Puerto Viejo residents try to rehabilitate former drug bunker

The murder of a resident, Carlos Gordon, could bring positive changes to Puerto Viejo. But this depends on what other residents, property owners and volunteers do with an empty house.

The absentee owner of a two-story house in Puerto Viejo was in town recently to settle a legal matter involving squatters on her property. She is Patricia Schneider, a resident of Hawaii, She owns some properties in Puerto Viejo and Hone Creek but has not lived in Costa Rica for the last three years. That was when she gave permission for a local couple to live in her  Puerto Viejo home.

She did not know that the couple would be suspected of using the house as a gathering place for crack and cocaine deals. Ms. Schneider allowed this couple to live in her house because she did not want squatters to take over.

Squatters, or precaristas, are common in Costa Rica because of laws that make evicting them very difficult. When landlords are absent, squatters often move into empty homes and then refuse to leave when the owners return.

Not long ago, there was a drug bust at this house. Locals call it the bunker. When police invaded the bunker, the couple went to jail and the house was left empty again.

This is where Carlos Gordon came into the story. Gordon had approached Ms. Schneider about being the new caretaker of her house. After moving in, he started his own business of renting out rooms to street people.

Apparently, Gordon got into a dispute with someone who retreated from the scene, then returned with a machete. Gordon died in the Limón hospital.

Now Ms. Schneider’s house is vacant again. People have already asked her to let them use her house. But this time, the people are not squatters but community and church leaders. They do not want to stand by and watch the cycle of crime continue. Town leaders who have raised their families here are concerned about the negative influences of drugs and crime in this quiet village.

Ms. Schneider said she would like to use the property to create a shelter or low-rent home for women with young children. Some other proposals for the vacant house are a public library and a community center for free classes and educational programs.

Leaders of a local church have approached Ms. Schneider with the offer to use the property for community outreach. Puerto Viejo is a tourist town, but it is also a quiet village where families live.

Property owners and town leaders are concerned about the future of the children. The first step is to occupy the property.

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