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(506) 223-1327                   Published Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 208                        E-mail us   
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Judge's signature was forged
Judicial employee linked to property fraud scheme

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators detained a judicial employee, believed to be someone with access to a judge, Thursday morning and said the case involved property fraud. Also detained was a notary.

The Poder Judicial said that the pair are suspected of falsifying documents in order to release a hold on property so it could be sold. The property was involved in a civil case.

The Poder Judicial gave no names, but said the notary was detained in his office in San José and that the judicial employee was detained at his unspecified workplace.

The Fiscalía de Fraudes of the Ministerio Público is handling the case.

The men probably would not be jailed because the fiscal or prosecutor asked instead for medidas cautelares. Usually this means that the suspect has to sign in every 15 days and promises not to contact witnesses.

The Poder Judicial said the case was related to a series of irregularities in the use of security documents that civil judges use to place decisions and resolutions in the Registro Nacional.

The investigation determined that the security documents and the signature of a judge were applied fraudulently to a document that ordered
the Registro to release property that had been frozen by an earlier, legitimate judicial order, the Poder Judicial said.


The property involved was sold once the freeze was lifted, said the Poder Judicial.

The judcial statement said that the property value was listed at 6.5 million colons for tax purposes at the sale. That's $12,500. However, purchasers
usually understate grossly the value of property for taxes. So the property probably is worth much more.

Three months earlier another judicial aide was jailed involving the same case, said the Poder Judicial. Again, no name was given.

The nature of the case suggests that the property originally was stolen with fake papers from its legitimate owner who then sued to get it back. A judge placed a freeze or hold on the property until the outcome of the case was determined.

While the case was working its way through the judicial system, someone forged a document ordering the freeze to be lifted so that the property could be sold to a so-called innocent third party.

This technique has been used in the past because the civil courts protect innocent third parties who purchase stolen properties even though they may not be so innocent.


Lawmakers try to eliminate delays and red tape in collecting a debt
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Collecting a legitimate debt in Costa Rica can be a  life's work. The methods are complex and wrought with legal perils.

However, a revision of the debt collection law has received approval in the legislature, and lawmakers hope that the result will be a quicker and more efficient system.

Included in the measure, 15.731, are oral audiences for the parties involved and clear rules on notification.
The action took place in the Comisión Plena Segunda. Lawmakers there admitted that the current law was not flexible enough to handle all demands for credit by modern society. The same laws have been on the books for some 50 years and stem from a time when no one had credit cards.

The current measure is a simplification of what has been required in the past.

Many credit companies endure substantial losses each year because even if they obtain a legal judgment against a debtor, the process of collection frequently is more expensive than the debt.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 208

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3751-4/19/07
Surprise flood hits Cartago
while other shelters are full


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just when officials thought the worst was over, Mother Nature delivered an unexpected blow and flooded 40 homes and damaged 15 in Cartago Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Cruz Roja and private organizations are joining efforts to provide necessities to the nearly 2,000 persons who have been evicted from their homes by more than a week of heavy rains and flooding.

The Cartago surprise came at Guarco, Alto de Ochomogo, La Lima and the area called Quircot. The cause was an unexpected flood crest in local streams.

A shelter has been set up for 24 persons in Alto de Ochomogo. The residents of La Lima have not had time to clean their homes from the flooding there earlier this week.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de las Emergencias said that its attention now also is turning to finding funds for the reconstruction that will follow once the flooding recedes.

Those who wish to make donations for the flood victims can bring their donations, except clothing, to Wal-Mart, Más X Menos, Palí, Hipermás, Maxi Mercados and the local committees of the Cruz Roja all over the country, said the commission.

The emergency commission said that bank accounts had been set up for money donations. They are:  Banco de Costa Rica: 118281-1 dollars and 91100-3 for colons.  At the Banco Nacional de Costa Rica colons are accepted at this acount: 911-8.

The commission said that sections of the canton of Parrita on the central Pacific coast and the canton of Carrillo on the Peninsula de Nicoya were the hardest hit.

Parrita centro and communities nearby on the Río Parrita have been under water for a week. There are seven shelters operating in Carrillo and 454 persons are living there. Most of the flooding came from the Río Tempísque. In all of Guanacaste there are 1,527 persons living in shelters at the last count Thursday.

Motorist reported that delays have lessened on the main highways. Travelers from Guanacaste said Thursday that the major problems were encountered there and that roads were open the rest of the way to the Central Valley. There still are problems along the Interamerican Sur.

The transport ministry maintains a telephone number where route information is available: 222-9245.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional has said that more rain is on the way. Downpours started in San José about 1 a.m. today. A low pressure area is moving in and a tropical low pressure wave is likely to pass by the country.

Arias will head for China
Saturday and spend a week


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez leaves Costa Rica Saturday for a week-long visit to the Peoples Republic of China.

While there, the president will visit Shanghai, Beijing and the historical city of Xian with its imperial tombs and terra-cotta warriors. In addition he will inaugurate the Costa Rican embassy in that country. Arias and the three ministers with him will not return until late evening Oct. 29.

Wednesday Arias will be the guest of honor at an official dinner hosted by Hu Jintao, the president of China.

In Shanghai Oct. 26 and 27, Arias will meet with Chinese businessmen and join them on a boat trip on the Huangpu River.

Costa Rica started diplomatic relations with the Communist country June 1. Arias broke ties with the Republic of Taiwan to do so. The trip is largely ceremonial, but the goal also is to encourage Chinese investment in Costa Rica and the purchase of its products.

Aviation agency planning
to cut trees along highway


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Dirección General de Aviación Civil will begin cutting down 400 pine trees near Juan Santamaría airport today because they are a hazard to aviation, the transport ministry said.

The 400 trees grow along the Autopista General Cañas from the Saret toll booths to the airport intersection with the highway.

The work will take about two weeks, said the ministry. The necessary permits have been acquired from the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía and the Municipalidad de Alajuela, the ministry said.

Traffic will not be blocked but there may be some delays.

The ministry said that the height of the trees affect the security of the airplanes but did not say how.

Nicaraguan man held here
in child's death in 1985


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law officers have arrested a Nicaraguan man, accused of mistreating and killing a young daughter in 1985 in Miami, Florida. The arrest came Wednesday night in La Guácima de Alajuela.

The Dirección de Intelligencia y Seguridad, the local element of the International Police Agency, identified the man as William Suarez López, 49. He has been in Costa Rica since 1989, agents said.

The case involves the death of a 2-year-old girl who had been mistreated. A summary from law officers said the man was continually angry because the girl considered an aunt to be her parent. The girl had lived much of her life with the aunt in Nicaragua while Suarez and the rest of the family was in the United States, they said.

The death happened when Suarez taped the girl's mouth shut to keep her from crying, a warrant said.  The body was hidden in the family apartment until the aunt went to police in June 1986. An autopsy disclosed multiple injuries.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 208

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 Not all the tourists on the coasts are of the human variety
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Fall migration is underway on the coasts of Costa Rica as waterbirds arrive fleeing the northern winter. The Golfo de Nicoya is a major destination and stopover point for many shorebird species.

The rich tidal estuaries of the gulf and other parts of the country support large populations of Arctic-breeding birds like the whimbrel along with others in the sandpiper and plover families.

The whimbrel nests in northern Alaska and Canada, to take advantage of the long days and intense flush of food during the Arctic summer. Then all migrate south at least to the coasts of the southern United States and often much further. Some reach the southern tip of South America, a distance of 15,000 kms. (9,300 miles) or more.

Unsurprisingly, many chose to stop in balmy Costa Rica. Many do not even return north until they are two years old, spending the northern summer here.

This species and others like it use their long bills to probe for marine worms, shellfish, and other invertebrates in the mud. Smaller species pick food invisible to the naked eye off the surface of mud or sand.
whimbrel at Playa Guiones
Photo by Steve Heinl
A whimbrel seeks food on Playa Guiones


The whimbrel is also widespread in the Old World, though some authorities consider those populations a separate species, Numenius phaeopus, from the American version which is then Numenius hudsonicus.


Might complaining be gender- or competency-related?
My son has come to visit.  The morning after his late arrival, I took him, as a guest, to the book club I belong to.

The meeting was at Mavis’. She lives high up in the Escazú mountains, and the taxista who drove us there turned out to be bluffing when he said he knew where the Hotel Pico Blanco was.  He also said he would ask along the way.  Which he did, but the people he asked, were also bluffing — or I think our driver may have been asking for the Casa Blanca because when we stopped, there we were, in front of a building called, “The White House,” which just happened to be on the opposite side of the mountain. 

Meanwhile my son was getting more and more impatient and annoyed. What especially annoyed him was the driver’s continual efforts to make conversation. Like ‘shut up and drive.’ This was true.  He was talking so much I couldn’t give him my back seat driver’s advice.

Soon it became apparent that having just come from the States, Justin was still in the throes of thinking that everything should work like they possibly do in the States, or at least a taxi driver should know where he is going.  And if things didn’t change soon, he was going lose his temper.  I have to agree that it is annoying when there are no numbered addresses to help us, so we must use landmarks, and the taxista doesn’t even know the landmarks. So I told the driver to drop us off in San Antonio.  He was apologetic (vociferously so) and shaved more than 1,000 colons off the bill. 

Eventually another taxi came along and within a few minutes we arrived at the meeting.

I didn’t realize it, but Justin was writing his own version of our ride while I was working on my column.  I decided to give him his say, sort of a she said, he said.

“I don’t know which is worse. Being in a taxi with a driver who knows where he is going but is giving you the run around, or having a driver who has no idea how to get where you want to go, but decides to use the process of elimination by investigating each road.

"Unfortunately for my mother and me, we were with the second type as we tried to get to her friend Mavis’ house

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

 for the book club meeting. During our ride through the muddy roads of the Costa Rican foothills the driver kept up a constant torrent of chatter which was more irritating than informative. Finally, after the third U-turn and a bone jarring pothole, I insisted that the driver drop us off at the nearest town center so that we could take our chances with someone else, anyone else, even the pirate taxi who took us to our destination in record time.

"My mother insists that my impatience towards the first driver is a product of my North American (U.S.A) attitude. I insisted that incompetence is a cross cultural annoyance.”
                ------------

That evening, we decided to have a light supper at the neighborhood Chinese restaurant.  They were back in business after a fire that destroyed the restaurant.  Our waiter, who introduced himself, didn’t want to leave our table to let us decide by ourselves what we wanted.

He also didn’t want to stop talking and recommending.  We ended up with a dish we didn’t know we had ordered.  Since the tacos Chinos and the fried wontons both were burned, I figured the fire had been an inside job.  I was getting more and more annoyed with the waiter and the service while my son was most understanding and just laughed at our situation. 

He decided that the difference between our reactions was either gender or competence related.  He drives, I don’t.  I cook (he does, too but is not the critic that I am), thus our different reaction to the behavior of our driver and then our waiter. 

The evening ended with our walking home in the rain under the large umbrella we had brought, laughing ourselves silly remembering the day.  All in all, it was a good beginning of a visit.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 208

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Concern voiced by some on direction of Venezuelan reforms
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's national assembly is debating constitutional reforms that President Hugo Chávez says are necessary for his 21st century socialist revolution. Critics say the reforms may threaten civil rights and give too much power to Chávez.

The 58 proposals are the latest effort by Chávez and his supporters to reform the constitution. They say the effort aims to reverse decades of corrupt and unfair rule. The government-controlled national assembly has already approved 33 of the measures and is expected to back the remaining ones in coming days.

One of the most controversial proposals would give the government new powers, such as suspending a person's right to due process and access to information, if the president declares a state of emergency.

Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders say the changes would violate precedents set by the United Nations Human Rights bodies and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Earlier this year, media rights groups widely criticized Venezuela for failing to renew the license of the nation's largest broadcaster, Radio Caracas Television, forcing it off the air. Marcel Granier, the company's president. said the latest reforms pose new threats to the Venezuelan people.

Granier said the constitutional reforms threaten many basic rights in Venezuela and are a grave violation of the country's existing laws and its obligations under international treaties.

Willian Lara, Venezuela information minister, has rejected the criticism from media rights groups, saying the comments distort the reforms.
The latest proposals would alter the 1999 constitution that supporters of Chávez drafted shortly after he took power. It included changes such as extending the president's term from five years to six. The current proposals would further extend the president's term to seven years and remove term limits.

Chávez supporters say other measures will expand democracy, such as lowering the voting age to 16.

But former U.S. State Department official Roger Noriega said he believes reforms under Chávez have actually harmed democratic rights.

"When the agenda is to get elected democratically and then shred the constitutional order to reconstruct it to advance your personal, particular narrow interests, that is a problem," he said.

Noriega said Chávez also poses a threat to U.S. interests in the region through his repeated efforts to generate anti-American sentiment and complicate U.S. relationships with other Latin American nations.

In a speech in Miami last week, President George Bush expressed concern about what he called the false populism promoted by some nations in the hemisphere.

But Noriega, who left the government in 2005, says he is disappointed that current U.S. officials have not done more to raise concerns about what is happening in Venezuela.
"I see tentative U.S. leadership on some of the issues," he said. "You see a march toward dictatorship in Venezuela, and very, very little said about that by the United States. That is a concern."

Venezuela's national assembly is expected to continue debating the reforms next week. If approved, the proposals will be sent for a popular referendum in December.


Bolivian soldiers take over airport where workers were seeking payoffs
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire sevices

Bolivian soldiers and police have taken control of an airport in the city of Santa Cruz in response to what authorities say have been incidents involving the departure of international flights.

Officials say security forces stormed the Viru Viru airport Thursday following reports that workers there were stopping some flights from leaving and demanding that airlines pay them landing fees in cash.
Authorities also say at least one soldier was wounded by gunfire during the incident and that three airport workers were arrested for carrying firearms.

The head of civil aviation, Javier Garcia, was quoted as saying the airport will remain militarized until the government is certain there will be no more disturbances.

Earlier this week, American Airlines and Brazil's GOL temporarily suspended service to Santa Cruz due to the conflict at Viru Viru.


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