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(506) 223-1327         Published Monday, April 2, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 65          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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When expats die, their kin have to pick up the pieces
You can't take it with you, so don't leave a big mess

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Can loved ones afford an expats death in Costa Rica?  Are they ready for what they find here? 

Recently, a man died and his sister had to drop everything — all her responsibilities in the States — and hop a plane to Costa Rica.  He died of natural causes not as a victim of a crime or accident.  She was the only family member who could afford the trip.  No doubt, it was going to be expensive.

She arrived and was lost.  She tried to piece her brother’s life together from recounts of friends.  And, much to her surprise, her brother’s young woman friend.

Yes, her brother was living with someone a third his age.  She was surprised at first. Soon after meeting her brother’s friend, she found this to be a blessing.  The woman turned out to be very helpful.  She assisted the sister with her brother’s belongings and pointed her in the right direction to find assets.

Her brother turned out to be a pack rat with bits of papers tossed in his dresser drawers.  They filled three suitcases.  Those tidbits turned out to be the key to her brother’s life in Costa Rica.

She more or less organized her brother’s belongings, giving most of what was in his apartment to the women friend.  Everyone told her that would have been what her brother would have wanted.  She did not want to lug apartment goods back to the United States, and there was nothing of real value.   The brother left no instructions, and she did not know what else to do.

The sister’s next hurdle was to find a professional to assist her.  She went to his lawyer. She figured out who it was from a note and a business card on a piece of paper.  As it turned out, he was not much help.  He did not know much about her brother. They had only worked together on a few business transactions.

Other people she met referred her to this or that cousin who was a lawyer and always interjecting not to trust others referred to her.  There was an obvious game going on, competing over who would get her business and profit from her brother’s death.

Amid the senselessness of people, she was grieving. She was confused. And she was in a foreign country and did not know the laws.  She called her husband to get a little family support and he decided to fly to Costa Rica to lend a hand. However, he would not arrive for days.

She decided to go through those pieces of paper.  They were like one of those 1,000-piece puzzles.  Just like a puzzle, they came together into a picture.  Among the many interesting things she found, much to her surprise, were the pin numbers to her brother’s bank accounts.   Her brother’s women friend had given her his wallet with all his debit cards.  She went to the cash machine only to find the accounts empty. 

She found this a bit strange, but not overwhelmingly so.  She knew that her brother had decided to leave this country.  He was no longer happy here.  The peace and tranquility Costa Rica once offered and brought him here was gone.

The bits and pieces of paper — the puzzle — became clearer and clearer.  Like a good novel, everything started coming together.  She formed a hypothesis her brother was just days away from departing for another land.  Finding old family heirlooms that should have been in a safety

deposit box stuffed into small pockets of his suitcases confirmed this fact to her.   Additionally, she found a receipt where he closed his bank deposit box.

Her husband arrived and together they continued to piece the puzzle together.  A review of the deceased's computer showed no other revelations.

One thing her brother left was his cellular telephone.  She answered every call she could with her limited knowledge of the Spanish language.  Many women called looking for her brother.  When she explained he had died, they were very distressed, so she decided to meet some of them to learn why.

What she found was another surprise.  Her brother with his modest pension was helping these women with their educations.  One in particular told the sister she was no longer a maid because her brother paid her entire way through beauty school.

The puzzle was complete.  She distilled her brother’s life into three envelopes.  One marked Costa Rica, one marked U.S.A. and another marked expenses.

It cost $21,000 to deal with her brother’s death in Costa Rica.   This included airfares for her and her husband, hotel stays, cremation of her brother’s remains, transportation costs around San José, lost work in the United States among many other unforeseeables.

The sister returned to the U.S.A. with her
husband.  She found an old will, some instructions regarding assets and the feeling people liked her brother.  He was a good man, it appeared.

A person’s life boils down to papers in an envelope and people's recollections.  It also means a cost to the living.  Can they afford it? 

Expats usually live different lives in Costa Rica than they did in their home countries.  Many have young girl friends or boy friends, whatever the case may be.  Preparing loved ones with this information is also prudent so what they find here does not shock them.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at  Copyright 2004-2007, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 65

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Pérez Zeledón create council
to worry about area security

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The community of Pérez Zeledón has taken steps to improve security with the creation of an umbrella security commission. This action took place Saturday at a meeting of the municipal council.

Reader letters on crime

Local development associations, the Camera de Turismo and municipal officials are trying to get an integrated response to criminality. Visiting was Fernando Berrocal, security minister.

Last week representatives from these groups conducted a seminar that endorsed changes in the penal code that the Arias administration is trying to make. The changes would make it easier to conduct wiretapping, allow interrogation of suspects without lawyers being present and also increase the penalties for some crimes.

Berrocal told the group that the canton of Pérez Zeledón would obtain more vehicles for police in the next purchase of patrol vehicles and that some 70 new officers would be assigned to the area, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Berrocal asked those present to help recruit such individuals from the community.

He also said that a directive had been issued to get the police out on the streets.

Culture ministry seeking
heritage sites for restoration

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The culture ministry will accept applications until 3 p.m. April 27 for one of two 60 million colon ($115,000) grants for historic buildings.

This year, the 11th of the competition, the contest is open only to owners of buildings already declared to be a national heritage site.

The money is designed to assist in the restoration.

According to the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural of the ministry, there are 450 structures registered as architectural heritage sites. The center gets about 20 to 25 requests to include sites in the list every year, officials said.

And last year the center took action against owners of heritage sites for various infractions.

Immigration works are off
six days for reorganization

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The immigration department has cleared six days of  appointments with foreigners in the month of April in order to conduct a reorganization to improve the service, said a press release.

The days involved are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week (moved to April 18) and these following Fridays, April 13 (moved to April 17 or 18 depending on the hour of the appointment), April 20 (moved to April 24) and April 27 (moved to May 2 to 3 depending on the hour).

Xinia Sossa, subdirector of Migración y Gestora de Extranjería made the announcement. The exact nature of the reogranization was not disclosed.

Lots of activity at checkpoints

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transit officials say they are finding hundreds of infractions, including some drunk drivers, in their checkpoints that are being operated for Semana Santa.

Some five checkpoints were in operation Sunday, and, despite, widespread publicity, persons at the wheel over the alcohol limit still were driving.

The traffic policeman say that at checkpoints being operated between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. every driver is being stopped. At other times vehicles are picked either at random or when an officer has a suspicion.

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Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 65

A.M. Costa Rica photos
Photos from top left: 1. Actresses clothed in biblical garb await the arrival of the procession. 2. Cross is carried through structure representing the gate of the city of Jerusalem. 3. Actor playing Jesus Christ arrives
with a burro. 4. Children are encouraged to shout in praise of the newly arrived Jesus. 5. A cheerful Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Ureña has his hands full with palm fronds and his bishop's crosier.
A colorful procession of the faithful for Palm Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Semana Santa 2007 opened on a colorful note Sunday with a procession of biblical characters and others down Avenida 2.

The traditional Palm Sunday or Domingo de Ramas event passed beneath a towering structure representing the gate to the City of Jerusalem. All this was to commemorate the arrival of Jesus Christ into that city as the El Señor de Triunfo.

The procession was a religious one, but Johnny Araya, the mayor of San José participated. He said that the religious celebrations not only invite reflexion and the rescue of fundamental values but also offer the opportunity to exhibit the national identity.
He also said in a written message to participants that the local government was trying to stimulate tourism.

The event was one for tourists to see. Perhaps the mayor also was reflecting on the fragility of public opinion. On Sunday, according to Christian tradition, Jesus Christ was welcomed as the man of the hour by residents of Jerusalem. Friday they voted to send him to the cross in exchange for a noted criminal, says the gospels.

The event Sunday morning is the first in a series of processions and public displays of faith. Another is tonight at 7 o'clock when Archibishop Hugo Barrantes Ureña and other priests once again walk from the church of Nuestra Señora de la Merced east to the Catedral Metropolitana, this time enacting the way of the cross.

Some folks suddenly turn into monos when they visit here
Like many Costa Ricans, Daniel Soto is taking a break over Semana Santa, but he left this column updated from the archives.

La mona aunque se vista de seda, mona se queda

“A monkey dressed up in silk is still a monkey.” We use this dicho sometimes to make the point that even though some people like to pretend they’re something they’re not, they are still the same underneath. This is roughly similar to a combination of the English expressions “like a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” and “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” But I believe that la mona aunque se vista de seda mona se queda is capable of much greater subtleties of meaning.
Of course we know that money does not automatically confer a sense of good taste or “class” on a person. I’m often reminded of this fact when I go to a performance at our Teatro Nacional and I see people — usually tourists — sitting in the front orchestra in shorts and T-shirts. They must believe that because they’ve got money they’re entitled to behave in any way they like.
Traditionally for Costa Ricans, however, our Teatro Nacional has been a source of national pride and the crown jewel of our cultural life. Showing up in shorts and T-shirts for a performance is, it seems to me, a rather audacious display of disrespect. In other words, a monkey sitting in the most expensive seat in the house is still a monkey. Or, as the author Dorothy Parker once paraphrased another famous English expression: “You can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think.” I wonder, would they dress the same way for the Metropolitan Opera House, Carnegie Hall or the Teatro Colon? Hmm.
I use the example of the national theater, but it could be practically anywhere. I remember a few years back when we were at the Arenal volcano and a group of tourists entered the restaurant in La Fortuna where we were having dinner. Inspired, I’m sure, by vast quantities of strong drink they were carrying on at the top of their lungs bellowing “Let the rumbles begin” — whatever that means.  It soon became impossible for my friends and I to carry on a conversation in a normal tone of voice. So, we quickly finished our meal and fled.
The weather was terrible that visit to the volcano; rainy and cool with the mountain continually shrouded in clouds. So, we decided next day to move on to Puntarenas, where the weather was predictably hot and we

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

could at least enjoy the beach. The evening of our arrival on the coast we decided to go to our favorite restaurant, a little French bistro, which, alas is no longer there.

Though admittedly somewhat pricey, this place provided what was undoubtedly the best food in town in a fairly elegant environment.  No sooner had we crossed the threshold of this quaint auberge than we heard it: “Let the rumbles begin! HA! HA! HA!”

“Oh, no!” I said. “The monos have followed us!” We laughed and decided to take our dinner outside in the heat rather than put up with a bunch of screeching monkeys for the sake of air-conditioning.
I don’t mean to sound like a disapproving old schoolmarm. I like to see people having fun as much as anybody. But it seems to me that sometimes when foreigners come to visit Costa Rica they think they picked up some sort license when they got their passport stamped at the airport that allows them to do some of the most outrageous things in some pretty unusual public venues, things they would never dream of doing back home in Chicago, Dallas, or Madrid.
One of my brothers-in-law is also a great friend and he loves to be rowdy and noisy, and it’s true that he does enjoy his guaro. He adores karaoke, and when we go out together we go to places where other people are likely to be loud and our antics are not going to annoy anyone. We have fun making jokes, talking and laughing loudly. We much prefer this to putting up with a lot of monkeys decked out in cheap silk pajamas.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 65

When sharks are killed, shellfish suffer, study reports
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A team of Canadian and American scientists says that the overfishing of large sharks has led to an explosion of small predators that are devastating populations of shellfish.

Sharks usually do not evoke sympathy, but a new study could change that.

Researchers from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and the Universities of North Carolina and South Alabama find that the dramatic declines in 11 species of large sharks has cascaded down through the ocean food chain with a negative impact on commercial shellfisheries.

"What this study tells us is that sharks matter and by implication other top predators of the sea matter," explained Charles Peterson of the University of North Carolina.  "The magnitude of those declines has consequences on the rest of the food web."

The study has vast implications for Costa Rica because many commercial fishermen are involved in catching sharks to provide the prized fins to the Asian markets.

By analyzing several independent research surveys and fisheries records, Peterson and his colleagues report in the journal Science that the steep drop in shark numbers along the U.S. Atlantic coast since 1970 has caused an increase in 12 of 13 species they studied of lesser predators - rays, skates, and smaller sharks eaten mainly by large sharks.

The abundance of one of these species, the cownose ray, has increased 20 times and its prey — scallops, clams, oysters, and other shellfish — have been reduced to the point that commercial shellfisheries along the U.S. East Coast have suffered.
In an interview with Science magazine, Peterson describes the rays' impact on bay scallops along the coast since the mid 1980s, when surveys showed the scallop population to have been stable.

"The rays were so abundant that they essentially eliminated all of the bay scallops except for ones that we protected by building a stockade of vertical posts spaced so that the rays could not get between them," he added.

Peterson says exploitation of large sharks has intensified worldwide in recent decades, because of rising demand for their meat and fins. But they have also been caught inadvertently.

"That's because fishing with its gear — in this case, it's long line gear — tends to be very non-selective within the group that is being fished," he explained.  "Here, it is the group that will eat bait on a large hook, and that affects all of these large shark species."

The scientists say that this is the first study to show what effect the long-known shark decline has had on the ocean.

It is part of a broader global decimation of sea creatures noted in a November paper in Science by another team of North American marine biologists. They found that one-third of fish species have collapsed so far, meaning that their catch has declined 90 percent below the historic maximum. The lead researcher of that study, Canadian Boris Worm of Dalhousie University, says 7 percent of them have become extinct.

"If this trend continues, if we don't change the way we are managing ocean ecosystems, this trend projects that 100 percent of species will collapse by the year 2048 or around that," he noted.

Funny money turns up with traveler at airport, agents report
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While Colombia may be famous for the production of drugs, the country also is home to master forgers.

Traditionally Colombians have produced the highest quality fake money in the Americas.

So it was no surprise last week when a woman traveling
here from Medellín carried what investigators say were fake bills. They said the counterfeit money was hidden in two photo albums.

The woman, 34, was identified by the last names of  Vanegas Naranjo. She was detained at Juan Santamaría airport.

Agents said the bills were 7,500 euros and $42,000 U.S. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 65

Our readers' opinions
Women beaten in Jacó rejects idea that it was her fault

The writer is the woman nearly beaten to death by robbers in Jacó.


I am glad that you have not had any problems in Costa Rica. However, your thinking is that of blaming the victim.  It is like telling a rape victim that she had it coming for wearing a short skirt.  Saying that I have done something wrong is not helping to solve this serious problem in Costa Rica. I have not done "something wrong." it is the ladrones who have done something wrong.

Again, blaming the victim is certainly not what we need to do anymore.  I was sound asleep in my bed when two men broke into my house to beat me with a bat, how can that be doing something wrong, Charlene? Do you think I enjoyed giving a picture of my brutalized face to the paper for everyone to see? That was difficult for me to do, I did it not to complain, as you have implied, I felt it was important. 

To ask the Judicial Investigating Organization to do their job is not complaining, it is something that needs to be done. A week after this incident, I was asked by OIJ if I had cleaned my house, because, now, maybe they could  
find some fibers from the ladrones.  A week later is, after the fact.  We all know that this type of investigation needs to be done immediately. My goal in all of this is to help everyone.

If this happened to you wouldn't you want the police to investigate?  This type of crime happens to everyone, and everyone deserves the best investigation possible. Not just the rich and famous. Charlene, do you think the maid and the neighbor killed in Rohrmoser did something wrong?

The U.S. Embassy doesn't consider this complaining and are in fact, supporting and helping my efforts to bring this out in to the open. I would also like to thank Jay Brodell and A.M. Costa Rica, for their efforts to provide a forum to help bring to light the severity of crime and lack of government actions towards crime in this country.

I too, love this country. That is why I want to do something to help curb the out-of-control problem of crime that everyone else in the country knows exists but you.
I was the victim of a brutal, violent assault.  The OIJ was not active in investigating this crime. I do not consider being pro active in my case, complaining.

Robyn Wright

If problems are not addressed, they will only get worse
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I need to respond to the letter written by Charlene.

I am sorry you are tired of hearing that Costa Rica has become to dangerous.  First of all she mentioned that it maybe Robyn's fault that she has been robbed three times. 

We need to clarify something.  Robyn was out of the country during two of the robberies.  She also mentions that it is important to know the language and so on and so forth. 

I am Robyn's paco (partner/companion) and have lived in Costa Rica for 17 years.  I speak the language, most likely better than Charlene.  I know all of my neighbors in the area.  I am quite savvy regarding Costa Rican culture and the way things happen here.  I am not someone that has lived here for four years and think they know everything about Costa Rica. 

I have lived in many parts of the country and have seen crime everywhere.  Robyn worked for many years for the governmental agency, children's protective services, investigating crimes against children.  She is also a family therapist.  She is not complaining, she has always worked for justice where justice is deserved.  Now she is able to use those skills in her own case.

As for safety, we have taken precautions in our house.  We have bars on our windows and we also have a safe to keep valuables in.  We had a dog that barked whenever someone came on the property.  Unfortunately they poisoned our dog just after the first robbery.  I guess that was our fault.  Our property is a bit removed from our neighbors.  Which is somewhat necessary for the work I do.  I rehabilitate, breed and release iguanas and parrots that are given to me by MINAE.  We were also planning on growing native trees to sell to the public to help reforest the areas around here. Now we will have to end that part of our lives.  I think we are doing more for this country than the ladrones are.

Charlene needs to take her head out of the sand and accept that there are problems here and if they aren't addressed it will only get worse.  Just because she hasn't had a bad experience doesn't mean it isn't happening at an alarming rate.
We were told by OIJ, last week, that the central Pacific area is the most dangerous part of the country.  We have lived in the Jacó area and everyone we know has had an experience with crime of some sort.  I guess they all should do what Charlene wants and not complain about it.   I hope nothing ever happens to you or your children, but if something does happen please don't tell anyone or complain about it.
Henry Kantrowitz

Costa Ricans bear brunt of crimes

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you for your courageous series of articles on crime in Costa Rica.  If does take guts to face such an unsettling question.  The more that can be exposed about the nature of crime the better off everyone is.  We are then more able to protect ourselves and to help prevent future crimes from occurring.

I would also like to respond to Charlene Stanton's letter in the Friday edition of A.M. Costa Rica.  Her self-righteous and dismissive attitude, and her insistence in blaming the victims of crimes, is so transparent it hardly deserves a response.  However, her way of thinking is so dangerous it needs to be confronted.

If Ms Stanton's logic is to be believed, we would have to conclude there is no crime in Costa Rica suffered by Costa Ricans.  I think any sensible person would agree that is not the case.  In fact, most of the crime in Costa Rica affects native Costa Ricans.  If Ms. Stanton really understood Costa Rica as she claims, she would understand the intense disgust native Costa Ricans have toward the increasing crime in their country and toward the criminals who perpetrate it.  Costa Ricans have suffered for many years from the effects of criminal activity, and they are as much, if not more, fed up with the criminals and corrupt politicians as expatriates are.

One does not have to look very far to see how widespread crime and corruption have affected the native population.  Look at the most modest houses with razor wire and bars to protect against the robbers who show absolutely no preference for whom they rob.  Although robbers may covet the money they think all Gringos have, they are just as happy to steal from the poorest of their neighbors.

I would just like to add one personal note to Ms. Stanton, as a Gringo who has witnessed many of my Costa Rican friends assaulted, robbed, and otherwise ripped off by their fellow countrymen, get off your high horse and your self-centered view of the world and try to understand that Costa Ricans want to confront the issues of crime as much as anyone.  They are not blinded by conceit or self-righteousness, and they are quite able to see exactly what crime is doing to their country.
David Jule
Rye, New Hampshire

Criminals just trying to feed family

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Turn out the lights. the party’s over.

There is no law enforcement solution for the crime in Costa Rica. You must pull your troops out now.  Don't be so stupid, as Bush is, and think that the safety of your people and quality of life are reasons enough to struggle against such a determined adversary.

Anyway these criminals, as you call them, are just trying to feed their families and live in this survival-of-the-fittist world their God created, and a man must do what a man must do.

It is the greed of the Costa Rican people that is at the root of this problem. You scream to the world that you live in the "Paris" of the Americas. You ride your little socialistic buses for pennies.  You have all these ridiculous little festivals to distract you from the harsh realities of life. You entice money grubbing Gringos to visit and live, enticing them with special and favorable real estate property laws.

Then, like shooting fish in a Parisian barrel, you pick the suckers clean of their money and property. Sure these Crime-trepenuers, that threaten your little scam, don’t have the pomposity of a lazy and corrupt government as their alibi, so they are direct and in your face about what they desire. I think that is called “HONEST.”

Did you really think this was going to remain your lucrative private party? Well, the party is over! The gold rush is on! It's every man for himself! So, welcome to the neighborhood these very hard working children of God who take great risk every day to make their way into your private little party.

Move over Jo Stuart, "Jose Soprano" is squatting next door. Pretty soon he'll be the boss of you.

The new Costa Rica will say “Bring me your radical terrorists, your petty thieves and your murders and perverts for I will shelter them.” All this can be yours so easily. Just do what you’ve been doing, nothing. That’s the Tico way isn’t it?
Goodbye Costa Rica and Hello Panama.

Ron Guell
New Orleans, Louisiana.

He hopes that a solution can be found

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is interesting the different letters on crime in Costa Rica. It seems as some are sidetracking on defending Costa Rica or attacking it and not addressing solving crime. The first thing my wife said when she visited the United States was
that she felt safe there after she saw the police in action. Another friend from San Jose smiled when he recalled the logo on police car doors in the States such as "To Serve and Protect."

Yes the U.S.A. has problems, but I seriously believe 95 percent of the police are good. To deny crime problems in Costa Rica or the U.S. would be like an enabling mother of a drug addict. In Costa Rica, as in the States, some people avoid crime by the move to wealthy, safer areas.

However, the young Tica  killed on the bus in Escazú by robbers shows that crime crosses all boundaries.  Facts still show that tourists in many countries suffer from being targets of crime.

I sincerely believe the major cause of crime in the United States and Costa Rica is drugs. Thus it does not make me feel good to see the police hanging out on a main corner in Tirrases conversing and laughing with the drug dealers. It did make me feel good to witness major drug crackdowns in Jacó the other year before its growth spurt.

The system of reporting a crooked cab driver was really flawed. I once reported one and they contacted my local phone number eight months later when I was in the States. Costa Rica is a great place but people can still help make it better and also prevent things from getting worse.

If crime was not a problem in Costa Rica, most of the houses would not have bars on the windows. Hopefully people can work together to find solutions to existing problems rather than fight in letters to the editor.

David Gibson
Sacramento CA
Curridabat  CR 

Investor decides to go elsewhere

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am from Midland, Texas. My wife and I are real estate investors and visited Costa Rica several times in 2006 to look at property for the possibility of building homes for the projected influx of baby boomers from the U.S. and Europe.
We found that the crime that is talked about in the news and your newspaper seem to begin with police bribes and to the more serious from there.
The real problem begins that a person cannot leave ANYTHING unattended for a moment, it will disappear, even as minor as leaving a cold drink on a table when going into a catedral for a moment of prayer and to find it stolen when returning for it within two minutes. Or going to the beach at Jacó and not being able to swim and enjoy the surf with your spouse, because if you leave even a pair of sandals or a towel lying on the beach, it will be stolen.
What is wrong with the Costa Rican people that they are such PETTY THIEVES, in a country that is largely Catholic. It has been my lifelong experience that the Bible teaches that theft is a sin. How is it that SO MANY people in Costa Rica just accept that "petty theft" happens everywhere.

I suppose it does, but I can assure you that if you leave something unattended at a public place here that the odds are it will still be there when you return. Petty theft is not as prevalent anywhere I have ever been as I seen in Costa Rica. Therefore we will not pursue our original idea, nor do we plan on visiting Costa Rica again.
Crime begins with "petty theft," and if not confronted by the family, church and school, it manifests to bribes to policemen, robberies, assaults and on and on and on.
The government can take on the more serious crimes but the families MUST discourage it from home FIRST!!
Joe Dunham
Midland, Texas
He shares 15 years of experience

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been reading the stories regarding the violent robberies of tourists and expats alike, for some time now. I was not going to add my two cents until your March 30th issue, urging additional personal input. Anyhow, I now feel it's time to speak up.

I’ve been visiting Costa Rica for 15 years. My first two visits were in 1992. Besides the choking diesel fumes in the four square block area of downtown el centro, San Jose, (cleaned up nicely since), and the bungled attempt by a police officer in Guanacaste to shake me down for $40, my first trip was great.

On the second one, I was robbed of $400 by a doe-eyed Columbian senorita, in cahoots with a maitre de in a San José restaurant. My bad lesson learned.  Bottom line, I was very enthused about this scenic, new country I had discovered. I wasn’t able to return until 2001, and have since averaged two and a half trips per year.

Until recently I wanted to retire there, but not so now. During these six years I have noticed a steady increase in crime towards Norteamericanos and Gringos in general. In these 15 or so trips, I was personally robbed four more times(no violence) but still tried to ignore the obvious.

Sure, I had the occasional three week trip with no hiccups, but they were becoming increasingly rare. I started waking up two years ago, when I met the frail, 60ish, recently retired American who related his hailing a cab in el centro, San José, (Yeah, no yellow medallion). He related how the driver asked him to sit up front, then the cab stopped at the next corner. A Tico hopped in the back, put a knife to his throat, took his wallet and he was then thrown into the gutter at the next corner. He lost $600 cash and his credit cards. But he was lucky, as now I am listening to more and more accounts of violent beatings in such robbery attempts.

My last visit was four months ago. On that one month stay I met no less than five expats who were robbed. Then there was the homeowning expats desperately trying to sell me their home so they could scoot back to the U.S., and the realtors pushing these properties. 

Their replies when I questioned the obvious increase in crime was, “ Hey, crime is everywhere,” or  “The only crime here is a stolen camera left visible in a parked car. That’ll happen anywhere,” or “Just put bars on your windows,” “No problem, just sign up with ADT security,“ “Live in a gated community,“ etc.  This all came to a head when I found an American expat trying to sell his beachfront home in Tarcoles.  He swore he had never experienced a robbery of any kind in the three years he had been living in that home. A Tico couple I met later engaged him in casual conversation, and he related how he had been robbed four times since moving in there.

Enough said. I have given up any thoughts of relocating to Costa Rica, and since returning to southwest Florida, have convinced two groups from going down as tourists, and one retiree like me from moving there.  I usually don’t make my mind up quickly, it took awhile, but the preponderance of evidence is overwhelming the more you spend time there. Helloooo ?

A.M. Costa Rica’s article in the Jan. 30 issue, about the American robbed in Playa Hermosa, in “a gated community with armed guards,“ was the last straw as far as I was concerned. This was the very place the amiable European lady realtor in Jacó was pointing me towards. "No crime in a gated community,” she kept repeating. Home breakins are becoming more common. God forbid the owner/renter should be in the home when that occurs.

Any Gringo moving there permanently now is either naïve, unconscious, in denial, or just dumb. Facts are facts, it may be time to take the blinders off and press the governing authorities to do something. We don’t need another gun toting El Salvador.

Just the observances of one person, assimilated  over a period of 15 years, someone saddened by the gradual slip sliding of a scenic (still ) country he cares for.   

Joe Furlong
Cape Haze, Florida

Home invasions a problem in Escazú

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I write this letter not to talk about crime in general but about a specific problem occuring in Escazu and Santa Ana — that is the violent home invasion robberies that are occuring nearly every day. 

One of about 5 groups that are operating in the area was caught about a month ago — by pure luck because someone was able to get a call in to 911. You reported the capture.  However there are at least four other groups operating and maybe more with little or no intervention or investigation by police.
I know of four friends who have been home invaded one severely beaten — all bound and gagged.  All of these friends report that no fingerprints were taken at the scene, no follow up on evidentiary matters, basically nothing done. All are foreigners.
The home invasions take the following form.  One is a violent attack where the people inside might see and hear the gunmen coming in.  They will rip off the garage door with a chain and literally assault the house like a band of wild Indians, guns and machineguns drawn.  This is more the MO in rural areas with extremely slow or no police response.
The more stealthy gangs are more efficient.  They sneak in cutting the telephone line, picking the locks, sticking guns in the mouths of sleeping home owners and binding and gagging them.  These gangs are able to cut the alarm system lines after they enter but before the alarm sounds at the house and your alarm company location.  They usually steal and car along with all your valuable property in order to carry it off.  There is absolutely no crime prevention in the form of police in the streets. I was at the Escazú police station Friday night a month ago about 10 p.m. to report a minor crime and there were at least 50 police at the station.  There couldn't have been a single Escazú cop on the beat at that time.
I am writing this letter more to protect those of you who have not been home invaded to take the following precautions:

a) Buy a monitored alarm service Delta or whoever and make sure you turn on the alarm when you are in the house so that it will sound when someone comes in at whatever time of the day.  Also shorten the time the alarm sounds from the time the door is opened to the bare minimum it will take you turn it off  5-8 seconds.  Hide the alarm speaker and electric lines.

b)  Make sure you have a metal door with a dead bolt lock in addition to your normal wooden front and back doors.  Make sure both doors are locked at all times even when you are in the house.

c) keep your cell phone on you at all times and turned on so that when the theives enter after having cut your telephone line and enter and cut the burglar alarm you will hear the beep beep of the alarm of someone entering and be able to call 911 before they attack you.

d) get a hard metal door to your bedroom and deadbolt lock it each night before you go to sleep.

e) if you are insomniac or even lightly so make sure you periodically look out the window to see if anyone is outside while you are awake during the night.

f) a guard is no protection.  Many of the invasions are taking out the guard or the guard is a part of the plan and was conviently asleep.  A dog is much better protection.
I appreciate your writer's opinion that for four years she has not been a crime victim and feels safe here.  There should be statiscally a number of those people around.  However she is way out of the norm.  I have been here 20 years and I'm scared.  I know what the brave Kansas and Colorado settlers must have felt like during the Cheyenne wars in the Midwest of the 1850s and 1860s that they could be attacked and killed at any time.  There were many settlers those days who were never bothered, but it was still a very dangerous place to be.
Costa Rica is an extremely dangerous place.  I can't imagine that there could be a place any more dangerous in the U.S.  In fact I am sure there is not.  We are on our own here.  There is little chance that the crime against you will be investigated, even less chance that it will be prosecuted and a minimal chance that the criminal will spend time in jail.
Jack Wellingham
Santa Ana

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 2, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 65

Sons of former champions will meet in basketball final
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two sons of past sports stars have made headlines for themselves in U.S. men's college basketball this season. Now they are set to face one another in the Division One national championship game tonight in Atlanta, Georgia.

Defending champion Florida and Ohio State University will meet for this season's title after victories here in the Final Four Saturday night.

Key players in each starting line-up have fathers who made names for themselves internationally in different sports.

Florida's Joakim Noah is the son of former French tennis star Yannick Noah. Ohio State's Mike Conley, Jr. is the son of Mike Conley, who was the triple jump gold medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Mike Conley Jr. is a freshman guard while Joakim Noah is a 6-foot, 11-inch (2.10-meter) junior and plays forward and center. Noah was part of Florida's national championship team last season and many thought he would opt for a lucrative professional contract instead of returning to college. But he and two other star teammates decided to return to school to try to repeat.

Noah says that has put a lot of pressure on them.

"People would always talk to us about expectations and that was probably the word I heard the most after we won the national championship, and we decided to come back," said Joakim Noah. "I mean it's one thing to talk about expectations, but I think we really experienced it. And I feel like this year, that's why it's almost more satisfying
because I feel like we had to go through so much more just being under the microscope."

Noah, an American citizen who grew up in New York, said he learned how to deal with it from his French father Yannick, who experienced the same things after winning the 1983 French Open tennis championship. He said his father also taught him his work ethic.

"I feel like my father worked really, really hard at what he did," he said. "I was able to live and see that growing up as a kid, so it kind of came normal to me to just work hard and be one of the hardest workers."

Joakim said he was a terrible tennis player so he opted for basketball.

Ohio State's Mike Conley Jr. also opted for basketball, which is hugely popular in the adjoining State of Indiana where he grew up. He says his Olympic champion father had no objections.

"My dad never put much pressure on me to run track and he always was very open and let me do what I wanted to do," said Mike Conley Jr. "And I felt like I've never ever really had a lot of pressure to play any other sport. And, you know, I thank him for that because it could have been different. And I'm just blessed and fortunate to be in the situation that I'm in now."

Mike Conley Jr. will try to help Ohio State win the prestigious national college basketball championship for the first time since 1962, while Joakim Noah aims to help Florida become only the second school in the last 33 years to repeat as champion.

Costa Ricans sweep Central American surf competitions
Special to A.M. Costa rica

For the second time in as many years as the Central American Surf Championships have been established, the Costa Rica National Surf Team earned all the top awards. The Tico Team, selected by the Federacion de Surf de Costa Rica, finished in first place in the Second Central American Championships Copa Sobe Adrenalina Rush, Sunday after three days of competition at La Empalizada Beach in Guatemala.

The event was organized by the Asociación Nacional de Surf de Guatemala. Delegations from Panamá, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the team of the Guatemalan hosts had good conditions for the weekend, and wound up the contest surfing on Sunday in 8.5-foot waves.

According to Julio Mejicanos, association president, the event in La Empalizada managed to unite all of Central America’s surfing teams, because each nation sent four surfers to compete in the open, the same amount in junior and two for the women’s, evening the competitive field in numbers.

“To have each one of the countries of this part of the world with a complete team is one of the great benefits that we have had this year,” said Mejicanos. “We consider it a reward for all the efforts that we have made to promote this sport and the beauty of our beaches.”

The open semifinals brought it down to only two country’s athletes: Panama’s Omar Figueroa and Alejandro Alfonso as well as Costa Rica’s Mattias Braun, Diego Naranjo, Federico Pilurzu and Jason Torres.
In the Final series, however, it was Costa Rica’s surfers who became the great protagonists with representatives in all the finals going man-to-man, two competitors in the last heat going for the win.

In the open, it looked much the same as 1st year’s Central American Surf Championships in Costa Rica’s Playa Esterillos, with Ticos Federico Pilurzu and Jason Torres both carrying out maneuvers with much power that drew a great amount of public applause.

During that half-hour heat, there was a constant shift of position between Torres and Pilurzu. Nevertheless, in the last five minutes, Pilurzu was confident enough to rush ahead of Torres and once again become Central American Open Surf Champion, this time for 2007.

In the Juniors race, three Costa Ricans had an opportunity to battle in the semifinals — Anthony Flores, Jairo Pérez and Nikolas Ruhlow — along with El Salvadorian Israel Arenivar and the Panamanean David Godoy.

The man-to-man ended up Pérez versus Nikolas Ruhlow. After 20 minutes of intense competition, it came down to the very end of the heat for the judges to decide that it was the pure attack by Pérez that deserved first place. 

Although the women’s semifinals included El Savador’s Joselin Ramos, Panama’s Sonia García and Nicole Pérez, as well as Nicaragua’s Ashley Blaylock, the Tica delegation of Lisbeth Vindas and Nataly Bernold returned to sweep the category. Miss Vindas’ excellence in her heats earned her a second Central American Women’s Surf Championship first place.

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