Sobbing, desperate screaming and the sounds of walls being smacked are among noises constantly heard by residents of Playa Garza (watch video below).
The situation involves Aquina Barrantes, a 75 year-old, who lost her sight and also suffers deafness. The elderly woman has been trapped in her house by her children and screams at all hours of the day, asking them to let her leave.
Leida Bustos, a resident of Garza, says that the woman’s shrieks are frequent and that she is normally asking for someone to open the door.
“Since she spends so much time shut in and asleep, I’m sure she doesn’t know whether it is night or day. So sometimes it will be 3 a.m. and her shouting can be heard,” explained Bustos.
Marta Jiron, who lives next door to Quina – as the womanis known – claims that she has been closed in for almost two years, and that she only receives food twice per day and she is never allowed outside
The house is locked on the outside and also has all the windows closed by boards. Inside, there is only a bed and a small toilet.
For her part, Ana Barrantes, Quina’s daughter, explains that they keep her mother closed in because they are unable to take care of her at all times, and they worry about her getting lost.
“I cannot leave [the house] open. When we had it unlocked, she would leave and she escaped a number of times; more than once I found her lost and wet,” explains the daughter.
In addition, Barrantes justifies only feeding Quina two times per day, explaining that she has lost her appetite and also receives snacks of fruit and atol (a pudding-like dish made from corn) at night. She also says that they try to take her mother out of the house once per week.
“That we never take her out is a lie. Better yet, the times we do take her out she begins to shout. When we go to take her back inside she says that it’s not her house. We take her out every week,” said Barrantes.
Regarding the neighbors’ worry, the police have visited the house on two occasions. According to Gerardo Aguilar, chief of the Nosara Public Force, they have donean investigation, but they have seen that the woman is taken care of by her family, which is why they have not registered a complaint.
But Mateo Barrantes, Quina’s brother, does not accept his sister’s living conditions and has attempted to take care of her in his home. However, his nephews and nieces took her away.
“She [Quina] has two pensions and they [her children]don’t want to let her out because they live off those pensions. So they don’t allow me to do anything. They thought I was going to live off those pensions, but I have my own pension,” the brother explained.
In Costa Rica, according to article 36 of the Civil Code, a person’s capacity to act legally – administering property, for example – can be reduced or eliminated if the person is sick or suffers from a condition that doesn’t allow them to make decisions, such as mental problems. In those cases, the person is declared incapable and needs someone responsible to administer their belongings and ensure their wellbeing.
Ana affirms that she has tried to take Quina to severalasylums so they can accept her mother. However, all of the facilities she has visited have said they cannot accept her because there is no space.
According to the daughter, in addition to not seeing or hearing, Aquina Barrantes suffers from advanced syphilis, which has caused neurological problems
Alexandra Villalobos, chief of the Social Management Unit of the National Council for the Elderly (CONAPAM –Consejo Nacional de la Persona Adulta Mayor), says thatthis is a situation involving psychological and possibly physical aggression.
“In her case she is no longer aware; there could be a criminal act of abandonment of an incapable (person); this is nullifying a person who isn’t capable of caring for themselves and in addition isn’t aware,” explained Villalobos.