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(506) 223-1327         Published Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 245               E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

Higher values are a result of bull market in real estate
New giant tax bills jolting residents in coastal areas
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's property owners are being hit with soaring tax bills because the real estate boom has created sky-high prices that have filtered down to their homesteads and businesses.

The nation's taxing authority is using those high prices to adjust upwards the assessments on which the quarterly tax bills are based.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Municipality of Cóbano at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Residents there are dumbfounded at the new tax bills.

José Eladio Cortés Castrillo, the municipal mayor, said that the Ministerio de Hacienda studied 54 properties and established values that mean taxes some 1,600 percent higher, particularly for those owners who hold concessions in the zona maritima terrestre, the area between 50 and 200 meters from mean sea level.

The mayor said that a representative from the ministry's Tributación tax agency in Puntarenas visited and later unveiled the new values on which tax assessments are to take place just a week and a half ago.

In the maritime zone the tax rate also fluctuates, the mayor said, based on the value of the property and the use to which the concession land is put. So those with concessions are getting hit from two directions.

Concessions, managed and awarded by the municipality and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, are like long-term leases which allow development but not ownership near the ocean.

Some residents report that their bill shows a tax rate of from 2 to 4 percent of assessed value.

The mayor said, as an example, the owner of a property of 1,400 square meters (about a third of an acre) used to pay about 150,000 colons per year. That's $300 at today's exchange rates.

Now with the new value, the annual tax bill is about 3.3 million colons or about $6,600, said the mayor.

He ought to know. He, too, holds a concession, according to his neighbors.

Long-time residents, many of them North

$  300
Source: Mayor of Cóbano

Americans and Europeans, are used to paying tiny tax bills. They are up in arms and warn that the Tributación calculations could destroy resale values in Costa Rica. They live in communities like Mal País, Santa Teresa and Montezuma. Many have lived there for years.

Mayor Cortés said that similar changes in value are taking place in Garabito where Jacó is located. There, he said, a square meter of land is valued at about $240 while in Cóbano the value is just $150 according to the calculations by the ministry's functionaries. A square meter is a bit less than 11 square feet.

Similar increases in property values have taken place in inland areas such as La Garita, but the changes in beach communities are more dramatic because of the original low values and the triple digit hikes in selling prices.

The mayor said that there is an appeal process for those who think their values are too high. They can have a hearing before the Consejo Municipal.
Some residents report that a neighbor got a tax bill of $35,000. And some of them have contacted lawyers to see what relief they can get.

The Arias administration is seeking to increase the income from real estate as well as earnings. However, legislation in this area has been stalled by the battle over the free trade treaty in the Asamblea Legislativa.

The reassessments, tax rates and higher taxes are believed based on establish law that is just now being enforced. Plus the tax system is based on the assumption that if one property sells for a certain amount, all similar properties have about the same value.

Property owners have the option of reporting the value of their property each year to municipal officials, but few ever volunteer that their properties have increased in value, so Hacienda representatives do surveys of sales and attempt to establish values.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 245

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Our readers' opinions
Capt. Bill also mourned
on windy tip of Cape Cod

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was genuinely saddened to read of old Captain Bill's passing.
I formed a unique, although I can't say close, bond with the old sailor because where I live, North Truro, Massachusetts, is where Captain Bill was born.
Over beers at sundry establishments in and around Parque Morazán, he would grill me about what was going on in town, and what changes were being made. Sometimes he would shake his head in disgust at what I told him. At other times he would grin like the Cheshire Cat when he learned many of the things he remembered of this place at the windy tip of old Cape Cod are still here.
He was glad to hear the Old Colony Tap, the one bar where the few remaining commercial fishermen on the Outer Cape still gather, has not yet given way to the gentrification craze that threatens so many cool places from North Truro to Puerto Viejo.
He was tickled pink when I told him Dutra's Market still stands, still Dutra family owned, in the center of North Truro. He was even happier to hear North Truro Center is still one of those places you could miss while driving through if you were to blink or sneeze.
Old George Dutra, the family patriarch, still works every day in the store and when I told him this morning of Capt. Bill's passing when I went to get my New York Times and morning coffee, he, rather sadly, regaled me with stories of how he and Capt. Bill terrorized this still tiny town when they were kids and teenagers together.
Old George hadn't seen or heard from Capt. Bill in more than 40 years, but it was very obvious he still held his old friend close in his heart. Living here at Land's End has a way of forging very strong friendships between people, especially among the old time townies.
I told old George about the gathering at the New York Bar and we decided that we, at that same time, would go out to the property that abuts old Highland Light, the property where Capt. Bill was born, and take a few minutes to quietly honor a native son of old Cape Cod who came to call Costa Rica home.
Michael Cook
North Truro, Massachusetts

What goes around will
come around for U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Jo Stuart's writing is often thoughtful and entertaining, but I strongly disagree with her recent comments about Iran. Along with the United States, Russia, China, North Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Iran is one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

But the West has nobody to blame but themselves for what Iran has become, and for what's happening all over the region. For generations, the Western countries have meddled in the politics of Iran and the Middle East. They've overthrown governments that resisted the plunder of their oil wealth and supported brutal dictators like Reza Pahlavi, the former Shah of Iran who was a darling of the CIA but was overthrown by the followers of Ayatollah Khomeini in the Iranian revolution of 1979. So now we end up having to deal with the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a sinister and cunning nut job who makes Hugo Chávez look like Mr. Rogers.

Muslims have VERY long memories. For many of them, the Crusades never ended. It's certainly not difficult to understand that mindset. No Western country would ever tolerate the kind of dark, political intrigue and open aggression which the West has visited upon Middle Eastern nations for generations.

All the while, Christian missionaries/evangelists of every stripe have been roaming the Middle East, trying to "convert" Muslims to Christianity. This religious mischief-making has only served to reinforce the feeling among hundreds of millions of Muslims that the West is trying to destroy Islam. Imagine how Christians would react if thousands of Muslim missionaries showed up in Western countries trying to turn people away from Jesus Christ and towards Allah.

And while it may sound commendable, even heroic to spread "democracy" in the Middle East, this is nothing more than a buzz-phrase, the covert translation of which is "secure the oil." Muslims aren't stupid. They KNOW this!

What's worse is that many Westerners don't understand that there is NO separation of church and state under strict Islamic law. To suggest that Islamic countries adopt Western style democracy is, in fact, blasphemy of the highest order in the minds of many Muslims, because no individual or group of individual has the right to oppose the tenets of the Koran, ballots be damned.

But you certainly don't see the U. S. leaning on the Saudi royal family, business buddies and bankrollers of the Bush family for 30 years, to schedule elections any time soon. They don't want to rock the tanker. What's good for the goose, (Iraq), should be good for the gander, (Saudi Arabia), right?

Wrong. We've bombed Iraq half way back to the Stone Age to "create democracy," but American foreign policy is 100 percent hands off when it comes to Saudi Arabia, the single biggest producer of oil and, coincidentally, the biggest financial supporter of Islamic terrorism on the planet and home to most of the 9/11 hijackers.

And what happened to that (alleged) democracy we went into Kuwait to protect/serve/cultivate in 1991? As always, it was about the oil, and about keeping Saddam Hussein from using the weapons the U. S. gave him to wage war on Iran to instead seize the Saudi Arabian oil fields. Now guess who signed and sealed the deal that delivered the weapons to Saddam in the first place? None other than Dapper Don Rumsfeld and Dick "Darth" Cheney, the architects of the worst military campaign since the Battle of Bull Run and the authors of biggest pack of lies about the justification for a war since the Gulf of Tonkin. The NeoCons giveth and the NeoCons taketh away.

And now, 1,000 years after the Crusades, the West is getting caught in the blowback of its own covert/not so covert mischief, machinations and transparent slogan mongering. The Jihad is a psychotic manifestation of one of the truly immutable laws of the Universe: "What goes around, comes around."

Sooner or later, Iran will have to be dealt with. How this plays out and who the players will be remains to be seen, but hopefully cooler heads than Bush, Cheney and Ahmadinejad will prevail.
Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 245

pineapple pickers

Pineapples have brought an economic bonus to the northern zone where packers like those above can find jobs. The sprawling fields, this one protected from weeds by a film of plastic, have been controversial due to chemical runoffs.

pineapple fields
Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería photo

Northern zone growers get $2 million incentive to produce organic pineapples
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pineapple growers are getting a financial incentive to produce exports that can be called "organic."

The Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería said Monday that a deal had been signed to allocate $2 million toward organic pineapple production. Some $300,000 more is being directed to an estimated 400 smaller producers to improve their methods with technical assistance.

The vast pineapple fields have come under criticism for the runoff of agricultural fertilizers and sprays. Although all
pineapples are organic, the term is now used to describe products grown without added chemicals.
The agreements announced Monday are between the ministry, the Programa Agroindustrial de Desarrollo para la Zona Norte y Chorotega and the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo. Ministry officials said that European markets have a preference for organic products, including pineapples, and that the investments would allow Costa Rican growers to exploit that niche.  Some 80 percent of the production under the Programa Agroindustrial de Desarrollo goes to Europe, officials said. Just 20 percent heads north to the United States.

Next year the organization's growers expect to export 1,800 shipping containers of their products. Each container holds 1,400 boxes of 12 kilos each or nearly 40,000 pounds of pineapples.

Man who shot intruder deported from U.S. to face charge of homicide here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican man accused of murdering a thief who broke into his house here was deported from Florida under the eye of the International Police Agency Monday morning. 

The suspect, Cheong Ming Ng Tse, was arrested in October. He was wanted for a homicide in 2000. The victim, Luis Alvarado, was attempting to steal at Ng's house in Cuatro Reinas, Tibas, when the homeowner confronted him, according to news reports at the time. Ng fled to Guatemala
and crossed illegally into the United States in 2005 according to the International Police Agency

The suspect was apprehended in Orlando, Florida, Oct. 31. The contemporary news reports said Alvarado was attempting to steal Ng's car and was shot while on the property. Alvarado fled and died minutes later outside of the property, said the reports.

Costa Rica does not have a "make my day" law that prohibited prosecution of a homeowner who defends his life or property. Some U.S. states do.

Girl hit accidentally during gunfight hospitalized in stable condition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An 8-year-old girl is in Hospital Nacional de Niños after being gravely wounded in crossfire between police and two car theft suspects Saturday, according to judicial officials.

The two suspects, who have the last names of Castillo Silva and Alvarez Orozco, are believed to be the men being chased by police after they robbed a vehicle according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. Shots ensued as the
chase sped into Ciudadela Leon XIII. It was there the girl was shot in the head said officials.

The girl was reported to be conscious, in stable condition, and supported by an oxygen machine Monday afternoon.

What prompted the chase was the hold-up and robbery of a man's car, said officials. The men have been given six months of preventative prison. according to the Poder Judicial.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 245

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New postal issue commemorates Esquipulas II peace accord
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Correos de Costa Rica put into circulation Monday a pair of stamps that commemorate the Esquipulas II accords in which Óscar Arias Sánchez helped bring peace to Central America. This is the 20th anniversary of the accords.

The twin stamp shows the front and back of the Nobel Peace Prize medallion that was awarded Arias in 1987. Some 160,000 stamps or 80,000 pairs are being put into circulation at the central post office in downtown San José and the 22 branches that sell stamps as collectibles. The stamps have a value of 135 colons, some 27 U.S. cents and the price to send a letter throughout the country.

This is the last new stamp issue of the year. Collectors might be interested to know that some 1,000 pairs have been affixed to first day covers, and they also are for sale by the postal service. The cover or envelope carries a sketch of a peace dove and also a map of Central America showing the countries that subscribed to the accords.
Nobel Prize stamps
Examples of the twin Esquipulas II stamps

The peace agreement ended the civil war in Nicaragua and helped hasten the end of hostilities in El Salvador and Guatemala. Both Costa Rica and Honduras had been affected by the Nicaraguan war, which pitted the Sandinista government against the so-called contras.

Archaeologists find prehistoric stone sphere in place and guess at its significance
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Archaeologists from the Museo Nacional have turned up a stone sphere at a location that suggests the use of the unusual rocks were as a sign of rank or prestige.

The discovery comes at a site on what is called Finca 6 in the Canton de Osa. The archaeologists said they expected the sphere was there because a similar one was located nearby in 1993.

The unusual aspect is that the sphere was found in place and had not been moved. Hundreds of the stone spheres of all sizes have become decorations at homes in the area and in the Central Valley.

The sphere was marking an access ramp to a circular structure some 30 meters (about 98.5 feet) in diameter. The sphere itself, just like the 1993 discovery is 1.1 meters in diameter or 3.6 feet. The 1993 sphere holds down the other side of the ramp, leading excavators to suspect the new discovery would be where they found it.
No one really knows the use of the spheres, except that hundreds were made from the rock of the rivers that drained the Talamanca highlands.  The mounds that represent the remains of structures have been dated to the Chiriquí period from 800–1500 A.D.

The archaeological site has been covered in sediment by the periodic flooding of the nearby Río Térraba. Scientists have been making excavations in the area since the 1940s, and the 1993 find came to light because workers were putting in an irrigation line.

The spheres require no mystical abilities to create. Craftsmen in the area make smaller versions every day as tourist souvenirs.

Then as now the craftsman simply pecks away the stone of the sphere with another rock. The principal required ingredient is patiences.

The discovery was outlined by employees of the museum over the weekend in a press release.

Donation of lot at hospital in Grecia to advance plan for new emergency facilities
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A piece of proposed legislation would clear the way for construction of a new emergency room at the Hospital San Francisco de Asís in Grecia.

The 51-year-old hospital needs new emergency services because of the growing population, said Gladys González Barrantes, the lawmaker who proposed the legislation.

The measure, if passed, would empower the Ministerio de
Salud to donate a lot to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The Caja operates the hospital, and plans already are underway to build a tower that would include an emergency area, lawmakers were told.

Both agencies signed an agreement in 1996 with the idea of expanding the hospital. The area has some 203,000 residents, and the main sending areas would be Grecia, Naranjo, Poás, Valverde Vega and the northwest part of Atenas, said the lawmaker. The hospital handled some 180,000 cases in 2006.

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