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(506) 223-1327          Published Monday, Nov. 13, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 225        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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It's the law, officials say
Registro Nacional turns its back on obvious frauds
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Registro Nacional confirmed its policy last month of turning its back on fraud.  The government institution stated in its publication “Materia Registral” that fraud is the exclusive responsibility of the courts and not of the Registro Nacional. The ruling came from the administrative directorate of the organization.

Property records at the Registro Nacional are under daily attack by fraudsters.  The director, Roger Hidalgo Zúñiga, is under suspension while a thorough study of strange property transactions takes place.

However, the organization does not feel legal matters, like transferring property fraudulently, are its problem.

Recently, a person representing a company affected by an illegal property transfer wanted the Registro Nacional to object to the registration of a property.  The transaction involved a double transfer: First to Company A and then to another company, B.

The notary presenting the documentation was under suspension and the sale to Company B preceded the sale to Company A.

The Registro did not stop this obvious funny business and let the property transfers go through.

During the last weeks of August, another group was trying hard to put a fast one over on the Registro, and the effort almost succeeded. However an aggressive lawyer put a stop to the foul play.   The people in the property division of the recording office did nothing to help.

According to the Registro Nacional, by law, workers cannot solicit current information regarding the current status of public notaries.  The agency also states, by law, it cannot question information regarding who is the rightful owner of a property upon its sale, only upon its presentation to the registry.  This is why they did not stop the property transfer in the example above.

The Registro Nacional is the official registry of lands of Costa Rica.  However, the agency states that to insure judicial security, it cannot act alone to police property trafficking.  They can only collaborate and cooperate in the team effort to control the activity.

The members of the team are notaries, the courts and the registry.  The Registro states none of the members can weaken the system by doing the job of the others.  Thus in their conclusion they are not responsible to stop illegal property transfers even if such funny business is obvious, because this is not their job.

The Registro’s responsibility is limited to inscribing documents that meet the legal requirements of registration. If a document has a misplaced comma, the Registro will reject it. But workers are not responsible for questioning the job of notaries because this would mean invading their space.  Registry people are qualifiers not police persons, they say.

Registro reponse to obvious property fraud

The courts exist to do the policing, the Registro says. 

Under Costa Rican law, article 480 of the Civil Code, states that only an agreement between parties is necessary for a transaction to be complete. No ceremony or even inscribing the act in the national registry is necessary.

The registration of documents at the Registro Nacional is to protect third parties by providing a place where others can view transactions.   It is the responsibility of notaries to make sure they are correct and of the courts to insure they are honest. Of course the courts are overwhelmed, and some notaries are crooked.

All this boils down to the fact that workers at the Registro Nacional will not place an administrative alert on a property transaction without an order from a court even if the deal is obviously fraudulent.
Workers there will not check on notaries to be sure they are current and not under suspension or verify that the person presenting a property for registration is, in fact, a notary.

The Registro Nacional will only annotate properties with an alert where the institution itself makes an error in registration.

In summary, there are three parts to the property transfer puzzle, not one. This entity wants people off its case and points fingers at the other two components. 

For property buyers, this means taking extra doses of due diligence and protecting real estate with mortgage certificates and voluntary immobilizations to avoid fake sales and transfers.

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, Nov. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 225

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A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
A young man salvages what he can from the Ave Fénix restaurant in San Pedro. The popular 20-year-old Chinese restaurant burned down Saturday from a fire that started in the kitchen about 5:30 p.m.

Home for aged planning
celebration for 7th year

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fundación Angel de Amor, a favorite charity of expats in Costa Rica, will celebrate the seventh anniversary Dec. 10 of the home for the aged that it maintains in Guápiles.

The celebration will include a march and religious service because Alexis Barquero, the director, said it took an act of God to get permissions from the Ministerio de Salud. The foundation has been in conflict with the ministry for years. At one time the ministry wanted 24-hour nursing care for the home with just eight residents, something the foundation said it could not afford.

The day will begin with a march for Jesus from the central Park in La Rita de Pococí to the home nearby. A concert will follow.

Expats became involved when the organization started as the Tom and Norman Home. Originally residents were AIDS sufferers at a time when the government did not supply medication or support for those with this disease. Eventually, the government took over AIDS treatment and the home began to receive unwanted elderly, mostly persons found on the street.

More information is available on the organization's Web site.

Former pastor kills
daughter then himself

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who had been a pastor of an evangelical church in Limón pulled out a pistol and fatally wounded his 26-year-old daughter at a bus stop in La Colina de Limón Sunday morning. Then he turned the pistol on himself and died from a wound to the head.

The man was identified as Juan Antonio Barrera, 53. The daughter was Maritza Elizabeth Barrera.

The man left his church post and was working as a taxi driver, officials said.

Saprissa fans attack
passing bus with rocks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Youngsters in Pavas who were upset by the loss by the Saprissa soccer team attacked, stoned and inflicted heavy damage on a bus carrying fans Sunday afternoon.

The Brujas team defeated Saprissa 2-0, and some Brujas fans were believed to be on the bus.

At least six Saprissa fans were detained by police. Most were underage.

The fans on foot began by heaving rocks at the bus. At the end of the melee all the windows of the bus were shattered. Some passengers, also mostly young men, suffered cuts.

There were reports that shots were fired, but no one reported being wounded by bullets. Police confiscated several knives.

Suspect dies in shootout
during kidnapping arrest

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents and police shot it out with suspected kidnappers Friday. One suspect died, a second suffered injuries and a law officer also was injured.

The man who died was McGordon Kirkpatrick, said Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization.  Agents attempted to arrest him in Birri de Heredia when the shootout took place. The man and a female companion were getting into a taxi when police confronted them

The companion, identified by the last name of Powell, was hospitalized as was an agent of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional.

Rojas identified the dead man as the leader of a band of kidnappers. He said he was Jamaican. Two other Jamaicans came into custody in Desamparados de Alajuela. They have the last names of Smith and Gordon, Rojas said.

Rojas said the gang was involved in a kidnapping Aug. 17 in Sabanilla and another Aug. 24 in Tres Rios, as well as a third Sept. 14 in Tibás.  Relatives paid about $15,000 to rescue the kidnap victims in each case, officials said.

Bandits break into home

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman motorist opened the portón or gate to her home Thursday night in Guachipelín de Escazú and four robbers barged in.

The men tied up the woman, her husband and a domestic employee and looted the home. They took their booty away in two of the cars owned by the homeowners, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 225

Amnet standoff ends safely for hostages and even suspects
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An attempted holdup at the Amnet cable company office in San Pedro Saturday  quickly degenerated into a hostage situation. And it spotlighted the generous policies of the country's prison system.

Two of the three suspects finally detained by police have prior robbery convictions. One just got out of prison after serving a term for robbery, and one was on weekend leave from prison.

The robbery was foiled because one of four employees was in a break room, hid, notified police and kept in touch by cellular telephone. Police surrounded the facility, which is just south of Avenida Principal and the Fuente de Hispanidad.

Shortly after police arrived, a man came from the building and told officers that the robbers had left. Thanks to the employee inside on the telephone, officers were able to determine this was not the case.

Local police were beefed up by the Unidad de Intervención Policial and the Unidad Especial de Apoyo, tactical squads of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.
The incident began about 1:30 p.m., and police blocked traffic on the Circuvalación highway that runs nearby and local roads in the area. Eventually a private guard who works at the Amnet facility came out of the building still wearing his own handcuffs that the robbers had placed on him.

A little while latter, the female manager of the local office called police to say that the robbers were ready to surrender. They were led away individually with their shirts covering their faces.

The suspects were identified by the last names of  Morales Rosario, a Dominican with residency in Costa Rica, and Miranda Vásquez and Ramírez Cupidón, both Costa Ricans.

The ministry said that Morales got out of prison three months ago after serving a term for armed robbery. He is believed to have served about four years. Miranda is the man who still is a prisoner but allowed to spend weekends outside his cell. He leaves Friday and is supposed to be back in custody Monday morning.

Ramírez is known to officers but does not have a criminal record, they said. Rafael Gutiérrez, a former policeman and  now vice minister of Seguridad, took personal charge of the situation.

Have you ever gotten so drunk that your face hurt?
Estar hasta la cara me duele.

“To be at the point where your face hurts.” This dicho does not refer to a bad automobile accident where a person’s head went crashing through the windshield of a car, although one might indeed have the feeling that it actually did. What we’re talking about here is what happens to a person after a night of partying and drinking big time. In other words, it is a way of describing a hangover of epic proportions, a New Year’s Day kind of thing, if you get my meaning.

There are a couple of ways to use this expression: You might say of yourself, for example, Estoy hasta la cara me duele meaning that you are so hung over that your face hurts. Or, you might refer to your friend Peter, who is drunk at this moment, by saying Pedro está hasta la cara me duele  or “Peter is so drunk that it makes my face hurt,” which is to say that you understand just how hammered Peter has become and you are speaking of him in a more or less sympathetic way.

While we’re on the subject of over imbibing potent potables, a few other useful expressions come to mind; esta socado, esta hasta la cincha, esta jumao, esta hasta la mecha. All of these refer to someone who is drunk. Most people when they are tipsy not only look sort of stupid to the rest of us, they appear to act rather silly — that is, of course, unless everyone else in the room happens to be inebriated as well. So all of these expressions have to do with drunks as silly, stupid objects of derision.

Now, I’m not passing any moral judgments here. I don’t think anyone would place temperance among my meager virtues. Everyone is entitled to do a little tippling now and again. But it is true that strong drink can make people do some pretty amazingly foolish things.

I had a favorite uncle who was a heavy drinker. He lived a roaring life and always played the carefree rogue to the hilt. But he was also good-hearted, generous to a fault and loved us kids, even though I can’t remember ever seeing him when he didn’t appear to be several sheets to the wind, as it were.

When I was in my second year at the Universidad de Costa Rica I chanced to meet him on the street in downtown San José. He was happy to see me, as usual, and gave me one
of his big bear hugs. He offered to buy me something to drink at a nearby pub, but when I ordered a beer, he balked.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

“No!” he said. “I will not pay for you to drink beer.”

“But uncle,” I protested, “I am old enough to drink! I can order a beer if I want to.”

“Not in my presence!” he flatly declared. So, not wishing to upset him further, I changed my order to a soft drink. But, of course, I was curious why he, being such a confirmed drinker himself, had taken strong exception to my knocking back a beer.

He told me he’d started drinking when he was very young, and even though his father had warned him of the consequences of his behavior, he refused to listen. By the time he realized that his drinking was driving him toward utter destruction, it was too late to stop. He did not wish to see me follow in his soggy footsteps.

A few short years later, when he was lying in a hospital bed dying of cancer, I went often to visit him and to listen to his many family stories of the “old days.”

In fact, those stories have proven to be a treasured source of subject matter for this column. I still miss him a lot, and, though I didn’t renounce drink altogether as he might have wished, his admonishment has encouraged me to practice moderation in my consumption of alcoholic beverages.

The day of my uncle’s funeral all the bars in San José closed to mark the sad occasion. But alas, it was a rather empty gesture coming, as did his own admittedly delayed insight, far to late to save him.

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A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 13, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 225

The young shooters from the Hogar María whose work will be on display.

Photos by the Museo Histórico Dr. Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia

10 children are the artists
behind new photo show

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Photography is not held in as high esteem as an art form as other media of expression, but digital and throwaway versions do have advantages.

For one thing, children can learn to use them without much effort. And children have that necessary eye that adulthood sometimes clouds.

The Galería Manuel de la Cruz González of the Museo Histórico Dr. Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia in Barrio Escalante will be hosting an exhibit of some 40 photos done by youngsters at the Hogar María in San Pedro de Montes de Oca. Titled "Nuestro Mundo," our world, the project has goals beyond art.

Sonia León, the photographer who is directing the project, said that it "contributes to developing the identity of the youngsters and their sense of belonging to a community." In all there are 28 photos taken by 10 youngsters at the home. The project direction also involved a psychologist from the home. This is the second consecutive year for the project. The show starts Nov. 20.

The museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is 100 meters north and 100 meters east of the Iglesia Santa Teresita on San José northeast side.

A child is captured considering his identity

This one is titled, simply, 'Smile'

Conference here will consider the modern role of the press
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has invited more than 100 persons prominent in various specialties from throughout the Americas to meet this Wednesday and Thursday in San José for a hemisphere conference on the role of the press in modern times.

The Hemisphere Conference on Journalism Values in the 21st Century will feature an exchange of divergent views on just what the news media’s role should be in society. Association President Rafael Molina and other officers and board members of the organization will be among those taking part.

Federico Mayor Zaragoza, founding president of the Culture of Peace Foundation, will chair the event. He is former director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and in 1998 was the first person to be awarded the association's Chapultepec Grand Prize. Costa Rica’s president, Óscar Arias Sánchez, is also expected to attend the conference’s official opening ceremony.

The two-day event will follow the Socratic model — the presentation of knowledge in the form of questions or of a specific situation. The moderator will be Drew Days III,
professor of law at Yale University Law School and former U. S. solicitor general during the Clinton administration.

Following the introductory exercise participants will break off into roundtables to discuss issues impacting journalists, such as impartiality; the definition of the role of the press in a free or repressive society and in times of war; editorial independence; conflict of interest over relationships with advertisers and/or the government; news leaks and protection of sources; the quest for truth and accuracy, and privacy for public figures.

The conference, which is open to participants by invitation only, is being held under the association's Chapultepec Project which began in 1994 with the Hemisphere Conference on Freedom of Expression. At that time the Declaration of Chapultepec, a 10-point document setting out principles for free speech and press freedom, was drafted.

The results of this fourth hemisphere event will establish the bases for the next phase of the project, which is funded by the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.

The Chapultepec Project has also included the Hemisphere Summit on Justice and Press Freedom in the Americas, held in 2002, and the Hemisphere Summit of National Legislatures in the Americas on Press Freedom, in 2004.

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