Shoe is on other foot with shameless land grab

As a expat resident from the U.S.A., living here for just over three years, I have been following the land dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua with some interest. First, I must say that I enjoy living in Costa Rica.

Daily, I attempt to be respectful of the fact that I am a visitor to this country and this culture. I am very thankful to have the opportunity and the choice to live in such a beautiful setting and enjoy a relaxed lifestyle. Having said that, I have a couple of comments about the attention given to the conflict going on at the Costa Rican/Nicaragua border.

First and foremost, I am a bit overwhelmed at the amount of press coverage, both TV and newspaper given to this issue. This site carries daily stories and the other “English language” online publication has had 5 to 6 stories daily about the conflict for the past 10 days. The only thing that seems to rival coverage of the dispute is “football” which can be seen 24/7 on channels 25, 26, 27, 63, 64 and 65 if you happen to subscribe to the local cable TV monopoly Amnet.

Costa Ricans certainly seem to be fired up about this issue: Calls for citizens to take up arms and defend the country from invaders to the north, presidents and ex-presidents carping and finger-pointing about who is to blame, calls for world agencies to intervene to resolve the matter.

It certainly seems to have touched a nerve when Costa Ricans face the reality of an illegal land grab.

To this I respectfully say, “How does it feel when the shoe is on the other foot?” Someone came and squatted on your land, claimed it as their own and now even though you scream “This is not right,” “This is unjust,” you have no one to turn to. No one wants to listen to your plight. Not unlike countless cases of squatting experienced by North Americans who come here, purchase land for retirement or development, attempt to follow the rules and end up in months or years of legal red tape not to mention hundreds or thousands of dollars of expenses just to get what is legally theirs.

While I will be the first to admit, I do not know every detail surrounding the border land dispute (other than the extensive and exhaustive media accounts) I have to respectfully say that while I am simpathetic to Costa Rica’s issue, I am not losing much sleep over it. I guess I will chalk it up to differences in “culture”. I will just give it the old Costa Rican “Pura Vida”. I am learning to adjust to the cultural differences such as:

• Criminals can commit crimes, be arrested and then back out on the street in hours.

• There is a new traffic law but no one follows it and no one enforces it.

• Government run monopolies can write or rewrite policies at will on the backs of its poorest citizens.

• Monies allocated to infrastructure seem to vanish into thin air while roads and bridges slide off the mountainside and crash into rivers.

• Government officials will get into bed with anyone who will build them a bridge or a football stadium.

While I do not always agree with the cultural differences, I am trying to comprehend them and live here as a respectful guest. But in my opinion, Costa Rica you can’t have it both ways, you can’t manipulate a system but then expect that same system to save you when you have to take a dose of the corrupt medicine. Poetic justice? You decide.

Bill Ruzicka

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