San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ex-Convict Returns To Claim Property

FREE after nearly 18 years of being held in U.S.and Mexican prisons on drug-trafficking charges,Danny Fowlie, at one time Pavones’ biggest landownerand employer in the remote Southern Zone surfer town,visited the country last week to reclaim his lands.Fowlie, who was released last year, made the roundsin his former haunts with his lawyer in tow, laying claimto property he alleges was stolen from him while he wasimprisoned.After he left the country June 2, Immigration authoritiesclamped a restriction on his reentry while the Public Security Ministry looks into complaintsthat he threatened people inPavones.Fowlie told The Tico Times this week heis fighting the immigration restriction.A fact-gathering commission formed byPublic Security Minister Rogelio Ramosvisited the Southern Zone yesterday toinvestigate complaints of threats Fowlieallegedly made, Immigration DirectorMarco Badilla told The Tico Times.The entry ban “is a precautionary measureimposed until the investigation is finished,”Badilla explained. He said Article60 of the General Immigration Law allowsrejection of foreigners at the border if aperson’s record could be presumed a threatto public safety.Authorities began looking into the matterafter residents claimed Fowlie hadthreatened them. Pavones residentFrancisco Gómez told the daily La Naciónthat Fowlie threatened to harm one of hischildren if he didn’t give his land back.Fowlie told The Tico Times by phonefrom his California home that he never sawGómez.“I had a peaceful time in Pavones;there were no confrontations,” he said.“I’m doing everything legally, but theseguys are scared to death that I will recoverthe property.”Besides, he said, Costa Ricans on hisproperty aren’t the problem.“A lot of these Gringos bought propertyreal cheap down there under the premisethat I wouldn’t be coming back. It’s theGringos that I have a problem with. I’mnot going to have any problem with theTicos there,” he said.Fowlie owned nearly 1,500 hectares(3,700 acres) of land during his heyday inthe late 1970s and early 1980s. Hedescribed the land as 15 miles of beachfront,or about 85% of the Pavones area.He employed most of the small town’sresidents until he was arrested in Mexico in1987 and was extradited to the UnitedStates on drug-trafficking charges.DURING his six-year tenure asPavones’ major landholder, Fowlie pumpeda lot of money into developing the neglectedstrip of coastline that stretches to thePanamanian border –some say to build theinfrastructure for hisalleged drug-runningoperation, others sayout of the love he feltfor the people (TT,Dec. 19, 1997).Fowlie said hisoperations there werelimited to legitimatecrops – cacao, peanutsand agriculturalresearch.He taught residents how to cultivatecertain plants, and built roads, bridges,schools, churches, a soccer field, andemployed “almost everyone in Pavones” inhis agricultural enterprise, he said.He has achieved legendary statusamong many of the Costa Ricans whoknew him before his arrest.“THE people looked on Fowlie as if hewere a god,” said Roberto Umaña, Fowlie’slawyer in the 1980s, in an interview lastyear. “Once I was with him when he flew hisplane over the town and threw money downon the people below. There’s a myth abouthim now, that he’ll return someday in a goldenplane throwing money.”According to the U.S. Department ofJustice, Fowlie “led an organization thatdistributed more than 30 tons of marijuanathroughout the United States andCanada,” smuggled from Mexico. Hewas convicted in 1990 for possession ofmarijuana with intent to distribute it, conspiringto defraud the United States, andfailing to report currency transportation,for which he served nearly 18 years.Fowlie maintains his innocence.“They found 20 boxes (they said had)marijuana residue (at his ranch in California)and said if they werefull they would holdlots of pot. But theyhad no evidence. Thatstarted it; it went onfrom there. Anyonewho spoke out againstme could get a freepass out of jail,”Fowlie said, going onto describe allegedpolice corruption hesays was the cause ofhis downfall.In the 1980s, The Tico Times reportedthat Fowlie bought his land from notoriousfugitive financier Robert Vesco, who reportedlyowned much of the land in Pavonesbefore he fled Costa Rica in 1978 (TT, Nov.25, 1988). Fowlie denies this, saying hebought one of Vesco’s homes, but bought therest of his holdings from Costa Ricans.LAND disputes in Pavones havespurred murders, arson, sabotage and otherviolence for the past 20 years, ever sincethe United Fruit Company packed up in1985 and hundreds of jobless banana pickersbecame land squatters.Armed with use-it-or-lose-it land lawsdesigned to encourage development, andarmed with guns, machetes and Molotovcocktails, squatters and landowners, manyof them foreigners, battled for possessionof the beaches and forests. More than oneonlooker has called it the wild, wild, west.Conflict in the past few years has beenlimited to the courts, but not before oneunsolved murder brought the beach underinternational scrutiny.IN 1997, the mayor of Golfito, the porttown and seat of local government locatedtwo hours from Pavones, gave permissionto a Pavones fishermen’s cooperativecalled Coopeatur to build an ice factory(TT March 5, 2004).The site encroached on the ranch of MaxDalton, a 78-year-old U.S. citizen. Daltonwas shot to death in the fight that ensuedwhen he contested the fishermen’s right tobuild on his land. He allegedly went downshooting, killing one of his alleged attackers,Alvaro Aguilar, 55 (TT Nov. 21, 1997). Thecrime has not been resolved, but has focusedinternational attention on the rights oflandowners in Costa Rica.One Pavones resident said Fowlie’sreturn could rekindle the violence.“I have not seen Pavones with thepotential for violence so near the surfacesince the early 1990s as in those few dayshe was here,” the source told The TicoTimes on condition of anonymity. “Thesquatters could turn to violence if Danny(Fowlie) comes back and says he willmove them off the land.”FOWLIE said the Costa Ricans hespoke with were apologetic for selling hisland.“I told them I want to grade the roads,put in water and electricity and give themlots so they can have a decent piece of propertyinstead of a squatted property,” he said.

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