Ok, this is ridiculous. I’m having a flood of anti-Costa Rica experiences. Maybe if I get them out of my system, this rock in my gut will disappear.

IN THE NEWS. Don Oscar seems hellbent on getting Costa Rica into the 21st century. Only I don’t approve of the way he’s going about it. I don’t know why he didn’t think to ask me first, but he didn’t.

On the plus side, he’s fixing the roads – lots of painting activity, new timed streetlights in downtown San José, spending millions making the center of downtown into a paved walking mall. He is finally replacing the Oh Shit and the Oh My God bridges between Jacó and Quepos. Although I will miss them. Crossing those babies is an adventure worth having all on its own! If you’ve never driven over them, come now. It’s worth the trip.

He has a contract signed to finish a highway between Orotina and the Pacific. He has another to pave the road between Quepos and Dominical, which is now a real gut-wrencher. He’s gone around the world begging off on Costa Rica’s debt. He’s hot to put in the international airport just south of Dominical. He promises to eradicate poverty in 50 years. Some might say he’s a dreamer.

On the other hand, he severed ties with Taiwan, a long time very active supporter of Costa Rica, in favor of China over imports and money. Maybe that is better for Costa Rica in the long run, I don’t pretend to know. But I wouldn’t dump a loyal friend for a better looking richer more powerful murdering thug sort of friend.

He signed CAFTA into law, something else I really don’t comprehend. Judging from all the discussions about it, does anyone? But if the U.S. wanted Costa Rica to sign it, experience says it’s really only good for the U.S.

He is sending Costa Rica’s cops to the School of the Americas – now called Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (oddly, my browser detected that its security certificate was not in order) and so infamous for its tactics it has its own Watch – for training. Great. Last year, he promised he wouldn’t after doing it once, but he’s decided they really do need S.W.A.T. training. As my husband likes to point out, when you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

The U.S. Coast Guard can now bring its vessels into Costa Rica’s ports. You know, for the Drug War. Which is being lost on every front by every account. But everyone should keep spending money on it, yes indeedy, and every other country needs to get in on the game. One day, maybe we can imprison and/or kill all the drug users. Then we’ll be safe from… temptation.

There’s been a rash of bank thefts lately: money taken right out of people’s accounts. Flat out stolen and the banks accept no responsibility. No FDIC. They claim account holders have given away their passwords in phishing scams. I could understand one or two dummies. But we’re talking about $8M in losses, several different banks. Seems the banks let plenty of money be transferred out of accounts in excess of the daily limits with no notice… Looks to all the rest of us like an inside job.

Speaking of inside jobs: a friend told us his banker called last week to verify that his wife was in L.A. requesting a wire transfer. Huh? Apparently a guy named Rodrigo Areyas had called the bank trying to set up a transfer, saying the wife had requested it. Well, not only was his wife sitting right beside him, who the hell was Rodrigo Areyas? They never found out.

The other REALLY fishy thing was that his account was in a corporation name. One bought from someone else, so his and his wife’s names do not appear ANYWHERE on this account. Except on the signature cards. Explain that with phishing.

Yesterday’s big news is that Costa Rica’s property assessor re-assessed all the properties on the coast and presented tax bills with some whopping increases. Like from $300 a year to $6,600 a year. That’ll take some cheer out of the holiday season. Not to mention put a damper on property sales.

It’s not so much the money, although $6,600 is a pretty major tax bill, comparable to Key West properties. Our tax bill in north Florida for 10 acres of dirt featuring the world’s most poorly constructed mobile home was less than $500 a year. Costa Rica has higher tax bills than Florida? More than the money, it’s the fact it happened overnight, with no warning. This is the very thing that scares off extranjeros [x-trahn-HAIR-ohs, foreigners] from buying property in developing nations. Change without warning, insecurity, instability.

Panama is suffering this insecurity as well: their government just reduced, without warning, the tourist visa from 90-days-easily-renewable, to 30 days and you have to apply and be approved for a renewal… If you own property in Panama you intended to visit several months of the year, you’ll spend all your time at migración applying for extensions.

So that’s all the bad stuff I can think of right now. Oh, wait. Except for this…

I just called my friend Jacqeline to ask her about a volunteer event being held tomorrow. She was pretty much a wreck because she and her family were robbed at gunpoint in her house last night. They live in a big gringo style house right outside Escazú. Her husband, his visiting friend, her 3 year old daughter and her. All home.

The thieves, three guys with guns, police scanners and ski masks, jimmied the pedestrian metal door on her driveway gate, got it open, ran in, threw themselves into her plate glass window, took six laptops (three were broken which gives her some satisfaction), a big screen TV (which they broke getting out of the house which makes her practically gleeful.) And they tied up and pistol whipped her husband and the friend in front of her daughter.

J was at the back door when they broke in the gate. She ran out and climbed over their 10′ high fence, dropped into her neighbor’s yard, calling the police on her cel phone, got a big gash in her foot along with multiple bruises and scrapes… her neighbors called the cops, too. The cops CAME – which is very good news – got there in about 20 minutes. Not bad on these roads with directions around here: "Turn left at the burned out building…"

The thieves heard the cops were coming on the scanners and left before they could take anything else.

So. This sucks big time. It was one thing when the ladrones just waited for the house to be empty. Now they are armed, mean-spirited and don’t give a shit if you are there or not. There were two regulation guys in J’s house, but they broke in anyway, ran right past the dogs. I am not liking this one little bit. Not one tiny speck.

Gifts_from_afar To make me feel completely schizo – up down up down up down – we got two boxes today. One from the Bortmans (who, you will remember, deserted us almost exactly a year ago) filled with candy and homemade cards from the kids – very sweet. And one from my dear friend Jan with books, more candy, TRISCUITS, fuzzy socks for me, two wind up Halloween toys and about 100 pairs of socks to give away. Lemme tell ya, candy and fuzzy socks are sure coming in handy right now.

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