Take it to court, U.S. Embassy tells dead expat

The U.S. Embassy here has advised a dead man to take his case to the local courts. And it took staffers nearly a week to do that.

Embassy staffers were asked specifically about the case of Cuban-American expat Rafael Machado, who was a murder victim. Shortly after his death was discovered Sept. 6, squatters moved on to his property in Coloradito de Corredores.

This was another one of those cases of land theft that probably was orchestrated by monied persons in the area.

Squatters have to be expelled from properties quickly or they acquire rights that can result in a long court battle, probably financed by the same persons who orchestrated the takeover.

There have been a procession of U.S. ambassadors of Costa Rica who appeared before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There they all promised to watch out for U.S. citizens here in what appears to have been scripts prepared by the U.S. State Department.

The latest was S. Fitzgerald Haney, a New Jersey businessman, who was confirmed by the full Senate in May. In both his committee appearances before confirmation he said that U.S. expats in Costa Rica totaled 100,000 and  “if confirmed, their safety and well-being will be my top priority.”

It appears that he was incorrect on both counts.

This is the full response from the U.S. Embassy that was delivered by email Monday:

“Unfortunately, there is very little that the U.S. Embassy can do to assist U.S. citizens who enter into land or business disputes in Costa Rica; they must be prepared to take their case to the local courts, which is often a very long and expensive process.  Squatter groups take advantage of legal provisions that allow people without land to gain title to unused property.  Victims of squatters have reported threats, harassment, and violence.”

The author of the statement was not given, although the message was delivered by Evelyn M. Ardon, a Costa Rican woman who works in the embassy press office. She did not attribute the statement either. But earlier in the day she said she was going to check with the consular staff.

U.S. citizens in Costa Rica have been plagued by property problems, and many have expressed dismay at the lack of effort on their behalf by the U.S. Embassy staffers.

Property invasions and property thefts are a significant problem not only for investors but for the average Costa Rican here.

Embassy workers come and go regularly, and most of the time their activities are hidden under an overly broad interpretation of the U.S. Privacy Act.

Consequently the staffers are unlikely to report if they are in contact with the next-of-kin of  Machado or even if they are aware of the death.

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