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(506) 2223-1327                                    San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, Vol. 16, No. 174                                   Email us
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ID verification now may include a fingerprint check
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new system is online that will allow those in business to check electronically the validity of a person's identity.

The system uses the data base of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones to display a photo of an individual if their fingerprint coincides with the information on file.

The system may prevent some cases of property theft by impersonators.

Notaries are being encouraged to use the system to verify the identity of those who appear before them to make real estate or other business transactions.

The system has been working since May, but it has not been publicized widely. The Tribunal is home to the Registro Civil where Costa Ricans go to obtain cédulas de identidad. At the time the identity document is requested, the Registro takes and files a fingerprint.

To use the system, notaries and other business firms have to sign up for a contract with Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the state Internet service, and obtain a device to read fingerprints. Some banks already are using the system.

The U.S. Embassy here has used a similar system for years to obtain prints when foreigners seek visas to the United States.

The proponents for the system assume that notaries are honest. Those who are have an affirmative obligation to check the identities of those who appear before them.


However, a lot of property fraud is the product of crooked notaries who knowingly fake property transfer documents.

And some notaries are arguing about the cost of the system, which can be as much as a U.S. dollar for each verification plus the cost of equipment. They aired their complaints on a judicial blog.
Others say that such a system has been a long time in coming.

Currently, expats are not included in the system, although those who have legal residency already have provided the Direccion General de Migración y Extranjería their fingerprints.

When the fingerprint system gives an electronic alert that the fingerprint and the data stored by the Tribunal do not match, notaries and others in business have to revert to simply checking the cédula presented by the individual whose identity needs to be verified.

The Costa Rican property transfer system goes back to a time when many residents could not read or write. Consequently the procedure is for a seller to appear before a notary, a special kind of lawyer, who then prepares documents based on what the seller says. So there is wiggle room for a crooked notary to simply make up documents.

Notaries also are involved in vehicle transfers, among other transactions.

This was the scene today, Thursday, as downtown workers poured into the streets  and parks to do their part in a simulation of a major earthquake.

Freddy Roman photo

Simulation today is a reminder of what may happen
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The emergency simulation this morning will take some 60,000 persons away from their jobs, but the scenario is a common one: An earthquake of some magnitude that rattles a few metro area buildings.

Such events are common here, and Costa Ricans pretty well know how to act: They go racing into the streets.

The 1991 Limón earthquake jostled some buildings in the downtown, but none fell. The Sept. 5, 2012, Nicoya quake was of the same magnitude, 7.6, but there was no major damage reported in the Metro Area.

By contrast, the 1972 Managua, Nicaragua, quake had just a 6.2 magnitude but devastated that city.

The most damaging earthquake in historical

times here was the one May 4, 1910, in Cartago. From 600 to 1,200 persons died,  and many structures were destroyed. The ruins there of the Templo de Santiago Apóstol are a reminder of that day. That quake was just slightly stronger than the one in Managua later.

Costa Rica has made a lot of progress since the unreinforced masonry buildings collapsed in Cartago. Today buildings can withstand earthquake shock, and business owners who remodel have a shock of their own when inspectors require them to make the building earthquake resistant.

The Cartago quake was well documented, and an anniversary story is HERE!

The simulation today has as a goal to save lives. The national emergency commission and the Municipalidad de San José certainly will be getting the attention of the thousands of workers who participate.

Hacienda Sur
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Manuel Antonio
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