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(506) 223-1327              Published Monday, Oct. 15, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 204        E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Mortgage money available, but foreclosure complex
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Mortgages are becoming more and more available in the local market for expats who want to borrow money to buy property.  There is a lot of money available for financing from local financial institutions.  Private parties also have money to lend, but usually the interest rates are higher.

What most foreigners do not know about borrowing money in Costa Rica is how the foreclosure process works if one should default on a loan.  Unscrupulous private lenders, attorneys and real estate people take advantage of the ignorance of homebuyers and, in some cases, use this knowledge to steal back properties they have sold.

On the other hand, deadbeat debtors can betray honest creditors with Costa Rican legal magic and procedural sleight-of-hand tricks.

In Costa Rica, a mortgage is a hipoteca.  In English, there is a similar word hypothecate. In Roman law it meant the most advanced form of a pledge. Today in civil law it means a lien or a mortgage.  A mortgage applies to real property whereas a lien applies to movable property or chattel.  In the foreclosure process, the procedures are very similar.  However, it is easier to hide chattel, and some debtors do so.

A mortgage in this country is a right granted over a piece of real estate to guarantee payment of an obligation.  Mortgages are most common in the purchase of property but can be a source for financial capital for other uses.  When the maker of a mortgage cannot pay, the creditor forecloses and goes to public auction, called a remate.

First mortgages are supreme. Any mortgage after the first are usually worthless here.  In the case of an auction based on the first mortgage, the judge will erase anything behind it when turning over the property to the winner of the auction. 

This is what happens in a foreclosure:

A lawyer files a petition with the court attaching a national registry certification of the mortgage along with providing other requirements based on the country’s civil code.  If the court does its job correctly, it should set an auction date and request the lawyer in charge of the case to publish the designated date in the local judicial newspaper. 

The court should send a notice to the national registry annotating the property about the foreclosure.  Smart lawyers request the court to prepare the documents for publication and the annotation for them to pick up, and they deliver them to their destinations. Otherwise the court will use its snail mail system.   In Costa Rica, these snails are slow.

When the auction date arrives, the creditor can suspend the act up to five minutes before the judge starts the auction process.  This usually happens when the parties reconcile or otherwise agree to an out-of-court settlement.

If only the creditor shows up, he or she can take
the property back in payment of the debt.  The creditor can attach other property of the debtor for interest, legal expenses and court costs.  If the creditor does not want the property, he or she can
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request the court to hold other auctions until there is a successful one.

The starting bid at an auction is the amount due.  Each subsequent auction reduces the opening bid amount by 25 percent until the starting bid is zero.

If bidders show up, they must deposit in cash or by certified check 30 percent of the auction base to bid.  Creditors cannot bid but can raise the base of the auction upwards to cover interest and costs.

The winner of the auction must pay the balance of a winning bid to the court in three business days after the auction.  Shill bidders sometimes show up at the auction, deposit the required 30 percent deposit and then never pay the balance to cause the judge to call a void auction.  Debtors can use this ploy as a delaying tactic so they can gain more time to look for funds to pay a creditor.

If everyone plays fair — it does happen on occasions — the highest bidder pays the court, the judge approves the event and prepares the court documents necessary to turn over the property to the new owner.  If there are any tenants living in or on the auctioned property, the judge also prepares the paperwork to evict them.

Many auctions happen in Costa Rica on business days.  Some of them are real bargains. Others turn into nightmares because there are hidden problems just waiting to show their ugly heads.

When a piece of property is going to foreclosure, it is common that the debtor’s attorney will start a litigious nightmare for the creditor.  The first thing a debtor’s attorney tries to do is to look for a trumped up way to file a criminal case against the creditor to suspend the auction.   This simple legal ploy can hold up a legitimate foreclosure for years.  In other cases, crooked notaries just cancel the mortgage with a bit of flashy paperwork.

There are other financial instruments to borrow against property like mortgage certificates and trusts. Financial institutions prefer a first-degree mortgage.  To borrow money, it is best to use a reputable bank. To lend money to others, it is better to use financial experts that know the ins and outs of the game.

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  Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at  Copyright 2004-2007, use without permission prohibited.

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Treaty opponents kick off
national battle to halt OK

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Opponents of the free trade treaty with the United States said Sunday that they reject the results of the Oct. 7 referendum and that they are beginning a confrontation and a national battle to free what they said was a kidnapped Costa Rica.

A manifesto, sent via e-mail, outlined the complaints and reasons the group thinks the referendum on the free trade treaty was fraudulent. The treaty was ratified by 3 percentage points, but some 13 measures still have to be enacted by lawmakers to support the terms of the treaty.

The organization is the Frente Occidental de Lucha Juanito Mora, named after the 19th century statesman. The manifesto was distributed by Carlos Salazar F., who identified himself as a member of the Comité Patriótico de Naranjo.

The manifesto was the theoretical framework for a meeting that treaty opponents had at the Universidad de Costa Rica over the weekend. They made it clear that union members, students and others were not going to give up the fight just because they lost the referendum.

According to the manifesto, the referendum was a fraud because of multiple illegalities.

Among other acts, the manifesto complains about the intervention of the United States government in the electoral process, violating the laws and the Constitution. The group means a statement by the U.S., trade representative several days before the vote saying that a re-negotiation of the treaty was not possible.

The document traced the origins of the battle to the arbitrary and unconstitutional election of Óscar Arias Sánchez as president. It also sketches a conspiracy running from Arias and his brother Rodrigo to the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones and to the Sala IV constitutional court.

If the referendum had been done fairly, it would have been a bridge to maintain the social peace, said the document. But, it alleges, the Arias brothers formed an alliance with the national and international communications media and used tactics of vote buying, disinformation and fear.

Juan Rafael Mora Porras, after whom the frente is named was president and directed the 1856-1857 national campaign in which Costa Rica helped overthrow William Walker, the U.S. filibusterer who sought to control Central America. Mora himself was deposed and later executed despite Costa Rica's military success.

Arias urges ratification
of Latin trade treaty by U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Óscar Arias Sánchez has sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House, in which he urged ratification by Congress of the free trade treaties with Panamá, Perú and Colombia.

The Costa Rican president said such treaties were tools for development and for generating opportunities.

The U.S. Congress, now controlled by Democrats, has broken with President George Bush, a Republican, on the matter of treaties. The treaty with Colombia is in danger because some congressmen accuse the Álvaro Uribe regime there of human rights abuses in the war against rebels. The Panamá treaty is in trouble even among Republicans because that country's national assembly elected as a leader a man who is wanted in the murder of a U.S. serviceman.

Bush pushes for approval
of trade treaties too.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Bush Friday urged the U.S. Congress to approve a set of free trade accords with Colombia, Panama and Peru. Bush said the trade deals will benefit U.S. business and boost democracy in the region.

President Bush made the speech in Miami, Florida, noting it is crucial for U.S. trade with Latin America and other parts of the world. He said that $72 billion in goods and products passed through Miami's ports last year.

The president said the strength of international trade has helped push the area's economic growth and employment levels above national averages.  Bush said a centerpiece of his economic policy has been pursuing free trade deals with other nations, and while in office, he has expanded the number of such deals from three to 14.

Now he is again pressing Congress to approve pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Peru. He said U.S. exporters will benefit the most under the deals, because they would lower trade duties on many American products sent to the Latin American nations.

Lawmakers in U.S. Congress have voiced support for the agreements with Panama and Peru, but the future of the Colombian plan is unclear. Some legislators have criticized the Colombian government for failing to prevent or investigate attacks on union leaders. They say Colombia must do more before a trade deal is approved.

Bush said Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe has made great strides in his nation, while he recognized that some concerns remain. But he stressed that increasing ties with Colombia was the best way to bring about further improvements.

The president also said the deal with Colombia was crucial to America's strategic interests in the region, especially in the fight against drug traffickers and terrorist groups.

In recent months, the Bush administration has sought to strengthen ties with Latin American allies, amid sharp criticism from Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez and some other regional leaders. The president said the three pending trade deals could help further those efforts.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 15, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 204

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Nation continues to reel under the effects of heavy rains
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation emerged from a wet weekend as emergency officials surveyed the damage that at least equals the nearby passage of hurricanes. And more rain is on the way today.

All over the country low-lying areas are flooded, crops have been ruined, roads are blocked by slides, and at least 16 deaths have been attributed to the results of the heavy rain.

The emergency commission said that 7,500 persons had been affected directly by the rains and flooding. Some 1,500 homes have been damaged and more than 700 refugees are being housed in some 17 shelters.

Although a low pressure area that had stalled over the Yucatan Peninsula of México has moved on, another tropical wave is expected to bring more heavy rains at the beginning of this week.

The saturated ground sheds nearly every new drop of precipitation, and adds it to the problems in the runoff and in the lowlands.

The emergency commission computed that 16 persons had died. These included the 14 persons entombed by a landslide at Barrio Fátima de Acosta in Atenas early Thursday. Workers spent most of the weekend trying to find the victims. In the same canton a 21-year-old woman tried to cross a stream with her vehicle Saturday and both she and the vehicle were swept away.

In Guanacaste an 87-year-old man was swept to his death.

An air tour by the emergency commission Sunday showed that much of Parrita was in knee- or waist-deep water because the nearby Río Parrita continues to run out of its banks. There was concern that a system of dikes might give way.

Highways in the country were a mess. Even the vital Interamerican Norte suffered slides.  Motorists complained about long delays. The road even was closed at times.
A major slide took place Friday between Palmares and San Ramón. Another took place further west near Esparza. The highway was reduced to a single lane in places. Secondary roads were blocked by slides, and most of the machinery was at work on arterial routes.

Elsewhere the flow of water undermined the highways causing collapses.

Although most of the attention was focused on the flooding at Parrita, Pueblo Nuevo, La Pitahaya, Sitradique and Bambú, flooding also invaded homes in Guanacaste, mainly in Bebedero. In Bagaces a shelter was housing about 75 persons, the emergency commission reported. In addition to Parrita and Atenas, the areas of principal concern are Garabito and Puntarenas centro.

The Central Valley was not spared. Santa Ana, Acosta, Desamparados, Aserrí and Mora were cantons being watched closely by the emergency commission. In Santa Ana some 45 persons went to shelters from the community of Matinilla. In San Rafael Abajo de Desamparados the Río Cañas there caused flooding in an area that has seen more than its share this year.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias is at work providing bedding and food for the shelters where refugees from the storm have accumulated.

The commission said that fatal slides are not unusual during periods of heavy rain. In part this is because homes have been built in areas of high risk. The commission listed:

Some 11 persons died in Tilarán in 1973. In 1993 six died in Arancibia and six more in 2000. In El Llano de la Piedra, Tarrazú, 11 persons died in 1996. In Alto Loaiza in Orosi seven persons died in 2003 when a hillside gave way. In Río Azul, two died in a similar manner in 2005.

Missing from the list of flooded towns are communities in the Provincia de Limón where little rain and sunny skies have dominated all last week and the weekend.

It will not be Adios, but Hasta luego and Ahi nos vidrios
Ahí nos vidrios

“We’ll see each other around.” This dicho has to do with leave taking. But, it also implies a promise of reunification.

The commonest form of good-bye is, of course, adios. But to me adios has more a feeling of conclusiveness to it. What one is actually doing in the case of adios is consigning someone to the care of God.

Another way to say good-bye with much less finality to is hasta luego, which means essentially “see you later.”

Here in Bloomington, Indiana, it has been an enormously hectic semester, what with my responsibilities to both Indiana University and the city. There doesn't seem to be much of a letup in sight at least until the end of the year.

I have also been searching, usually in vain, for time to spend on two projects that are very dear to me but have received scant attention in recent months. One is a book that I am writing about my grandmother's life. The other is a book on dichos of Costa Rica taken from the nearly 200 columns that I’ve produced over the past four years.

I have enjoyed writing my column but, sadly, the exigencies of time and responsibility have forced me to abandon it. This is, therefore, the last edition of “The Way We Say It.”

Over the years many of my loyal readers have contacted me with comments on my column or just to have a friendly chat.

I encourage any of you who wish to keep in touch with me please to do so by writing me an e-mail note at Several of you have also become friends, and I have very much appreciated your support. Unfortunately there are far too many of you to name here, but you know who you are.

I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks and sincere appreciation to the staff and management of A.M.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

Costa Rica for their unwavering support and encouragement. “The Way We Say It” was my first attempt at wordsmithing, and I couldn’t have asked for a better team to help me get my feet wet, as it were.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t express my appreciation to my very colorful, wacky and wonderful family whose antics have provided illustrative subject matter for many of these columns. I would often have been at a loss without them.

Two of my favorite dichos are: El que solo se rie, de sus diabluras se acuerda, and habla más que una lora embarrada en la mierda. The former probably describes me all too well, and since I don’t want to be accused of the latter, I’ll simply say, ahí nos vidrios.

See you ‘round. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column would not be complete without a thanks to Daniel Soto for his consistency. Someone who has not written a column does not know the pressure such an undertaking presents. Daniel has been like a clock with a new and witty column arriving without fail well in time for publication each week.

Thank you, Daniel.

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Fidel Castro makes a phone-in appearance on Sunday show with Chávez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro has made his first live appearance on Cuban airwaves since he became ill more than 14 months ago.

Castro spoke by telephone for about an hour on a live television show broadcast Sunday from Cuba by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Before taking Castro's phone call, Chávez played 17 minutes of video recorded Saturday during a four-hour meeting of the two leaders.

In the video, the 81-year-old Cuban leader appeared frail but seemed to be in good spirits.
The weekly program "Alo Presidente," was broadcast from the central city of Santa Clara, where a tomb housing the remains of revolutionary figure Ernesto "Che" Guevara is located.

The broadcast was dedicated to Guevara, who was captured and executed 40 years ago last week.

Castro underwent surgery in July of last year and handed power to his younger brother, Raúl, on a provisional basis.

Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since his surgery. Details of the 81-year-old Cuban leader's health are a state secret.

Readers react to criticism of the country by expat who left
Time to join 21st century

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

 . . . It's time Costa Rica started acting like a nation of the 21st century.  With the current state of the art communications, all of the Central American countries are in the spotlight, and I hear continual discussions of which country will be the best for retirement, or even investment.  Costa Rican's should not make the mistake of thinking no one is watching. Everyone is.   People will go where they believe they are safe and where they believe that the government is the least corrupt.
Veronica Reinhardt
Madison, Georgia

Country is not for everyone,
and the decision is personal

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have just read Mr. Timothy Sullivan's letter to your publication. It is so sad that his experience in Costa Rica was so completely negative! Much of what he stated was undoubtedly true, and I am sure all of us "Gringos" have experienced some anti-Gringo sentiments.

As many of our Tico friends (and yes,we do have Tico friends), experienced anti-Tico (Latino) sentiments while in the States! But for us, my wife and I, the  number of gracious, helpful and kind people we've met far outweigh the negative by a long shot. I do not have the space here to enumerate all of the positive experiences we've had.

Before deciding to make Costa Rica our home,(we've just completed our one year anniversary in Costa Rica), we visited numerous times and contacted as many expats as we could to discuss their experiences. It seems to me we bring ourselves with us. In my life, because of my profession, on many occasions I found myself being the only "white" member in an all-black band, and experienced indirectly the anti-black sentiment and anti-white sentiments. And when I lived in the southern U.S., experienced strong "anti-dark skinned Italian" sentiments. So,this is not new to me. No one has a monopoly on ignorance or racism!

Are there problems? Are there dirty public restrooms? Of course. But I have ridden the buses here many times and have not experienced the foul odors Mr. Sullivan refers to. Actually I have been impressed by the cleanliness of the Costa Rican people. Of course, after a long hot day of hard work, one may not emit the most pleasant odors while riding the bus home, and I have also found numerous immaculately clean public restrooms! The dirty ones were usually in garages, etc., actually about the same as in the States.

Being a New Yorker, I know all about muggings and crime and, of course, it is a terrible thing. But crime rates in the States exceed those of Costa Rica on a yearly basis.
When we were deciding whether or not to make Costa Rica our home, we got the best advice ever from Mr. Tom Mead, a long-time Costa Rica resident. He told me "Don't come here expecting a little U.S.A.; If you are expecting that, you won't last."

Costa Rica is not for everyone, and it seems Mr. Sullivan has gone back to the U.S.A.

We are happy with our decision to reside in this beautiful country.

Joseph Anello
San Ramon, Alajuela

He's headed to New York
after selling business here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Last Thursday as the jet engines came to full thrust and launched us down the runway back toward Newark, N. J., I envisioned our flag and had an uncontrolled, emotional moment.

The double shot of Dewars that followed put me into perceptiveness, and I thought of the last two and a half years of my Costa Rica project. I do believe that I am one of the few Americans that left C.R. with the skin on their ass, luckier than most I was bought out by my well-educated Costa Rican lawyer partner who for some reason to my advantage could not add up simple math. I am for the most part, an uneducated high school dropout, but my calculator and I summed up the math many times and determined that the business had relatively no future.

The reason of my letter is the reflection of most foreigners, Costa Rica has some wonderful good points and some great people, but is for the most part a third world fly infested dump with a potentially rich tax income only if the massive corruption, and unbearable stupidly can be cut out.

I look at a cow as fertilizer, grass control, milk, and offspring. Treat it well, and it will give a future of wealth. The Tico mentality is kill the cow, and we will eat for a week or so, and that also is the way they feel towards the foreigner. I was lucky, and I am grateful.
Eddie Baecher
Palmares - New York
No country is perfect,
and Tica had woes in U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
If some one expect to come to Costa Rica and have the perfect life, the perfect world, then no one should move here. This is a very small country, only a little more than 4.5 million people.
If someone can think of a part of the U.S. that has that many of people living in a small area of only 51,100 Km2, don't you think it will be easy to see all the problems and find all the good and bad people very easy?
I know we are not perfect people, no one is, I know we have many different things that "gringos" (and I am not saying this word like the "N" word is use in the U.S.), can go crazy very easy, but that's why cultures exist, that's why every person think differently, that's why every country is different.
This country is growing. The people are changing. This culture is changing. Is it going in the right direction? I don't know, but we are willing to find out. I am sorry that many North Americans have come here and did not get what they expected, maybe because they could not have an open mind and could not see that the whole world is just not like the U.S., people can not expect have the same life and same system that they have back home.

I lived in the U.S., and I was expecting to find what I don't find here, I always hear this "In the U.S. everything is fast, everybody knows their jobs and knows how to do it" so I thought I was going to see that, when I called a community college in Jasper from C.R.

My first question was: "I am going to visit U.S. under a tourist visa, and I need to know what I need to do to study there and get my student visa? And if you can work with me on this?"

Their answer was: "yes we can do it. Come and meet with us when you get here we will guide you." I did all they need for me to apply there, I asked about my student visa, and they said they will work on it. . . .  The day I got there they asked me for my "green card." I almost had a heart attack since they never said anything about that. That school does not work with international students, only residents, but they never said it from day one.

I lost a lot of time, money and my patience. It was too late for me to find another school that could help me and be on time for the beginning of classes. I ended up in the U.S. wasting time and money,

So now I am back home where I get these kind of things sometimes but at least everyone knows this is who we are, and the best of all is that I don't need to go to a school and pretty much beg for them to let me in. And yes! sometimes I get VERY crazy about this system, too, and I would like for us to learn from U.S.A. one day!

A.M. Costa Rica talks pretty much only about all the bad things in my country. Some times that's good, because this world only has a few honest people left. But searching only for bad news and bringing up only the bad ones does not make someone honest.
I live here, this is my country, this is my people and I take it as it is, as you take yours.
This guy on that letter could not only have bad things here every day of his life. He must have had some good days, too. How come he cannot say just one good thing about my country? Makes me mad!
I like the U.S.A. I hope I can move there one day and be better, but I will always love my country.

Estela Reyes Valerín
Pocora, Limón

Nebraska lawyer is off base,
expat bus rider says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

He sounds like the original "UGLY AMERICAN."  We have lived here 11 years and have never seen the Costa Rica he describes.  The people are friendly, helpful and clean.  He must have a nose better than a blood hound.  I go to San José by bus every week just wandering around to different stores and Ropa Americanas usually ending up at a casino meeting friends and playing silly, inexpensive games.

Water and electric problems were ours in the sourland mountains in New Jersey and in Florida.  Here we are usually told so we can make plans.

Nothing is perfect anywhere.  Maybe his wife doesn't want her sons killed in some senseless war.

Go home, Mr. Lawyer, and enjoy yourself.

Lucy Gucofski

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 15, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 204

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