By Eric Robinson

Where are the brains and integrity behind the Costa Rica government?This week’s Tico Times, Costa Rica’s most popular English weekly newspaper, featured three main stories.

The first was about Walter Teper, a retired NY police officer who had to abandon his 33-foot sailing vessel after engine failure and a broken mast because the Costa Rican Coast Guard didn’t respond to his distress call. He tried to radio them directly, and got no response, so he radioed the US Coast Guard who has records of passing the info on to the Costa Rican Coast Guard at 3:59 pm December 1st, 2005. After a day passed Teper decided the Costa Rican authorities weren’t about to rescue him, so he abandoned his boat and took a passing freighter to South Korea. On June 6th, Teper’s sloop was spotted near Hawaii listed on its side, stripped of all it’s electronic components. Teper says if the Costa Ricans had responded, he would have been fine, but now he has to start his life over. The Costa Rica Coast Guard say they have no record of either Teper’s direct distress calls, nor the registered US Coast Guard call.

The second story involves standardized testing of the SAT’s for graduating high school students with aspirations of advancing their education. The school authorities say they keep running out of good, quality questions because they always give the students a copy of the standardized exam afterwords. As a result, they want to return to long written answers, even though in the past, it was proven that this format reduced students knowledge of the subject by about fifty percent. My question: Why give the students a copy of the exams afterwords? It’s too late now, they either succeeded, or they didn’t.

The third story has to do with the continuing cruel and pathetic state of the Simon Bolivar Zoo in Barrio Amon, San Jose as it joyfully celebrates its 90th anniversary. The zoo has been in a complete, and inhumane state of repairs since I have been here in 1995, and I am sure long before. The heads of the Environment and Energy Ministry (MINAE) and the private Foundation for Zoos (FUNDAZOO) were seen laughing and patting each other on the back and eating cake at their lovely celebration because they finally agreed to work together, like as if this is a huge accomplishment. Meanwhile the more than 400 animals still live in overcrowded, and smelly, damp cages that have been their home since capture or birth. I remember the large African lion pacing back and forth all day long on his twenty foot pad of concrete behind bars for years, letting out the occasional cry for help in the form of a roar, until he finally died of either old age or boredom or he just went completely nuts. He is now apparently stuffed and proudly displayed in the zoo office.

What do these three stories have in common, if you haven’t figured it out? I have lived here for nearly eleven years, and I love the people of this country, warm and hospitable, family loving and big hearted. But virtually any government branch, and any monopolistic organization such as the electricity and telephone company (ICE), the national banks, and the national insurance institute, have three more times proven to me that they are simply and consistently a group of arrogant yet inefficient, slow, bumbling idiots with responsibilities away over their heads, and everyone suffers because of it.

With both the recent inauguration of President Oscar Arias, and his proven track record of the past, and the acceptance of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) on the horizon, one hopes that better leadership, and competition will grease the wheels of progress at the expense of bureaucratic bungling.

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