March 12, 2005 [LINK]

Bank robbery in Costa Rica

Nine people were killed in a bank shootout on Wednesday after a robbery attempt failed and hostages were taken. It happened in the mountain tourist town of Santa Elena, about two hours northwest of San Jose, near Arenal volcano (It is one of the best bird watching locations in the country, but I passed it by on my recent trip there.) Three of the culprits, including the only one who survived and was apprehended, were immigrants from Nicaragua. In an ironic parallel to the United States, many people in Costa Rica have complained about the influx of illegal immigrants in recent years. See Tico Times. I sometimes wondered about security when Jacqueline and I were in remote areas of Costa Rica with scant police protection last month. Compared to other Latin American countries, Costa Rica is relatively safe and stable, but this case shows that all is not well in that tropical eco-paradise. Rich gringo tourists attract thieves and burglars like raw meat attracts flies. As long as you stay alert, keep watching all around you, and of course avoid dangerous places, you won't have much to worry about.