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Jo Stuart
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These stories first were published Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2001
New York jet crash causes shudders in Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Costa Ricans and expats alike held their breaths Monday as investigators worked to find the cause of a passenger jet crash during takeoff in New York.

The primary source for the information was the CNN cable channel, although scenes of the crash site at one time were on nearly every cable channel in every language, including Chinese.

The unspoken fear was that this could be a repeat of the Sept. 11 terrorist suicide attacks, perhaps another hijacking foiled by aggressive passengers.

By evening there still was no definite cause announced by investigators, even though the crash had the full attention of the New York mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, and President George Bush.

The American Airlines Airbus A-300 went down in the Rockaway residential neighborhood just about two minutes after takeoff from John F. Kennedy Airport. The flight was bound for Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. All 251 passengers and nine crew members died. That was about 9:17 a.m. New York time, or about an hour earlier in Costa Rica. At least six and maybe eight persons are missing on the ground.

The time of day bore an uncanny resemblance to the New York and Washington terrorists attacks, the first of which came about a half hour earlier and also dominated morning television coverage.

Coming just two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the crash caused fears of another hijacking. Giuliani immediately called President Bush to request military fighter air cover for the New York area and the request was granted. Federal authorities also closed New York City airspace and shut down the region's three major airports.

The actions quickly were announced on television worldwide, and business people in Costa Rica 

shuddered, remembering full well the negative 
economic impact when U.S. and Canadian planes were kept on the ground for five days. More than three quarters of the countryís tourists come by plane.

Not only was there a loss of tourism, but perishable products spoiled in wholesale quantities in warehouses and in cargo storage at Juan Santamaría Airport near San José.

As a precautionary measure, New York City officials shut down all bridges and tunnels leading to Manhattan. At the United Nations, where the annual General Assembly meeting of world leaders is underway, no one was allowed to enter the building although those already inside were allowed to stay.

Motor traffic and air traffic resumed by midday.

Near the scene of the crash Mayor Giuliani told reporters about the initial information he received, "During take-off, one observer says he saw an
engine come off and the plane hit the ground. The engine hit one place and the plane hit another. The plane hit a number of homes in Rockaway. As you can see, the fire and the flames are tremendous," said the mayor.

While the cause of Monday's crash is still unknown, U.S. transport officials say early indications point to accidental engine failure, not terrorism. The most current theory of engine failure is backed up by evidence at the scene where one of the planeís two engines fell to earth some distance from the main fuselage.

The New York Times is reporting this morning that a catastrophic engine failure could trigger the collapse of the primary, secondary and tertiary hydraulic systems making the plane impossible to control. The newspaper also said that a failure of parts while the engine was at full thrust for takeoff could shower the aircraft with missile-like metal parts.

Theater group auction earns
enough for air conditioning

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Sunday auction and flea market held by the Little Theatre group, at the Little Theatre in Bello Horizonte, is being called a resounding success.

The good news is that the group has earned enough money to install air conditioning in the theater in time for the Dec. 7 opening of the next production, the dramatic version of "The Nutcracker." The estimate for the air conditioning work was about $4,100, so the group now has some additional money to upgrade the sound and lighting systems, said a spokesman.

More than 100 eager bidders showed up to vie for an assortment of goods donated by local businesses and supporters. Those who got there early got the pick of the second hand books and general flea market merchandise. They could then have coffee and a piece of cake before taking a leisurely look at the offerings in the silent auction and placing low bids. 

Of course, they had to return later to rebid, as things heated up in the afternoon and the bidding 

became quite competitive on a number of items.

One of the highlights of the day was the Tombola, conducted by a colorfully clad Flora Versteeg. For 300 colons (less than $1) one could dip into her basket of sawdust and withdraw a candy. If the candy had a pink sticker with a number, you won a prize. A couple of people were observed buying turn after turn in hopes of getting either a bottle of scotch or the gift basket of chocolate goodies.

"We are delighted with the success and want to thank all of our generous sponsors and all those who attended for making this such a special day," said a Theatre Group spokesperson.

First estimates indicate that the group raised $5,000 to $6,000 which will  go to pay for air conditioning and some lighting or sound system for the theater.

The first performance of the groupís Christmas production "The Nutcracker," the play on which the ballet was based, opens Friday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m. Reservations may be made at 289-3910. The play runs Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7: 30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 9, at 2:20 p.m.

Three more performances are Friday, Dec. 14 and Saturday, Dec. 15, both at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 2:20 p.m.

Some cautions on doing business where the rules are different
By Sheldon Marshall
A guy who has been there

So Paradise beckons. Címon down. This is the Switzerland of America Central, what could be easier or more seductive? A few pointers:

Real estate agents:  There are no rules, regulations governing realtors at all. Anyone can set up their banner and open for business. Realtors cannot transfer property.

Lawyers:  Prudence dictates that any purchaser avail himself of the expertise of a legal representative. Not only will this professional shepherd you through the system and its anomalies, he will also protect you from questionable and even fraudulent practices. Costa Rica has one of the highest lawyer-per-capita ratios on the planet, which means that we have an excess of choice. But wait! The reality or caveat is "buyer beware." 

A cynic has postulated that 60 percent of legal representatives are corrupt, crooked or worse, 30 percent incompetent, and 10 percent competent.  Example: When a purchase is made, often a power of attorney is executed so that the legal representative can file and register the deed. It is not unknown for the holder of the power of attorney ("proxy") to abuse the "poder." An extreme example would be the sale of the property to a new buyer by the 


A matter of opinion
legal representative who then happily ("y sin verguenza" /shame) pockets the proceeds without your knowledge.

In fact, this is perhaps one of the ongoing and standard scams happily lining the pockets of career and pro-active swindlers operating under the guise as a representative and protector of the law. One of the more active exponents of this slimy and parasitical practice maintains his career despite supposedly having been investigated by the authorities. Make sure your legal  representative is well recommended and established. Do not try and save fees in this area as it will usually turn around and bite you where it hurts.

National Registry and "catastros": Extreme caution must be exercised here.  A piece of paper, even covered with officious stamps may be just that ó a piece of paper. Anybody can commission a "plano catastro," a survey plat, and it proves nothing other than the land in question has been surveyed. 

Recently 300 employees from the National Registry were fired or re-assigned for corruption and other abuses of trust. It has been postulated that if all the land registered in the National Registry were to be computed in its entirety, Costa Ricaís land mass would more than quadruple in size!

Precaristas/Usurpadores: Once you have your place in the sun make sure you keep it! There are apparently 20,000-plus outstanding cases of squatting in Costa Rica in a legal system that is hopelessly overloaded. Corruption is said to be rife (as evidenced by the recent events in the National Registry). Puntarenas is said to be leading the pack in the sweepstakes of theft by stealth. 

Whereas the vast preponderance of land theft targets Ticos, theft of land owned by Gringos rewards 
perpetrators with a dubious badge of honor which raises their profile in the subterraneum community where fraud and theft by stealth are viewed with awe and gain prestige. America Economia, a Chilean business magazine, called this practice the "deportivo nacional," or national sport.

A custodian is often the easiest solution, especially if you spend time away from your new home. However, it is advisable to draw up a contract with your new employee as several unfortunate and proud new owners have  discovered upon their return that their employee is not only their new  neighbor but also is claiming ownership.  (Caution, donít let your attorney and new best friend recommend a custodian!)

Above all, let common sense and sensible awareness lead you. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If something doesnít feel right, it probably isnít. Donít let the sun and climate go to your head.  Keep this in mind, and itís a terrific place to be and enjoy. Make the effort to be sensible and pragmatic. In this way you will be well rewarded and you will be making a positive contribution to Costa Rica and your peace of mind.

Editorís: note: A least one company offers a form of land title insurance in Costa Rica.

More bodies of young women continue to turn up in Ciudad Juarez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

The Mexican border city of Juarez, across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, Texas, is once again being shaken by revelations of murderers stalking young women. In the past few days, police have found the bodies of eight young women who had been raped, tortured and killed before having their bodies dumped in fields outside the city. 

The discovery of the decaying corpses near Juarez has led to cries of outrage from women's groups, human rights organizations and other civic entities. Esther Chavez Cano, a leading activist who operates shelters for women in the city, blames the government.

She says the current governor of the State of Chihuahua, Patricio Martinez, campaigned on the issue of fighting crime, but she says that, instead of doing something about this problem, he has tried to cover it up.

Other women activists have also delivered blistering attacks on the state, local and federal governments for their lack of progress in stopping the murders. Since 1993, they estimate 200 some women have disappeared in Juarez. In more than 60 cases, police have found bodies in the nearby desert or in other remote dumping areas. Many of 

the victims are young factory workers who must commute from work at odd hours to poor neighborhoods where they are vulnerable to attack.

In response to the latest discoveries, Manuel Carmona, spokesman for the State of Chihuahua's Attorney General's Office is offering a reward for information. He says a reward of 200,000 pesos, about $22,000, will be paid in cash to anyone who can provide information about these cases.

Many women's organizations say that it is about time the authorities took this problem seriously. Only now, they note, have police started thinking about gathering DNA evidence at the scene of the crimes and from the bodies of the victims. Esther Chavez Cano says the police have shown incompetence and a lack of interest in these cases that involve poor young women, mostly from other states, who came to Juarez to work. 

Three years ago, police in Juarez thought they had solved the string of murders that had put an international spotlight on their city. The arrest and imprisonment of an Egyptian citizen named Abdel Latif Sharif and five bus drivers who were accused of being his accomplices seemed to bring the case to a close. But sporadic killings continued and now, women activists say, it is clear that other murderers are still at large.

from U.S.
in crash
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three U.S. tourists died and a fourth suffered serious injuries Sunday when their vehicle plummeted off a road into a river on the Nicoya Peninsula north and west of Playa Naranjo. 

The names and hometowns of the individuals involved could not be verified Monday. Identifications by police did not appear to be correct and the U.S. Embassy was closed for the U.S. Veterans Day holiday.

Reports from Nicoya said the single-vehicle crash happened when the vehicle fell some 25 feet into the Pilas River between Nandayure and Jicaral. A narrow, one-lane bridge crosses the river there.

The four persons were believed to have been headed south to the beach community of Montezuma. The roads in that area are almost exclusively gravel, although they are much traveled because they link to the passenger ferry dock at Playa Naranjo

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