San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Crime Beat

Tamarindo residents consider suing government over security after hotel owner's murder

The faltering police presence in Tamarindo has for years caused frustration among local residents and conflict between the popular beach town and the capital of the canton that it’s part of, Santa Cruz.

But the recent robbery and killing of beloved Tamarindo resident and hotel owner Barry Lawson has residents outraged, and considering serious steps to remedy the situation, including a lawsuit.

Last Friday over 300 people from the community met at the Playa Langosta Surf Club Sports Bar to discuss security in the wake of Lawson’s death.

Lawson and his wife, Suzye, who owned the Villa Alegre Bed and Breakfast and ran a local non-profit, Amigos de la Educación, were robbed at their hotel on April 1. Barry Lawson sustained serious head injuries and died April 7 at a hospital in San José.

Friday’s gathering was hosted by the Tamarindo Integral Development Association (ADI), a community organization that focuses on resolving community problems, including public safety. On the agenda: Santa Cruz’s disappointing response to Tamarindo community needs; the inconsistent police presence in town; a proposal for a video monitoring system; and discussion of a potential lawsuit in hopes of forcing Santa Cruz to attend to increasing security concerns in the area.

Santa Cruz Mayor Dr. Jorge Chavarría and Santa Cruz Police Chief Elder Monge Castro were also scheduled to speak at the meeting, but Monge pulled out at the last minute. The police chief said the location wasn’t secure, and he objected to the sale of alcohol at the meeting, saying it would affect the discussions. Some in the crowd were livid.

ADI Treasurer Trevor Bernard expressed disappointment: “We had hoped to write down our needs and to get the police to sign it and then to hold them to it,” he said.

Ellen Zoe Golden

 

Jogi Juergen Gerner, who heads the ADI security committee, told the crowd about the committee’s work over the last 10 years, including many attempts to reach out to the Ministry of Public Security for help with maintaining a local police presence.

In 2007, the police had to vacate the donated building they had been using as a Tamarindo police station. The community then raised funds to help pay rent on a new headquarters, at Cabinas Maleko.

But once again, just recently, the police had to leave their station at Cabinas Maleko because the rent was $30,000 in arrears. The Ministry of Public Security had taken over paying rent for awhile. Then Tamarindo residents stepped in again, then the Municipality of Santa Cruz paid rent, until it didn’t.

Tamarindo’s pleas for financial assistance for the police, including rent, more manpower, vehicles and assistance with a proposed video monitoring system, have gone virtually unanswered.

Last week, Wolfgang Gollas, owner of the Tamarindo Diria Hotel, donated 5,000 square meters for a new police station. In the meantime, he’s agreed to foot the rental bill for the police to have a Tamarindo base at Cabinas Colibrí.

At the meeting, ADI urged people to report crimes to the association via its website to establish a record of local needs. The association also wants to raise money to pay for a video monitoring system to watch the town’s streets.

Then it was Santa Cruz Mayor Chavarría’s turn to speak.

“I feel very sorry for what just happened in Tamarindo, and I am here out of solidarity,” Chavarría told the audience.

“I believe Tamarindo should have police and the muni has paid several years rent for the police. So where is the Ministry of (Public) Security? When we stopped paying, we expected the Ministry of Security to pay.”

Some audience members got heated.

“The municipality hasn’t done anything,” Rik Grencik, who has lived in the area for 28 years, said.

“I came here to honor Barry. What happened to him has to be a catalyst for change,” he said. “I will give $500 for the arrest and conviction of the bastards who killed him.”

Mayor Chavarría promised to meet with his municipal cabinet about security in Tamarindo and to meet with the Ministry of Public Security.

Many audience members were enthusiastic about ADI’s idea of suing the government on behalf of Tamarindo to force it to attend to the town’s security needs. Tamarindo business owners and residents have long complained that, thanks to tourism, they pay heavily into local and national tax coffers, but receive little in return.

“We plan on going to the highest system of courts in this country,” Juergen from ADI said. “There are six attorneys in town helping draft the lawsuit and they are investigating similar cases around the country to see how we should do it.”

The lawsuit plan gathered pages of approving signatures from attendees.

Even Mayor Chavarría agreed that the local government, at least, owes Tamarindo.

“Tamarindo gives lots of money to the muni; what can the muni do for Tamarindo?” he said, summing up the community’s feelings.

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frantico

Ben , i do love when every thing as to do with something completely a part from the actual article written in the Tico Time .
We ( tamarindo ) are the second income for the governement in taxes after Escazu.
We ( tamarindo ) are not gringos but from every where ,so lets us please drop the anti gringo language that really has very little to do here . Most of the other point you are making are valid but said at a very bad moment. We all lost a friend, some one that actually had been working really hard and for many years to help education in Guanacaste and had been part of fixing the problem that you are talking about . Lets us vent our anger and use the laws that your beautiful country enable to use to make it even better for all .

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Ken Morris

Well, if the photo posted in the story is reflective, the big US flag kind of screams “gringo.”

With respect to Tamarindo paying a lot of taxes, that may well be true, but my sense is that it’s a town that has priced out the locals, who can no longer afford to live there, and seems mainly to welcome them back as commuters in service jobs once they master English.

I’m not blaming gringos for this, or even necessarily faulting the kind of economic development that Tamarindo epitomizes (although I do have reservations about that), but am saying that I can understand how resentment can grow and fester among locals, some of whom act out in criminal ways.

Were I you all, I therefore wouldn’t focus too much on police protection. As the saying goes, the only thing police do is take statements from the next of kin. Instead I would attend to the structural issues that providing the breeding ground for the kind of resentment that leads to this kind of crimes.

BTW, I’m gringo too, and at turns proudly so. I’m not against what you all in Tamarindo are doing and support you. My two cents is just that I’d change some of the focus.

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jsw987

Except that Tamarindo was never really a Tico town. It’s a young town and back in early 70s, the first dozen or so inhabitants were mostly ex-pats and that population grew exponentially from there. And yes, the populace has long-employed folks from older towns where the Ticos always traditionally lived, and with Tamarindo’s growth, those towns have prospered greatly. But no, not even half speak conversational English, much less master it.

Also, it’s not resentment. That’s a joke. Since when are the peaceful Ticos so jealous they murder people? Besides, the general consensus is that this was not an act of passion but a organized crime committed by the ever-increasing criminal Columbian presence in Tamarindo. So attending to the right structural issues means the absolute necessity of police involvement in Tamarindo.

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Ben

You lost a good guy but the people of Tamarindo should have stood up long before this sad murder happened. The last time i went to Tamarindo i was surprised how much drugs and Prostitution was there. Costa Rican see murder and drug problems every other day. You think one US citizen sad death is going to change anything? Costa Rican see injustice and corupt goverment every day. Most Costa Rican wants honest change but there scared to stand up against the corupt goverment. The only way to protect your family and your property now in Costa Rica is by owning a gun. Everyone in my family own´s a gun now. The old saying a family that shoots together is safer together. That´s where Costa Rica is protect your property and family by way of the gun. Still very sad with way this US guy died he seemed like he wanted to change things maybe the average Tamarindo will speak up against the corupt goverment in Costa Rica.

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SDPUS

If Tamarindo wants something done, including a conviction of this heinous murder, they must go to the head of the snake. Santa Cruz OIJ Jefe Victor Chavez Chavarria needs to be terminated from his position. Real leadership needs to replace this corrupt man who leads all investigations in the region. He and a few OIJ Fiscals and investigators have failed this region miserably, and until these people are removed from leadership positions, there will NEVER be a sense of security in the region, especially for foreigners. The internal investigations of these corrupt OIJ Santa Cruz employees has been underway for some time, as the denuncias were filed long ago, in regards to their illegal actions and their utter disregard for upholding the law and its procedures as paid public servants. Tamarindo certainly pays its fair share of taxes. We deserve honest leadership, not crime and corruption.

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Ben

Here we go again US citizens that think they are going to change Costa Rica and the Costa Rican goverment. The facts are US citizens do not have a clue how corupt the Costa Rican goverment is. Most US citizen should leave Costa Rica if they are looking for Honest goverment they will never find honesty Costa Rica. This Murder in Tamarindo is sad but US citizens should start looking around and seeing that 49% of Costa Rican live on less than 2 dollars a day and when poor Costa Rican see rich US citizens with money building big houses and driving nice cars they get very mad and wonder why they can´t have a nice home or a business. To SDPUS firing police makes no sense the facts are the Costa Rican govement is lazy and is 100% corupt. What needs to happen is fire all of the goverment and start over with a new budget and honest budget. These people that want to sue the goverment are very stupied they will never get anywhere with a law suit in Costa Rica. The justice ministry is so corupt and lazy. I live in San jose and own a business and pay lots of Taxes and can´t even get a hole in the street fixed when i complain you think little Tamarindo is on the top of the goverment list get real. Go to CAJA hospital they have no toilet Paper in there bathrooms do you think you are going change anything in Costa Rica get real.

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Hachi Ko

I can’t sneak inside the mind of anyone to know what they are truly thinking, but I don’t this is an issue regarding a U.S. vs. Costa Rica mindset. We’re talking about a serious security/police issue that needs to be addressed, and not all of the expat residents are from the USA, either. This is not about how big a house can be or how wide the streets should be… this is about people feeling safe… not just safe enough to step outside of their own homes, but to be safe inside of their homes as well.

Yes, there are a lot of expats living in Costa Rica. There are many more non-U.S. citizen expats living in the USA. We live in a Global society. 200 years ago, you couldn’t hop on an airplane in San Jose and be in New York City less than 6 hours later. 500 years ago, San Jose and New York City didn’t exist. The world has changed, and whether we like it or not — unless maybe if you live in North Korea — there is no such thing as a homogeneous society any more.

On issues such as this one, we must toss the petty “us vs. them” politics out the window and get the problem fixed… if we can.

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SDPUS

Change is incremental, Ben. Change is also inevitable. That is the evolution of life. Science and the history of the world clearly show us that we have the ability to actively effect change. My question to you: what type of future do you wish for?

….it takes a plan. We each have the ability to make things better for all people, not just for our own self interest. That is the basis for developing the institution of government. By the people and for the people. Be the change you want to see. That is what being “real” is all about.

I agree with much of what you say. But we as citizens, we can demand effective change. It all starts with the person sitting at the top. If they are corrupt, then the system will be corrupt. I do not believe President Solis to be corrupt. He is an educator. This issue will have his ear. The people will be certain of that. The media should also play a very important role in ousting the corrupt.

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Ken Morris

Thoughtfully and courteously put, SOPUS.

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Ben

Your right Change has to happen in Costa Rica or things could get even worse. I do disagree with you on one point about President Solis he seems unaware of much of the problems and does not want to fire anyone in goverment. Also sorry about the grammer i was on my phone.

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jsw987

Ben– Barry Lawson lived and did business in Costa Rica for 20 odd years, so he most certainly did have a clue about the corruption of the Costa Rican government. For the most part, ex-pats have to deal with corruption more than locals. We often get what you get, plus a large side order of exploitation specifically designed for ex-pats alone.

Also, while Villa Allegre is a larger house, it is a business. Who can run a successful Bed and Breakfast in some place that is not, in your words, “a nice home”? By stating that ex-pats should stop expecting law enforcement and justice is essentially discouraging foreign investments in Costa Rica, killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Are you even aware how much Costa Rica depends on foreign development. An example a smaller scale, a very large percentage of big businesses in Tamarindo that pay considerable taxes and combined employ hundreds of Ticos, are NOT Tico-owned. And if those business-owners leave Tamarindo, not only will they take their businesses and it’s massive residual economic influences but they will take with them other economic opportunities (no-longer supporting Tico-owned industries, the decline of domestic labor, and further loss of tax monies) Then just sit back and watch the rapid decay of the prosperity that so many nearby Tico towns like Villereal and Huacas enjoyed in recent times, and that includes not only local economy but the quality of local infrastructure (schools, law enforcement, roads).

Now on a much large economic scale, have you not considered the bad rap the region will get for its lawlessness? That is something Costa Rica cannot afford, considering its reliance on tourism and large foreign-owned corporations, which in turn rely on Costa Rica’s peace-loving reputation. These big-time foreign corporations want bring with them their best employees, and these employees won’t take a job in a country where they feel that their safety is ignored. I cannot believe that Costa Ricans are so short-sighted that they would cripple their own economy and allow their invaluable reputation to dissolve due to something that can be remedied.

Finally, I am not sure how you think the municipality ignoring a hole in your street equates to a municipality not providing protection from violent crimes and, worse, basically ignoring them. The comment was not only callous, it missed its mark. Regardless of living in “big” (lol) San Jose or little Tamarindo, one’s legal right to safety is far more vital than one’s right to filled potholes (and frankly, I cannot believe you would complain about your single pothole if you knew the roads of Tamarindo). And Ben, people rolling over and playing dead by saying the corruption is too deep, nothing can be solved’ is not the way things change. Such complacency is what led Mexico done its current downward path. I don’t know why you have a problem with people sticking up for their rights but thankfully not everyone is afraid to face a significant challenge or the world would never progress or improve.

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Sean Davis

Between his incorrect statistics, sweeping generalizations, bottled up rage, and inability to punctuate above a third grade school; perhaps it may be time for Ben to go back home.

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Ben

I was born in Costa Rica and raised. Costa Rica is my home. Why don´t you stupied US citizen´s go home. I have 2 masters degree. Don´t get me started on US goverment and US citizens. My statistics i give are low . Wake up Sean and smell the Coffee. English is my Third Language i speak. Sean your the guy that makes Latin America hate US citizens and your dum US policy against Latin America.

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Ken Morris

Actually, Ben, I believe your percentage of the population living on less than $2 is way high. It’s more like 20 than 49%.

Besides this, I personally always cut you slack for your mistakes in English, since Lord knows if I tried to write in Spanish I’d make more of that. However, you might want to change “stupied” to “stupid.” You use this word often and misspell it.

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Fernando Gerdano

I was born here too. You should still leave CR Ben you are an idiot and not helping anything. 2 masters degrees!?? I call BS, your grammar is 3rd grade level and you write like a moron. Even a regular troll is more relevant than you.

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Lindsay Losasso

A memorial fund has been established to help the nonprofit Amigos de la Educacion that Barry Lawson created with his wife to Suzye recoup the thousands of dollars that were stolen from their scholarship fund during the robbery. A fund has also been established that will directly support the family and help to defray some of the uncovered medical and funeral costs. Please click on the link below to donate or to learn more. Thank you for supporting the Lawsons and Amigos de la Educacion during this very difficult time.

https://www.crowdrise.com/barrylawsonmemorial/fundraiser/amigoscr

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Dreamskape

We spent a year living in the Tamarindo area and of the 3 interactions we had with police, all were less than favorable.

1. Someone broke a window in our car while we were eating dinner in Tamarindo. We had to wait for the police to finish smoking their joint before they would come and take the report.

2. A horse was hit by a car on route 155 between Tamarindo and Huacas. The horse had a severely broken leg and needed to be put down. Because the owner was not present, the police had to give permission to the vet to perform the procedure and put the horse out of it’s misery. The police were called 3 times and each time they said they would be there … yet it took nearly 3 hrs for them to arrive. In the meantime, the horse stood there, in the middle of the roadway, in 95 degree heat, suffering from shock and in intense pain before the vet was finally able to put her down and end her suffering.

3. My spouse was returning from lunch with his son when a motorcycle policeman stopped him near the gas station on route 155. The officer told my husband that he had been drinking and he could smell it on his breath. My husband admitted to having one beer during lunch but was not drunk or even close to it. To make a long story short, the officer pulled out a “fine chart” and tried to get my husband to pay a $480 cash fine for drinking/driving. My husband told the officer he was not drunk and was going to call his attorney. Once the officer heard that, he let him go.

The point to this is that we can’t even get a satisfactory response from the police on little issues so it’s no wonder Tamarindo has a drug/crime problem…. and IMO it’s only getting worse and will continue to do so —– unless serious changes are made within the law enforcement department.

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DonnaCanuck

I did not know Mr. Lawson, but it is very clear from what I’ve read, he was a special person and well liked by everyone. I do hope that that the community can muster some measure of success in pressuring the governmental offices into addressing the serious issues surrounding the safety of the communities. It is incomprehensible that such crimes could go unpunished and no changes to thwart such horrendous acts of violence in the future. I can understand why the Police Chief felt that attending the meeting in such a venue might be a little disconcerting. Having said that, I do feel that the Police should hold a press conference to address this matter. The response time which seems to be a bit of a question needs to be clarified and addressed. Were they busy on other calls or other important policing duties which prevented a speedier response? It would be beneficial to all for some transparency. A further collaboration between the government bodies and communities in addressing the needs of the community and the budget available to fund those needs should be an open discussion. Taxes paid out should easily cover the expenses of a properly outfitted police station and the necessary amount of officers. They are an important part of any community and it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure those funds are in place. My husband and I love Costa Rica and hope to retire there soon. We find the Tico’s to be quite warm and friendly. It doesn’t matter what part of the globe you live on, there will always be crime. All we can do is try to ensure that law enforcement has the tools and personnel they need to help keep crime at bay.

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Dan Gibson

Every signee to the suit would be ”dead and buried” for a hundred years before the ”paperwork and BS” would ever be heard in a court room!

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acwatson

Sue the government? Good luck with that, they will just loss paper work, and send you in circles of bullshit and lies. My daughter was kidnapped with the assistance of the corrupt system in Santa Cruz that has no accountability. Last I herd the judge was still trying to serve the mother knowing dam well shes not in the country. My condolences to friends and family,

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Aitor Xaranga

Sue WHO? LOL! Wake up! You live in Puravidaland. The government cannot be sued, unless you have tons of cash and are willing to endure a decade or two of infernal justice processes.

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captmarkhd

Not to get off subject but I agree Ben you are an idiot. For someone that has two masters degrees you seem to be very un worldly in your education and views. Quoting Castro, really? You know nothing about the Cuba and their society, because if you did you would not be quoting Castro. You do have some valid points that I do agree with as do others but they get lost in the hate and bigotry that you exhibit time and again in your post towards gringos and North Americans. If it was not for us “gringos” that have invested their hard earned money into Costa Rica she would be like all of her Latin American neighborsand (I do not need to go into their problems) I Freely admit that North Americans are not perfect, that we have our own set of problems but more times than not we give back a lot more into our local communitys than we ever recieve in turn. You can’t have it both ways Ben, you can’t have our money and not have us as well so deal with it. We all need to work together Ben, Tico’s and gringos to help Costa Rica continue to be a developing country so that both your family and ours will enjoy a more prosperous life.

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Ben

You gave the point of most US citizen your always right and there never any other point. As for your comments i have traveled and lived in many countries like Cuba,Thailand,Panama,USA,Cambodia,Columbia,Bosnia,Rwanda and lived in Canada for 7 years and i carry both a Costa Rican passport and a Canadian Passport. I will not get into my education and Military background because your a US citizen and you know best on everything. As for your comments on getting along in the world does the US goverment use that policy in the world? You want to invest in Costa Rica and you think your helping by building big homes and driving the cost up for Costa Rican is an argument i think all Costa Rican need to have. When i hear a US citizens talk about prosperous life i think about slavery and one person getting rich off of thousands of poor people. Better wording would be Fair way of life.
Poverty in Costa Rica these number look low. Ken Morris
INEC released the results of the 2014 National Household Survey, revealing that 318,810 households live in poverty, up 32,727 from the same period in 2013. The 1.7 percent increase in the poverty rate was accompanied by a 6.7 percent increase in the number of families living in extreme poverty, which totaled 94,810.

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captmarkhd

Ben, let’s see how the poverty in Costa Rica would be without foreign investment! How many people do you think are directly or indirectly employed by either small foreign business owners, tourism or as you say “the Rich” Americans with big houses. Who built those houses? Who maintains those houses? Where do those owners buy their groceries when they visit? Don’t those owners invest in Costa Rica every time they visit? And by the way, no body forced Tico’s to sell their land, it was bought and payed for honestly.

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SDPUS

Ben, it is the country of Colombia. How could a Latino misspell that? Hmmmm…

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SDPUS

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” – Albert Einstein.

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Ben

I began revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and plan of action.
Fidel Castro

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