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(506) 223-1327          Published Monday, Oct. 30, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 215        E-mail us    
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Some real estate tricks used here are at least fishy
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

There is very little regulation on real estate transactions in Costa Rica:   No real estate disclosure act or similar rules exist. No licensing is required for real estate agencies or brokers.

There are two real estate broker associations in Costa Rica, but the organization have limited power.  The Web site for one association has no code of ethics or standards of practice listed.

This all means that real estate operators can use a lot of techniques that may be at least   questionable if not unethical or dishonest.

Here are some examples:

Real estate scouts are everywhere looking for property deals.  These people are usually Ticos working for real estate agencies and investors. They are searching for property where the owner may not have full understanding of its value.

These people sometimes recruit straw buyers, usually other Ticos, to buy the property and file it in the Registro Nacional so they can sell the property off at a much higher price.

Though not illegal, some legal professionals deem the practice unethical because the intent of the activity is to launder the transaction through another party so the original owner never knows the true selling price of the property.

A net listing accomplishes the same end.  Net listings are illegal in many states of the United States and in other parts of the world.  An owner of a property gets a fixed price while the broker sells the same parcel for an exorbitant amount making a large profit on the deal.  This practice is not illegal in Costa Rica even though the broker can make more than the seller.

However, this type of listing violates the principles of agency.  Agency is where one person represents the interests of another. 

Unless written down clearly, most times, there is no true agency relationship between a seller and a broker in Costa Rica, and a seller just trusts someone is looking out for his or her best interests.

In addition, some so-called brokers are not even residents here and may be living in another country next week.

Double escrows or double closings are another example of suspicious activity.  These are transactions where a property is bought and then immediately sold at the same closing. Double escrows enrage sellers because it shows someone sold their property for a lot more. In addition, many double escrows involve reselling property at phony inflated prices.

Many title and escrow companies now have policies refusing to handle double escrows or double closings.  The practice is not illegal, but it is questionable unless there is full disclosure made to the seller.

Why are these real estate practices considered suspicious and in some parts of the world illegal and even fraudulent? 

The problem is the ethical considerations of taking advantage of another for financial gain. 

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What are a person’s disclosure duties and when does someone commit the sin of omission.

One of the most hotly debated questions in law is under what circumstances does an individual have a duty to disclose relevant information unknown to another person with whom he or she bargains.

This question is the subject of dozens of law review articles and treatises around the world.  Thousands of court cases explore this vexing question of when and what a contracting party must disclose to his or her counterpart, even in the absence of explicit misleading statements.

Is there a law of fraudulent silence (also referred to as actionable nondisclosure or actionable silence) in Costa Rica? Yes and no. 

Article 1049 of Costa Rica’s Civil Code states any agreement on thing and price is a “done deal.”

Book IV, Title III of the Civil Code refers to the sale of things in Costa Rica including real estate.  The closest discussion of agency is in articles 1057, 1058, and 1061. 

In theory, a real estate deal could be voided if a representative of a seller did not have true representation or acts in a fraudulent manner in presenting the facts to the parties involved in a real estate transaction.

The laws here are so unclear regarding real estate transactions, with no ethical guidelines by a real estate association to help out, that arguments about what is right and what is wrong are ignored by some. And that makes the job of the honest, ethical real estate broker that much harder.

Not all acts that are fair are legal, and not all acts that are legal are fair. 

Most people have a pretty good sixth sense about things.  In situations where one feels a deal is fishy, get professional assistance to wade through the muck and uncover the facts.

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. 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 215


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Unique Noche de Brujas
raises dangers for kids

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Halloween is slowly becoming more popular in Costa Rica. But the traditional Noche de Brujas frequently means more vandalism.

The Fuerza Pública has issued a warning, summarizing all that may happen to a child who is on the loose looking for a handout of candy.

Oldemar Madrigal, the interim director general of the Fuerza Pública, also pointed out that the night is perfect for sex perverts.

The tradition of costumed children seeking candy from neighbors is still foreign here, although the activity is carried on in some expat compounds and by a few Costa Ricans.

Noche de Brujas or night of the witches is more violent with teens lighting bonfires and confrontations with the police.

So Madrigal said he will beef up the police presence and wants to keep a sharp eye on children as they leave school Tuesday afternoon.

Some roving bands of teens wear masks and use the night as an excuse to rob their peers, he said, adding that other groups have been known to sack local stores on this night.
Others use the excuse of seeking candy as a reason to enter homes and steal valuables, said police.

Limón redevelopment plan
to be explained today


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government is expected to announce a sweeping improvement plan for the Provincia de Limón today, just a few days after the latest dock strike there ended.

The government said Friday that the dock strike in Limón is over. The accord was reached early Friday. The government dropped its demand that strikers must be punished and agreed to make a $900,000 payment long overdue strikers.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez said in San José that he was pleased with the agreement and promised to sit down with not only dock workers but all sectors of the society in the Provincia de Limón to discuss plans.

Friday morning the Amsterdam, a cruise ship of the Holland American Line, reached Limón with 1,300 passengers from Panamá. No problems were reported. A Carnival cruise ship skipped Limón Wednesday because of the strike, inflicting significant economic loss to those involved with tourism.

The president also said Friday he envisions a $350 million megaport on the Caribbean coast but he said everyone knows the government does not have the money to set up this kind of operation. Then Casa Presidencial announced a meeting for today to discuss Limón redevelopment.

Union dock workers oppose the idea of the government leasing the docks at Limón and Moín as a concession to a private firm, But Arias said they might change their mind when they understand the plans.

The plan for redevelopment, which is supposed to be set out in detail today is expected to include the megaport and significant investments all along the coast. The multi-nation Plan Puebla Panamá calls for a major highway to link Nicaragua with Panamá along the Caribbean coast.

One man held in con
using tax warehouse


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents have arrested a 41-year-old man in Puntarenas they say was involved in a con game involving the nation's tax division. The man is said to be part of a gang that would telephone business people and offer them a deal on some merchandise that had been seized by the tax police.

One of the gang would meet a would-be victim near a tax warehouse, accept money and give a receipt. But then the con man would vanish after saying he was gong for the merchandise.

The man arrested Friday is linked to a case in which a businessman from Coto Brus was offered a lot of 15 computers for 2 million colons, about $3,850, agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization said.

Poker execs will gather
to discuss new U.S. law


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 2nd annual Poker Industry Expo, which is a business conference and convention for the poker industry worldwide, will be held Dec. 7 and 8 in the Costa Rica Marriott west of San José.

Legislation that was signed into law in the United States Oct. 13, has fundamentally changed the scope of the online poker market, said organizers.  The Poker Industry Expo intends to discuss the market opportunities, legal interpretations and payment alternatives that exist for the poker market, they said.

A numbers of poker industry executives, lawyers and even a member of the North Dakota House of Representatives are scheduled to speak.

UFO expert to speak
at Nov. 25 conference


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Giacomo Renato Longato, a well known Peruvian expert on UFOs, will be visiting Costa Rica Nov. 25. He will speak at a 3 p.m. conference in the Teatro Lucho Barahona.

In a job with the Peruvian Foundation for Alternative Tourism, he developed a concept known as mystical tourism. Perú is a hot spot of UFO activity. He also has written two books.

The conference is being set up by enigma-tico.com, a local group that studies the UFO phenomenon seriously.

One horse or three?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A motorist ran down and killed a horse on the Circumvalación south of San José Sunday and complained that he could not avoid the animal because there were three horses running down the two-lane highway. A tránsito officer quickly administered a roadside sobriety test, and the results raised the possibility that there was just one horse that the driver saw three times at once.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 215







Policemen watch the perimeter while fire investigators check the station where two children died Saturday in Escazú centro. The boy and girl were in the back seat of the white car.

A.M. Costa Rica photos/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

She thought that her two children were buckled up safely
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What could be more horrible for a mother than to see her children die in flames just out of her reach.

That's what happened Saturday under a clear blue sky in Escazú centro. Motor vehicles were lined up at the Shell service station as their drivers anticipated beach trips or shopping excursions.

Among them was the two-door Hyundai Excel operated by Loriana Umaña Marín. Her children, Nicole Loriana González Umaña, 14, and Andre González Umaña, 5, were safely buckled into the rear seat when she approached the station building to pay for her gasoline purchase.

At the same time, preliminary reports say, a station attendant decided to change a fuel filter on one of the gasoline dispensing pumps. Something went wrong and gasoline continued to flow when the filter — which looks very much like an oil filter in an automobile — was removed from its fittings.

The Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía and Shell have launched investigations to find out why an automatic cutoff that is supposed to stop the flow did not work.

A witness, Gerardo Porras Solís, said he was putting gasoline into his Nissan when he saw the fluid pour out of the pump mechanism like a fountain.

Porras said a policeman ran by telling all the stations customers to flee because the gasoline was going to explode. Then there was a small explosion, he said.

Porras got out of the way, as did his fellow occupant, Jeffry Mora Salazar, who had to crawl through the window of a locked car door to flee.

Mrs. Umaña, screaming, ran to her car containing her children, according to witnesses. But the youngsters had trouble leaving the vehicle because they were held by seat belts. The car already was in flames. A larger explosion shook the station.

Jeffry Mora Salazar
. . . dove out car window

   Gerardo Porras Solís
   . . . it was a fountain

Mrs. Umaña later went to the hospital with burns. A merchant at a nearby storefront who tried to help the woman reported there was nothing he could do either. Three others were treated for burns.

Two patrol cars were among those incinerated by the 9 a.m. blaze. Some motorists were able to drive their car away before flames got to them.

The children were buried Sunday from a church in El Carmen de Escazú. Classmates of the young Nicole turned out, many dressed in school uniforms. A procession of hundreds followed the hearse carrying the identical white caskets to their resting place.

Meanwhile, the charred service station, surrounded by yellow plastic police tape has become a local attraction, and hundreds stopped to see the site of the tragedy Saturday afternoon and Sunday.

A policeman stands guard, and some visitors leave flowers in memory of the children. 

The location is about two blocks east of the Catholic church in Escazú centro.



The problem of being all wrapped up with no place to think
Estar ingrido
 
Explaining this expression will take a little more then just a simple translation. Literally, estar ingrido means to be concentrated, but not in the sense of frozen orange juice or condensed milk. Rather this expression means to be so absorbed by something, or so “taken in” by it that one is oblivious to everything else around him.
 
A person might say, for example, “I was so taken (estuve ingrido) by the beauty of the roses that I didn’t even notice it had started to rain.” Or, “he was so engrossed (estuvo ingrido) in gazing at the ocean from the escarpment at Manuel Antonio that he tripped and tumbled halfway down the ridge.” Actually, this is exactly how a friend of mine fell and broke his leg!
 
Ingrido also has a narcissistic connotation in that it can be used to refer to the person who cannot pass by a mirror or plate glass window without checking out his or her reflection, preening a bit, patting their hair or straightening their necktie.
 
At any rate, the ultimate upshot of all this is to concentrate on something so intently that we lose consciousness of everything else around us. It’s like missing the entire rain forest from staring so fixedly upon a single beautiful orchid.
 
Ignoring the larger picture can often have the effect of skewing one¹s judgment. Take, for example, CAFTA, the so-called free trade agreement between the United States and Costa Rica.

Last week many thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in San José and other cities across the country to protest the Arias administration¹s apparent single-minded determination to sign the agreement as currently written no matter what.

Whether we agree with the protesters or not, it is time for the government to put aside it’s stubborn resolve to ignore them and seriously consider their objections to this treaty. By the same token, those who object to CAFTA must also take into thoughtful consideration the multiple benefits that a trade agreement with the U.S. could confer on Costa Rica.

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto


In other words, both sides in this debate estan ingrido. They are so obsessed with their own positions that they are missing the central question that forms the basis of this issue: What is truly the best thing for this little country of ours, and all of its 4.4 million or so inhabitants?
 
The television set is another thing that captures far too much of too many people’s undivided attention. For some it’s a virtual narcotic! Most of us would do well to better inform ourselves, but this is not likely to happen spending several hours every day adhered to a television screen.

Informing one’s self is an active thing. Most important information about candidates in the up-coming mayoral elections in Costa Rica will doubtless need to be sought out. It¹s not likely to be benignly received by us as we recline in some semi-comatose state before the TV in the living room.
 
The beautiful youth Narcissus of Greek mythology was so devoted to his own image that he wasted his life away gazing at his reflection in a pool of water. Legend has it that when he died a flower grew up on the spot by the pond where he lay. This lovely blossom now bears his name. Unfortunately, however, so does the neurotic psychological disorder suffered by people who become obsessed with their own person.
 
Flowers are nice. But obsessions, it would seem, have the potential for landing us in the booby hatch.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 215




Four Puntarenas fishermen return home with giant coke haul
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four Puntarenas residents and part of the largest cocaine haul in the history of the country arrived home Sunday afternoon.

The four men were part of the crew of the "Calipso V," which a U.S. Coast Guard cutter intercepted near the  Galapagos Islands last week.

The men will face trial here while two companions are en route to the United States with the lion's share of the cocaine for a criminal process there.

In all, the boat was carrying 8,708 kilos or 19,160 pounds of cocaine, said officials of the drug arrests. Some 150 kilos or 330 pounds are being held here as evidence.

The men were identified by the last names and ages of Mosquera Rosales, 45, Morales Quesada, 23, Carmona Morera, 28, and Coronado Coronado, 23. They were brought in to harbor by the  "Isla del Coco," one of the cutters operated by the Costa Rican Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas.

Under terms of a treaty with the United States, any Costa Ricans captured on the high seas and suspected of drug trafficking will be tried here.

Less than a month ago, on Oct. 4, the  "Coopepez VI," another Costa Rican fishing boat, was boarded by U.S. coast guardsmen who found 3,500 kilos or 7,700 pounds of suspected cocaine.

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía 
y Seguridad Pública photo
Drug agent wrestles with some of the cocaine that was taken off a fishing boat.


Da Silva promises more attention to the poor during his second term in office
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

After a decisive victory, newly re-elected Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promises to make his second term better than his first.

Da Silva won a run-off election Sunday with 61 percent of the vote. His challenger, Sao Paulo governor Geraldo Alckmin, won only 39 percent.

In a victory speech da Silva promised cheering supporters
to govern for all Brazilians in his second term, but give more attention to the needy.

Brazil's first working class leader, da Silva has widespread support among poor Brazilians, who have benefited from social policy and a strong economy during his presidency.

Da Silva's campaign was marred by a corruption scandal two years ago that may have cost him a first round victory.
Although he was the top vote-getter in the Oct. 1 balloting, he fell short of the percentage needed to avoid a runoff.


Mexican riot police take over Oaxaca where U.S. photogapher is among dead
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican riot police have taken control of the popular tourist city of Oaxaca from leftist protesters who are demanding pay raises for teachers and the resignation of the state governor.

Police backed by armored trucks made their way from several directions to the city center Sunday. Federal authorities broke through burning barricades and used water cannons to drive back protesters who occupied streets and buildings for more than five months.

Witnesses say at least one person was killed in the clashes.

President Vicente Fox ordered federal action after a U.S. photographer and two Mexican men, one of them a teacher, were shot to death Friday near the site of the protests.

Union leaders say the striking teachers have agreed to go back to work Monday.

American Brad Will, identified as a photographer for the
Web site Indymedia, died Friday after he was shot in the chest.  The shootout took place near roadblocks erected by protesters demanding pay raises for striking teachers, and the resignation of Oaxaca state Gov. Ulises Ruiz.  Indymedia.com made no mention of the incident on its Web page Sunday.

Oaxaca state has been in turmoil since teachers walked off the job in May demanding better pay and school funding.   The demonstrations turned violent when other activists critical of Ruiz joined the cause.

The violence has paralyzed the city of Oaxaca's vital tourism sector.

The striking teachers announced earlier in the week that they would end their strike.

The Mexican Senate voted Thursday to allow Ruiz to remain in office despite the unrest.

Mexican President Vicente Fox has vowed to resolve the crisis through negotiations before he leaves office Dec. 1.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 30, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 215


La Ruta coast-to-coast bike race planned for next weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

About 630 persons with leather lungs and legs of steel are poised to begin the La Ruta de los Conquistadores Friday. About half that number will finish the bike race dubbed the hardest race on the planet.

The race is a three-day affair, and participants will go from Jacó on the Pacific to Limón, some 300 kms. or about 186 miles. This is the 14th edition.

Last year bike races from 27 nations participated in five categories. Some 38 of the starters were women.

Friday the races will go from Jacó to the Central Valley,
 crossing the jagged backbone of the country. The next day racers will peddle to Turrialba. Sunday they will end the race in Moín, Limón.

Organizers report that entries to the race are closed. Some 250 spots are reserved for out-of-country entrants. Some spots are reserved for writers and other media representatives who want to experience the race.

The purse for the event is $10,000, which will be divided among winners in the five categories.

In a new development this year, the Costa Rican Cycling Federation will be taking periodic fluid samples from riders for drug testing.


Jacó surfer Flores, 15, shows he is a competitor to watch
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

15-year-old Jacó surfer Anthony Flores took first place in the junior category and finished third in the open grouping at a memorial surf tournament in the Pacific beach town Saturday.

The tournament attracted 57 longboard competitors. The event was put on by Christian Surfers International in honor of one of its missionaries, Alexánder Castro Guevara, who died April 30 from injuries suffered when his bike was hit by a car in Jacó.

Jimmy Hoogan won the men's open, and local surfer Diego Naranjo finished second ahead of Flores. Fourth was Warner Abreu of Brazil.

In the women's division, there was a double tie for second place. Hanna Flecher finished first. She was the national surf champion in 2003. Nadia Kolesnikof and Lisbeth Vindas tied twice, so judges ruled that second place be shared between them.

Surf observers were impressed by young Flores, who has been surfing since he was 5. José Muñoz was second in the junior category, and Byron Loría was third.

Photo by Daniel Looman
Anthony Flores in competition in Jacó


Costa Rican places second and fourth in two days of racing
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican Charlie Fonseca finished second and fourth in a double-header weekend of auto racing in Puebla, México.
The race was the sixth and seventh round of the Panam Grand Prix Series.

Saturday Fonseca finished third behind two Mexican racers. But one, Homero Richards, later was penalized for a collision he had during the race, and Fonseca advanced to second place.
Sunday the Costa Rican auto racer finished fourth, although he had the best times in the trials during the morning. In the main race he was bested by Hugo Oliveras and fellow Mexican Diego Fernández, as well as Colombian Omar Leal.

Fonseca finished well ahead of his novice rivals, the Venezuelan Bruno René Orioli and Sebastián Merchán of Ecuador.

The next encounter is Nov. 26 in Morelia, México.


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