QCOSTARICA — Despite the political rhetoric by the country’s president and legislators, the current outbreak in drug violence and homicides, will close the year with a historic record of almost 900, it can all be summed up to fiscal discipline in recent years.
At least that is the opinion of Costa Rica’s chief of law enforcement, Fiscal General (Attorney General), Carlo Diaz and others.
Diaz explained that the lower social investment in the last ten years, ups and downs in the budget of the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública (Ministry of Public Security) and the Judiciary, as well as the number of police officers that is the same as a decade ago, explain why Costa Rica registers a record number of homicides, the penetration of drug traffickers and sicarios (hitmen).
To this, we must add the impact of the pandemic in terms of poverty, loss of jobs, and lack of opportunities, which have pushed many young people into criminal structures.
In this case, the lower investment in all areas is explained by the fiscal rule, which limits the growth of public spending, in addition to the weight of the debt that exceeds 60% of Gross Domestic Production (GDP) and the fiscal deficit, which has contained State spending since 2018.
Experts in the field explain the decision made at that time was vital to avoid an economic disaster that is still a threat.
As of last Friday, Costa Rica had recorded 707 murders; which is a record and the worst of all is that there are still two months to the end of the year.
The war between drug trafficking gangs for territory and routes explains the violence, but the cause is much deeper, specialists explain.
For example, for next year a social investment of 9.7% of GDP is projected, which represents the lowest figure in a decade.
“The high rates of homicide and street violence are the result of an exclusive social and economic dynamic,” said Carlos Carranza, sociologist and researcher at the Universidad Nacional (UNA) – National University.
For the period 2018 – 2024, the expenditure of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which directs a series of social programs and scholarships, will go from ¢474 billion to ¢452 billion, while there are funds that are not executed and ups and downs for the period.
Likewise, investment in education is frozen and with a slight downward trend, according to data from the Ministry of Finance (Treasury).
As for the Judiciary, its budget was without major movements between 2018 and last year, while Public Security had increases and reductions. In both cases, the two institutions already have a larger budget, but the country is in deep water.
“The serious reality that the country faces makes it essential and urgent that we have more resources, since, if we continue working with the same limitations, we will obtain the same results that we have seen until now,” said Carlo Díaz, attorney general.
Ups and downs
The budget for the Ministry of Public Security and the Judiciary has had ups and downs in recent years. The application of the fiscal rule and the cutting of public spending have not allowed sustained growth.
For 2024, a significant increase is expected due to the crisis that the country is experiencing of violence, drug trafficking and homicides (figures in billions of colones according to the Ministry of Finance with the budgets approved by Congress).
To face head-on the violence that the country is experiencing, Costa Rica requires a new direction to fight drug trafficking, organized crime and homicides.
Rodrigo Arias, President of the Legislative Assembly, “Now is time to take action. This matter concerns everyone, in their respective roles and constitutional powers.
“Congress wishes to collaborate on this security route and, therefore, we will participate in a new meeting this Monday (today) to seek joint solutions. A thorough evaluation must be made of what we are doing and the points that must be improved must be improved for the benefit of the entire society.”
Attorney General Carlo Diaz added, “The serious reality that the country faces makes it essential and urgent that we have more resources, since, if we continue working with the same limitations, we will obtain the same results that we have seen until now.
“This is because there are currently an average of 2.5 homicides per day; Furthermore, the OIJ has identified almost three hundred criminal organizations and we do not have the capacity to investigate them all with the same priority.”
Gloria Navas, Chairperson of the legislative Security and Drug Trafficking Commission, “The essential problem that I can point out very clearly is not that we have some scanners (referring to the equipment at the country’s export terminals) here or there, it is not that we present five little projects from the Executive Branch; is that the Executive Branch has no direction for what it has to do in terms of Security, that is the problem, the essential problem is that it does not have the necessary public policies, the route is not clear and the security problem comes from the prevention and education.”
Randall Zuniga, Director of the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ), “The current reality is that homicides absorb the total capacity of the OIJ. We are investing more and more resources in murders.
“On December 4, 2018, the Legislative Assembly approved the law to strengthen public finances, which implied not only a limit on spending but also the payment of VAT for the OIJ. Before you could request more money, but now there is a computer system that determines the maximum amount and therefore, you cannot go beyond the amount, since the system does not receive the request.”