QCOSTARICA – It’s that simple. For as little as ¢20,000 colones (US$38) anyone can order a “hit” in Costa Rica, a cold blooded murder regardless of location, date and time, that has lately become an everyday occurrence.
The murder-for-hire is a growth industry as drug cartels fight for territory. This year alone authorities suspect 171 hired killings, most related to drug traffickers settling scores.
Celso Gamboa, deputy chief at the Ministerio Publico, believes that the year will close with more than 500 contract murders.
“There is no fixed average rate, but we have been told of cases where killings are being carried out for ¢50,000 colones and even ¢20.000 colones, in cases of extreme necessity,” said Gamboa.
“It is very difficult for authorities to determine the exact amount paid by the masterminds. We must recognize that in very few cases we get to the mastermind, I don’t say never … what we usually get (arrest) are the trigger men, that cannot tell us why they were hired,” said Gamboa.
Between January and August of this year, some 369 people were murdered in the country. Most of the killings occurred in San Jose.
Historically, the most violent months of the year are November and December.
“We are seeing a violent clash between rival gangs, especially in the Greater Metropolitan Area (Gran Área Metropolitana – GAM). We can confirm, countrywide, at least 171 murders related to contract killings,” added Gamboa.
Gerardo Gaistang, criminilogist and former agent of the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ), says the OIJ should establish a reward fund for information leading to arrests. The former official also believes a change in regulation with respect to motorcycles, as has been raised in the past, is a valid response to the increased use of the two-wheeler to commit contract killings.
“Here in Costa Rica the death penalty was established about 20 years ago. The underworld hands out the sentence and when and how a person is going to die,” said Castaing.