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(506) 2223-1327               Published Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 248            E-mail us
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Sales for delivery in future are covered
New consumer rules appear to cover developers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Real estate developers who offer proposed projects or projects in development must now comply with strict rules for the protection of consumers.

The rules, which went into effect Oct. 27, requires those offering real estate for sale with delivery at a future date to register with the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio and show they have the financial capability to carry out the project.

The executive decree was signed by President Óscar Arias Sánchez last Aug. 6, but there was hardly any public mention of the new rules.

The decree also covers other broad types of sales to consumers. The decree specifically mentions homes and apartments as well as subdivisions and a host of other commercial and industrial projects.

Costa Rica's recent real estate history is filled with cases where developers promised certain amenities or improvements and never followed through even though some purchasers paid substantial sums.  In some cases, all the developer did was erect a gateway or a welcome center or bulldoze a few roadways.

The new rules also require that purchasers pay for the real estate or services in a proportional way rather than with all the money up front. There also are restrictions on what may be in a sales contract. For example a purchaser cannot surrender his or her rights. Some current contracts required arbitration or require the buyer to hold the seller harmless in case of problems.

Purchasers also have eight working days to back out of the deal. Previously the rule was eight calendar days to rescind.

The ministry said it has received a number of  complaints about abusive practices and contract specifics being unmet. The ministry, in an explanation of the decree, mentions time shares, vacation plans and funeral services, among others.

The decree is No. 35548, which appeared in the Oct. 27 La Gaceta official newspaper.

During the Costa Rican real estate boom some developers set up shop, obtained an option on land and began selling lots, houses, apartments or other real estate that they did not really own and which had not yet been built. Some tried to zero finance
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their projects by accepting substantial sums from purchasers and using the money for development instead of putting the money into escrow. Would-be expats lost millions on such deals, according to complaints directed to A.M. Costa Rica.

The decree also requires a seller to provide his or her exact home address and to assume the obligation to notify purchasers of any changes allowing them to exercise an escape clause.

The rules specify mathematical calculations of the solvency of sellers and what appears to be a complex application process. If ministry employees do not think that the seller has the funds to met the obligations, they are empowered to require additional financial guarantees, according to the decree. The decree also said that the ministry will review contracts.

The ministry also has the right to file complaints against vendors who are not registered.

Developers of projects already in the works have six months to comply with the new regulations, the decree said. The new rules are updates and additions to existing laws and rules which mostly covered just time shares, said the ministry.

The question still remains as to how far the ministry will expand the scope of the law. Many commercial activities anticipate delivery in the future, such as hotel rooms that are reserved some period in advance. Newspaper advertising also is an advance purchase as are new cars.

Since one of the stated purposes of the decree is to reduce fraud, the ministry probably will concentrate on activities where consumers have to put up substantial sums of money.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 248

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Brother seeks witnesses
to missing man's evening


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There has been no developments in the search for missing British tourist Michael George Dixon, so his brother has appealed for any witnesses who might have seen the man the
 
Dixon photo
Michael Dixon
evening of Oct. 18 in Tamarindo.

The brother, David, said that the police investigation is losing momentum, and he had returned to Britain after four weeks of search in Guanacaste.

The Dixon case is one of several in which tourists or expats simply vanish. The best guess is that Dixon was last seen Oct. 19 as he left the Villas Macondo Hotel in Tamarindo for a swim.

"The police in Costa Rica have investigated the matter, without any real clues," said David. "Michael’s family also hired a
private investigator and specialist dogs from the U.S. to help with the search. Sadly we believe that all indications point towards Michael being victim of a crime. We now fear the initial police investigation has lost momentum as we look to continue the search. For instance, we hope that a UK police officer will fly to Costa Rica to provide a fresh look at the investigation."

"He was traveling alone and his belongings were found in his hotel room," said the brother. "Initial theories about a swimming accident have been discounted, and as a very close family, we are absolutely certain that he has not disappeared on his own accord."

The family has set up a confidential hotline for information. It is (+44) 7541-161-093. There is a Facebook site with 2,500  members, the brother said.

The 33-year-old Dixon is described as: Height: 1.70 meters (5-foot, 10-inches). Weight: 65 kilos (143 pounds).  Build: slender. Hair: black short and balding with sideburns. Eyes: light brown. Shoe size: 7 U.S.

Also missing is David Gimelfarb, 28, an Illinois resident, who vanished Aug. 11 after he went hiking alone in Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja, and Ostional expat Greg Snell, who vanished in that community Feb. 18.

Deal reached on bananas
with European Union


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country has reached an agreement on banana exports with the European Union.

Marco Vinicio Ruiz, the minister of Comercio Exterior said he was pleased with the accord after three years of negotiations. The agreement was negotiated by Jonas Store, the Norwegian foreign minister.

The European Union agreed to reduce the import duty on bananas from 176 to 148 euros per ton and then to 114 euros, said Ruiz. The accord includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Perú and Panamá as well as Costa Rica. The countries operated under the standards of the Grupo de Productos Tropicales.

The European countries have established import quotas and duties that favored their former colonies.

It's just a bit chilly

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is no chance of snow, but Costa Ricans in the Central Valley are seeing the beginnings of the annual dose of cold weather and winds. Cartago saw a low of 15 C. Tuesday (59 F.) The area also had winds of 30 kph or about 18.5 mph.  By contrast, Liberia saw a high of 34 C or about 93 F. Tuesday.

Yule ad blackout decreed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There's good news for those sick of political attack ads. The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has decreed a holiday break in advertising, be it television, radio or in print. The blackout starts today.

Political parties and candidates may only air or publish holiday greetings until after New Year's. The election is Feb. 6. Still  politicians can glad-hand. Look for all the major candidates to be in the saddle during the tope or horse parade in San José Dec. 26.

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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 248

Artists and musicians rally today for copyright payments
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Musicians, composers and even some authors will be protesting at Casa Presidencial today against actions by the Arias administration that basically turned the country into a pirate nation with regard to music copyright.

They also are opposing a proposed law now in the legislature that would extend the country's rejection of key elements of two long-standing international intellectual property rights treaties to national law.

The situation basically pits authors, composers and musicians here and international music distribution companies against radio and television stations and any other commercial enterprise that uses songs.

The Arias administration caved in to the electronic media by rejecting sections of two international treaties. Basically the administration said that two key sections no long are the law in Costa Rica.

Protesting today will be the Asociación de Compositores y Autores Musicales de Costa Rica and the Asociación de Artistas Intérpretes y Ejecutantes de Costa Rica. Local musicians stand to receive a portion of an estimated $3 million a year that would be collected from commercial users for playing protected songs and tunes. Some well-known Costa Rican artists are expected to show up. The weekly Consejo de Gobierno is meeting at Casa Presidencial this morning.

The problem started when the Asociación Costarricense de la Industria Fonográfica y Afines began taking steps to collect money for the public use of copyrighted and protected music. For years, radio stations, television  stations and other commercial users had not paid, and they were shocked when the association sought about 2 percent of their gross income for using the material.
The collection of money is authorized by the 1961 Convention of Rome, a 1996 international treaty and a 1982 national law. The Fonográfica organization represents many foreign record companies and artists because the bulk of the world's music is produced outside of Costa Rica.

The Fonográfica association said it negotiated with the electronic and commercial users for three years but that then the central government stepped in and filed what is known as a reserve to the two international treaties. The effect was to lift any kind of intellectual property protection from recorded music and to basically give radio and television stations free rein. There was no announcement before or after the government action, and the local music industry saw the development as President Óscar Arias Sánchez bowing to pressure from the electronic media.

The government later said that the goal was to protect the commercial distribution of culture. The artists group was more direct and said that the truth had been twisted and applied inconsistently. Opponents of the assessment by the music industry claimed that the money being sought was a result of the free trade treaty with the United States, although it is not.

The Fonográfica association said that the government action is contrary to the historical tradition of Latin America and without precedent.

The collection of fees from playing music is well established in developed countries. Even bars and restaurants that use copyrighted music pay fees.

Under the current conditions in Costa Rica, there is no protection for foreign or local artists and their works may be played commercially by anyone without cost. And electronic outlets elsewhere may play music created by Costa Ricans without paying for it.


Security ministry turning red over theft of paint in Pavas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A day after she reported that the country had managed to reduce some crimes, the security minister is described as angry because one of her own police stations has been the scene of a theft.

The minister, Janina del Vecchio said she was not going to accept such an action and that there would be an investigation to find out the guilty parties, according to a report by the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.
The crime is the theft of some 20 gallons of paint from the Pavas police station. The paint was to be used to spruce up the building. The paint was locked up, but had spent two months waiting for workmen to use it. The theft was discovered by the workmen, officials said. Theoretically, the police station is staffed and guarded 24 hours a day.

Ms. del Vecchio vowed to fire any policeman who was involved with the theft.

The regional chief has filed a complaint with the Judicial Investigating Organization, the ministry said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 248

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Contraband eggs return as green turtle hatchlings

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An estimated 2,000 baby turtles have hatched from a salvage effort by members of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas.

The lawmen played foster parents to some 10,000 green turtle eggs that had been confiscated from a man in September.

The eggs were in bad shape with many having been exposed to the sun or infested with fungus, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The coast guard officers got the best looking eggs from the Judicial Investigating Organization and decided to place them in 126 dug nests on Playa Mondonguillo de Matina.

The eggs began hatching this week to the surprise of everyone involved. The thief had the eggs simply packed into bags, said officials.

Turtles and their eggs are protected in Costa Rica, although the creatures sometimes are hunted for their meat or the eggs are dug up.
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Turtle eggs are returned to a sandy nest



Cattle ranchers want central government to intervene to save their lifestyles

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Beef producers want the central government to declare a national emergency for their industry and establish import duties of from 15 to 45 percent.

Representatives of livestock organizations met Tuesday with lawmakers and described the plight of some 40,000 cattle ranchers as bleak.
The representatives of the cattle organizations said that having their members adopt another lifestyle was not an option.  They said that ranching has a long tradition.

Cattlemen, particularly in Guanacaste, have been hit with a drought, and the herds have decreased at the same time that prices have gone down, lawmakers were told. Any import duty would not cover beef imported from free trade treaty countries.



As expected, lawmakers pick one of their own to be defensora de los habitantes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature elected Ofelia Taitelbaum to a four-year term as Defensora de los Habitantes Tuesday. She got 30 votes from the 54 lawmakers present.

Ms. Taitelbaum is herself a legislator, and some had opposed her selection because she is too close to the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration. She and he are members of
the Partido Liberación Nacional. She was not there when the vote was taken.  Daniel Soley Gutiérrez received 22 votes. Later she promised to be independent.

Objection to the new defensora came form the Partido Acción Ciudadana and Movimiento Libertario. The candidates had been subject to review by a nominating committee. The position is to be a national ombudsman for the public.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 248

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China says major nations
rejecting climate pledges


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

China says developed countries are backing away from commitments to help developing countries with the effects of climate change.

As the world's largest developing country, China has made its position on climate change clear.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu Tuesday said one of the major issues is money to help developing nations cope with the effects of climate change.

Jiang says the funds pledged by developed nations so far still fall short of what developing countries expected. She urges developed nations to, in her words, "fulfill their obligations to provide financial support." She calls this a "key condition for the success of the Copenhagen conference."

She said Premier Wen Jiabao is coming to Copenhagen to deliver a speech outlining China's position on climate change and to meet with international leaders on the sidelines of the climate change summit.

Jiang also accused developed nations of abandoning the principle reached in earlier accords, which require them to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but do not make the same requirement of developing countries.

Jiang says developed nations have put forward "a plethora of unreasonable requests for developing countries." She warns that this could hurt negotiations and hamper the Copenhagen conference's ability to produce good results.

Many so-called greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, come from burning fossil fuel such as oil or coal. Climate scientists think accumulated gases are contributing to global warming and weather changes.

The Chinese comments come one day after Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei accused developed nations of creating the problem, and said they are responsible for fixing it.

He especially singled out the United States as a country that has not done its share to help reduce the effects of climate change.

Jiang echoed He's statement, urging developed nations to, in her words "take the lead in emissions reductions."

Energy independence suggested
   
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, minister of the Presidencia and the president's brother, proposed Tuesday that Costa Rica seek energy independence and turn its back on imported petroleum fuels.  He was talking to members of the  Cámara de Exportadores.

Arias said that as soon as 2030 the country should meet its  own energy demands. Now the country supplements its hydro plants with oil-fired generators. The price of such fuels had been a headache in the past.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 248


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Stagno and Arias review
diplomatic achievements


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country will open an embassy in India in the first months of next year, according to the foreign minister.

The minister, Bruno Stagno, was outlining the achievements of the Arias administration during the last four years, including the recognition of the People's Republic of China in lieu of Taiwan in 2007.

Stagno noted that the country had found 19 new international partners. Some of these nations came on board after Costa Rica moved its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The administration has been active in opening up relations with Muslim countries.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez, who was present, recently competed a trip to the Middle East where he met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. It was the first trip to that area by a serving Costa Rican president.

A small country does not necessarily have to have a small foreign presence, said Arias. He said the country was fighting for values that are shared for years and to leave a mark in the world. He said he thought that his administration had left such a mark.

Stagno noted that the administration was the first to take advantage of the Rights of the Sea Treaty and extend the country's undersea limits 200 nautical miles from land.

He also mentioned the mediation by Arias in the political crisis in Honduras which he said had profound implications in all of Central America.

Costa Rica also is serving a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council through this month.

For your international reading pleasure:

News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba
News of Venezuela
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