What the F is going? Are the criminal court judges of this country so out of touch with reality that it in itself be called a crime?
The Costa Rica courts are sending a clear message to every driver in the land: drive as you want, kill as many as you want, don’t worry, nothing will happen.
At least it appears so to your truly and everyone I have spoken to in the last couple of days about the two separate and completely avoidable incidents, massacres rather, where five people lost their lives.
It was early Sunday morning. Five cyclists were headed to the Irazu volcano, part of their training. They were riding in the old road to Tres Rios, in Curridabat, near the Walmart store. This is a narrow road. The alternative would have been the autopista, with a shoulder. But this is a high-speed road and cyclists are banned.
It was at 3:46am, the time from the stamp of a nearby security camera, where we see the cyclists appear on the screen, followed a few seconds later by the headlights of a fast-moving vehicle.
Although not in the field of vision of the security camera, four of the five cyclists are struck, what I can only imagine is like bowling pins. Three are dead at the scene, a fourth is taken to hospital in serious condition, where she remains still in intensive care.
The driver flees the scene, leaving the mangled bodies to be recovered by emergency crews who quickly arrive, but there is nothing to do for the victims. We can only be horrified as the images filter on the social media and the online news channels.
It was ten hours later when the killer driver game himself up, a call to police pointing them to where the killer car was.
By this time, if he had been under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it was pretty much out of his system, enough so that the breathalyzer test was negative. A blood sample will take a month to get results. If he was racing, as is common on many roads in urban areas, it doesn’t change anything. He still killed three people.
At this point authorities know they have the killer vehicle and killer driver. He is arrested.
Monday morning, a criminal court judge accepted the recommendation of the prosecutor’s office (Fiscalia) to let the driver go free, with the condition he not leave the country, sign in regularly (every 15 days) and banned from driving, while the investigation continues.
The same result with the driver of the bus, on the autopista General Cañas on Tuesday, that slammed into the rear of a pick up truck, with such force leaving it crumpled an accordion, in between two other large vehicles. No possibility that the two men, on their way to work that morning, had even a chance of survival.
Again, what did the courts do? Mr. bus driver, go home. Don’t worry about it.
Although the two cases are different, the end result is the same, blood is spilled.
I live a stone’s through from the Ruta 27, in Santa Ana. Almost nightly, in the quietness of the night, the roar of engines and screeching tires can be heard. The straight-away from the tool booths to the Santa Ana bridge is perfect for street racing.
At least once a month or more the sound of screeching tires is followed by a silence, replaced by the sirens of the ambulances and fire trucks rushing to the scene. I don’t need to wait for the morning television news, or the social media or online news to know what something bad had happened.
In the morning, the air is fresh and filled with the sense of what had happened a few hours before. The last one was a little over a month ago, a vehicle out of control slams into the columns of the pedestrian bridge, and bounces off onto the side road, stopping against a mound of dirt.
Another fatality is around the corner.
Back to courts. I understand there is the due process of law. But I think common sense has to prevail here. Heck, drivers aren’t using common sense. There is no room for it in the mix of machismo, alcohol and drugs.
And what why? There is no punishment.
In the words of Public Prosecutor, Alexander Mora, “we can not use pre-trial detention as a punishment for moral or public order”.