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There are two countries in Latin America that were almost totally settled by Europeans. Argentina, the big one, and Costa Rica, the tiny one, located between Nicaragua and Panama which has been known as the Switzerland of Latin America.

Until recently, Costa Rica was a favorite place for foreigners, especially Americans and Canadians, to retire or spend their cold winters. It was cheap living in relation to the dollar, a pure democracy with term limits, a safe country that was never ruled by rich families and/or the Catholic church, such as the 14 ruling families in El Salvador or the Somosa family with their cronies in Nicaragua. Also, the United Fruit Co. never got our government to invade Costa Rica to overturn governments that disturbed their profits or raised their taxes.

Costa Rica is the only Latin country without an army, which was disbanded in 1948. Their present security consists of regular police, traffic police, a national detective force like our FBI, and a border patrol.

There is a popular saying that for the cost of one tank we can build two or three schools. The court system was never corrupt like the American legal system where there are too many lawyers with a lobby that prevents needed reform.

Costa Rica also has the highest-educated population in Latin America, few high school dropouts, and a large university and trade-school enrollment.

The year-round climate is perfect in the mile-high central valley where most of the population lives. It is almost never very hot or cold there. There are many attractions to visit, pristine beaches, mountain resort areas with mineral baths, horseback riding, etc.

They do have a lot of people living in poverty, but compared with other Latin countries the percentage of people in poverty is small.

Costa Rica is considered a Catholic country, but the least Catholic in Latin America. There is no Catholic lobby to influence the term-limited congressmen. The majority practice birth control and a two-child family is typical.

Costa Rica has no welfare, and hungry children who come from farm areas with their parents are provided with meals, while the parents are given bus tickets to return home without any meals. Therefore, if they want to come to the central valley to escape from hard farm work, they had better have a job waiting for them.

Here, our war-criminal President Lyndon Johnson and his policies of more for the non producer, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which encouraged people to have children they couldn’t adequately take care of, even with government help, would never fly in Costa Rica. Johnson made President Roosevelt look like an arch-conservative.

In summary, up until recently Costa Rica was a paradise with few problems.

Six recent past Costa Rican presidents recently went on all TV channels at the same time to give a speech warning the Costa Rican people they are headed for a disaster unless taxes are raised drastically to stop deficit spending and prevent runaway inflation.

They said prepare for more poverty, more crime as unemployment increases, and more illegal immigration, mostly from Nicaragua. The thousands now fleeing to Costa Rica must be taken care of with food, housing, children’s education, etc., to prevent riots and a complete disaster.

All this cost money and will cost many Costa Ricans jobs when competing with those who will work for lower wages.

Will unscreened illegal immigrants cause similar problems for America?

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Richard Dydell is a Santa Maria resident who has lived in Costa Rica a part of every year for 26 years.

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