Costa Rica is facing an unprecedented wave of violence due to disputes between drug gangs that use its territory to transit, store, produce, and sell drugs, Voice of America reported.
To curb crime these groups bring about, the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security launched the National Public Security Policy 2023-2030, designed to create a new front of strategic actions.
“This Policy is the tool with which we will wage the battle against drug trafficking and organized crime,” Costa Rica’s Minister of Public Security Mario Zamora Cordero told Diálogo on January 2. “It’s a common front with state regulations that combat crime on the ground, but that simultaneously incorporate the urgent and necessary preventive measures that the country needs.”
The policy proposes a “proactive model of police management by demand hubs,” allowing for the production of evidence that directs the daily police work in a focused manner, to anticipate crimes. In addition, the DATAPOL data service, which was developed with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, will be strengthened, with georeferencing and geolocation of risk factors and crime incidence, for a comprehensive analysis of the territory.
As for the Drug Control Police (PCD), the aim is to strengthen police intelligence work and international cooperation for a better reading of criminal phenomena. This creates a greater dynamism in investigative functions and also allows a greater presence in places where there traditionally was none or rather no representative impact in the fight against organized crime.
The Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) estimates that more than 1,000 people in Costa Rica are involved in activities linked to organized crime, while the Ministry of Public Security estimates that there are 340 criminal organizations, reported Costa Rican media outlet Radio Monumental.
“It’s a scenario of armed gangs that are real drug sales companies in our country and defend those markets through hitmen who every day assassinate members of rival gangs to control those markets,” Zamora said. “These criminal groups are trying to establish independent territories, where they intend to exercise governance implemented with terror and crime.”
The OIJ noted five situations that confirm the formation of a mega-cartel: They buy drugs directly in South America and without intermediaries; they finance themselves through businesses that appear to be legal; they carry out bloody murders; they have contacts abroad to export drugs; and they have an expansionist culture, Costa Rican media CRHoy reported.
One of the fugitives who meets these characteristics is Alejandro Arias Monge, alias Diablo, who with the help of front men acquired goods, properties, and businesses to legitimize money from illicit activities, Costa Rican news site Teletica reported.
The OIJ and the Attorney General’s Office are investigating part of his business dealings and are holding several of his hitmen in prison. In December, authorities captured the number two of his criminal organization, believed to be responsible for part of the criminal logistics, Costa Rican daily El Observador reported.
Another relevant event was the dismantling in November of an organization dedicated to the production and trafficking of fentanyl, in an operation led by the PCD and supported by the DEA, leading to the capture of four criminals and the seizure of chemical precursors and 1,100 doses ready for sale, France 24 reported.
The gang sold the drug at retail to people with high purchasing power, combined with other substances, without informing them of what they were actually consuming. “Very possibly these narcotics came from Mexico,” said Costa Rica’s Attorney General Carlo Díaz.
According to OIJ figures reported by El Observador, Costa Rica registered 870 homicides between January 1 and December 15, 2023. A total of 705 deaths occurred with firearms and 591 are related to organized crime score settling.
The report State of the Nation 2023 by the National Council of Rectors of Costa Rica, said that “victims and perpetrators are characterized by being young people who from an early age live without access to educational opportunities and quality jobs and without satisfying their basic needs such as decent housing, as they live in unsafe community environments; a situation that makes them easy targets for recruitment by organized crime and drug trafficking.”
For Costa Ricans, insecurity was the main problem in 2023. Meanwhile, according to Forbes Central America, President Rodrigo Chávez considered that some of the fundamental issues to solve the crime problem are the arrest and incarceration of individuals involved in contract killings and gang warfare.