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20 years

Four Nicaraguan men arrested in rape of young U.S. tourist

UPDATE / EDITOR’S NOTE: The alleged victim has declined to press charges in the case.  Click here for the latest story.

July 15th, 2014 ( Four Nicaraguan constructions workers have been arrested in connection to the alleged gang-rape of a 19-year-old U.S. student from Wisconsin who was in Costa Rica as part of a study tour.


The young woman was allegedly raped by multiple attackers over the weekend in La Fortuna de San Carlos, a popular tourist town that is home to the Arenal Volcano.


According to the victim, she was attacked after leaving a bar-restaurant called ‘El Establo.’


The girl told police that the men took her to an empty house on the edge of the main road and raped her on the patio.


The four Nicaraguan men, aged between 27 and 35, were arrested Tuesday while working at a nearby construction site.


The suspects were placed at the time and location of the rape by several witnesses.  Authorities plan to present the men to witnesses in a lineup shortly.


Editor’s note: Our original report of the crime, made earlier today, stated that the victim was 17 years of age.  New information indicates that victim is in fact aged 19.



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  • expatin paradise

    So they rounded up the usual suspects? They couldn’t find three more Nicas to complete the number of rapists reported by the victim?

    • Ken Morris

      I wondered the same thing, as I also noted that the press had to identify the guys as Nicas. Whatever.

      • Roberto Vidal

        Because that is what they are, Nicaraguans, and illegal ones.. By the way you are always saying great things about them.

        • Ken Morris

          If you pay attention, you will notice that the local press never identifies Tico suspects as Ticos, but only identifies those who are foreign born by national origins. The effect is to heighten xenophobia. Sometimes, such as in cross-national crimes, the national origins of the suspects are relevant, but this isn’t the case for a rape allegation. Responsible journalism therefore only mentions national origins when they are pertinent to the story. Here the message is, “Nicas are rapists.”

          It’s also puzzling that the initial allegation was a gang rape by 7 men, yet only 4 were arrested. It makes you wonder whether the other three might have been of a different national origin.

          And, while you may be right that the Nica suspects were illegal, I find nothing in any of the stories to suggest this. I do see that they are identified as construction workers. This tells me that either they were legal or that some Tico was benefiting from the exploitation of Nica labor.

          Yep, as a national group, I like Nicas very much. I like Ticos too, but at the end of the day I have found Nicas to be of astonishingly good character, on the average. (Of course there are bad apples.) One poor Nica darn near saved my life, and may have, when he didn’t have to, and another is let me say a long-term companion I admire very much. The prejudice against Nicas in Costa Rica is not only morally but also factually wrong.

          Nicas don’t commit most of the crimes, they are actually under represented as patients in the Caja, and they aren’t lazy or dishonest.

          • Esteban

            I nearly spit out my coffee when I read your comment. “They never identify suspects as Ticos” Thats because THEY ARE IN COSTA RICA, isnt it OBVIOUS?!!

            “Nicas don’t commit most of the crimes” Statistical lie, the worst towns see crime proportional to the Nicaraguan population. Nicaraguans have stolen government land and built houses, the ENTIRE town of La carpio was land that belonged to the Caja and it was going to be used for housing low income employees. Nicas settled there and build houses and no one can kick them out thanks to dumbass liberal policies.

            “they aren’t lazy or dishonest.” OBVIOUSLY not all are lazy and dishonest, but there is a saying in Costa Rica that “if a Nicaraguan doesnt shit on the doorstep on the way in, they will do it on the way out”. Nicas are some of the most dishonest people in costa rica. They dont care for copyright laws or any laws in general. If they get arrested, they book it out of the country right away.

            Back in the 60s and to the early 90s Costa Rica saw very little crime. People had gradens and kids could leave their bikes laying on the front lawn. During the mid 90s there was a spike in crime because the country saw a spike in Nicaraguan immigration. The total number was about 80k nicaraguans. its 2015 and now there are 500,000 legal nicaraguans (plus 800,000 more illegals) Crime is rampant, we see executions, gang rapes, theft, gang violence, extortion.

            The medical system is clogged up thanks to medical tourism from Nicaragua. There are ENTIRE pharmacies in Nicaragua that SELL the FREE medicine they get from Caja.

            And just so you know “Nica” is a derogatory term. Its “Nicaraguan”. There are some good Nicaraguans, but most are very violent, dishonest, and entitled assholes.

          • Ken Morris

            Maybe you should try adding some sugar to your coffee?

            On Nica crime in Costa Rica, I was unable to find exact data, but was able to discover that 14.6% of Costa Rica’s prison population is foreign from this site:


            Mind, “foreign” includes not only Nicas but also Colombians, Dominicans, gringos, and you name it. Surely all 14.6% aren’t Nicas.

            Now, by common acknowledgement, Nicas make up around 10% of the Costa Rican population, so we would expect them to make up at least 10% of the prison population. Actually, we would expect them to make up more than 10% for three reasons. First, Nicas in Costa Rica are younger on the average than Ticos, and crime rates are higher among the young. Second, Nicas are poorer on the average than Ticos, and poor people tend to commit more of the kinds of crimes that lead to arrest and imprisonment than richer people. Third, as your remarks so colorfully illustrate, Tico prejudice against Nicas incline them to expect Nicas to commit more crimes. This leads to more aggressive policing of Nicas, more arrests, and more and longer prison sentences.

            The weird thing is that despite these additional reasons to expect Nicas to have a higher incarceration rate than Ticos, they don’t appear to. It even looks like the Nica incarceration rate is no higher and perhaps lower than the Tico incarceration rate.

            I’m not sure that squatters are the same as criminals, but if you want to go there you might want to count the Tico squatters (and often the crooked Tico lawyers who put them up to it) before singling out the Nicas.

            There is no reason to bother with data to rebut your charge that Nicas are clogging the health care system for the simple reason that upwards of half the Nicas in Costa Rica aren’t eligible for medical coverage here. They aren’t because they either aren’t legal residents or work jobs in which their employers illegally refuse to cover them via the Caja. Fortunately, Costa Rica is humanitarian enough to provide medical services free to everyone in emergencies, and yes emergencies include child births, but I assure you that half or more of the Nicas aren’t regularly visiting the hospitals or clinics, much less selling the medicines dispensed to them, since they aren’t even eligible for medical services.

            And among those who are, so what? That just means they’re paying their Caja taxes like everyone else. And again, since Nicas are on the average younger, they burden the health care system less than Ticos.

            I have a great Tica friend who, unfortunately like most Ticos, is prejudiced to her bones against Nicas. She is afraid to say “Nica” too loudly, since she too considers it a derogatory term. But the offense is in her own mind. Nicas don’t mind the term any more than North Americans mind “gringo” or “yanqui.” It depends upon who uses it and how. The problem prejudiced people have is that they can’t even use the term without fearing that they will reveal their prejudices.

            So I suppose if you’re going to repeat Tico prejudices about Nicas always shitting on you, you might not want to use the term “Nica” either. Out of your mouth it would probably cause offense.

            Yes, I know that Costa Rica is not as trouble-free as it was a generation or so ago, and know that to some extent the increasing troubles have happened at the same time Nica immigration has risen. However, it has also happened in tandem with the rise of cable TV (actually a more likely culprit). My point is that chronological associations aren’t necessarily causal. And actually, I think you may have your chronology of Nica immigration a bit off.

            Mostly I know that scapegoating is easy for everyone, and my impression is that Ticos find it more tempting than most. The country’s problems never seem to be the Ticos’ fault in their own opinions, but always somebody else’s fault. Whether the multinationals, the US, the IMF, or you name it, Ticos like to fault someone else. The Nicas, being the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country, are the easiest to use as scapegoats.

            Please don’t.

          • Esteban

            It doesn’t matter what you say, Nicaraguans or any other
            foreigner is NOT entitled to live in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is NOT as wealthy
            as the US, we cannot afford to have more and more people coming in to join the
            low-middle classes to suction funds that could go fixing our infrastructure
            or funding public education. Public schools once upon a time provided very good
            education, now they resemble abandoned buildings and teachers are underpaid. Costa
            Rican kids mainly attend private schools while Nicaraguan kids flood the public
            education system, and their dropout rate is 3 out of 5.

            There are 500,000 legal Nicaraguans, 15 years ago there were
            only 80,000 legal, its estimated that the illegal population matches or surpasses
            the legal immigrants, putting Nicaraguans at nearly 1 million. Costa Rica’s total
            population is 4.6 million, including all legal immigrants (about 800k total). San Jose city’s total population is 290,000.
            It is an astounding number, Costa Rica has the highest net immigration rate in the WORLD. Nicaraguans are not to be blamed, the Costa Rican
            government is to be blamed for this. Give it 20 years and Nicaraguans will be
            the majority of the population. How come we are not allowed to preserve our
            national identity?

            With regards to the medical tourism from Nicaraguans, they
            are able to get any services available to everyone. They clog the system, there
            are people that literally die in the waiting rooms. My uncle had to get a
            pacemaker, it took him 27 hours of wait time AFTER having a heart attack. We
            all have taxes taken out for these free services that illegals get, we all pay
            for the 7-8 average kids per Nicaraguan family. There are pharmacies in Nicaragaua that sell costa rican free medicine, and border patrol regularly busts people trafficking these medicines.

            The incarceration data you presented doesn’t account for the
            first generation of Nicaraguans born in Costa Rica and the Nicaraguans that
            book it out of the country after they are arrested and released. There is also
            a HUGE number of crimes that go unpunished, I don’t remember the statistic but
            its close to 80%.. this is the fault of the government.

            Nicaraguans absolutely hate Costa Ricans. They have invaded
            us 4 times in the last 5 years, back in the 80s they even killed a few cops and
            civilians. Why? No one really knows, during the Nicaraguan revolution we
            actually helped them big time. They have only thanked us with bullets and the
            threat of invasion. Ortega himself has threatened to annex Guanacaste with
            force. Im sure he is bluffing, but still. They come to exploit the benefits of
            a more “developed” country and all they give back is hate. Why doesn’t anyone
            complain about European or American expats/immigrants? Because you guys
            actually do a whole lot of good things that even Costa Ricans don’t do. We don’t
            even care about the reason why you guys move to Costa Rica, whether its to work
            or to just lay at the beach all day. I have met hundreds of Americans that
            volunteer to teach English in schools, they clean up beaches, organize events
            for local churches, etc. We are aware and we appreciate that, you can do
            whatever you want. On the other hand, I have lost count of how many costa Ricans
            have been wronged by Nicaraguans, whether its at a small scale or not.

            My cousin has been robbed 4 times in san jose. Last time he
            was beat up very badly by 4 Nicaraguans. My grandpa owns a business in
            Puntarenas, they tried to shoot him dead as he was locking up at night. Why should I have to put up with that?

            And this is not scapegoating. Costa Rica will be a better
            place if the Nicaraguan population is reduced and we increase American and/or
            European immigrants. The Costa Rican government has to change big time, I know
            that too. Thing is, we are not a developed country like the US, we cannot
            afford to have so many people joining the poor classes.

          • Ken Morris

            I agree that Nicaragua immigration has placed special burdens on Costa Rica, chiefly those of a middle-income country struggling to alleviate its own poverty having to absorb large numbers of additional immigrant poor. A half century ago, there was the problem of Sandinista revolutionaries based in Costa Rica committing various political “crimes.” I still don’t understand how Humberto Ortega manages to live in Costa Rica without being prosecuted for the crimes he committed then, though I suspect that everyone recognizes that they were politically necessary in order to bring about the just revolution, not ordinary crimes. In any event, that was a long time ago. Since then the problem has been absorbing so many poor immigrants.

            However, while the poor Nicas burden
            Costa Rica in some ways, they benefit the country in others. The main benefit is access to a vulnerable workforce eager to do low-wage jobs that Ticos prefer to avoid. Despite a roughly 10% unemployment rate in Costa Rica, a large portion of Costa Rica’s farmworkers, security guards, maids, prostitutes, construction workers, and so on are Nicas. Almost every time I see a worker with a shovel, he is a Nica. Likewise, during the height of the Rio San Juan controversy, Rene Castro, then I believe serving as foreign minister, admitted that of course he has a Nica maid.

            I’m not sure what would happen to Costa Rica’s economy if all the Nicas left, but I am sure it would be a serious shock. Also, if the Nicas couldn’t find work in Costa Rica,
            they wouldn’t arrive. Somebody is therefore hiring them, and we can
            infer that the Nicas are workers who contribute to the economy.

            Meanwhile, since Nicas often initially
            lack legal status in Costa Rica, plus are too poor to object, they are easily exploited by their Tico employers, who pay them below minimum wage, work them overtime, deny them Caja coverage, etc. I personally know two Nicas with the legal right to work in Costa Rica illegally denied Caja coverage by their employers. Neither likes it, in fact both are angry about it, but since they need the jobs, they
            endure the exploitation without filing complaints with the ministry
            of labor.

            More informally, I have noticed that
            Nicas are rarely hired for better jobs, no doubt because Tico employers don’t believe that Nicas have a “good presentation.” At a Tico bar/restaurant I frequent, with one exception only the cooks and dishwashers are Nicas. The exception is a light-skinned Nica who grew up in Costa Rica, and thus doesn’t have the Nica accent, who works as a waitress. She passes as Tica. Naturally, only rarely does a Nica show up as a customer. In fact, I’ve heard more “Nica jokes” from the Ticos there than I’ve seen Nica
            customers. I don’t imagine that Nicas feel comfortable there.

            Nor do they feel especially comfortable anywhere in Costa Rica, a country in which it’s hard to miss the
            “Nicas go home” graffiti and the “No Nicas” policy of many landlords. I have watched Nicas be turned down for apartments simply because they’re Nicas. The prejudice and discrimination against Nicas is thick—and unavoidable if you’re Nica.

            So of course Nicas resent Ticos.
            Wouldn’t you? In fact, I’m pretty sure that some Nica crime against Ticos is born of this resentment. Most relationships, including those between the perpetrators and victims of crime, are after all reciprocal. Since I’m not Tico, I have no experience of this, but my sense is that Nicas are more apt to target Ticos than others simply because they resent their treatment by Ticos. Despite this, amazingly, many Nicas adjust, make Tico friends, and otherwise fit in, shrugging off the Tico prejudice and discrimination.

            Meanwhile, let us suppose that Costa
            Rica would be better off with fewer Nicas. I’m not sure it would be, both because it needs the Nicas for its low-wage workforce and Nicas are so culturally similar to Ticos that fitting them in is about like fitting Canadians into the US. But suppose Costa Rica wanted fewer Nicas. How would it go about this?

            Since Nica immigrants to Costa Rica are overwhelmingly economic refugees, the sensible way to keep Nicas home is to help Nicaragua develop its own economy. Although his manner was admittedly gruff, Daniel Ortega presented just such an
            opportunity to Costa Rica during the Rio San Juan controversy. Clearly the solution to that controversy was bi-national economic development of the area, a solution that would have helped keep Nicas home as well as benefited Costa Rica economically. But rather than seize the opportunity and work with Nicaragua, the government of Laura Chinchilla blew through millions of dollars crisscrossing the globe badmouthing Nicaragua, more on court battles, and more on an unnecessary defensive road—all the while refusing even to talk to the government of Nicaragua. Ordinary Ticos joined militias and firebombed the Nicaragua embassy, while Chinchilla, dressed in white, led a victims’ march. And today, Costa Rica is behaving the same way by complaining about a future canal in Nicaragua.

            You would think that if Ticos really
            wanted to reduce the number of Nicas living in Costa Rica, it would do what it could to help Nicaragua develop economically—not try to thwart that development. Indeed, a richer Nicaragua would benefit Costa Rica in myriad other ways too.

            The inference is either that Ticos are
            too ignorant to see what is in their self interest or that hating Nicas serves their self interest in more morbid ways. I don’t know which answer is correct, but it is like an ugly family squabble. During the Rio San Juan controversy, guess who lived in the same condo complex as Chinchilla? Ortega’s sons. This stuff gets weird fast.

            And part of the weirdness is your
            accusations of Nicas stealing Caja medicines to sell and of arrested
            Nicas avoiding prosecution by returning to Nicaragua. Again, upwards of half the Nicas aren’t even enrolled in the Caja, so how exactly
            are they getting medicines to sell? And of those enrolled, the Caja
            docs only dispense medicines the patients need on a monthly basis. I
            suppose some sick Nicas may not take their own medicines and sell
            them instead, but a person would have to be pretty poor to go without
            their own medicines in order to sell them, and they wouldn’t have
            enough of the medicines to stock a pharmacy anyway. With respect to
            arrested Nicas avoiding prosecution by returning to Nicaragua, I’m sure this happens, but it’s not easy. Arrested Nicas are usually held in preventative detention, and if not the border guards are supposed to stop them from leaving the country. Maybe a few manage to bribe a dishonest Tico border guard or get pass the check points in other ways, but it’s not easy.

            More than weird is the complaint of
            Ticos that they have to wait in line behind Nicas at the EBAIS. Well, if the Nicas are in line at the EBAIS, this means that they are enrolled and paying their taxes just like everyone else. Only pure racism can explain why Ticos believe that they are entitled to cut in line in front of the Nicas who are enrolled and paying just like they are. And as for the Nicas clogging the hospitals for emergency care, it actually doesn’t happen much. A Nica buddy with a serious heart condition returned to Nicaragua to receive basic treatment, since he’s not eligible for treatment through the Caja. He also goes without life-saving medicine, since he’s not eligible. And of those Nicas who do end up in the hospitals being treated for free, it’s often not really free. They’ve paid for it by working for Ticos who illegally refuse to enroll them in the Caja, which in turn gives Ticos lower prices on the goods and services Nicas provide them.

            Meanwhile, I don’t understand why you would find North American and European immigrants desirable.

            Some of these immigrants do contribute to Costa Rica, but most really don’t. The wealthy ones just buy up real estate, usually for foreigner-to-foreigner businesses, and only employ Ticos in menial service jobs. The less affluent help sustain a few service jobs—bartenders, maids, prostitutes, etc.–plus pay rent or buy houses. The minimal net effect of these immigrants is to drive up rents and real estate purchase prices for Ticos. Most don’t speak Spanish, and if you follow the posts on discussion boards like this one, you will see that most don’t even like Ticos, much less understand the culture. Since they came with the promise of “living like kings” in a poorer country, they get pissed anytime they’re not treated like royalty. Add to the irony is that most are older and enrolled in the Caja for way less than their health care costs.
            Costa Rica subsidizes the health care of these immigrants, who in the main contribute squat to the country.

            And in fact these immigrants frequently bypass the Ticos and go directly to the Nicas. Take Guanacaste. It’s basically owned by North Americans and Europeans and worked by Nicas, yet Ticos believe it’s theirs.

            I don’t know what to do with this national identity stuff, though I assure you that Costa Rica is hardly the only country dealing with immigrants. (I’m told that most of the fish and chips joints in England are now operated by
            Pakistanis.) The question is how to construct and maintain a national identity with immigrants. I’m sure there are other examples, but I think Canada does an especially good job at this—but it also has an immigration policy that targets immigrants most likely to fit in.

            Costa Rica doesn’t. It’s immigration
            policy is still money-driven. Anyone who has the money (and isn’t a hardened criminal) gets in, regardless of their ability to fit in or contribute to the society. I think this is ruinous to a national identity, unless that identity is defined solely in terms of money. By contrast, the Nicas who actually do fit in and contribute are objects of derision. Were it me, I’d reverse Costa Rica’s immigration priorities.

            I’m sorry that your cousin was robbed
            by Nicas. That could happen to me too, I suppose, but the three times I’ve been victimized by crime, the criminals have all been Ticos. Probably because I like Nicas and have Nica friends, I feel that they protect me. I have been miles away in a strange neighborhood only to have the Nica car watching guy give me a big smile and hello. I gather he knew me through other Nicas, though I didn’t remember him. And when I myself was transported by ambulance to a Caja hospital after a serious set of injuries only to have the Tico staff treat my like garbage (accusing me of being on drugs rather than injured, etc.) a Nica showed up to come to my rescue. Although he speaks no English, we were good enough friends for him to understand my lousy Spanish, and he took it upon himself to tell the arrogant Tico intake personnel what my problem was and to insist that I be treated. I think that Nica saved my life.

            I therefore simply don’t find a rational basis for the Tico prejudice against Nicas. I find Nicas to be reliable, friendly people of strong moral character. Sure, there are bad apples, but just based upon my own experience, I haven’t met many.

            Tensions between Costa Rica and
            Nicaragua go back a century or more, but they haven’t always taken the form they do today. Two generations ago Ticos were emigrating to Nicaragua. With any luck, assuming a canal is built or Nicaragua manages some economic development through other means, the pattern of cross-migration will resume. With bad luck for Costa Rica (foreseeable given the way the economy is being mismanaged) Ticos could end up migrating illegally to Nicaragua to work its menial jobs. While there would be some poetic justice in this, let’s hope it doesn’t happen. Instead let’s hope that both countries become strong and develop mutual respect, even friendship. That’s the ultimate endgame here, I think.

  • roberto

    NEWS UPDATE: Sources of Judicial Investigation (OIJ) confirmed that the alleged rape victim in La Fortuna de San Carlos is refusing to recognize and acknowledge the four suspects for assault.
    The woman has refused and has withdrawn her complaint to proceed with the prosecution.
    Due to the decision of the woman to not move forward with the prosecution, the authorities had to release the subjects.

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