Touch a Butt, Go to Jail! Rob a Bank… well…

Ah, Costa Rica, the land of volcanoes, rainforest, beaches, eternal Spring and whatnot. Too bad about the people that own/run it.

I’m fast approaching the 7th anniversary of the day I first moved here. I like it here. For all its faults I still like living here. Having said that, I have come to the unavoidable conclusion that this place is irredeemably and incurably Mickey Mouse.

This is not a sudden revelation, but I admit it was brought into sharp focus this week when I read the story of a man being sentenced to FOUR YEARS IN PRISON for touching a woman’s butt. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not approve of UNAUTHORIZED touching of anybody’s butt. And apparently he did it TWICE, so a repeat offender. Now, if we were living in Afghanistan I could see the logic. EVERYTHING there is punishable by death, more or less. But here in Costa Rica?

Is the same Costa Rica that former President Rafael Angel Calderon got probation for stealing from the country he was elected to serve? Is this the same Costa Rica that puts multimillion dollar embezzlers under penthouse arrest and is ready to let them go if they repay 18% of what they stole? Is this the same Costa Rica that captures and releases bank robbers on the SAME DAY as the robbery? I mean, I’m all for catch and release, but I thought that was for fish, not bank robbers.

Yes, this is the same Costa Rica struggling hard to find a nice apartment for two suspected Mexican drug smugglers whose cocaine-filled airplane crashed near the Nicaragua border. The same Costa Rica that elected our current president on her promise to apply a firm hand to crime. I guess a firm hand means a firm hand against other hands that touch butts but not so much to armed robbers or drug smugglers or high dollar embezzlers.

In a way I can understand the leniency towards big money criminals. They are able to pay large fines and who knows what they pay in, shall we say, ‘informal’ fines. But who exactly is behind letting low rent armed robbers free? I’m not a big fan of vigilante justice, but if this happened in the US and A I think we’d see pitchforks and torches. But in Costa Rica? Pura Vida, mai!

My best guess as to why this is possible goes to the ‘pura vida’ attitude that lends charm to the laid back lifestyle in the country also allows the country’s rulers get away with blatant idiocy. As I have said before, probably too often, the bar is VERY low here. Mediocrity is considered a pretty high standard and incompetence is accepted as ‘just how things are.’ We gringos are constantly exasperated by the way things never seem to get done here, no matter how easy or obvious the solution would appear to be. There’s a right way, and a reasonable way, then there’s the Tico way. Love it or leave it, but you won’t change it.

And because any post of mine would be incomplete without an attempt to tie together topics that would seemingly be unrelated, I’ll mention that our president was recently in the USA trying to get foreign investment. Considering the amount of money that the upper class here has, you might wonder why they don’t invest their OWN money in their OWN country? I have absolutely no evidence to support my accusation, but I’ve been watching Fox News and they are my new role model, so I can SPECULATE that PERHAPS they prefer to invest it in multinational corporations rather than take a chance in their own country, with its dicey legal system and culture of theft and robbery. Better to get those hapless gringos to bring their money down and provide more graft opportunities for the nepotocracy. This is just my imagination, of course. I have no facts. Okay, gotta go now, Rupert Murdoch wants to talk to me about hosting a show right after Hannity.

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  1. The facts in the case of the man who was arrested for sexually assaulting a female employee of the Banco de Costa Rica were not completely reported in the English language press.

    According to reports in La Nacion the man initially grabbed the woman's butt, and then proceeded to chase her down, hold her down, put his hand up her skirt and insert his fingers in her vagina.

    This was a full on sexual assault in broad daylight, and was only stopped when several other women came to her rescue and brought the police.

    The man was arrested and taken to the flagrancy court, because he was caught in the act. He was required to serve the full sentence because he was already on probation for a weapons violation.

    I do not dispute the thesis of your article, but again this particular incident is being misreported over and over again in English.

  2. Your story is very superficial and evidently done without any research. Evidently you base what you wrote only on either Inside Costa Rica or AM Costa Rica. More information about the case is that he is a low income Nicaraguan guy who could not afford a private attorney. I am not excusing for one minute what he did however had he not had the previous serious conviction and had he had a good private attorney the consensus is that he would have had a much less severe sentence.
    As to the two Mexican narcotraficantes, the real story IMO is that many citizens and media (especially Channel 7 and La Nacion) rose up and expressed outrage over Pavas Judge Kathia Jimenez's order to release those guys; this has subsequently been overturned and the two Mexican (alleged) drug dealers were never released for one minute.
    Sure, there are lots of real problems in Costa Rica however there is no excuse for you to write misleading stories like this without doing a bit of easy research (assuming you have some spanish language skills). One thing you are accurate in saying is "I have no facts.".

    • You got me, easycr. I admit not doing my homework here. I do stand by my contention that 'justice' is arbitrary here, a conclusion many of your statements would seem to support. I could have chosen other cases to support my opinion, but you are correct in that I was lazy. Unlike AM Costa Rica and Inside Costa Rica, I don't pretend to be a journalist. I give opinions. Give me an 'F' for my lack of research. It doesn't seem like you disagree with the idea that justice here is arbitrary and not really just. I could definitely have done a better job of supporting my contention.

  3. ha ha ha, nocal, you have been living in Costa Rica too long with the lazyness.

    But seriously, you couldn't have done any research even if you wanted to as all Court Cases in Costa Rica are close cases and not available to the public. Basically, we get the so called facts from the news and they decide what to report.

    I totally get your point though that the law in Costa Rica is a joke as the laws are enforced and made from a whim by a judge and the worst part is that they make laws in Costa Rica without being able to enforce them.

  4. Presidents in the U.S. steal all the time and don't even get probation, let alone go to trial. Instead they get multimillion dollar libraries and a lifetime pension, and millions in speaking fees. I think C.R. should be commended for attempting to bring justice, whatever brand, to TWO presidents of the country.

  5. Cy Bolinger says:

    I am a journalist, albeit retired, and, I believe this website is more often than not correct on foibles of Costa Rica –life and living. NoCalRefugee wrote an excellent article which articulates expat dealing/coping with much of the chicanery of the CR government, also, he is quite right about every day problems of living here. It is not easy for us foreigners to cope in a third world country even considering Costa Rica with all of its glorious eco-beauty. I love this country, but it does keep me thoroughly pissed off.
    Cy Bolinger
    Retired published journalist