Things That Matter

Costa Rican Officials Claim That A Missing Florida Man Wandered Into A River But His Family Doesn’t Believe It

Sixty-two-year-old retired accountant, Charles Hughes of Tampa, Florida has been missing since August 3rd.  The avid traveler had just visited Costa Rica last month. While he was there, he met a man and the two hit it off. Hughes quickly made plans to return to Costa Rica and meet up with his new companion. 

Hughes was staying at Cabinas Jiménez in Puerto Jiménez off Gulfo Dulce and all seemed well until Charlie no longer had steady communication, no more calls or text, no more social media post. Immediately his sister Nancy began to panic. She and their siblings began to reach out to all local law enforcement in the area where her brother was last seen.

Credit: Cabinas Jímenez / Facebook

It has now been nearly a month and Charlie Hughes never made his return flight home. The family is fighting to get more answers. A week ago, local officials made a discovery, Hughes rental car was found at the bottom of Nuevo Rio River in Puerto Jiménez.

According to Hughes sister, Nancy Steffens, officials have told her that her brother most likely “wandered off” into the river.

Credit: Charlie Hughes / Facebook

Hughes’s family has said that they do not believe the story the authorities are giving them. Not only was their brother an experienced traveler but they are a military family who relocated often, therefore Charlie was able to adapt to new spaces quickly. Plus, this wasn’t his first trip to Costa Rica, he was actually returning to the same area he had previously visited. 

The family stated that they are not giving up hope. They are going to fight until they get the truth.

As for the man that was Charlie’s new friend – who is also the last person known to have seen Charlie – Nancy says local authorities told the family they questioned the man and have released him.

Hughes and his companion (who hasn’t been named) hasn’t been seen since. 

Credit: TexasEquuSearch – TEXQ / Facebook

A family that knows all too well what the Hughes is going through, is Carla Stefaniak’s family. The Venezuelan-American was an Insurance Agent and also an experienced traveler, also from Florida (Miami.) Stefaniak had booked a trip to Costa Rica to celebrate her 36th birthday.

This new mysterious death in Costa Rica is troubling.

Credit: carla_margarita / Instagram

Ready to ring in around trip around the Sun, she checked into her Airnbn and enjoyed a few days with her sister-in-law who then returned home on that Tuesday and Stefaniak was supposed to return home the following day on Wednesday, but just like Hughes she never boarded her return flight. 

In Carla’s last text to her family, sent November 27, 2018, she told them it was raining pretty hard and the lights kept going in and out at the place she was staying at, her last words read “this place seems pretty sketch.”

By December 3, 2018, the family was working round the clock on a full-scale search, sharing her story with every and any media outlet, in hopes to bring their daughter home safely.

The disappearance of Stefaniak made national headlines in the U.S. as the family searched for their loved one.

Credit: carla_margarita / Instagram

Sadly, a couple of days later her body was found, buried in a shallow grave behind the Airbnb she was staying at. Her family confirmed that is was her. The security guard employed at the gated villa is now being tried for her murder. 

Airbnb has since removed the property from their listings.

Just months before the Carla Stefaniak case, there were three cases of missing tourist whose bodies were later recovered. 

Costa Rica has been known for its beautiful beaches and relatively low crime has always been considered one of the safest tourist destinations. According to the stats at InSight Crime, even though Costa Rica hit a record high in 2017 for homicides, their numbers are still significantly lower than the numbers for the No. 1 Latin American destination place for tourist, Mexico.

InSight Crime lists different reasons for a rise in crime, but there does seem to by a cycle that is followed starting with imperialism that carries over decades that then creates unstable governments and depreciates the value of the currency in a country. When we see the currency drop that creates the perfect storm for criminal organizations to rise-up and recruits. 

We have seen this happen in Mexico and we are currently seeing this happen in Central America. Make no mistake, this doesn’t happen out of anywhere, there is decades build-up to how this rise in crime happens. 

For many Latinos in the United States, especially those on the border, traveling between two countries is nothing new. We grew up already hearing little life lessons from our parents like “esconde el dinero” “no hables ingles” always be aware of your surroundings and never give too much information.

However, for the millennial Latino generation we are traveling solo more often, we are creating content on social media, and we are living in a time of instant access. We now have AirBNB and Uber, so many other apps that make these common-sense tips sometimes get lost in our day-to-day lives.

As with any trip planning to any country, it is always good to do your research and there are plenty of websites, blogs, etc., that can offer safety trips and travel alerts, to keep yourself informed.

Always check the State Department website for travel advisories when planning international travel.

Credit: U.S. State Department

Don’t cancel your plans to visit Costa Rica, just yet. As of a few days ago, the website World Population Review listed their top safest countries to visit in Latin America, Costa Rica ranks number three.

READ: Costa Rica Is Warning Everyone To Stop Drinking Alcohol As 19 People Have Died Due To Tainted Alcohol

The United Nations Gave Costa Rica The Highest Award Possible For Their Work Saving The Environment

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The United Nations Gave Costa Rica The Highest Award Possible For Their Work Saving The Environment

visit_costarica / Instagram

Costa Rica is a global example of cutting carbon emission and using renewable and sustainable energy to power a nation. The Central American country has been striving to be carbon-zero ahead of the rest of the world. The country recently powered itself using only renewable and clean energy for part of a year showing that it is indeed possible. As such, the United Nation gave the country the highest award for being the environmental example it is.

Costa Rica was recognized by the UN for leading the way to a zero-carbon future.

Credit: visit_costarica / Instagram

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) recognized Costa Rica with its highest environmental honor. The Central American country was celebrated for its role in the protection of nature and its commitment to combat climate change with strong policies. 

“Costa Rica has been a pioneer in the protection of peace and nature and sets an example for the region and for the world,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment program. “Climate change demands urgent and transformative action from all of us. With its ambitious plan to decarbonize the economy, Costa Rica is rising to that challenge,” she added. “Global emissions are reaching record levels and we must act now to move to cleaner, more resilient economies.”

Around 70 percent of all buses and taxis are also expected to be electric by 2030, with full electrification expected by 2050.

Credit: visit_costarica / Instagram

Ninety-eight percent of Costa Rica’s energy is renewable and forest cover stands at more than 50 percent after decades of work to reverse deforestation. In 2017 the entire country ran a record 300 days solely on renewable power. The plan is to run on 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. Costa Rica has plans to switch 70 percent of all carbon-emitting buses and taxis to electric by 2030, with full electrification of vehicles projected for 2050.

“Receiving the Champions of the Earth award on behalf of Costa Rica, its entire population, the past generations who protected the environment, and future generations fills me with pride and emotion for what Costa Rica has achieved and for what we can continue to do because we can achieve even more. I feel very proud to be Costa Rican,” said President Carlos Alvarado Quesada.

“About 50 years ago, the country began to advance a series of innovative environmental policies because the paradigm of sustainable development is very much in Costa Ricans’ DNA. The decarbonization plan consists of maintaining an upward curve in terms of economic employment growth, and at the same time generating a downward curve in the use of fossil fuels in order to stop polluting. How are we going to achieve that? Through clean public transport; smart and resilient cities; sound waste management; sustainable agriculture and improved logistics,” he said. 

Costa Rica revealed its plan of action to abide by the Paris Agreement’s target to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

Credit: visit_costarica / Instagram

Costa Rica’s Decarbonization Plan was unveiled in February and the target of the plan is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, by reforming transport, energy, waste and land use. This would mean that the country will produce no more emissions than it can offset through actions such as maintaining and growing its forests. 

Already, Costa Rica’s groundbreaking role in promoting clean technologies and sustainability has earned the country of around 5 million people a global emissions rate of only 0.4 percent. China’s global emissions in 2011 were over 10 percent, and the US was emitting over 6 percent

UN Secretary-General urged world leaders to come together to discuss sustainability in New York during the Climate Action Summit.

Credit: visit_costarica / Instagram

The Champions of the Earth is the UN’s flagship global environment award. It recognizes Costa Rica’s sustainability efforts and highlights the urgent need to find solutions against climate change. The need for radical global action on this subject was highlighted by the UN earlier this week at UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres’ Climate Action Summit in New York.

For the summit, the Secretary-General urged world leaders and businesses to come together with concrete ideas on how they intend to cut emissions by 45 percent in the next decade and achieve net-zero emissions globally by 2050 as per the Paris Agreement of 2016. 

The urgency of the problem was highlighted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s emotional speech.

By the end of the day, 65 countries announced efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, several asset fund managers offered to aim to a net-zero portfolio of investments by the same year. Dozens of businesses said they would abide by the Paris Agreement too. The urgency of the problem was highlighted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who chastised world leaders for their approach. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” she said, “if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”

The ‘Champions of the Earth’ award was established to celebrate outstanding figures whose efforts have transformed the environment and the world.

Credit: visit_costarica / Instagram

The award Champions of the Earth, bestowed upon Costa Rica this year, was established by the UNEP (UN Environmental Program) in 2005 to celebrate outstanding figures whose actions have been transformative to this earth and the environment.     From world leaders to environmental activists and technology innovators, the award recognizes trailblazing efforts to protect the planet for generations to come. 

Costa Rica is one of five Champions of the Earth this year. The other categories rewarded are entrepreneurial vision, inspiration and action; and science and innovation. All 2019 champions will be honored today at a gala ceremony in New York during the 74th UN General Assembly. Also honoured at the event will be seven young environmental activists between the ages of 18 and 30, who will take home the ‘Young Champions of the Earth’ prize.

Previous laureates from Latin America include Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, for her efforts in creating marine protected areas and for boosting renewable energy (2017); former Brazilian environment minister Izabella Teixeira for her leadership and key role in reversing deforestation of the Amazon (2013); and Mexican ecologist José Sarukhán Kermez for a lifetime of leadership and innovation in the conservation of biodiversity in Mexico and the world (2016).

READ: Costa Rica Is Warning Everyone To Stop Drinking Alcohol As 19 People Have Died Due To Tainted Alcohol

Bricks Of Cocaine Have Been Washing Up On Florida Beaches And Some Are Valued At More Than $25,000

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Bricks Of Cocaine Have Been Washing Up On Florida Beaches And Some Are Valued At More Than $25,000

Melbourne Police Department / Facebook

Florida is gonna Florida. Florida, as usual, is doing the most. Hurricane Dorian has unearthed more than a dozen bricks of cocaine by causing them to wash up on beaches. Hurricane Dorian isn’t a joke nor should it be trivialized. It’s the cause of damage and displacement for thousands of people. 

Beginning as a Category 5 hurricane and eventually downgrading to a Category 2, Dorian has wreaked havoc in the Bahamas, Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida as it continues its move northeast. At least 20 have been killed in the Bahamas, which has been hit particularly hard. The prime minister, Hubert Minnis said Dorian “has left generational devastation across Abaco and Grand Bahama” after it destroyed harbors, shops, offices, hospitals, and airport landing strips. 

So let’s be clear, we’re not undermining the very real disaster whose devastation won’t even be quantifiable for years to come — we’re making fun of Florida. Florida, a state whose crimes are so bizarre and confusing it has a dedicated Twitter account. A state whose men are so bizarre and confusing there is a dedicated “Florida Man” meme. There is a Bored Panda listicle entitled “60 Times Florida Man Did Something So Crazy We Had To Read The Headings Twice.” 

Florida isn’t a regular place, you see, it is a place where the oceans are filled with cocaine. 

15 bricks of cocaine washed ashore. 

A duffel bag containing 15 bricks of cocaine weighing a kilo each turned up on the shore of Cocoa Beach in Florida.

Just 20 miles south, another brick of cocaine was discovered at Paradise Beach and Park in Melbourne, Florida. 

“It happened before the storm, it was on Friday, Aug. 30, it was just a beachgoer that saw a red travel duffel bag that looked suspicious,” Sergeant Manny Hernandez of Cocoa Beach Police Department told Fox Business. 

“So they contacted the Cocoa Beach Police Department and when officers responded, they took the bag and brought it back to station. We then contacted the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).”

This particular brick also weighed a kilo and had the letters “D-I-A-M-A-N-T” written on the package. The NY Post estimatesthe 15 bricks to be worth at least $300,000. However Fox Business reports that the two seizures may total around $810,000 and estimate that each brick is between $20,000 and $30,000.

This happens in Florida all the time, of course.

Bricks of cocaine and marijuana, known as square groupers, have been known to surface in Florida waters. Brevard’s coast has had unintended spills from cargo ships and vessels where coffee cans and other items have been dumped into the ocean. According to Florida Today, it is the rough surf and proximity of the Gulf Stream that causes either “trash or treasure” to wash up frequently. 

“There is a possibility that more will come onshore,” Hernandez said. “Especially now with these conditions. It could be coming from anywhere. We’re telling people to be cautious and not to grab or handle it because if there is an opening, it can go into your pores and you can overdose.”

Why is there so much cocaine in Florida, though?

In 2017,the Sun-Sentinel reported cocaine is making a “roaring” comeback in Florida.  Reportedly, Colombian cocaine production hit a record high with traffickers proliferating the drug in South Florida. Around 90% of the cocaine in the United States can be traced back to Colombia, which has tripled its production in recent years. 

Florida’s Customs and Borders confiscated 4,200 pounds of cocaine in 2016, compared to 1,730 pounds in 2015. Because there is a lag between drug production and distribuion it can take years to see the effects. Flash forward to 2019 where bricks of cocaine are free-flowing on the shores of Cocoa Beach. 

“We’ve never seen cocaine production at these numbers, which tells you there is more cocaine being produced now than at the height of the Medellin and Cali cartels,” Justin Miller, intelligence chief for the DEA’s Miami field division, told the Sun-Sentinel. “That’s significant.”

The increase in production is largely due to the Colombian government ceasing to aerial spray herbicides over coca fields used to make cocaine. The previous method was effective in thwarting cocaine production, but it harmed legitimate crops. Thus, the program ended. 

Don’t do cocaine, kids.

Don’t do cocaine, kids. That’s fairly good advice, I think! It’s nice to know that in the most trying times, Florida will always be Florida. Much like the spinning top was Leonardo Dicaprio’s constant in Inception. Florida is mine because I know it will never change.