The staff of the PANI regional office in Alajuela received a complaint of mistreatment but did not find the house where the five-year-old boy lived, who finally died Thursday morning in the Sabanilla district of Alajuela.
This was the explanation given on Thursday afternoon by the Executive President of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI) – the national child welfare agency – Patricia Vega, after it was known that the child died of internal bleeding caused by a beating.
Vega says that this Thursday she spoke with the psychologist who, as part of communal work, reported the apparent situation of mistreatment of the minor.
Vega confirmed that a call to 911 was received on Saturday, May 4, at 2:41 pm and forwarded to the PANI.
On Monday, May 6, the coordinator of the Alajuela regional office classified the complaint as “priority 1”, that is, to attend within 24 hours.
“The complaint is answered on Wednesday, May 8, in the afternoon. The official goes to the address that appears (on the 911 call) on Saturday but does not find the house,” said Vega.
Vega added that the (unnamed) official consulted with neighbors, with the pulpero (corner store), knocked on doors and not finding the house she left for the school; they looked for the principal, they asked him about that child, but the teacher reported that he was not in the system.
After that attempt, the official decided to return to the office and did not know more about the case until this Thursday, May 9, when the death of the child was known.
According to the head of the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ), Walter Espinoza, the young boy died shortly after 6:00 am, after paramedics could not revive him.
Vega explained that the address of the house received on Thursday was given in a different way to the one received on Saturday.
The PANI head assured that an investigation on this difference will be undertaken today, Friday, May 10. “The issue of addresses is a problem, but that’s not an excuse, so it’s going to be investigated,” she said.
OIJ director Espinoza confirmed that the boy had had severe malnutrition and dehydration, bruises, wounds and apparent burns.
Neighbors told investigators and television cameras they had seen the boy with bruises and burns but were easily waved off by his mother’s explanations and the boy, who repeated the mother’s lies.
Marta Aróliga, close to the family of the child, said that the parents of the little boy said that he had fallen and hit his head and that caused his death.
“She is eight months pregnant and yesterday (Wednesday) she was telling me that she was already in labor pains, she was also asking for clothes for the baby, but the ones I have is a little girl and she is expecting a boy,” said Aróliga.
The Fiscalia (Prosecutor’s Office) confirmed that the child’s mother and stepfather, both of Salvadoran nationality and with refugee status, arriving in Costa Rica in September, were being detained.
The mother, 22, and is pregnant, is identified by her last name Marroquin; the man, 25 years old is named Perez.
This is the second case of a child who dies in violent circumstances this week.
Second case this week
This is not the first such case this week. On Tuesday a 13-day-old baby died in the San Felipe de Alajuelita clinic, apparently, due to aggression caused by the parents, who now face criminal proceedings.