
 of labor will be earmarked for eliminating gender and other types of workplace discrimination, supporting the development of a culture of compliance with labor laws, and reducing chemical-exposure risks for workers.

Of the remaining 2006 funds, $18.5 million will go to projects that seek to improve the implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, enhance biodiversity and conservation and promote market-based conservation such as sustainable tourism.   These funds also will support programs to increase private-sector environmental performance and address specific treaty environmental obligations.

The overall 2005-2006 U.S. commitment of nearly $60 million “will promote economic growth in the region and help ensure that a broad spectrum of the societies of member countries realize the benefits of free trade,” the State Department said.

Costa Rica's Asamblea Legislative has not yet voted on the treaty.

RACSA techinicians hook up Térraba and Kabaköl to the Internet in record time
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Forget all those stories of turtle-like communications bureaucracy.

When representatives of two Indian territories asked Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. to hook the areas up to the Internet, they were surprised that the job was done in about a week.

The representatives said they met with Roger Carvajal, the
general manager of the government Internet company known as RACSA less than two weeks ago. A week ago technicians visited Térraba and Kabaköl in southwestern Costa Rica and installed two satellite systems. Tuesday an antenna went up at Escuela Térraba.

The next day a similar antenna went up in Kabaköl, said the Centro para el Desarrollo Indígena.

Technicians used a system that allows up to five computers to be connected at one time.

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