Friday, November 24, between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Near the EBAIS clinic in Nosara, a guy struggles with his motorcycle that refuses to start. Again and again, he tries to kick-start the motorcycle with all his might. With each attempt, the muffler lets out a loud explosion and spits out a flame of fire.
Inside the EBAIS, the doctor treats a man who has just come in with a gunshot wound. At the medical clinic, there’s also a Public Force officer and some patients waiting their turn to be treated.
No one is sure what’s happening outside. They only know that the patient was injured in a shooting minutes before in front of the Super New China 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) away. Confused, they think that the explosions from the muffler are gunshots being fired at the EBAIS to kill the man. They aren’t crazy. They believe it because news of shootings and homicides in Nosara are recurring more and more in the community.
At that same time, Nosara firefighter Erick Castro arrives at the EBAIS. This is his account: In the rearview mirror, he sees the guy struggling with the starter. He enters the medical clinic, he sees the scared doctor and the policeman quickly putting on a bulletproof vest. The first thing he tries to do is calm the health personnel and tell them that no one is shooting outside.
The doctor was a little worried because she said bullets were flying. And I explained to her: ‘No, doctor, look, it’s the motorcycle muffler’… I’m a witness that there weren’t any bullets flying there,” Castro related days after the incident.
According to the firefighter’s testimony and the Public Force report, there was no hitman operation outside the EBAIS. The neighbors’ versions are different. But the truth is that the rumor spread through the community quickly: Facebook pages and WhatsApp audio messages affirm that outside the EBAIS, there were guys shooting to end the man’s life.
Every Friday, patient care begins at 3 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. The man who was shot arrived around 5:30 p.m. EBAIS officials, caught up in rumors and fear, decided to take preventive measures and closed the clinic. As a result of the emergency, 18 people missed their appointment, according to data from the director of the Nicoya Health Area, Tannia Tánchez.
Days later, in an interview with The Voice of Guanacaste, Tánchez claimed that the EBAIS did not close completely and that the information that circulated in the community is inaccurate.
“The doctor had to come with the patient [to La Anexión Hospital in Nicoya] but the EBAIS does not close, but rather, it is left without medical attention the rest of the night… Although there’s no doctor, the rest of the staff remains who can give information to patients… It happens very often, I could tell you five or six times a month [that the EBAIS is left without a doctor],” Tánchez commented.
But the Public Force report contradicts the health official. “It’s worth mentioning that due to the care of the injured individual, the administration of the Nosara clinic decided to close, just for prevention,” the document says.
. . .
Lucía has been suffering from back pain for three months due to a hernia. During that time, her mother, Carmen, has gone to the EBAIS routinely to try to get her daughter an appointment.
On Friday, November 24, Lucía finally gets her appointment. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. “It’s a miracle to find an opening at the EBAIS,” thinks Carmen’s husband, Mario. There are 20 minutes left until the appointment. The family still doesn’t know that police are deployed outside the health clinic.
Mario is ready with Lucía on his motorcycle. He’s about to start the motorcycle when Carmen stops them: “Don’t even move because they canceled everything!”
Carmen’s cell phone has received a WhatsApp audio message sent by the Nosara ProHealth Committee. The message alerts them to the shooting that has just occurred 500 yards from their house. Along with the audio message, Carmen begins to receive other versions of what happened.
“I was already ready with my daughter. I was going to take her to the appointment when the wife thought of connecting her phone to the internet and at that point, she told us, ‘Don’t even move because they canceled everything.’ They say there that they’re supposedly following that guy to try to kill him there and they suspended the appointments so that there are no innocent victims.”
That day wasn’t the first time that Mario and his family have chosen to stay home. They have lived in Nosara for 15 years, but as of a year ago, they don’t go out after 6 p.m. anymore.
This type of self-imposed curfew began with a wave of murders in the community that already add up to 13 homicides as of December 8, 2023, 10 more than in all of 2022, according to official statistics from the Judicial Investigation Organization (Spanish acronym: OIJ).
The audio message that frustrated the family’s plans to go to the EBAIS had been sent by Michael Fonseca, president of the committee and delegate of the Nicoya branch of the National Union of the Fund and Social Security Employees (Spanish acronym: UNDECA).
To Fonseca, lack of safety in Nosara goes beyond robberies, the war between drug trafficking gangs or people murdered. The official perceives that crime is also taking a toll on the community’s mental health.
A few days ago, I was doing some shopping and some people started setting off snapper firecrackers. The people around there began to hide until they saw that they were snappers and calmed down. Already in Nosara, stress has been caused and people believe that they can’t go out or enjoy themselves like before,” Micheal recalled.
At the same time that Carmen’s family found out about the medical appointment’s cancellation, the ambulance, escorted by one of only two Public Force patrol vehicles in Nosara, was taking the injured person to La Anexión Hospital in Nicoya. That information was confirmed by the Red Cross’ regional operational coordinator in Guanacaste, Lieutenant Marlon Soto.
To Soto, the Red Cross service in Nosara is particularly complicated. They only have one ambulance available, the poor road conditions make access difficult for the entire community, and the hospital is 60 kilometers (37 miles) away from the town. As if that weren’t enough, the lieutenant said that now lack of safety is another component that makes care difficult.
“There are points that aren’t as calm as they used to be before and Nosara is one of those points… In dangerous scenarios, we must make decisions that sometimes involve keeping distance and waiting for police support. Sometimes we have to make a quick approach, which may not be the best for the patient, because we are in a dangerous environment,” explained the lieutenant.
Lucía’s appointment was rescheduled for November 30 at 8 p.m. That night, Mario would have to make an exception to the fear, going out at night so as not to miss the new appointment.
“I would have preferred that they reschedule it for another time,” said Mario, remembering that three days earlier, two people were found tied up and murdered at a lookout point in Zaragoza. “In Nosara, you never leave the house in peace anymore,” he lamented.
*Carmen, Mario and Lucía are fictitious names at the request of the family out of fear of retaliation.