Feet of Cement


An earthquake of 6.5 shook the country recently.

We had had an early night as we had a crack of dawn start for a hosital appointment the next day but had hardly settled down before the dogs started yodelling. We thought they must have heard the coyotes who have been roaming the mountain behind us for a couple of weeks now but then they fell quiet as the house began to sway back and forth. It was like lying on a jelly.

It lasted a few minutes only and we had no damage. Friends have told us that the danger comes when the action is percussive and we did experience one of those in the original house down below…it was like a hammer drill doing its worst, but luckily, as the epicentre was only ten kilometres away, it was deep, at seventy five kilometres down, unlike the latest one whose epicentre was off the Pacific coast, and only ten kilometres down.

Still, it took the country’s mind off its problems for a moment.

Problems, you ask? In the land of Pura Vida where the people are amongst the happiest on earth according to some survey which is no doubt selling something?

I don’t know where they find these people as most of my friends are usually moaning….perhaps they  interview politicians.

Others interviewing politicians at the moment are the police. It is fairly normal for previous presidents to be investigated by the police, but only after a discreet passage of time when the proceeds have been salted away, so what has occurred to upset the applecart?

Cement…that is what.

No, not cement as in disposing of bodies while road building – the time it takes this country to get a road built the body would have disintegrated enough not to need burial anywhere – but cement as imported from China.

A happy duopoly controls cement sales in Costa Rica. It has no doubt paid well for its position over the years so was far from pleased when it looked as if the President was encouraging the import of cement from China with the aim of lowering prices.

Intolerable! Have his guts for garters!

So the duopoly set the hounds of the press on the job…or at least those parts of the press where it had influence….and finally they dredged up  one of the bosses of the Customs department who said that he had an e mail from the Deputy Finance Minister telling him that the ‘Big Chief’ – supposedly the President – wanted any shipments of Chinese cement to get through Customs without the usual old Spanish practices so that it would still be fit to use when released.

Shock horror!

Then the hounds went further. They discovered that one of the state banks had made a huge loan to the importer – with the cement as security –  the major part of which loan had ended up in his private coffers, while no cement ever arrived in Costa Rica.

And this is where things started to  go wrong.

Aiming at the President, the duopoly accidentally put one of their own in the frame.

The Chief Prosecutor.

This man, a stalwart of the old regime in Costa Rica, was an expert in delaying and burying unwanted dossiers and had been found with his fingers in the bank’s affairs, dividing the investigation into a myriad of mini investigations which would run into the sand, leaving those responsible at the bank to live a quiet life in the offices which had been refurbished recently at vast expense from the bank’s money…..i.e. public funds.

He was suspended and a young lady was appointed as interim Chief Prosecutor.

She seems to hold the view that prosecutors should prosecute and to that end has put the would be importer and the bank officials into preventive detention while she investigates.

Further, she has unearthed links between a magistrate, the Deputy Finance Minister and several politicians which she believes may give rise to prosecutions for the traffic of influence and has, with the consent of the courts, proceeded to seize their offices, computers and cars in search of evidence.

Mark you, this being Costa Rica, where the sublime usually descends to the gor blimey, the cars of the police seizing the gear of the Deputy Finance Minister were nicked for parking offences by the Municipal Police in San Jose.

She has also had a look at the mosaic of dossiers prepared by the Chief Prosecutor over the years in other sensitive matters, the upshot of which is that said Chief Prosecutor has decided to retire and a recent President is being summoned to explain how a mining company managed to get a permit to mine in a conservation area.

The country is reeling.

Action on corruption! Whatever next!

It does not come at a good moment for the politicians. Any of them. Because the Presidential elections are coming up in February and corruption is a major beef for the electorate.

Normally the level of enthusiasm of Costa Ricans for elections equals the energy of a crocodile in the early hours of a chilly morning, but this case has roused people to resemble crocodiles at midday, ready to wolf down anything in their path.

And what is in their path?


I can bet that the man who put up this poster is not going to vote for the PLN.

PLN elections

He seems to have strong feelings on the subject.

Historically the PLN held a firm grip on the vote as they were the party of the President who abolished the army and set up the CAJA – the NHS of Costa Rica. People were grateful and remained so for years.

Further, under the same recent President who is now being summoned to explain the mining licence, the civil service was expanded beyond anything that was necessary in order to form a client vote of those who benefited from the excellent wages, perks and pensions  – and their extended families.

Occasionally the PUSC, sort of Christian Democrats, would get a look in to keep them sweet, but basically the PLN had it all their own way, including in  local government.

The last elections brought a change….the people elected an almost unknown candidate, a university professor, who stood on a platform of opportunity for all, not the few.

Thus the enmity of the cement duopoly who regard such views as heresy.

He has had a hard fight. No majority in the National Assembly, ministries stuffed with partisans of the outgoing party….but the ship is slowly turning round. People are discontented with the slow pace of change but with the cement case there is a chance that they will see that change is possible…if they will back those who work for it.

Locally, too, politics is in the news.

This town is built on ground that is unstable…underground water courses run all over the place, let alone fault lines,  so holes tend to appear in the roads without warning. Ideally the council would use a study done by the University of Costa Rica which showed how to channel  and drain the area, but, of course, that would cost money and the council never seems to have any of that for infrastructure problems despite having a dedicated budget for same.

So the holes tend to be there for a long time.

puris holes in road


Exasperated by the inaction of the council a group of businessmen got together, hired an engineer and the necessary equipment and did the job themselves in the course of one night when they could reckon to be undisturbed by council workers or police who tend not to venture out after dark.

The alcalde – mayor – outraged by this demonstration of citizen power announced that the work was shoddy and would collapse within a week. Furthermore it would all have to come up anyway as the council was about to start a programme of repairs!

Several weeks later the holes remain mended and the council has managed to repair one road…the one leading to the fiesta ground which has been done in time for the annual high jinks surrounding the celebration of the town’s patron saint’s day.

Clearly it is not for nothing that the alcalde is a member of the PUSC.

I have been a trifle unfair to the police here.

They have a new boss. He is a local lad who has worked in other areas for years before being drafted back to his home town.

He wishes to clean up the place, but is a realistic gentleman.

No point rounding up the drug dealers and the wild young men who make the roads dangerous by doing wheelies, etc on onlicensed motorbikes during the week, as the resident judge for criminal affairs has a great respect for the presumption of innocence and tends to release anyone  daft enough to be caught by the previous police chief.

No…save the effort for the weekends, when a duty judge comes down from San Jose and jugs the lot!








Holes in the road.


44 thoughts on “Feet of Cement”

  1. Thank goodness you are okay. I was in the 7.2 earthquake in Northern Calif, acting as a Red Cross Moblie nurse. That was intense. We have glass flying and shattering inside and out. Had to tie the dogs to a fence in front of the house while we cleared away the broken glass (a couple big garbage bags full). Thankfully, very little human damage. Mother nature is nothing to mess with.

  2. We could do with some of those leading men over here.
    The temp prosecutor could do a job for us at Westminster, enough paperwork there to keep lawyers going for years! It sounds like some good people are appearing but it is hard to shift influential people from their positions.
    What an encouraging post, except for the earthquakes keeping the dogs awake.

    1. Yes, that amused me too! It takes a woman…and a woman who was, by all accounts, warned off the case by the previous Chief Prosecutor. I have a feeling she knows a lot about disinterring bodies…

          1. MAGA is a horrible joke. We were pretty darn great before he started dismantling things. It is quite appalling the cabinet hasn’t invoked the 25th amendment. It’s not like they won’t get pretty much the same with Pence, just a stable version of vile. Republicans have demonstrated they are simultaneously spineless and immoral. *Sigh*

          2. But look at Europe! May in the U.K., that megalomaniac Macron in France and the grubby little fingers of George Soros all over the buffoons of the European Union. Don’t even like to contemplate examples from any other continents.

          3. I rather thought that that was what we had…! We do have to rethink our world, get together to find real indepenents who have real links to their communities to represent us, nopt the parties with the insane influence of the lobbyists.

          4. No politician to meet with a lobbyist..no politician or senior civil servant or emebers of their families to join lobbying firms…strict limits on election spending with no handy loopholes…might be a start. But you are right, that is the major problem.

  3. Last Saturday, the people of this State, Queensland, went to the polls.
    Not at all impressed with any of the candidates, mainly because they are either lowly minions of the 2 major parties or silly little dimwits coat-tailing the wackier parties, we toddled off a little earlier than usual and – behold! no queue! In and out, done and dusted and didn’t even come out reeking of hamburger grease.[Australians seem to have a national institution of sausage-sizzling fund-raisers alongside voting line-ups.]
    And, somewhat surprisingly to my mind, the former Government was returned, despite howling deadlines in the press (what do those johnnies know, anyway) that the LNP would do a sweetheart deal with Pauline Hanson and would, if not win, at least have a stick to keep shoving between the spokes.

    And the fallout! Oh, lordy, the tide has receded far, far from shore so we expect a tsunami of some force to do more than ripple through the Coalition, here and in other areas.

    I expect that’s enough metaphoric waffle.I’m beginning to sound like local reporters!

    1. I gathered that you were voting from listening to Test Match Special…where they seems to reckon that voting on one day was enough effort to force Queenslanders to stay at home to next thus emptying the Gabbatoir.
      Don’t you have some sort of wild man in politics there? Been there for years…

  4. Which one? You probably mean the current Katter scion. Colloquially, The-Kat-in-the-Hat (he wears an Akubra everywhere).https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akubra
    He formed his own party.”Katter’s Australian Party” and people signed up.How foolish! Do people not realise the apostrophe denotes , in this case, ownership? He was very pally with Pauline, but, of course, she wants to paddle HER canoe, so…

  5. Interesting that your earthquake got, as far as I could tell, almost no coverage in the US. Our media is too busy churning out story after story after story about some actress who’s marrying an established family in the UK. They don’t have full-time jobs but apparently do a bit of charity work.

    For an industry that bellyaches constantly about its diminishing resources, they certainly can marshal reporters and space when it comes to celebrity news. One of these days Venezuela will slip into utter chaos and fall into complete anarchy, and it will take much of the media days to notice. But there’s no shortage in sight of interviews with Markle’s former professors about her days in college.

    That said, I’m glad y’all pull through OK. Having lived many years in California I know earthquakes can be a trying experience.

    1. We have experienced a number since being here…but, luckily, no problems so far.

      News? Tell me!
      Do I wish to know about some actress who marries a rich dumbo? No…
      Do I want some unbaised reporting about Venezuela? Yes..fat chance….

  6. I echo the relief that you are OK quaking. Good heavens above,what is the woman thinking of …. prosecuting because she is a prosecutor. Out of this heady amble through the vagaries of Costa Rican politicians disgraces, my favourite moment has to be the Police cars being nicked for parking offenses. Bravo – vintage Devries, truly vintage and simply marvelous to wake up to 🍾

  7. You made fairly light of the earthquake, but it must have been terrifying. Corruption seems a little easier to deal with ! These days British politics seems to have a certain amount in common with Costa Rica, I am afraid.

    1. We have had worse…the percussive one was very unpleasant.
      Once in the EU, corruption took its place in Britain…and to think that we thought Reginald Maudling and Ernie Marples were crooks…

  8. Earthquake? We hardly stir in our sleep these days! Corruption? You lot are total amatures compared to the professionals over here – go back to your hammocks 😀

  9. I’m reeling from the long litany of corruption and shady goings-on! We may think Northern Ireland has its share of corruption, but clearly it’s nothing compared to the Costa Rican situation. Good to know the new interim Chief Prosecutor is determined to clean up some of the corruption and challenge the supposedly “untouchables”.

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