U.S. Embassy issues warning on Caribbean crime

The U.S. Embassy has published a notice on its Web site warning its nationals of an increase in armed robberies in the Puerto Viejo area.

“Within the last few weeks, the Embassy has received increased reports of armed robberies of tourists in the Puerto Viejo area,” said the message, adding:

“In light of this situation, the U.S. Embassy advises U.S. citizens living in or visiting the Puerto Viejo area to remain cautious and vigilant with regard to their personal safety and security.

“In the past four weeks, three armed robberies of  U.S. citizens have occurred in the Puerto Viejo area, in addition to armed invasions of two hotels and one residence.  Police in Puerto Viejo have informed the embassy that they are undertaking active preventative measures to avoid further incidents of this type.  Armed robbery continues to be the primary criminal threat facing tourists in the Southern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica.”

A.M. Costa Rica has reported on the invasion of the Hotel Samasití in Hone Creek early Feb. 28 and that 19 tourists, mostly from the United States and Canada, were held hostage while crooks ransacked their rooms. This newspaper also has reported on the invasion of a rental home in Manzanillo less than 24 hours later.

Also reported was the invasion of the Hotel Colon Caribe, some 20 kilometers south of Limón Centro and 10 kilometers from the airport. That took place late March 20, but did not involve U.S. citizens. The tourists involved were Swedish and Swiss.

Consequently, the U.S. Embassy staff is aware of at least three more armed robberies of U.S. citizens that have not been reported to the public by police agencies and have not been the subject of news stories.

In a release, Eric Nelson, chargé d’affaires at the embassy, said that consular officials have visited the Caribbean coast multiple times to offer assistance to those affected by crimes and U.S. citizens there concerned about crimes. He also said that embassy diplomats have urged the Costa Rican government to confront the problem.

The embassy release makes no mention of the murder of a 17 year old in a botched stickup just across the border in Panamá, although it does note that some robbery suspects have been detained.

The embassy urged its citizens to stay up to date on travel bulletins and to register with the embassy when they visit the country.

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