QCOSTARICA — Applying a heavy-handed security policy against drug trafficking, organized crime, and the current wave of homicides is not possible in Costa Rica, according to several opposition legislators, who among others, believe the country must guarantee due criminal process, as well as the human rights of all those involved.
On the other hand, any legal reform that is approved must take into account the comprehensiveness of the situation, avoid populism and prison overcrowding so as not to violate the international agreements that the country has signed, as well as a vision that guarantees rights.
In short, Costa Rica cannot implement a policy in the style of President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador.
“With a single action, like putting people in jail, we are not going to solve all the problems and in that sense, we must think that we are also a country of guarantees; That is, any decision we make must not forget the principle of innocence, that the accused have a lawyer and that due process is complied with,” said Vanessa Castro, legislator for the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC).
Currently, 27% of people in prison are repeat offenders, according to the Ministry of Justice, while crimes related to homicide and drugs are in the top 3 of most people imprisoned.
Respect for due process and human rights should be a guide to resolving security problems, according to the country’s legislators.
Legislators from the Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN) and the Neuva Republica, along with the PUSC, warned that the proposals made by President Rodrigo Chaves to stop crime not only violate human rights but in some cases contravene the country’s Constitution.
In that sense, Óscar Izquierdo, head of the PLN, calls not to make decisions “in the heat of the moment.”
Data up to Tuesday, October 25, show that Costa Rica had 739 homicides so far this year, a historical record for the country, has put our country’s name in a bad light in the news of international media such as the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times with headlines like “Costa Rica is the new paradise for drug traffickers” and “Costa Rica, laid-back land of ‘pura vida,’ succumbing to drug violence” and “Costa Rica, the once-peaceful land of ‘pura vida,’ battles violence as cocaine trade grows”.
This is becoming normal every day. Morning television news start their reports with a tally of the previous day’s homicide count. Except on Saturdays and Sundays, when local television stations do not carry the news, the weekend recap is Monday morning.
Esto se está volviendo cada día normal… y las autoridades que estarán haciendo? pic.twitter.com/AOKdoZeFP7
— Klsalazar (@kattia_klsr) October 22, 2023
Bloodshed, the product of a war between drug trafficking gangs, with professional hitmen and teenagers involved in the drug business, extends practically to the entire country. There isn’t a province that has been spared of the wave of homicides.
— Esteban Arrieta (@estarrar) October 23, 2023
“There are government (legislative) proposals that were analyzed by the Department of Technical Services and that have been warned that they have some traces of unconstitutionality. It is not about approving bills in the heat of the moment, but rather it is necessary to pause along the way to discuss and support initiatives that are necessary and that do not violate human rights principles,” said Izquierdo.
A very different opinion is held by legislator David Segura of the Nueva República, who has said that criminals have to be behind bars, while also suggesting an approach similar to Bukele’s to address the problem.
Days ago the Minister of Security, Mario Zamora, sent a strong message to criminal organizations, after the seizure of 2 tons of cocaine in the Limón port terminal.
“We send a direct and absolute message to these organizations: operating in Costa Rica they will face justice to its ultimate consequences. We are going for them, that is the objective given by the President and that we are executing through actions every day,” said Zamora.
But is this enough?