Manuel Antonio raid was heavy-handed

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with interest and irritation the article on the latest raid on vendors on Manuel Antonio beach which took place on or about Friday, Oct. 3.

I happened to have gone down to the beach at the old Mar y Sombra area where the raid occurred from my residence in Quepos about noon on that day. I was greeted by dozens of uniformed and un-uniformed police, OIJ agents and assorted workmen who brought along a front-end loader to be used to level the stalls of the vendors deemed out of compliance with the law. I was reminded of an attack of the same ilk and at the same location that occurred in June of 2009 when the same array of forces obliterated a couple of makeshift restaurants near the oval turnabout at the south end of the beach. They also moved many of the vendors at Mar Y Sombra to the alley that runs to the park near the oval (my guess is the authorities left the few that were at Mar Y Sombra to be destroyed this time because there wasn’t enough room down by the park to accommodate them all – poor planning on their part).

These heavy-handed authorities gave no warning and made no attempt to reconcile the permit and tax problems before showing up at 6 a.m., ordering the vendors to vacate and then knocked down everything by the end of the day. Wouldn’t it have been better to work out the permit and tax problems with the vendors by using a fiscal rep with a OIJ backup to persuade them to get with the system and show payment of taxes and a valid permit? They’ve had five years since the last raid to do so.

The point about having a sanitary permit is a red herring; Do they really believe a 9’ x 12’ booth should provide a bathroom for its customers? For that matter, where are the public bathrooms along a one-mile-plus beach for anyone to use? Non-existent. I suspect you could construct at least one unit for the cost of running the small army of police and authorities up to Manuel Antonio from San José to conduct the raid.

One suspects the restaurants and merchants along the main beach to be behind this, complaining enough to the unknowing politicos in San José until they launch a police operation. I guess we should be grateful that we had five years between attacks and at least had peace for that long. The irony is that these vendors are largely arts and craft people not in direct competition to the “permanent” establishments in the center. We also lost the few remaining walking beach vendors who plied such threatening products as fresh coconut water and ceviche to beach bums like me.

As a guest resident here for six years, I am still surprised that an essentially gentled-souled people like the Ticos can sometime act in draconian ways like this. We are losing an important part of our local culture here just to satisfy the politicos and opportunists. It’s sad to watch.

Bob Normand

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