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(506) 223-1327              Published Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 215                  E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Unique noche de brujas here will have Fuerza Pública on guard
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Wednesday night is the noche de brujas, a Costa Rican version of Halloween, and the Fuerza Pública said that every officer will be on duty.

Typically the night is marked by small bonfires and a lot of vandalism.

The Fuerza Pública will be on the watch from the time school is out Wednesday until the wee hours. The agency said Monday that the night is an ideal one for criminals to act. And, they warned, store owners should not allow masked individuals into their businesses.

The hybrid event here seems to bring out all the bad aspects of a U.S. Halloween, perhaps brought to the country via the international television channels.

José Fabio Pizarro, head of the Fuerza Pública, noted in the agency's annual warning that it would not be a good idea for parents to permit youngsters to leave the house in search of candies from unknown persons. He said his agency was afraid that persons might take advantage of children or feed them candy laced with drugs or other chemicals.

He also said that children coming to the door might really be a crook trying to gain entry into a home. The tradition of costumed children
bruja on the move

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

Halloween, itself, is growing in popularity, and there are private parties with costumes in many public and private places.

Friday is All Souls Day on the Roman Catholic calendar here. It is a time for Costa Ricans to visit the graves of their loved ones and place flowers in their memory.

Investigative experts try to determine what happened at Escazú condo
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have a classic locked room mystery in Escazú. The crime is what may be a triple murder, and one of the victims is a U.S. citizen.

Rescue workers found the bodies about 5 p.m. Sunday at a condo. Rather than a room, the bodies were in a locked carport. Investigators do not know if a fourth person was involved.

Nor do investigators have an idea of what transpired. The two men were unclothed. They are Albin Arévalo, the U.S. owner of the condo in Urbanización Trejos Montealegre. Also dead is Kenneth Rodríguez Campos, 27, of Heredia.

The dead woman, who was fully clothed is Viviana Zoraida Hernández Acuña, 26, also of Heredia. She and Rodríguez appear from the public records to have been neighbors. 
Ms. Hernández is married to Kendal Adanis Villalobos, 31, who also is listed as living in Heredia. Adanis declined comment Monday night. The couple had been married nearly 12 years.

The deaths were due to stab wounds. Rodríguez, a Costa Rican, died in a hospital, as did Arévalo, but the woman was dead at the scene. Investigators needed almost a full day to identify the woman. She is from Colombia but appears to have obtained Costa Rican citizenship.

Informal reports said that the woman had a knife in her hand, but it will take autopsy reports to say exactly how each person died. A.M. Costa Rica reported the murders in Monday's edition, but the names were not available.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that forensic experts were studying the location and evidence in an effort to establish what transpired.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 215

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decree protesters
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Student protesters block roadway with their drums near the Desamparados municipal building.

Another private school protests
expanded power for ministry

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Students from the Liceo de Nuestra Señora de Desamparados held an uncharacteristic protest Monday against a proposal by the education ministry that students say will allow the government to select teachers for their private school.

The proposal in the form of a decree is supposed to be signed Wednesday at Casa Presidencial. The Ministerio de Educación Pública would obtain the power to assign teachers to private schools, said students.

This is not the first protest by high school-age students. One was held in front of the Corte Suprema de la Justicia. But the ministry did not respond then to questions from reporters.

Damaris Araya Chavarría said that the ministry also has not responded to a petition seeking the suspension of the decree.

Maiby Bedoya Arce, student president, said that if the decree is signed students will not have a choice in the kind of education they receive. She said religious education was especially important.

Hell's Angel was unwelcome
when he arrived by air

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry said Monday that a member of the Hell's Angels Motorcycle club was turned back when he got off an Air Canada flight Saturday at Juan Santamaría airport.

He was identified as James William Miller, 44. Officials said they acted on an alert issued by Canadian authorities and the International Police Agency.

There were no charges pending against Miller, said officials, but being an associate of the Hell's Angels criminal enterprise is sufficient to deny entry into the country. Other Hell's Angels members have been denied entrance, the most recent at the border crossing with Nicaragua.

However, some Hell's Angels associates live in Costa Rica. Original members of the California group have easily reached retirement age. Now the organization is all over the globe.

Robbers kill woman, 27,
who fought to keep goods

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 27-year-old woman was set upon by robbers about 9 a.m. while she walked in Curridabat. They tried to take her possessions but she fought back, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The robbers then shot her in the stomach. She died about 10 hours later in Hospital Calderón Guardia, agents said. Her name was González.

Patient care workers strike
at public Hospital de Liberia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some employees at the public Hospital de Liberia have been on strike since Sunday because the director there wants them to work 12-hour shifts, according to the union for employees of the Caja Costarrricense de Seguros Social.

The union said that there is a need for officials to fill at least 150 spots at the hospital, which has expanded due to growth and new responsibilites.

The strikers are primarily nurses, nurses aides and patient care personnel, the union said.

Alcohol and cigarettes grabbed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerza Pública said frontier officers intercepted and confiscated more than 10 million colons ($19,200) in contraband alcohol and cigarettes. Officers said the shipment came from Panamá.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 30 2007, Vol. 7, No. 215

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An A.M. Costa Rica guest commentary
An experienced appraiser addresses issue of property value
By Angela Jiménez Rocha*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

After 22 years of watching prices and preparing many thousands of appraisals for the banks here along with private clients, I am amazed at the increase in prices asked at the
Angela Jiménez
Angela Jiménez Rocha
current time. However, the trend seems to be going up, and the construction costs from well known, reputable builders also have risen greatly.

If we consider the Central Valley, especially areas like Escazú and the newly hot area of Santa Ana, the price per square meter for nicely finished condos with amenities and security is $1,100 and up. For something
like a Trump Tower lookalike, the price is now $2,000 per square meter.
Today it is hard to find raw land for $100 in decent areas in the Central Valley, and many developments are asking $150 to $200 per square meter for land. One of the well known golf course communities was $50 meter 10 years ago and now $250-  to $300. 10 years ago Santa Ana was a sleepy little town where land prices were $10 to $30 a meter. Today it is booming with new condo developments where land is $150 a meter.

We are owners of condos and also an adviser to Avalon, which is one of the great, new condo developments in Santa Ana. This developer has had such great success that people are standing in line to snap up any new project he has in advance of construction. For most of the new projects buyers are asked to put up 20 percent for pre-sale before construction starts. This is a risk unless the buyer checks carefully who the developer is and makes sure there is a fiduciary or bond to guarantee completion.

But why is the demand so great? Costa Rica really has become a boom area for much more than North American retirement and second-home buyers. The country is attracting Europeans like never before, and thousands of rich people from places like Venezuela. The prince of Saudi Arabia just flew in and announced that he is increasing his stake in Costa Rica where he already was major shareholder of the Four Seasons complex. Steve Case of AOL-Time Warner fame announced he was starting a new $800 million project. Famous hotel chains have been lining up from all over the world starting new projects.

The cold hard facts are 78 million baby boomers are going to retire soon, and Costa Rica is on the top of the list for those wanting to leave the States. There is simply not enough space any longer in the Central Valley to accommodate even 1 percent of these potential new arrivals.

What the new comer to Costa Rica needs to understand is that  
there is a two tiered market here. Housing like you see in the States and the local Tico market. Zoning for all practical purposes does not exist here, and the only way to assure high-class neighbors is to pay high prices for land. Does that mean you cannot find a Tico-style house for $25,000. I appraise these every day for the Costa Rica housing bank which is guaranteed by the government. There are lots of them, but most Americans would never feel comfortable or secure living in these areas.

Buyers come in all shapes and sizes, and there are lots of people who think nothing of paying $500,000 and up for a house. But the local people see that as a television dream since the average wage is $500 month. Many Ticos are leaving the Central Valley to live in areas like Puriscal which is nice area but does not offer the services most North Americans are used to. Even here prices are moving up rapidly.

I have nothing against real estate agents, but my profession is strictly licensed and regulated by the goverment where real estate brokers are not required to have any license.

My advice to a buyer is to inspect and appraise carefully before buying. Real Estate agents are fine for locating property but usually have no expertise in all of the risks that exist here which are much differnt than the U. S. Just making sure of the road quality leading to a property is something most take for granted, but Costa Rica roads and bridges often fail and the authorities are often strapped for funds to repair these quickly.

A couple of weeks ago there was a photo of 100 meters of road that collapsed near the University of Peace in Ciudad Colón where several upscale projects are located. No one knows how long it will take to fix the road or if there are other problems about to surface.

We have a recent client who has upscale desires, and we inspected and appraised a terrific house in Escazú for $545,000, which we found worth the asking price. But when our attorney checked the documents he found a clouded title the seller forgot to explain.

Next the buyers asked us to inspect a six-bedroom, 500 meter condo with incredible views and an asking price of $990,000. Our appraisal came in at $712,000.

On the other side, we appraised a tract of beachfront land two years ago which was titled. Many such tracts are not titled but are granted through a local concession. The seller was offered $450,000 by one of the largest tourist operators here, and we appraised this property at $850,000. The seller sold it off our appraisal at around $1,200,000 and, as I understand, it is now on market for $2 million.

* Ms. Jiménez, an appraiser licensed by the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Architectos for the last 21 years, has conducted thousands of appraisals.

Women's Club of Costa Rica to have benefit bazaar Nov. 10
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Women's Club of Costa Rica's annual bazaar is Nov. 10 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Country Day School in Escazú.

The event benefits the club's social service and scholarships projects for needy families in Costa Rica. Admission is free.

Hot off the press in time for holiday gifts is the 300-page Women's Club's Cookbook, a collection of members' favorite recipes in English and Spanish. 

In addition, the new food court, "Mundo de Bocas," at the
 bazaar will feature a variety of bite-sized delicacies from around the world such as sushi, "ropa vieja" (Cuban), Chinese dumplings, wraps and pizza.

These are sponsored by local restaurants. Each taste is just 500 colons for the benefit fund.

Also planned are a used book sale and holiday gifts from 52 artisans, artists aofwith club members' homemade baked goods.

More information is available at 369-7992 or at Web users should click "Calendar," and then "Bazaar." A map is available on the site.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 215

Beautiful property where air is clear — above 3,000 feet

Latest tropical storm leaves 12 persons dead in its wake
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

At least 12 people have been reported dead and many more are missing, as Tropical Storm Noel continues to dump torrential rain on Hispaniola, an island shared by both the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Dominican officials said Monday evening the storm caused massive flooding that cut off communities, forced evacuations near the country's capital, Santo Domingo, and grounded international flights.

Forecasters warned the island could receive 50 centimeters of rain, with some areas recording up to 76 centimeters of rainfall.

Costa Rica's Pacific and Caribbean coasts felt some of the backlash from Noel, and some areas were flooded.
Haiti's Prime Minister Jaques Edouard Alexis warned citizens to seek shelter. He said the storm was moving slowly and dropping a lot of rain.

Haiti is still recovering from floods earlier this month that killed at least 31 people and left hundreds more homeless.

At 6 p.m. Monday the storm's center was 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) north of the eastern tip of Cuba, where a tropical storm warning is in effect. Its winds were measured at 85 kph.

The storm is forecast to pass between Cuba and the central Bahamas overnight and later today. The northwestern Bahamas are under a tropical storm watch.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center has advised resident's of southern Florida to monitor the storm's progress.

Canadian prime minister meets with Dalai Lama despite warnings from China
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has met with the Dalai Lama in defiance of China's warnings against hosting the exiled Tibetan leader.

The two met Monday in Harper's office in Ottawa. The session marked the first formal talks to be held between the Dalai Lama and a Canadian prime minister.

Jason Kenney, Canada's secretary of state for Multiculturalism, said he hopes the entire world gets the message that attacking a 72-year-old pacifist Buddhist 
monk who advocates nothing more than cultural autonomy for his people is counterproductive.

China has warned the talks could hurt relations between Ottawa and Beijing. The Chinese government made similar threats when U.S. President George Bush and leaders of Congress honored the Dalai Lama earlier this month.

China has consistently challenged attempts by the Dalai Lama to meet with world leaders, accusing him of secretly promoting separatism. The Dalai Lama, who favors talks with Beijing on possible autonomous status for Tibet, denies the charge.

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