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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 243
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Expats have their own lists of human rights violations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Defensoría de los Habitantes is launching a campaign in defense of human rights in Costa Rica. The campaign celebrates the U.N.-sponsored Human Rights Day, which is Saturday this year.

The Defensoría, the nation's ombudsman, has put out a call for various sectors of the population to promote the importance of human rights and defend them.

Here are some gripes that expats have that border on violations of their rights:

1. Even though Costa Rica has agreed to treaties with developed countries providing equal treatment for licensed motor vehicle drivers, current rules prevent a foreigner from obtaining a valid license until some form of residency is granted. Consequently, even with paperwork in process, expats have to leave the country every 90 days to keep their foreign licenses valid.

2. A proposed law seeks to eliminate the higher prices charged foreigners in admissions and even restaurant menus. The so-called Gringo pricing, the object of many complaints, may be outlawed. Or maybe not.

3. Those few expats who become involved in a court process quickly find out that the criminal system is a mess. That includes cases for property fraud and even child support. And civil cases take even longer.

4. Any expat unlucky enough to be sent to prison quickly learns that crime is rampant even inside the bars and that the facilities are overcrowded and deteriorated. One expat from Jacó complained that his cell was open to infestations of mosquitoes. International organizations, including the U.S. State Department, have noted the sorry state of the prisons here. The government's response was to try to release thousands of criminals.

5. The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social is a mess, too. Long waits to get  numbers in order to wait even longer are the norm. Expats generally find that routine medical treatments are good once they get to them. But getting care from a specialist might take years. Under current law, expats with residency have to contribute to the Caja even though many hold other medical insurance policies for use at private hospitals. One suggestion has been to allow expats to

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purchase equivalent medical policies from the Instituto Nacional de Seguros.

6. Potholes should be a matter of human rights. They cause injury and even death. An expat swerved on a bridge in Guanacaste and provoked an explosion and deaths. At the very least potholes and other road problems cost expats uncounted amounts of money in repairs each year.

7. And then there are the killer beaches. Only a few have lifeguards, and the treacherous rip tides are notorious. Some efforts are being made to formalize lifeguard training, but the tides still take the lives of tourists and locals each year.

8. Special attention should be given to the family courts. All that is needed is the word of a woman to cause police to evict a man from his home. Sometimes the woman lies. But even after waiting as much as a year for a court hearing, many expats find that the judges are heavily biased in favor of the woman. For some judges, evidence means little. An expat from the Pacific coast is in jail now. He was snagged while sitting on an international flight awaiting takeoff even though he had posted $9,000 for future child support. He argues that he does not know the child and has legal papers stating that the child is not his. The evidence bears little weight in court, if he ever gets there.

9. Special mention should be made of David Strecker, a/k/a/ Cuba Dave. He is the sex addict who has been placing tales of his exploits on the internet for years. He has been jailed here for more than a year for doing that although he probably was not the person who did so. And if he did, he did so outside Costa Rica. Yet he was sentenced to five years on the charge of saying truthful things about Costa Rica.

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