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(506) 2223-1327       Published Monday, Oct. 13, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 203       E-mail us
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No thanks to the impotent criminal courts
Expat wins long, lonely fight to keep his investment
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

After four long years of fighting hard in the courts in Costa Rica, an expat saved his property investment.  He thought all hope was lost, but in his case justice prevailed.  Last week the expat had what was stolen from him returned:  A mortgage fraudulently canceled by property thieves and an attorney gone bad. 

The result of this expat's long legal battle shows that the criminal courts are impotent in fighting crime.  His case proves there is a way to use the civil courts to get back properties that were illegally transferred or manipulated.

Here is the story:

The expat owned a beautiful house located in Escazú.  He decided to move back to Florida in 2000 and sold the house to a sociedad anónima or corporation represented by Costa Ricans.  The buyer — in this case, the company — could not pay the full price for the property and needed a loan for $100,000.  The seller obliged and carried back a mortgage.  The amount due was to be paid in a lump sum after five years, and 10 percent annual interest was to be paid monthly.

The company that bought the property sold it three months later to another Costa Rican firm that accepted the mortgage that existed on the home.  This is done all the time, selling something with a lien or other encumbrance to another person.  It is perfectly legal as long as both parties agree to the transfer accepting the encumbered title.  Original creditors do not need to agree to the transfers or approve new debtors, so the expat never was notified of the transaction.

Interest payments were made until 2003 and then they stopped.  The expat was in the hospital in the United States and could not come to Costa Rica to see what had happened.   He finally contacted a lawyer to check on the status of the mortgage only to find it had been canceled.  Yes, canceled. 

In June of 2003, a mortgage cancellation document was filed with the Registro Nacional.  The document fraudulently showed that the expat had appeared in front of a notary in Costa Rica to sign the cancellation.  This happened while the expat still was in Florida.

The expat started two court cases in Costa Rica,  a criminal action and a civil one.  The two cases have different stories.  The criminal case started off with a bang. The property deed was frozen by the court and an annotation was made on the file at the Registro Nacional.  Soon after the prosecutor took this action, the prosecutors' office found that the attorney who prepared the mortgage cancellation had 40 other accusations against him for similar frauds. 

They found the attorney to be a hardcore drug addict fraudulently transferring properties and canceling mortgages and other liens to support his drug habit.  For one reason or another, the prosecutors' office lost interest in the case and did no more to move it forward.   As of today, the case has not even reached the preliminary audience stage and is surely expired by now.

The civil case started off slowly with no serious action for many months.   Finally, a judge in San José ruled in December of 2006 that the mortgage had to be re-registered.  This only occurred after the lawyer representing the expat submitted a multitude of legal documents to prove the expat was out of the country when the property mortgage was canceled.

The defendants disappeared.  They thought that by hiding they could avoid the case.  They were almost right.  The civil court could not find them
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and did not try very hard to do so.  The expat had to spend hundreds of dollars paying private investigators to locate the accused to serve them with court papers.  Without this extra effort, the expat would have lost everything.

It took one year and nine months to find the individuals that conceived and carried out the crime.  They were finally found and served with the civil judgment.  This is a legal requirement by the courts here before a judgment is final. 

At this point, the expat has paid thousands of dollars to get the mortgage reinstated.  The ordeal is not over yet.  However, there may be some good news.  Now he can execute the mortgage and take the property to public auction.  At this auction, depending on how much is bid, he may get his principal back with all back interest and attorneys fees.  If no one shows up at the auction, he could even get the property back.  This would be true justice to pay him back for everything he has suffered over the last four years.

Civil law in Costa Rica protects innocent third parties in a transaction, whereas, criminal law protects victims.  In layman's terms, this means that if something is stolen from someone and then sold to another person the criminal courts — in theory — should give it back to the rightful owner.  The civil courts would let the current owner keep the thing.

However, Civil Law Article 1061 states that if something is never rightfully owned, it cannot be transferred to another person. Doing so is a null transaction.  In the case of property fraud, most transactions are fraudulent, so they are null and void in the eyes of the civil court, and rightful owners are protected.

Today, in Costa Rica the criminal court system is a mess.  It is ineffective for those using it to fight criminals.  Depending on the circumstances of a particular case, it is better to use the civil courts.

In this case, the people who set up this expat and stole from him will never be punished for what they did.  The criminal court did virtually nothing and did not even look for the crooks.  The only reason the retired man prevailed is because he took the fight into his own hands and paid heavily to get justice.


Garland M. Baker is a 36-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, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2008, use without permission prohibited.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 203

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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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Family held as hostages
released in Guanacaste


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Early Saturday morning, the Fuerza Pública in Moracia, Guanacaste, arrested a man suspected of keeping his family, including his infant child, hostage for five hours,.

A 911 call alerted authorities that the 24-year-old man, identified by his last names of Guzmán Ulloa, had been keeping three members of his family hostage inside his house since 4 a.m. that morning, said officers. The hostages included his wife, a 24-year-old woman identified by her last name as Guido, the 4-year-old child and an infant of nine months.

After a period of negotiations described as long and intense between the suspect and the police, the family was released from the house at 9:26 a.m. The woman and children were taken to the Hospital de Liberia, while Guzmán, who had a cut on his left wrist, was treated by the Red Cross and then taken into custody.

Woman held in vehicle
that is chased by police


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública pursued a man across San José in an early Sunday morning car chase, before arresting him and releasing the woman he had kept imprisoned inside his vehicle.

A 911 call alerted authorities that an armed man, later identified as a 42-year-old suspect with the last names of Morales Fallas, was keeping a woman trapped inside his Mitsubishi Motora, which was parked to the east of the Casa Presidencial.

Once the man realized that police units approached, he began driving rapidly towards the center of San José, with police cars close behind, officers said. The chase ended when police surrounded him near the Tribunales de Justicia at 7:30 a.m.

The woman, identified by the last names Alfaro Sánchez, was treated by the Red Cross and was found to be unharmed, officers said.

English passenger facing
drug trafficking allegation


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 32-year-old  English airline passenger is being held after police at Juan Santamaría airport said that some four and a half kilos of cocaine (about 10 pounds) turned up in his luggage.

The man was identified by the Poder Judicial by the last names of Gary James. The Poder Judicial said that he was on his way to Spain when he was stopped by the Policía de Control de Drogas last week.

He is facing investigation for international trafficking of drugs, the Poder Judicial said.

Our reader's Opinion
Text message malfunctions
reported in 'Idol' voting


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have to wonder how many other people here in Costa Rica that tried to vote in the "Latin American Idol" contest* Thursday night got the same error message from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad as I did.

The problem is that ICE telephone networks cannot handle the traffic in peak hours let alone during a contest. From 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., there are twice as many text messages being sent than what the networks were designed for. ICE notes that the low prices have spurred an increase SMS usage. The Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos has twice rejected proposals from ICE to increase the cost of a message.

The latest GSM network purchased from Ericsson with 600,000 lines was put into service in December of 2005. It only has the capacity to process 50 text messages per second. During peak hours, Costa Ricans are sending 105 text
messages per second on this network. These statistics are based on third quarter 2006 reports from ICE. So they had 140,000 GSM lines available. Things are even worse now as no lines are available.

Costa Rica has two other cellular networks which offer SMS text massaging. The oldest, being of TDMA technology, has 549,000 lines and the capacity for 70 messages per second. The other GSM network purchased from Alcatel with 400,000 lines is designed to process 66 messages per second. In the first quarter of 2007 ICE expanded the number of GSM lines available. However the messaging capacity was not increased.

Add to all this, ICE has also made available free MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) for those that have subscribed to the Internet Cellular Access plan.

And if things weren't bad enough you can visit: http://videomovil.ice.co.cr (from your cellular phone) for free TV on your cell phone, as if their system is not already horribly overloaded.
Craig Salmond
Pavas, San Jose

*EDITOR'S NOTE: María José Castillo came in second Thursday night because television show sponsors said she received fewer telephoned text message votes than a second finalist. She will be returning home today about 11 a.m. for a car caravan to her Barva de Heredia home.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 203


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Mixed
group

Street performers really have a fusion group with U.S. Plains Indian headdresses and two members seeking to be Peruvians.

They were  downtown Sunday. Curiously, photos of a similar group with Plains headdresses and Peruvian instruments can be found on the Web after being photographed in London in 2007.

Indians and music
A.M. Costa Rica/Elyssa Pachico

Día de Las Culturas festivities center around museum
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Celebrations for Día de las Culturas today unrolled in full force Sunday in San Jose, with street performances in the Plaza del Cultura and festivities at the Museo del Banco Central.

Once known as Día de las Razas, the holiday was changed to Día de las Culturas in 1994, a title perceived as more politically correct.

“It's changed a lot over the years,” said Carolina Castillo from the museum's Departamento de Educación y Acción Cultural. “It was a holiday originally marking Columbus'
arrival to Costa Rica, but really what we are celebrating today is the fact that we are all mestizos.”

Festivities at the museum included two musical performances, one by a calypso band and another by a marimba band from Guanacaste. Inside the museum, children participated in arts and crafts tables, making masks and bracelets. Outside, vendors sold books as well as crafts from the Boruca and Huetar native communities, including baskets and mugs. For lunch, visitors enjoyed traditional foods such as cassava, honey and tamales.

“It's a moment of coming together,” said Pilar Herrera, the museum's director. “It's a way of opening new doors.”


Rainy month October continues to live up to its name
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another low pressure area is influencing the country's weather, and downpours of various amounts fell Saturday and Sunday.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that more rain, mostly in the afternoon, is expected today in the Central Valley and along the Pacific coast.

Sunday was a clear day until mid afternoon, when downpours and then a steady rain started. In San José the rain continuing into this morning.

The Cartago area, hard hit by heavy storms in the last two weeks got more of the same.

Cartago had 25 mm (.98 of an inch) Saturday and 20.7 (.82 of an inch) since 7 a.m. Sunday. Tres Rios reported 58.4 (2.3 inches) Sunday. Turrialba reported 48 mm (1.9 inches) Saturday and 20.5 mm (.8 of an inch) Sunday. All
the figures are from the institute's strategically placed automatic weather stations.

The area had seen loss of homes and heavy flooding, although there were no reports of similar problems Sunday.

San José also got wet. There were 50 mm (1.98 inches ) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. with continual drizzle through the night. Juan Santamaría airport reported 33.9 mm (1.33 inches) mostly from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Pavas reported 40.7 mm (1.6 inches) most between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The principal low pressure area is between Puerto Rico and the northern coast of Venezuela east of Costa Rica. The weather system has the potential to become a tropical depression with associated heavy rain, said the U.S. Hurricane Center.

Also being tracked is Tropical Storm Nana that is in the central Atlantic. Forecasters expect the storm to weaken and to head to the northwest.


Seagoing robbers attacking shrimp boats in Gulf of Nicoya
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Gulf of Nicoya is getting more dangerous for fishermen. Thursday night three men were tied up and dumped into the ocean by robbers who took their catch, personal belongings and the motors of their crafts.

A gang of crooks attacked three small boats that each contained two men, said the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas. A coast guard cutter was nearby because there is an embargo on commercial fishing in the gulf during October, and the crew of the cutter was enforcing the ban.

So coast guardsmen were able to pull the three men from the sea before they drowned. They were shrimp fishermen not subject to the ban.
But catching these robbers is difficult, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguriad Pública.

Not counting the latest robberies, some six cases are being investigated. The crimes took place since the first of the year, said the coast guard.

Between May 22 and June 22 five robberies took place, officials said. Five men were detained in these cases but were let go a short time later, said officials. Officials confiscated two small boats, called pangas, 14 motors and six cell phones, they said.

Last Sept. 24 another shrimper was attacked by three smaller boats containing 15 persons. But those who were arrested were freed when the victims declined to press their case, said officials.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 203


Economic crisis appears to have tightened Canadian race
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

This is the last weekend of campaigning before Canada's general election Tuesday.The current worldwide financial crisis have made the economy the driving issue of the campaign.

When campaigning started in early September, no issues were capturing headlines, and opinion polls were showing the ruling Conservative party of Prime Minister Stephen Harper was headed for an easy re-election.

Canada follows the British parliamentary system. Voters in each of 308 constituencies select a member of Parliament, or MP. The party with the most MPs usually forms the government, and that party's leader becomes prime minister.

If the party wins less than 50 percent of the constituencies, as was the case in the last election in January, 2006, it is considered a minority government.

Before the economic problems on Wall Street started to reverberate globally, the only question was whether Harper would get a minority or a majority government.

That has now changed, with opposition parties quickly gaining ground and the Conservatives weakening.

The most recent polls put only 4 percentage points between the Liberal Party, which is the official opposition, and the ruling Conservatives. The Socialist-oriented New Democratic Party is now close behind the Liberals.

It was not until the last week of the campaign that Harper, a 49-year-old economist from the Western city of Calgary, released the party's election platform.

This brought the usual heavy criticism from the opposition parties.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion, a former university professor from the predominately French-speaking province of Quebec, has seen his campaign revitalized and his poll numbers rising. His rallies are growing louder with more supporters.

At an event in Vancouver, the Liberal leader says the Conservative Party and its leader have been slow to react to the economic turmoil.

"Mr. Harper is coming too little, too late. With little help
for the industry and the manufacturing sector and the aerospace industry," he said. "We have much more in our platform. We have much more in rich tax credit for research and development. For buying green machinery and equipment. To attract investments around the world to here in British Columbia and everywhere in Canada. Much more, but he is coming with this too little to late. His retail politics is not a vision."

Friday, the conservative government announced a plan to buy insured mortgage pools worth $25 billion Canadian — more than $21 billion U.S. — to help the country's banks. But the government advocates strict limits on public spending as it deals with the economic crisis.

At a recent campaign event in Vancouver, Harper said the choice is simple, that Dion's Liberals will increase spending and taxes that will worsen the economic situation.

"There will be one of two outcomes: There will either be a Prime Minister Dion who will tackle our economic problems by increasing spending that we can't afford and increasing taxes to pay for it," he said. "Or our government, which will keep spending under control and keep taxes going down. Those are the two choices to deal with the economic problems in front of us."

Coming in an increasingly close third place in national opinion polls is the New Democratic Party, or NDP. The party and its leader, Jack Layton, could possibly form a coalition government with the liberals.

Layton says the conservative prime minister is ignoring the crisis to the detriment of everyday Canadians.

"There's a whole lot of families that are really struggling to make ends meet and they're watching their savings disappear in front of them," he said. "And they're very worried about their pensions and this, what, me worry? attitude that we have seen from Mr. Harper is wrong."

Two smaller political parties are also playing a role in this election.

For the first time, the Green Party and leader Elizabeth May got a place in the televised debate of party leaders earlier this month. They have been polling between 10 and 13 percent nationally.

The separatist Bloc Quebecois is only running candidates in the province of Quebec and is not expected to be a part of any prospective coalition government.


Ambush that killed 19 persons in Perú attributed to Shining Path Guerrillas
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Peruvian military says suspected Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrillas killed 19 people in an ambush late Thursday.

The military says 12 soldiers and seven civilians, including a child, were killed in the attack in the southern Huancavelica province. It says four military vehicles were attacked as they returned to base in the mountainous region.
The Shining Path led a brutal insurgency that started in 1980 and left tens of thousands of people dead.

Violence declined sharply after the capture and conviction of rebel leader Abimael Guzman in 1992.

Remnants of the Shining Path continue to carry out small attacks, primarily in remote areas used to produce coca, the raw material in cocaine. Some fear that the rebels are building in strength.


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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Statistics
A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Editor's murder outrages
hemispheric press group


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has expressed outrage at the murder of Miguel Angel Villagómez, editor of the Mexican newspaper La Noticia de Michoacán, and urged the authorities to begin an immediate investigation to determine who carried out the crime and who was behind it.

The body of Villagómez, who was also the founder of the newspaper located in the port city of Lázaro Cárdenas, was found at 5 a.m. Friday beside a highway leading to the city of Zihuatanejo in the neighboring state of Guerrero near the town of La Unión.

 He disappeared at 10 p.m. Thursday night, according to local press reports. He bore bullet wounds on his back and neck.

“We continue to protest how freely in Mexico murderers act and go unpunished after eliminating those they regard as a nuisance,” declared Robert Rivard, of the Texas newspaper San Antonio Express-News. He is the recently appointed chairman of the press group's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

 “It’s urgent that Mexican authorities put an end to the violence unleashed by organized crime, in particular against the press and individual journalists,” he said

Rivard quoted the conclusions of the organization's recent annual meeting, held in Madrid, Spain, which stressed the negative consequences of the violence generated by organized crime in Mexico, especially by drug traffickers, in their effort to obstruct newsgathering in that country.

Since 2006 in Michoacán, regarded as one of Mexico’s most violent states, La Opinión reporter Gerardo Israel García Pimentel and freelance news photographer Jaime Arturo Olvera Bravo were murdered, while the whereabouts remain unknown of Mauricio Estrada Zamora of La Opinión, radio and television personality Juan Pablo Solís and José Antonio García Apac of Ecos de la Cuenca.
 


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 203



Cuba loses a man on a penalty, and U.S. team goes to town
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. men's soccer team scored a 6-1 victory over visiting Cuba Saturday night to clinch a berth in the final round of regional qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The match was at RFK Stadium in Washington.

Before a crowd of just over 20,000, the Americans wasted no time against a Cuban team that came into the match with no wins and three losses in semifinal group play.

Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley scored in the 10th minute from 12 meters out on the left side of the box.

"It's always difficult to get the first one, so once we got that one I thought, you know, more will come, hopefully," said Beasley.

And it was Beasley himself who added a second goal in the 30th minute beating Cuban goalkeeper Silvio Minoso to the far post.

The Cubans got one back two minutes later from Jenzy Munoz who lofted a shot just under the crossbar. But when his teammate Yoel Colome was sent off with his second yellow card just before the intermission, it meant Cuba played a man down for the entire second half.
U.S. veteran midfielder Landon Donovan scored three minutes after the intermission to make it 3-1. Forward Brian Ching made it 4-1 in the 63rd minute, and the Americans added two goals in the final minutes. 18- year-old substitute Jozy Altidore tallied in the 87th minute after eluding his defender, and Oguchi Onyewu, a defenseman who grew up in the Washington suburbs, scored in the 90th minute to make the final 6-1.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley said he was pleased the way his players moved the ball around against Cuba, and acknowledged when Cuba had to play a man down the visitors faced a difficult challenge.

"If you stick to doing the right things, if you keep moving, if you keep finding little seams, playing the right ball, then you know that over the course of 90 minutes, they won't be able to keep going. And so I think we had that working for us in the second half, and again that's helped by the fact that a guy gets sent off right before halftime," he said.

The lopsided win puts the U.S. soccer team into the final round of World Cup qualifying from the North, Central America and Caribbean region, even though the Americans still have two semifinal round matches remaining.

Next year's final group will include six regional teams, from which three will qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

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