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(506) 223-1327               Published Monday, Nov. 12, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 224                  E-mail us
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Company ownership a loophole for having a gun
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, the law is explicit: tourists should not carry guns or other weapons even though many would like to do so.

According to Costa Rica’s Article 63 of the Ley de Armas y Explosivos, the controlling weapons law, the only exception is made for foreigners who are temporarily entering the country with their weapon(s) for the specific purpose of  competition or hunting. Article 50 states a tourist can buy a gun here, but only for use outside of Costa Rica, and the tourist must declare the weapon at customs upon departure. These facts may be particularly disconcerting to those foreigners accustomed to the right to bear arms, or to anyone who has experienced a theft or robbery in Costa Rica.

Many non-resident tourists own or are part owners of companies in Costa Rica, and these companies have corporate identification cards, called cédulas. The Ley de Armas says that corporations, called personas juridicas, can use the company cédula to register a gun. Is this a loophole?

The question is whether a gun registered to a corporation can legally be wielded by a tourist who is an officer or employee of that corporation. There is not an unequivocal declaration in the arms law regarding such a scenario, however, a female employee at the arms and explosives control department said that foreigners can not own or carry a gun legally in their personal name without a residency card. She cited article 41 of the law. The department is within the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The woman said that even when a gun is registered to a company, a non-resident tourist in that company is not permitted to carry the weapon on the street. According to arms law, the department has final say on who can carry a weapon, and the carrier of the weapon, in addition to the weapon itself, must be registered with the department.

On the security ministry Web site there are separate forms for requesting permission to carry a weapon and for the actual registration of a specific weapon. Article 82 of the law says that the department also has jurisdiction over who has the right to store the weapon and where it can be stored.  Under the law, the owner of a weapon can store it in recintos privados, meaning houses, cars and workplaces.

A person legally able to purchase a gun does not need a permit to do so.  The attorney responsible for the legal review of these articles walked into a gun shop, paid for a gun, was told to come back in two days. He did and picked up his gun.  The gun store workers used the two days to make sure he did not have a criminal record.

The law makes a difference between simply having a weapon in a private place and having the right to carry it on the street.

When the arms department employee was asked what would happen if a tourist carried an unregistered gun in Costa Rica, she said that would obviously depend on whether anyone knew about it – but it would most definitely be in violation of the law. Finally, when asked what would happen if a non-resident tourist was carrying a gun and shot someone with it, she seemed a bit flabbergasted and said that she is no court, but that person would most likely be in a lot of trouble.

In the case of a tourist shooting someone, judges would likely look at two issues: If the situation were one of legitimate defense and if the weapon used was legally purchased. If the weapon was
legally purchased under the name of a corporation but not subsequently registered, the consequences
hand and bang

of the shooting probably would be one to three months of community service — if judges found the shooting to be justified.

So basically expats need to be residents, including pensionado or rentista, in order to carry a weapon on the street. If this sounds outrageous or offensive, U.S. federal law says the same thing about non-residents there.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Nevertheless, there are many state and federal laws regarding firearms in the United States.

Even so, the strict regulations on tourists bearing arms in Costa Rica may come as a surprise in a country where security guards everywhere, even in malls, wield massive rifles that look like they have the potential for large scale destruction. Well these security guards all have to undergo examinations of mental health and competence with the weapon, as do citizens and residents applying for the right to carry a weapon on their person in public areas. Article 41 states that all individual applicants (not corporate bodies) are required to supply the results of a mental health examination conducted by a competent professional.

Corporations only are required to present the corporate cédula and the corporate summary (personería) upon application. But again — individual members of the company are not automatically transferred the right to bear the arm registered under the corporate cédula.

There is an exception for some shotguns and rifles. They may be carried and used for hunting without a carry permit, according to the law

Here is a summary of the facts: a non-resident, a tourist, can buy a gun through a registered company and store the gun in a private place, such as a home, an office or a car.  If the gun is legal and that person shoots someone to protect one’s private place, the penalty can be one to three months community service.  If the gun is illegal, the penalty is one to three years in prison.

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 2004-2007, use without permission prohibited.


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Our readers opinions
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Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

If you do not like the bad press in A.M. Costa Rica, I suggest you do something constructive to stop the reasons for it — don't shoot the messenger.  Become involved to your fullest extent allowed by law to see that the government and those private individuals involved with allowing the conditions to continue and to continue to deteriorate are pressured to clean up the variety of issues that threaten life as it once was in this otherwise friendly and beautiful country.
 
Ten years ago no one locked their doors, let alone installed razor wire for protection.  Neither did Internet banking exist.  Crime is a fact of life here now.  Knowing about it only increases your personal chances of not becoming a victim of it.
 
Pollution is increasing for several reasons: 1.) corporate greed —  sewage treatment requires lowering profit margins; 2.) corrupt government officials take bribes to ignore or stonewall enforcement of laws; 3.) government is not spending tax dollars for treatment plants and timely trash collection (instead, spending thousands of tax dollars to install security cameras that Great Britain, with thousands of them, has admitted has done nothing to decrease crime or prosecute criminals over the past five years); and 4.) an uneducated general population.  Only by illuminating the problems can they be corrected.
 
The major problem with the United States is that the citizens have succumbed to apathy and allowed their government to pass laws that have literally bankrupted and imprisoned them (Oops, no you can not file for bankruptcy any longer as the government passed laws against it. One in every 36 U.S. citizens is now in some form of civil incarceration).  Increasingly, that same apathy is occurring here as the population is being disenfranchised by their government's lack of action to correct these problems (only 26 percent of legal voters participated in the last presidential election).
 
The United States press is entirely at fault for not reporting what their government is doing.  If you do not believe me, go to: http://www.projectcensored.org/censored_2008/.  Of course since virtually all major U. S. media outlets, radio and television, are owned by only eight corporations, and those corporations are dictating to the government what laws are passed for the protection of their profits, you begin to understand why the press is hamstrung to get the truth published.
 
In U.S. university schools of journalism — in which I have taught — one tenent is hopefully professed: If the press did not tell you, who would?
 
Michael Crow
Alajuela, Costa Rica 

Don't stop writing about crime

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read the letter today about A.M. Costa Rica only writing about "bad things." Well please don't stop writing about the crimes and schemes that are going on as they will only educate people and keep them safer in the process. I'm sure the travel and real estate industry don't like you reporting on it, but this is not something that should be swept under the rug. Yes there are crimes everywhere else in the world, and it should be reported on as well.

My wife and I own property in Costa Rica too. We feel A.M. Costa Rica is a well-rounded newspaper that reports on all important topics, good and bad. Keep up the good work, 

T. Beynon
La Mona Costa Rica


Negativity is by malcontents

Dear A.M. Costa Rica,

As a Puntarenas property owner, I would like to echo the sentiments of letter writer Martin Kelly (Nov 8) and add a few of my own.  This paper seems to place great emphasis on the perceived “shortcomings” of the Costa Rican government, people, and way of life.

I’m less interested in how this negative slant might affect my property value, and more interested in how it fosters the viewpoint that Americans are spoiled, griping, egotistical malcontents, solely focused on their own needs and values, and without consideration for a different way of life, even in a sovereign nation, not their own!

For those of you who want to do nothing but complain about Costa Rica, why in the world don’t you just stay here in the U.S.?  There is plenty to fuss about here.

Frank Jacobelli
Nevada

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New areas hit by heavy downpours and flooding rivers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mother Nature seems to be toying with Costa Rica in a serial fashion.

Starting Oct. 8 a backlash from a low pressure area over the Yucatan Peninsula flooded Parrita centro, cut off some of the nearby communities and caused a slide that killed 14 in Atenas.

A few days later, the floods hit Guanacaste, mostly in the Filadelfia and Río Tempisque areas and along some of the pristine tourism beaches, such as Nosara. Getting the blame was then-Tropical Storm Noel.

Then last week it was the northern zone and the inland communities of the Provincia de Limón that were drenched with heavy rain. Late last week the canton of Matina in Limón province was under water, and Friday the national emergency commission said it was evacuating Sixaola on the southeastern border with Panamá.

Through it all some inland communities in the Central Valley took hits from flooding rivers and drenching downpours.

To add insult to injury, the cold winds that are supposed to drive away the rain came in tandem with the downpours and subjected much of the country to chilling rain.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the cold would diminish slowly over the next two days. Cartago registered a verified 13.5 C. degrees overnight Sunday, about 56 F., but informal measurements came in at 8 C. or about 46 F.
The situations in Matina and the southern part of Limón province was a repetition of the Pacific coast in mid-October. More than 8,000 persons have been affected, said the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y  Atención de Emergencias. Communities in the Talamanca mountains were cut off, and in Limón itself some 33.5 cms. of rain (about 13.5 inches) was recorded Friday.

The latest problems are being blamed on a third cold front that is affecting local weather. Sunday the emergency commission said that a red alert, the highest possible, was in effect for the canton of Matina where some 30 communities are suffering through floods. Some 400 persons there are in shelters, and roads and dikes have been damaged, the commission said.

The rains along the Caribbean coast are expected to drift into the Central Valley. There was periodic rain in San José all day Sunday. In addition, the commission is maintaining an alert for the southern Pacific coast, where more heavy rains are possible.

The full totals are not in yet, but highway officials are estimating that some 7,000 kms. or some 4,400 miles of roadways have been seriously damaged. Some of these are hard-surfaced roads, but the bulk are gravel roads that simply have been washed away. Residents of tourist communities like Nosara will have the added burden of confronting heavily damaged roads in order to reach central shopping and business areas. Nosara is connected to hard-surfaced roads by 30 kms. of gravel roads that are a challenge even in the dry season.

Highway officials estimate that the repairs as a result of the series of storms might run as high as $40 million.


Body was a surprise, but the first shock was the new patio
By Bryan Kay
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A bizarre detail emerged over the weekend in the case of the body found buried under a slab of concrete on a U.S. citizen’s property near Puerto Viejo.

The U.S. citizen, Joe Freconna, from Cleveland, Ohio, said that the patch of patio under which the as-yet-unidentified man’s body was uncovered had been mysteriously put down while he was back in the United States.

He said that he and wife, Sue, had purchased the beachside property in Playa Negra in February 2006.

When the couple — who live most of the year in the United States — returned in February, the slab of concrete was there where there had previously been an area of bushes and shrubbery, they said

Ms. Freconna said the discovery of the makeshift patio had immediately raised suspicions, leading them to contact a lawyer. The lawyer had said that their imaginations were running wild with them, according to Ms. Freconna, and the incident was brushed aside.

However, just nine months later their fears were confirmed as workmen building a sun room at the rear of their property dug up the concrete to find a body wrapped in a plastic bag. That was a week ago.

Freconna said he does not want to hamper the police investigation, but added that he was keen to know how the body ended up buried on his land.

“I would like to find out what happened,” he explained. “For me, it was a shock. We believe it was not a personal attack on us. It just happened.”

Freconna said he has no clue who the man might be, but suggested that the body could have been buried on his property anytime between February 2006 when he made the purchase and a year later when he returned to discover the mysterious patio.

Police investigators are believed to be pursuing a number of lines of inquiry. They are said to be trying to trace the previous owner, who is understood to be a German engineer.

“We bought the property in February 2006, but the previous owner didn’t move out until a couple of months later, I think about April,” said Freconna.

“When we left, bushes were there, and when we came
patio where body was found
A.M. Costa Rica/Bryan Kay
Homeowner Joe Freconna, who declined to be photographed himself, gestures to the place where a man's body was found under concete.

back the bushes were gone and the cement patio was there.”

During most of the intervening period, said Freconna, the property was rented out through a property management company.

Contrary to reports in the Spanish language press suggesting the couple were considering selling up after the incident, they say they intend to follow through with their initial plans.

Freconna, a community college professor and counsellor, vowed that they remained firmly committed to achieving their ultimate goal of retiring to Costa Rica.

“We are not going to sell,” he said. “This is our home and we are going to make it that. The local officers have been extremely supportive — the police have done a great job. They could do with more help. This would not happen if they had the resources they need to do their job.”

The Judicial Investigating Organization reported that the body wore a gold chain necklace and a diamond ring. They are hoping to identify the man through the jewelry.


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Venezuelan officials defend Chávez after encounter with king
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan officials are blasting Spain's king after the monarch told President Hugo Chavez to shut up at the close of the Ibero-American summit in Santiago, Chile. The verbal spat stole the spotlight from the gathering of leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal.

The yearly Ibero-American summit is known for generating often-bland plenary statements, not heated verbal salvos between participants. Saturday, Chávez in a speech labeled former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a "fascist." Then he interrupted a speech by the current prime minister. That's what prompted blunt words from an irate King Juan Carlos of Spain.

The king said, "Why do you not shut up?"

In Caracas Sunday, Vice President Jorge Rodríguez suggested the Spanish monarch may have forgotten that Latin America achieved its independence from Spain long ago, and said the king's words were "unacceptable."

"Mr. Juan Carlos can treat his subjects in that fashion if they permit him to do so," he said.  "But we Venezuelans are a free and sovereign people constructing our own future. No one can speak vulgar words to deny Venezuela's chief of state the right to speak. Nothing and no one will ever silence him."

Chávez has long criticized former Prime Minister Aznar for joining with the United States in the 2003 invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein. The current Spanish prime minister, Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, also opposed Spain's participation in the Iraq campaign. But, speaking at the summit, he reminded  Chávez that his predecessor was
legitimately elected by the people of Spain — and deserved to be spoken of with respect.

"President Hugo Chavez, I believe there is a principle in dialogue and that is, to respect and to be respected, we must try not to disregard others. We can disagree entirely with someone's ideas or behavior without insulting them," he said.

Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt the Spanish leader, but his microphone was turned off. It was at that point that King Juan Carlos, seated a few feet away, leaned forward and uttered his now-famous exhortation to the Venezuelan leader. A few seconds later the king stood up and left.

Also present was Costa Rican President Óscar Arias Sánchez. He did not comment on the encounter. Arias has softened his comments about Chávez after the leader threatened to close a Venezuelan-owned aluminum plant in Esparza and put hundreds of Ticos out of work.

The sharp words made headlines and have provoked commentary throughout the Spanish-speaking world and beyond. In a written statement published by Cuban state media, President Fidel Castro — who did not attend the summit — backed what he called the "devastating criticisms" of Europe by Chávez.

For his part, the Venezuelan leader has downplayed the controversy. Speaking with reporters, Chavez said he did not hear King Juan Carlos' outburst at the time. Mr. Chavez added that he never meant for his choice of words to offend anybody at the summit, but that he stood by those words.

He also correctly noted that he was an elected head of state and that the king was not.


More gunfire erupts at student protest in Venezuela over reforms by Chávez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan officials say at least four police officers were wounded Friday after gunfire erupted during student protests in the western city of Merida.

Authorities say no one was killed. The exact circumstances surrounding the shooting remain unclear.

Earlier, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez publicly lashed out at the thousands of students who rallied Wednesday in
Caracas against planned constitutional changes that would greatly expand his power. They said that Venezuelans do not yet understand the scope of the reforms being put to a vote on Dec. 2.

Chávez described the Wednesday protests as a "fascist assault" backed by Washington and wealthy Venezuelans.

He made his comments in Santiago, Chile, at the annual Ibero-American summit, which brings together leaders from Spain, Andorra, Portugal and Latin America.



Langdale leaving here to head foundation running Bush library
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(reprinted from a Friday update)
A U.S. Embassy spokesperson said Friday that Ambassador Mark Langdale will leave his post here to become president of the foundation in charge of the George W. Bush library in Texas.

U.S. presidents typically incorporate their personal papers and memorabilia into a free-standing library. The location for the
Bush library has not been established, but the announcement said that the foundation that Langdale will head is in conversations on this topic with Southern Methodist University.

Langdale has been ambassador here for two years. His major accomplishment was in his successful efforts to obtain ratification of the free trade treaty between the United States and Costa Rica.



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