Posted by: Idioma Extra | November 15, 2010

Monday’s News

Admiring Costa Rica’s Corruption


If there is one thing admirable about Costa Rica´s national epidemic of corruption it is that an open and robust media has embraced the courage to make it all public, down to every last detail. Not many countries do that in this world. However, the residual is that the international image of corruption and crime appear far more prevalent than is the reality.

On the other hand, an open press is essential as well as reader opinions since both have a long tradition of value in this country.

Recently the leading Spanish language newspaper, La Nación´s editorial was titled (Translated) “Reestablishing Public Confidence” and it was well written but very much wishful thinking, a naïve fairy tale at best.

Costa Rica, have we become or have we always been but never wanted to admit it, corrupt from top to bottom?

Even the Catholic Church is coming under fire for illegal banking practices and financing.

Also, on the top two or three rungs of the ladder are three former presidents and the most troubling part to think about are all those other officials who stole what we don´t know about.

One ex-president convicted but walking around on appeal and might very well go free on a technicality, one now on trial that has been delayed over and over again which looks ominous for a conviction, and one in self imposed exile living the good life in Switzerland.

And a month ago we had a new revelation from a guilty plea criminal convicted in England who said under oath that his reinsurance company paid $2 million in bribes to influential people inside the Costa Rican national insurance company (INS) plus our beloved telephone company, ICE, to get their business.

Also in October, long time and seemingly trusted judge, Mauel Sanabria got 16 years behind bars for letting walk free, three Colombians caught with 923 kilos of cocaine. Not only did the three not check in as ordered (Sure!) they have left the country altogether.

The new Attorney General, Jorge Chevarria in an open interview admitted that 33% of all prosecutors have failed to meet the minimum requisites of a prosecutor. Despite tough talk, the interview was more based on the lament that innocent people are incarcerated rather than guilty people are free, which seems to me far more critical.

So, what is left?

Bribes to acquire medicines and equipment for our national health services (CCSS), bribes for telephone connections, misappropriation of funds by municipal mayors who authorized permits for construction and more recently seven driver test examiners were arrested for taking bribes up to $170 each from an estimated 400 want-to-be truck/bus drivers to assure passage of the required test.

And let us not ignore the judge, his assistant and the traffic cop who have been ripping off $200 or more to car owners who had their vehicles impounded.

Some of the very people who are paid to protect this country are criminals themselves such as the “crooked cop of the week” who got a cool $2,000 every time he radioed ahead to the drug traffickers where they might be stopped and searched.  It seems that identifying corruption has been well done by the media.

What is illusive are convictions as a result of an overly active, hyper yet anemic judicial system that very much favors the rights of the accused rather than the victims of crime. In short, “Do the crime and probably not the time.”

Ergo, the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder look up and say, “why not me too because my future is limited to 12 hour days to feed a family of four and what are the chances of being caught? Plus, if I do get caught, nine times out of ten I will be set free in a couple of days.”

Public confidence has nothing to do with it since far too many Costa Ricans are trying to figure out how to get a piece of the pie instead of abiding by the law. And, why not? Leadership of Costa Rica has obviously carved in stone a set of ethical standards that are deplorable.

Are we expected to swallow the lame pitch that these drug cartel people are working alone and the kingpins are evil foreigners?  This is organized crime in a disorganized country and the criminals are just as much Costa Rican as they are Colombian, Mexican, Jamaican, American, etc.

Run a few drugs and get out of poverty, hide some stash, steal a little bit, maybe a little more the second time around and even more from then on and on when you just might justify doing that to improve your standard of living in which case crime has won the day.

As a traffic cop perhaps you can add to the family´s comfort level by taking some bribes, as a police officer, a few colons to protect some street vendors or an illegal immigrant prostitute, some money to offer protection, whatever seems inconsequential compared to what the top guys get.

With more courage, how about stealing the cocaine with a few fellow officers for resale? One big killing and then go honest again.

Each of these examples has been well publicized in Spanish language and English speaking media. This is the new reality of Costa Rica along with unabated violent crime.

Regardless of the never ending technicalities, judicial incompetence, corrupt judges, no matter how full are the prisons with criminals, convicted criminals need to go to jail and I don´t mean for a few months either.

La Nación, this is the only viable option to “Reestablishing Public Confidence”. Costa Rica is tired of learning about and being victims of payoffs, corruption, drug trafficking, seeing men and women who are guilty still walk free, still influential and moreover socially respected as more and more of our society collectively embraces the fatal syndrome, “Why not me too?”

Word of the day

Pronunciation: \ə-ˈpēl\
Origin: Middle English appel, from Anglo-French apel, from apeler
First Known Use: 13th century
1: a legal proceeding by which a case is brought before a higher court for review of the decision of a lower court
2: a criminal accusation
3 a: an application (as to a recognized authority) for corroboration, vindication, or decision b : an earnest plea : entreaty <an appeal for help>c : an organized request for donations <the annual appeal>
4: the power of arousing a sympathetic response : attraction<movies had a great appeal for him>

More Vocabulary

Abide: v. to accept without objection 
Admirable: adj.
deserving the highest esteem
Anemic: adj.
lacking force, vitality, or spirit
Bribe: n.
money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust
Crooked: adj.
Ergo: adv.
Incarcerate: v.
to put in prison
Incompetent: adj.
inadequate to or unsuitable for a particular purpose
Impound: v.
to seize and hold in the custody of the law
Misappropriate: v.
to appropriate wrongly (as by theft or embezzlement)
Naïve: adj.
marked by unaffected simplicity
Omen: n.
an occurrence or phenomenon believed to portend a future event
Pitch: v.
to present or advertise especially in a high-pressure way
Robust: adj.
having or showing vigor, strength, or firmness
Technicality: n.
something technical; especially : a detail meaningful only to a specialist

Love those Phrasal Verbs

Rip off: charge excessively or obtain money unfairly

  • The thief ripped off some jewelry as soon as no one was looking.



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