QCOSTARICA – The murder of Alejo Leiva Lachner at the hands of a mob of at least 20 men, outside a bar in Playas del Coco early Saturday, uncovers fears on insecurity by residents of this tourist beach town, they say has been there for months.
Residents say they fear reprisals, preferring not to file reports with police despite knowing of illegal activities by what they say are several organized criminal groups that have taken over the town.
They fear talking to authorities, coming forward with information to police, they will end up the same as Alejo Leiva.
According to residents a number of pirate (illegal) taxis belong to these organized gangs. And it was precisely that, an altercation with a pirate taxi, that led to the attack on Leiva.
Juan José Andrade, director of the Fuerza Publica (police), denied of any “identified” criminal groups operating in Playas del Coco. Speaking to La Nacion, he said that people commit crimes related to drugs, but that “does not mean that you have structured organizations.”
The police chief said that in recent months police patrols have been increased in Playas del Coco, which has had “an impact on bringing crime down.”
However, residents have a different opinion.
In the La Nacion report, speaking on the basis of anonymity, residents say they “rarely” see police patrols and at the police station there only, at most, three police officers per shift.
The most serious concern of Playas del Coco residents “there are always fights between gangs, making it a no man’s land”.
“What happens is that nobody knows anything because there aren’t any dead, only injured. We are all silent, because we know that if we speak up, things get worse. It is dangerous here,” lamented one of the locals.
At a press conference Monday morning, in San José, Andrade said that on the night Leiva was attacked (and killed) there were only two police units on duty: one was attending a case of domestic violence, the other an assault.
He explained that when the call came in, some officers left the assault and went to the bar. However, when the police officers arrived, Leiva had already been attacked.
“We have the area covered. I personally go and plan operations, so I am surprised at the behaviour of the residents,” said Andrade.
Phenomenon. The Minister of Security (Ministro de Seguridad), Gustavo Mata, considers society is “sick” and react more violently to minor situations.
“Society is sick? Of course it’s sick. But it’s time to do something. People do not talk unless it touches someone close to them”, was the annoyed reaction of the minister.
For his part, Walter Espinoza, director of the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ), said in San José, that such cases occur as part of a “sort of culture of violence” that exists in the country and in Central America. This causes, according to the OIJ chief, that conflicts between people are resolved in a “more violent” manner.
“Currently, there is more aggression in the streets, it’s easier to get a gun, there is more domestic violence and more exposure to violent situations. This is a social phenomenon that is difficult to predict; this simply happens,” he said.