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These stories were published Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 242
Jo Stuart
About us
Phone room invites North American buyers
Mass marketing techniques for real estate here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Pacific beach area seems to be getting the same kind of mass marketing of real estate experienced in the past by Arizona, Vail, Colo., Las Vegas, Nev., and even Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

A phone room in Florida is inviting North Americans to visit Costa Rica and to consider the area as an investment and/or retirement.

Internet marketeers also are bombing the public with colorful photos of Costa Rica.

One offer arrived in electronic mailboxes here Sunday titled "Ocean View Properties Available in Costa Rica." 

The curious aspect of the mailing Sunday was that it did not carry a name of a company, just the name of the marketing firm, Performance Offers Network of Boca Raton, Fla.

The Internet promotion tends to simplify the daily frustrations that expats here face:

"Our company sells individual corporations (S.A.) which has as its asset raw land in proximity to growth areas. The format is a Costa Rican corporation. You have the ability, as property values increase to subdivide land into 1/4 acre sites. Thus realizing gain for the sale of a home site. Improved property sells for higher prices because the improvements inherently increase the value." 

The e-mailing also says: 

• water supply is abundant 
• power - 92% Hydro, 6% geo and 2% other 
• fully redundant electrical grid 
• both hard line telephone and cellular service
      are available

Residents here know that there is a big, expensive gap between having services available down the road instead of at the property line.

The company says that acre lots are available for $19,500.  The e-mail seeks contact data. 

The Internet mail uses many of the same graphics as a Web site for Paragon Properties of Costa Rica S.A. Paragon has been the subject of a number of messages and telephone calls to A.M. Costa Rica by would-be investors and retirees.

However, Paragon officials have not returned repeated messages left by reporters. A reporter visited the office listed by Paragon in The Forum office park in Santa Ana Monday only to have an employee there say Paragon is not a tenant. Office workers at Paramount International in the same building referred the reporter to a telephone number said to be in Parrita.

Just south of Parrita is the site where the company says on its Web page that it has land for sale. 

Those North Americans who called the newspaper were concerned because Paragon wants them to post earnest money before offering them a free trip to Costa Rica.

Paragon is a registered Costa Rican corporation.

The Paragon Web name and site was registered May 18 for a year by Hostarica, S.A., a Web hosting company in the Central Valley.

The Web page is linked to that of the government’s Consejo Nacional de Concensiones and its summary of the proposed San José - Caldera highway. Neither Web page mentions the troubles getting a concessionaire to build the two-lane highway.

The Paragon Web page shows three stages of the project. Stage one (about 140 lots) and stage two (about 84 lots) are sold out, the Web page says. Stage three shows 162 lots with just one small green area. There is no mention of sewers, utility easements, drainage or how the subdivision would be governed if the lots are built out or left vacant.

The Web site contains a link to a 12-page electronic brochure. In it, a person who identifies himself as Inri Robles Kelly, a fifth generation Costa Rican, says that a million Americans have relocated to Costa Rica. The country only has a population of a little more than 4 million.

The brochure is heavy on photos and upbeat descriptions of Costa Rica. There is little information about the land being sold. A question section contains these answers that appear to be evasive:

"What about public utilities? Water, electric and telephone service are available throughout all the cities in Costa Rica."

"How long has Paragon been in business? Inri Robles and his family have been involved in Costa Rican real estate for over 50 years."

There are aspects the brochure and the Web page do not mention. To live in a house in Parrita, a homeowner would have to have the legal right to be in the country. That can be a difficult task, as every pensionado and rentista knows.

Paragon was registered as a sociedad anonima or corporation, according to the Registro Nacional. And there have been no reports of unhappy visitors who could not get back the money they posted with the firm.

Mass marketing of raw land, condos and time shares elsewhere have had mixed results. Some high pressure Arizona operations ended up on "60 Minutes," the CBS investigative television show.

Elsewhere owners have experienced satisfactory appreciation, although most real estate professionals would agree that success depends on the quality of the development and management company.

Local real estate agents have mixed feelings about the mass marketing. Some think that promotion of Costa Rica will stimulate their business. Others fear lot buyers will be disappointed if they try to build under the uncertain Costa Rican bureaucracy.

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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
The Christmas fiesta got off to a good start Monday night on San José pedestrian mall. There was music and a chance to cover a friend, family members or complete strangers with confetti. Here Melissa
and Carolina Arguedas Sánchez get in the spirit.

Get your track shoes on,
the bull ring is coming

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Time to limber up for the bull baiting. The Municipalidad de San José has again given the green light to contractors constructing a bull ring for the Christmas carnival in Zapote.

So it looks like the ring will be finished in time for hundreds of Costa Ricans and a few foreigners to test their courage against big bulls. And, as usual, the event will be televised all over the hemisphere.

The event is the ultimate in reality shows. Hundreds of so-called provisional bull fighters enter the ring. This is not Spain and the bullfighters are wearing track shoes.

And they better be because soon a ton-plus of bull is let into the same ring.

Most bulls demonstrate confusion when let into a big ring under bright lights with a hundred or more humans standing around.

The confusion gives way to annoyance the first time someone slaps the bull on the rump steak.

This is not "Ferdinand" and the bull’s not into picking flowers. The bull charges any moving object. Some television viewers root for the bull. It’s also not "Death in the Afternoon." The bull gets away alive.

The humans give way as the bull charges. Some brave souls leap into the stands for protection. Others leap at the bull. 

A couple of times an evening a bull catches up with a tormentor. The annoying human is thrown into the middle of next week. Sometimes there is grave injury, but not to the bull.

One provision bull fighter was immortalized three years ago when La Nación the next day published a Page One photo of a ton-and-a-half bull doing a Texas two-step on his head.

The event is open to anyone. 

Italian free trade zone
possible for Caribbean

By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Elegant Italian shoes may soon be made in Limón.  The creation of a free trade zone in the Caribbean region has been one of the main subjects discussed at Contatto Italia, an event organized by the Italian Embassy and Italian companies interested in manufacturing in Costa Rica. 

Italian companies believe that their production costs would be considerably reduced if they set up their factories in Costa Rica.  For example, they cite the fabrication of parts of leather shoes.  The factories would not be required to pay tax, but would use the country’s infrastructure. This will potentially create jobs and bring concessions to Costa Rica. The Italian areas of Ventetto and Lombardia have already shown an interest in establishing a free trade Italian zone that would probably be located in Limón. 

Antonio Ferrario, the president of the Italian - Costa Rican Chamber of Industry and Commerce said that the location has been well thought out as it is very close to the ports. He also said this avoids any problems of transportation that may be encountered regarding the poor roads in Costa Rica. Ferrario said he believes that this project could take at least five years of development. 

The Italian bank Sella has also participated in Contatto Italia.  The bank intends to enter the country to financially support companies that are looking to invest in Costa Rica.  Transactions would be carried out in Euros. At present there are no Italian banks, and very few banks that exist in Costa Rica are open to lending money to foreign investors. 

Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Solís dodges bullet when deputies fail to have quorum
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa failed to reach a decision Monday on the case of contralor general Alex Solís because not enough lawmakers showed up.

Only 34 deputies showed up of the 57 in the legislature. To fire Solís would require 38 votes against him.

So lawmakers postponed the decision until a week from Monday. Some observers noted that the assembly is scheduled to go on Christmas vacation Dec. 17, so lawmakers could duck the issue for the rest of the year by failing to have a quorum next Monday.

Solís is a legislative appointee. He was hired in June. His job is to supervise the fiscal watchdog agency that reviews contracts and expenditures, similar to the General Accounting Office of the U.S. Congress.

The agency is known for its distinctive office tower in Sabana Sur.

Solís ran into trouble shortly after his election when some lawmakers produced documents that he had notarized. Solís admitted in a television interview that he forged signatures to the document and then applied his notary stamp to validate them. This is illegal.

His defenders point out that Solís did these acts with the knowledge and consent of his family members whose signatures he forged. In all, there are 34 cases verified by  experts of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The political picture becomes more complex because Solís is the brother of Ottón Solís, the likely presidential candidate for the Partido Acción Ciudadana.

The vote Monday was expected to go against Solís.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
San José got a show Monday night when Christmas festivities were inaugurated at the Museo de Niños. Sky rockets could be seen from all over town.
Mining company rejects
claims from the Internet

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Glencairn Gold Corp. has dismissed as irresponsible and erroneous statements made on the Internet by opponents of the company.

A group or individual identified by the e-mail name Comite Canadien has been trying to link gold mining in Costa Rica to the current scandal involving three former presidents as well as an unfounded legal claim which seeks to challenge certain permits for the Bellavista mine.

"These actions are simply the latest step in a campaign by a small number of long time opponents of the Bellavista mine which is intended to delay the construction and operation of the mine," said Terry Knoll, company president.  "There are no grounds whatsoever for the allegations made by this group. These same individuals have previously tested several of these issues through the courts and by administrative means and have completely failed. . . . "

The Comite declined to provide A.M. Costa Rica with evidence to substantiate its claims last week.

The Bellavista mine is in Montes de Oro near Miriamar on the Pacific coast west of San José. The company said that it expected to begin producing gold in the first quarter of next year. The project is controversial because cyanide will be used to leach gold from rocks.

Jamaica loosens its ban on beef imported from the United States
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture has lifted its ban on U.S. beef products, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Jamaica had originally imposed the ban to reduce the risk of importing beef products contaminated by bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. Costa Rica continues to maintain a ban.

The United States has adopted rigorous safety 

measures to eliminate possible mad cow infections from its beef products. 

"In response to a finding of BSE in December 2003, the United States has implemented several new regulatory measures to further strengthen the food safety system and assure consumers of wholesome meat products," said Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman. "These include immediately banning non-ambulatory animals for human consumption, prohibiting specified risk materials and strengthening meat-processing safeguards."

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Climate-change specialists happy about Kyoto approval
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — More than 6,000 delegates from 194 nations have gathered here for the 10th annual United Nations Convention on Climate Change. Monday's opening ceremony allowed participants to reflect on recent accomplishments and look to the future.

The Climate Change Convention will be the last before the Kyoto Protocol officially takes effect in February. The environmental community is still glowing from the recent decision by Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol which made it legally binding. The convention's executive secretary, Joke Waller-Hunter of The Netherlands, addressed the convention Monday and congratulated delegates for their achievements.

". . . we celebrate two major milestones in the climate change process," she said. "The 10th anniversary of the entry into force of our convention and the forthcoming entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. Both milestones provide us with renewed political momentum giving us an excellent opportunity to look back with pride and look forward with hope."

The United States and Australia are the only two large developed countries which have not signed onto the accord, which requires participating nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent. The U.S. and Australia account for one-third of the world's gas emissions. 

U.S. senior climate negotiator Harlan Watson made it clear in his address during the opening ceremony that the Bush administration's stance was unlikely to change during the course of the two-week conference. 

"Many here today are looking forward to the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force. The United States have chosen a different path, and I want to make clear that we are taking substantial actions," he said. "The United States remains committed to the framework convention and we are doing much to contribute to its objective."

Without U.S. support of the Kyoto Protocol, much of the conference will likely focus on what environmental standards will be put into place after the Kyoto accord runs out in 2012. Delegates will also likely examine just how much climate change the planet can handle and what other processes can be implemented to slow global warming. 

Greenpeace is one of the dozens of non-governmental agencies attending the conference. Monday morning 2,000 Greenpeace activists unveiled a giant ark in front of Buenos Aires landmark Obelisco to draw attention to the world's environmental problems.

Greenpeace international climate campaigner Stephanie Tunmore says her agency plays a vital role during these U.N. negotiations. 

"I think it is for the NGO community to actually shine the spotlight on," she said. "This is what climate change means. There are millions of people who will lose their lives, that's what it means, more storms, more floods, more hurricanes, it means the ice sheets melting, you now keep this in your mind when you start to negotiate, its not all about national interest, this is a global problem, we need a global solution."

A global solution to global warming is still far from fruition, but delegates seem optimistic that their recent accomplishments will help advance the effort.

Jo Stuart
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