How much does it cost to hire someone to have someone killed in Costa Rica? The Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) has determined that a “hit” runs between ¢50,000 to ¢500,000 colones.
“We have established sicarios (hitmen) who have charged ¢50,000, others ¢100,000 and some ¢ 500,000.
“Actually they are not as high amounts as one might think or imagine when it comes to ending the life of a person, so they are not unattainable amounts, for our bad luck,” said the director of the OIJ, Wálter Espinoza.
The statement by the OIJ chief follows the arrest of a 21-year-old man, identified by his last names Cubillo Hidalgo, who is believed to have paid ¢100,000 colones to two hitmen to kill Karolay Serrano, 26, with whom he had a secret relationship with, given he was already in a committed relationship with children.
Cubillo was responsible for financing the operation and taking the woman to a viewpoint on the slopes of the Barva Volcano. There the hitmen – minors, one 16, the other 17 – executed the crime and buried the victim.
In this case, Espinoza declined to specify how much money the minors were paid but confirmed the there was hiring and payment to execute the crime. “There was hiring, payment, and participation of who we can call hitmen or direct executors of the murder, as well as an intellectual author, an interested party and someone who required the service,” said Espinoza.
Karolay disappeared on August 12, 2019, after getting in a white-colored Honda, which was confiscated in Cubillo’s home on Thursday. Her whereabouts were unknown until this week when the family alerted the OIJ on the finding of human remains in a farm. The forensic results confirmed the identity, which led to the arrest of five people, including Cubillo.
According to the OIJ, the majority of sicarios are under the age of 30, many of them minors.
Apparently, the lack of a high prison sentence does not frighten the “guns for hire”.
The Juvenile Criminal Justice Law (Ley de Justicia Penal Juvenil) establishes sentences of up to 15 years for a murder committed by a minor (under the age of 18), while an adult is exposed to a maximum prison sentence of 35 years.
Unfortunately, the OIJ chief reiterates, high prison sentences are not “unattainable” and it depends a lot on the person (judge) who sets the sentence.
Prices vary and, unlike other products (drugs), lately, they have been on a falling trend according to authorities, though the OIJ does not have statistics of homicides involving hitmen.
What they do know is that hitmen do not always have links with narco groups, since there are people who specifically dedicate themselves to executing crimes in exchange for money, “extremely young people or that they are just coming of age, who take risks based on their youth and inexperience” according to OIJ director Soto.
Soto added that for many, “taking someone’s life is the maximum of their lives or that it will give them recognition within their communities.”
He continued that, “regularly, the boys who decide to execute crimes in exchange for money live in marginal urban areas and did not finish high school…sometimes they tend to be in communal or family environments of violence.”
“I still believe that the issue here is not about professionalism, but rather about people who consider themselves intrepid. In some cases, they are part of organizations and as they are salaried they follow the requests to threaten or kill and in the case of people dedicated to this, the prices are negotiable, depending on the profile of the victim,” said Soto.
In this regard, the magistrate of the Third Chamber and former judge of Appeal of the Juvenile Criminal Court, Álvaro Burgos Mata, considers that the situation of young people dedicated to assassination for hire is not exponential, nor a wave, nor can it be considered novel.
He said that for a long time there have been minors linked to this type of crime, led by adults, although he acknowledges that in recent years there have been very high profile cases.
Burgos stressed that Costa Rica is among the countries with the highest penalties in Juvenile Criminal material, up to 10 years of detention for boys between 12 and 15 years of age and up to 15 for those between 15 and 18.
“The accent should not be put on the participation of minors, but on prevention avenues. From the school, society, the place where they live (…), the soccer fields and recreation sites that have disappeared, ” said the magistrate.
Burgos reiterated the need to offer young people alternatives to incorporate into society so that they are not seduced by money and the sense of acceptance of peer groups that, in these cases, are negative.
“If they are not recognized in other areas, who applauds them is someone who expects criminal action,” he warned.