By Bret Love
Costa Rica is one of several destinations that appear on both our “World’s Best” and “Needs Improvement” lists.
Though it was heralded as the first country to brand itself as a premier ecotourism destination, Ethical Traveler founder Jeff Greenwald suggests that Costa Rica is still lacking in important ways.
“Corruption is still a big problem there,” he says, “and because of it, Costa Rica is now a hub for child prostitution. Worse, the government prosecutes eco-activists like Paul Watson from
Sea Shepherd, and criminal gangs [of poachers] murder sea turtle conservationists.
Famous chef Gordon Ramsay was forced to flee the country after trying to report on illegal shark-finning.”
Costa Rica News by AM Costa Rica
Trio of thugs ruin life in Costa Rica for Canadian retirees
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Robert Gill fought back when bandits invaded his Caribbean property. So the crooks pistol whipped the 75 year old and left him for dead.
His wife, a few yards away, saw the attack and then was confronted by a masked man demanding “Dinero, Dinero” and wielding a knife. She was dumped from a hammock and watched as the crook scooped up money, a computer, a cell phone, a camera and her husband’s wallet.
The two retired Canadians are both in their 70s, and have been splitting the year since 2001 between Costa Rica and the north.
“We leave December 12th, walking away from most of what we own after more than a decade in this beautiful, horrendously perilous country,” said Judy Gill via email Wednesday. “But at least we leave with our lives.”
Their home is in Punta Riel, midway between Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
She captioned her email “So dies the dream . . . “
Of a potential news story, Mrs. Gill said : “I hope it will warn others who seek to warm arthritic joints in the balmy air here that after dark Costa Rica can only be safely enjoyed behind locked doors and barred windows, and even that is no guarantee.”
As A.M. Costa Rica readers, the Gills know about criminal activity in the country. But their home invasion did not show up on any of the usual police reports to which newspeople have access. That suggests that the incidence of crime is understated.
Expats around Puerto Viejo are sensitive to such news stories because they believe such crimes hurt tourism. There have been several local security efforts.
Mrs. Gill said that her husband on the evening of Nov. 12 stepped outside to fill the household water tank, something he did every night.
“Clearly, they had been watching and waiting because they were hiding in the dark under the house, having gained access over our surrounding fence,” she said of the bandits trio. “As they screamed ‘Matar! Matar’ which translates as ‘Kill! Kill!,’ he fought back. If he had died, this would have been premeditated murder. They overwhelmed him and beat him with a pistol butt until he was unconscious.”
She ended up gagged on a bed as the crooks left. Her husband could not stand or walk well and kept falling. She was unpleasantly surprised to find out that the 911 emergency service did not answer after repeated calls.
Finally the pair made it to a helpful neighbor’s house, and an ambulance later took a bloodied Robert Gill away for treatment.
Why they were targeted still puzzles Mrs. Gill. “We live in a small house, on a small piece of ground, do not own a car, take buses for shopping in local stores and do not flaunt our wealth because we have none to flaunt,” she said. In addition to the electronic items, the bandits got away with two Canadian $20 bills and 110,000 colons, a bit more than $200.
“Gringo apologists would have us believe these men attacked us and stole from us because they are poor and uneducated and can’t find jobs,” said Mrs. Gill, adding:.
“That is not true. Education is free and mandatory in this country. There are jobs tending and harvesting crops for export and local consumption. There are construction jobs, land clearing jobs and many other possibilities for earning honest livings. Those men have chosen to live as predators, and I don’t understand it. I will never understand. Nor will I forget my husband fighting for his life and mine, or forget seeing men in white hoods with only eye-holes, bursting into a place where I felt secure enough to dine, entertain friends, relax and write.”
Mrs. Gill said that she and her husband will miss the howler monkeys, humming birds, trees, flowers, and “the good friends in this Gringoless community who adopted us into their midst.”