QCOSTARICA – Being involved in the drug trade in Costa Rica decreases one’s life span, less during a drug war, as is the case currently going on in the country and mainly centred in the Greater Metropolitan Area of San Jose.
According to numbers by the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ), in the first half of the year there were 106 “narco” (drug trade) related murders or on average one murder every two days.
That number does not take into account the other 61 murders where the motive is not yet clear.
Narco killings represent 40% of all the 267 murders for the first six months of 2015.
In addition to the murders, that can be described as “settling of scores” or “fights for turf”, in the first six months of the year, 39 robberies, 38 fights and 11 cases of domestic violence, were directly related to the drug trade.
Gustavo Mata, the ministro de Seguridad (Minister of Security) says these crimes are a result of the drug war in the country.
“If we didn’t have this setting of scores, we would historically have lower rates of violence. In Costa Rica they don’t kill you to take your cell phone, or car; they no longer do that,” said Mata.
“These are gangs that are attacking each other and want domain of territory. They face and kill each other’s gang members to regain power and leadership in an area,” said Gerald Campos, interim director of the OIJ, in an interview with La Nacion a few weeks ago.
The single biggest month for narco killings was May, when there were 22 murders or executions; followed closed by February with 21, while January with 12 homicides was the month with the least vengeance. In March there were 18 murders. April saw 15. In June 18.
In July, the OIJ reports 36 homicides, however, it has not yet disclosed how many were related to the narco trade. No numbers yet available for August.
Narcos can be anywhere.
An example of a drug trader is the recent murder of 33 year-old Heiner Obando Alfaro, who in a wheelchair ran a “pulperia” (corner grocery store) in barrio Asis de Cartago. Police allege that Obando used the pulperia as a front for this drug business, resulting in his murder of June 26, when he was shot point-blank in the chest.
There are many more examples of such crimes. Daily, the early television news gives us reports of killings in conflictive areas such as Leon XIII, Lomas de Pavas, Ipis and marginal areas of Desamparados and Alajuelita, areas with a high concentration of people and alleged high level of drug consumption or places where to buy drugs.
As part of their fight against drug trafficking, authorities seized between January and August 2015, 11.5 tons of cocaine and more than a million marijuana plants.
In the same period, the Drug Control Police (Policía de Control de Drogas – PCD) seized ¢57 million colones, almost US$3.8 million and 86,000 Euros from narcos.
And during the first eight months of the year, the PCD, OIJ and and the Fiscalia arrested a total 11,794 people linked to drug trafficking.
“These are blows that hurt their organizations,” said the minister.
While authorities say they are being effective in curbing the drug trade, they are slow to admit they have the drug war killings under control.
Drug trafficking in Costa Rica has existed for some time, but done quietly, almost going unnoticed until the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels took over the trade.
The most “noise” the foreigners made was to hire Ticos (Costa Ricans) to move the illegal drugs through the country, and being paid for becoming drug mules.
A decade ago, the most dangerous gangsters in Costa Rica were car thieves or robbers, reminisce authorities.
Today, executions (murders related to the narco trade) are now almost a daily occurrence.
How did the naco trade start?
La Nacion prepared the following to show how the narco business grew in the country, from a decade ago Costa Ricans being hired as “mules” to moving the drug through the country, from Colombia to the north, the U.S. as final destination, to the Ticos making deals to buy the drugs and distribute it in the country, creating narco gangs, organizations, leaders and ways to hide the narco profits.