By Nick Dangier
DATELINE Saturday 28 JULY, CHINO’S BAR
We are living in kooky times, folks. I say that as one who’s witnessed over half a century of human high jinks. The world has gone totally bat shit, and Costa Rica is no exception.
In just the last two weeks, here in Puravidaville, we saw the birth and apparent demise of the first armed revolutionary movement in these parts since the 1990s. That’s just a little over two decades in civilized, First World years, but like a zillion years by Central American standards.
Calling themselves the “FRENTE PATRIOTA 7 DE JULIO”, a small group of openly armed gentlemen wearing masks, and military camouflage attire proclaimed to the world via internet social media sites, who they are and what they want: A third republic; seeing as the second one just ain’t cutting the mustard these days.
From a seemingly remote, mountainous, jungle location we see a group of a dozen, or so jocked-up wanna-belop guerrilla fighters. Some stand in shadow, others wear ski masks to conceal their identity.
The open ten-foot by ten-foot structure they are crowded into is nothing more than a simple four tree trunk posts hut with camouflage netting for a roof. Not much of a command post. It barely qualifies as a deer stand.
These are clearly not professionally trained soldiers. One of them stands off to the left, at the front of the group. His camouflaged fatigues are shiny and crisp. Like they just came off the rack at the ARMY/ NAVY store in City Mall. He stands rigidly at attention while holding a salute ( He is the only one saluting) that only a civilian would believe to be a proper salute.
Their apparent leader rattles off what I suppose you could call a manifesto of sorts:
“ The time has arrived for all of us to unite under the one and same banner, and tell this traitor, hypocrite, and liar ( President Alvarado) that his days, and the days of his corrupt government are numbered… Costaricans- RISE UP!”
El jefe stands at the front of the motley group, behind a cheesey, waist high banner made out of what looks like an old white bed sheet with F.P.7.J sloppily spray painted across it.
His voice is angry, but never vulgar. It is the voice of an older man and has just a trace of Nicaragua in his accent. I immediately guess he’s from northern San Carlos, or Guanacaste maybe. I would be proved wrong on both counts. As it turns out, he is from northern Limon province.
The message was brief and could not have been more clear: THIS GOVERNMENT MUST GO. LIKE YESTERDAY!
This is essentially the same message you will hear on the street in Costa Rica these days. From your lottery ticket guy to your taxi/Uber driver, to your local fruit vendor to your bartender, to your next door neighbor- people are pissed off. Anybody trying to survive in the private sector that is.
Even the hookers down at the Hotel Del Rey are crying the blues; the IVA is killing them, and “sales”are going down. ( I couldn’t resist the pun-sorry)
Pretty much only drug dealers and government workers walk with a bounce in their step these days.
The gang gathered here at Chino’s Bar and Loveshack do not work for the government. These are, by and large, blue collar folks, a few professional criminals (just enough to keep it interesting) and the ever present between classes college students; the National Industrial Arts Academy (El INA) being located nearby.
At the end of “ Capitán Carabina’s” (that’s what he calls himself) short speech which was televised on all the local news channels, the regulars here at Chino’s Cantina gave an enthusiastic round of applause.
Though no one other than The Kid: “Gigi”, seems to take these new freedom fighters very seriously.
Many speculate that it is all a hoax created by Alvarado’s own government as a distraction from the mass rape being perpetrated on the Costarican people by their elected officials and greedy public sector union leaders.
Others believe Alvarado himself came up with the hoax in an effort to drum up sympathy from the public for our poor, plump, little president.
He is a sensitive man after all. His feelings are easily hurt and we all know what the stress created by an entire nation wanting to rip him limb-from-limb can do to healthy hair follicles. And hey, our president has some head of hair- let me tell you. They say it’s what won the little fella the female vote.
Others at the bar including our Guv-nuh: Chino, claim it’s nothing more than a bunch of weekend warriors: dentists, and computer tech’s who have played one too many games of paint ball and now think they’re SEAL TEAM SIX.
That may be so, but President Alvarado isn’t taking any chances. In the words of Nicolo Machiavelli: “The number one mission of any ruler is to stay in power.” Mission number two? Refer to mission number one.
Our Fonziesque Prez’ holds a major in cowardice and minor in tyranny from UCR. He knows damn well they didn’t take Poncho Villa, Fidel Castro, Salvatore Gulliano, or George Washington seriously when they got started. And we know how all that turned out.
As a matter of fact it is clear our government has seen this day coming for some time now. Just take a gander at the spanking new, highrise National Assembly building in downtown San Jose. It’s just a couple blocks east of the old one on Avenida 2.
The old building is outdated. Not structurally. The structure is perfectly sound. The problem is the existing National Assembly building is simply too open, too accessible to the public for which it represents. Lots of big, clear glass windows, and wide open corridors. It was built a century ago when people had the crazy notion that politicians are accountable to the people they represent; that nothing is more important than libertad and transparency.
Is that nuts, or what? They must have had some A-1 awesome weed back then.
The new building looks like something out of Game Of Thrones: Early gothic grotesque. It is gray and daunting.
One striking architectural feature is that the structure has no windows. Not one. Even the doors are made of solid steel. I bet they could withstand repeated rounds at point-blank- range from a RPG, or recoiless rifle. They must weigh a ton each.
It is hideous on a level seldom seen. Even in Soviet era Romania it would be considered an abomination. I don’t know what communist meth’ head designed the monstrosity. If I didn’t know better, I’d say we the tax paying public of Costa Rica got punked.
Of course the building wasn’t designed to make the cover of Architectural Digest. It was designed to protect the guilty from their just desserts.
I’ve got a buddy who once said something I have never forgotten. His observation was regarding the rampant level of corruption within the Costarican government. My friend has a couple of decades now living in this beautiful, messed up country. He was born and raised in Canarsie, a tough, mobbed up section of Brooklyn, New York. So his perspective bares weight
He said, “the government of Costa Rica is like one of the ‘families’ in La Cosa Nostra; with three distinct differences…” He took a puff off his ever present Romeo and Juliet Churchill Number 4, and began ticking off those differences using his thumb and forefinger. “ One: The wiseguys back home ain’t ree-tahds… Two: These government way-ohs here dress like shit, and Three: There ain’t a diputado alive who can tell a plate of scungili from a bucket of golf balls”. It’s a New York thing.
Keep in mind Crazy Tommy told me that line over twenty-years-ago. When our government’s size, and thusly level of corruption, was less than half of what it is today.
My buddy from Brooklyn might think our elected leaders here are “friggin’ morons”, and they are that, but he can not say Costa Rica’s badly dressed, culinary challenged government “ pezzo ‘vanti” don’t have teeth.
Friday morning, 12 July,at 10:52 AM, after less than a week since Frente Patriota 7 de Julio declared war on our legal “mafia”, it’s leader and presumed second- in- command were cuffed and face down sucking cement at the bus terminal in Rio Frio de Pococi; a small, rural community located close to the Nicaraguan border in northeast Costa Rica.
Sixty- year- old Alvaro Ramón Sequeira Mendiola aka “Capitán Carabina” the leader of FP7J, along with his stepson and presumed top lieutenant, Jeffrey Gabriel Fernandéz Ramirez- thirty- four- years- old, aka “ Miguel”, never knew what hit them when they were surrounded and pounced upon by a battalion of heavily armed and amped up police officials.
The security forces who took down the two desesperados represented every branch of Costa Rica’s various police agencies: Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional (DIS)- essentially a cross between U.S. Secret Service and Central Intelligence Agency, the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ)- think FBI, as well as the boys (and girls)in blue: La Fuerza Pública along with others.
You would never know by looking at them that they were anything more than a pair of day laborers waiting for a bus; muddy rubber boots, old sun faded baseball caps, and tattered second hand blue jeans.
Any passer by who witnessed their arrest would have to wonder how these two campesinos could warrant such an army sent after them.
According to DIS officials, Capitán Carabina is well known to Costarican security forces, as well as INTERPOL, going back to the early 1990s. That was during the administration of President Rafael Angel Calderón (1990-1994).
In those days Capitán Carabina was part of a revolutionary group known as “ Brazo Armado del Pueblo”: The Armed Arm of the People, in english.
With that group he took part in kidnappings of local government officials and armed robberies of state owned banks. The intention being to raise the funds necessary to oust super socialist Calderón.
After beating earlier illegal use, possession and fabrication of weapons and explosives charges, in February of 1993, members of the group including Capitán Carabina, were sentenced to fourteen-years in prision for kidnapping and armed robbery. Capitán Carabina decided he wasn’t going to any prison and so went into the wind instead.
For the following three years the ballsy would- be Robin Hood managed to stay one step ahead of the authorities.
As if to mock the ineptitude of Calderón’s government, Capitán Carabina made sporadic announcements and speeches by short wave radio and through letters to the editorial boards of local newspapers, where he continued to call out the “ corruption and stupidity” plaguing the Republic.
In 1996 the rebel-on- the lam made a radio broadcast to the nation. This speech would end up saving his bacon, and the government of further humiliation.
“ I declare once again”, said Capitán Carabina- his voice more youthful then- “that I do not recognize the authority of this government, in this so called, ‘democracy’. Not for the nature of government, which I accept is a ‘necessary evil’, but becauseof what this government has become: a nest of liars, a home for common criminals, the true delinquents and traitors to this proud republic we call, Costa Rica…” Not bad for a self educated country boy.
Keep in mind candidate Calderón had been stopped by Costarican customs officials at Juan Santamaria International Airport with over one-million- dollars USD- cash in his luggage. He’d just returned from Mexico. Nothing suspicious there.
This was during the 1990 presidential campaign. He was not questioned. The money was not impounded. And he was freely elected president. You can’t make this stuff up, friends. It was covered by all the local papers and TV news casts at the time.
Evidently Capitán Carabina’s words moved somebody. In that same year, shortly after his address to the nation, the Superior Penal Court of Heredia absolved the revolutionary leader of his conviction on armed robbery and kidnapping.
In 2010 Capitán Carabina even ran for mayor of Alajuelita, on the Partido Renovación Costarricense ticket, where he was unsuccessful, but did receive five-and-one-half percent of the vote among a wide field of candidates. Not too shabby for an “outlaw”.
He and “Miguel” are currently at the OIJ jail in Heredia, facing a possible thirty- five years in prison for treason and inciting armed insurrection against the “legitimate, democratic” government of Costa Rica. I’m chuckling to myself as I sit here at the bar, writing those two words in relation to the current elected leaders of this country.
Police continue searching for the identities and whereabouts of the up to fifteen other members of the organization who publicly swore an oath to bring down this government by force, and are currently on the run.
My police sources tell me, confidentially that they believe FP7J members may have been involved in a firefight with Nicaraguan security forces at the remote, southern Nicaraguan border town of El Amendro, located just north of the San Juan river. The short, but violent clash took place this past January, 2019 and left two Costarican nationals dead.
As of press time for this report, another suspected member of FP7J was arrested by police forces on Thursday 18 July. Mainor Masis was taken without incident at his humble ranch home in La Españolita de Rio Cuarto, Alajuela. He faces charges of aiding and abetting.
Ever since Capitán Carabina and Miguel got rolled up, the kid-Gigi has been pretty bummed out.
The very day Frente Patriota 7 de Julio made loop declaration of war against La famiglia Alvarado and don Carlitos in particular, Gigi ran out and bought a pair of second hand camouflage fatigues from the neighborhood ropa americana store.
He was so stoked the next day when he showed up at Chino’s place in his new uniform. It was like he’d found a powerful new reason to live, after seven months on the unemployment line.
He’d even written across the back of his fatigue shirt: FP7J ¡SIEMPRE! It was written in black magic marker. He’d added a large crudely drawn skull and cross bones below it; his own artistic contribution to the cause.
In his mismatched, two sizes too big cammies, flip-flops and cheap aviator shades- the kind with the plastic, mirrored lenses- the kid looks like a character from the 1960’s hit comedy- “Bananas”. Wood Allen’s farce about “politics” in Central America during the Cold War.
Gigi has been wearing his battle garb every day since the FP7J leaders got busted. We are holding a vote at the bar about re-nicknaming Gigi- “Capitán Wingnut”.
“Cheer up, kid”, I tell him. “ There’ll be plenty of opportunities to get yourself killed. The revolution has only just begun…”