San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Expat Crime

U.S. beachgoer tries to burn down police station after his arrest in Tamarindo

Santa Cruz police arrest a 29-year-old U.S. suspect with the last name Kelarakus on June 10, 2014, in Tamarindo, Guanacaste.

Courtesy Public Security Ministry

Santa Cruz National Police arrested a 29-year-old U.S. citizen in the beach town of Tamarindo, Guanacaste, who reportedly tried to burn down a police station Tuesday, according to a statement from the same organization.

Police caught the Gringo with the last name Kelarakus minutes after he allegedly broke a car window and stole a laptop computer and other items. Kelarakus did not have the computer or any of the other missing items on his person at the time of the arrest.

After he was brought to the police station, Kelarakus reportedly started a fire in a trash can and “tried to burn the police station,” said Santa Cruz Police Chief Alexander Rodríguez.

Rodríguez said the suspect was “defensive” and “very agitated” during his arrest.

Police did not say if the suspect was in Costa Rica legally.

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Unless the word Gringo is used with a negative adjective, I don’t take any offense to it at all. Not in Costa Rica. In Mexico, yes. But here Gringo is used just like a Tico might call out to a Chinese cashier or waiter, “Chino.” It’s not at all derogative.

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Michael Pratt

I agree , when I refer to someone in North America I call them gringo’s as I am one , the US is so uptight about calling people a slang word , as long as you being polite and not being negative .. I see nothing wrong

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Matt Levin

Let’s go to the best source on the use of slang – Urban Dictionary:

“If you know any Mexican people then you’ll know this is a non-derogatory term used to refer to US citizens. Mostly because the term “American” does not make sense to the rest of the Americans (all those people who live in the continent named “America”, which is every body from Alaska to Argentina), and the word “Estadounidense” (UnitedStatean) is too long.”

Yeah that actually makes a lot of sense. Although Gringo is not used exclusively for U.S. citizens, it’s definitely the most common use. And Gringo works way better than American (which we actually do NOT say in The Tico Times). I always introduce myself as a Gringo. It’s a silly demonym, and I embrace it.

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This guy is a peice of crap.

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Ken Morris

Although I don’t get upset with the term “gringo,” in this case it does seem gratuitous. He was already identified as a US citizen and the terms “man” or “suspect” could have been used instead.

More disturbing is the concluding sentence: “Police did not say if the suspect was in Costa Rica legally.” Talk about damning by innuendo! The police also didn’t say whether he was a child molester, terrorist, escaped convict, or a hundred other things. Unless the content of the story raises some reason to suspect other misdeeds, which the content of this story did not, it’s only fair not to damn by negative innuendo.

More broadly still, if you notice, most of the media in Costa Rica only identify wrongdoers by nationality (politely or not) when they are not Ticos, whether or not the nationality of the person has any bearing on the story. This is actually subtlety xenophobic. Typical is a story in a rival newspaper today that identifies a suspect as Nicaraguan. Do we really need to know the national origins of anyone, even this “gringo” in Tamarindo, unless that somehow is relevant to the story?

For no more meat than this story has, it’s hard to justify even identifying him as a US citizen, since all that does is inflame prejudice toward gringos (who I guess start fires in police department trash cans). I mean, if a Tico started a fire in a police department trash can, which I’m sure sometimes happens, I doubt that it would have even made the paper. Why is it newsworthy when a gringo does?

Mind, I am no defender of some of the sorry lot of my countrymen who end up in Costa Rica and embarrass us all. I therefore welcome stories that out these creeps. However, this story doesn’t include enough facts for us to know whether or not this gringo is even a creep. Probably he is, but name calling an innuendo shouldn’t substitute for the facts.

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J-p A Maldonado

These police officers need training! How do they let a prisoner retain matches or a lighter? Here in the USA, we confiscate matches, knives, metallic forks, pens and pencils, shoestrings, etc. before the perp enters his cell.

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He was trying to fit in with the locals.

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Dude must have been wicked high.

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Why does a professional news source refer to him as the Gringo, criminal or not ?

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Carl Hancock

I agree 100%. The Tico Times is one of my go to sources for Costa Rica news and as a United States citizen I think it’s very unprofessional for them to refer to people as Gringos while reporting on a subject that involves a non-Costa Rican citizen.

While the term gringo is frequently used in a non-derogatory manner by Ticos, it most definitely isn’t the case in Latin American countries such as Mexico where it’s used in a derogatory manner.

What makes it even more absurd is the founder of this publication, it’s management and most if it’s staff aren’t from Costa Rica themselves. It’s inappropriate for a professional news publication to throw it around as a de facto standard when referring to non-Ticos and more specifically people from the United States.

Tourists and expats who come to this site and read the Tico Times can get turned off by the Tico Times constantly referring to us as Gringos.

Unless you are going to refer to people from Mexico with a derogatory term, Africans with a derogatory term, Jews with a derogatory term, people from the Middle Easy with a derogatory term… and I could keep going… quit referring to people as gringos when reporting the news.

Hopefully an editor or the publisher will respond to these comments and address the matter.

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David Boddiger

Uh, that’s actually not true. Our owner is a Tico and 70 percent of our staff are Costa Ricans.

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Because it is run by bigots, apparently. Next they’ll be calling my people kikes.

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