Why is Costa Rica Becoming More Violent?

Costa Rica News – If you have been reading the news the last few weeks in Costa Rica, there have been multiple tourists attacks and deaths.

Costa Rica’s recently-elected President Carlos Alvarado Quesada has officially hit 100 days in office. But his government is still struggling to stall worsening violence that is being driven by local criminal groups battling for control of domestic drug markets.

Costa Rica has long been known for its low crime rate and relatively stable economy, having escaped the bloody Cold War conflicts and brutal gang violence that have wrought havoc in other Central American countries. However, over recent years, the country has seen a continuous uptick in homicides.

In 2017, Costa Rica broke the country’s record in reported homicides with 603 and a homicide rate of 12.1 per 100,000 individuals. And 2018 isn’t looking much better.

In the first six months of this year, Costa Rica registered 302 homicides, which was 29 more than during the same period the year before, according to the Judicial Investigation Agency (Organismo de Investigación Judicial – OIJ). Officials project that 2018 will break the 2017 record with an estimated 625 homicides.

Costa Rica’s security situation has recently been dubbed a “free fall” by security analyst Paul Chaves from the Center for Criminology and Security Training (Centro Formación en Criminología y Seguridad). Despite that, the country still remains among Latin America’s least violent nations.

InSight Crime Analysis

Authorities and experts have explained the rise in violence by pointing to issues such as increasing criminal fragmentation, a greater presence of firearms and the country’s new role in the region’s drug map.

Costa Rica has, for years, served as a key transshipment point for Colombian cocaine heading to the United States and Europe.

From the beginning, local Costa Rican criminal outfits were contracted to guard drug shipments and move product across the country. Instead of making payments in dollars, transnational criminal organizations often paid local criminal groups in drugs, thus increasing the amount of product that stayed in Costa Rica, a trend seen in other key transshipment countries.

Over the years, with more drugs remaining in Costa Rica, illicit drug consumption has gone up, and local criminal actors have been quick to try to control increasingly lucrative local markets.

“On average, local groups can make upwards of $2,000 to $3,000 per day in one location. However, many groups sometimes control five, six or seven different drug dealing spots,” Costa Rica’s Minister of Public Security, Michael Soto, told InSight Crime.

Costa Rica’s official strategy to tackle drug trafficking has been primarily focused on targeting the leaders of local groups, which caused fragmentation and, in turn, a rise in violent competition for markets.

In 2012, officials arrested Marco Antonio Zamora Solórzano, alias “El Indio”, one of Costa Rica’s most notorious drug traffickers. Zamora had, for years, controlled key local drug markets, specifically in the southern part of the capital, San José. After his arrest, Zamora’s criminal structure fragmented into several groups that began to violently compete for access to drug markets in the capital, thus pushing up the homicide rate after 2013, according to Soto.

Upon capture, some of the most notorious micro-trafficking ring leaders have been able to direct local drug trafficking activities and the assassination of rivals from within prison walls.

Two recent examples include that of Leonel Mora Nuñez, alias “Gordo Leo,” who has been managing local drug sales and assassinations from a Costa Rican prisonsince his arrest in 2009, and Luis Angel Martinez Fajardo, alias “Pollo,” who continues to direct criminal activities in Costa Rica from a Nicaraguan prison.

In December, 2017, Fajardo was allegedly behind the killing of Nicaraguan national, Erwin Guido Toruño, alias “El Gringo”. The assassination of Toruño, who also played a key role in the San José drug trade, could also be behind increased violence as other groups rush to fill the void.

Along with increasing criminal fragmentation, a greater presence of firearmscould also be leading to increased homicide rates. In recent years, reports of arms trafficking rings allegedly connected to Mexico, Colombia and Panama have surfaced.

“There is a high availability of weapons. The origins of the weapons are unclear, but there is an important flow [of firearms] through the Central American corridor as a result of civil wars,” Walter Espinoza, the Director of the Judicial Investigation Agency (Organismo de Investigación Judicial – OIJ), told InSight Crime.

The announcement last week of the creation of a new public security plan could signal a shift in the government’s overall strategy to combat warring micro-trafficking groups. The initiative, called “Creating Security,” is based on Medellin’s public security program and seeks to increase collaborationbetween federal and community officials, and prioritize resources toward prevention and police operations in high risk areas.

Whether the initiative will be able to revert the trend of violence and insecurity remains to be seen.

*Deborah Bonello and Juan Diego Posada contributed reporting for this story.

by Bjorn Kjelstad, From Insight Crime

Costa Rica Athletes Pursuing Dreams in the USA

Costa Rica News – Two young Costa Ricans are preparing to leave the country to pursue their academic and athletic dreams. Runner Juan Diego Castro and swimmer Helena Moreno will move to the United States.

They will go to college and have new sports adventures.

The teenagers are among the country’s most promising athletes, having achieved many triumphs.

They hope to get to the Olympic Games of Tokyo 2020.

Castro is going to the Oklahoma State University on a sports scholarship. He plans to bring his playstation. He will dorm with other athletes and study marketing. He hopes to run in the world elite after graduating.

Moreno will be heading to the prestigious Harvard University.

She looks forward to a new way of studying and training, meeting the other girls and coaches. She plans to study economics.

Faith, Hope & Miracles; Costa Rica’s La Negrita Pilgrimage

Costa Rica News – Faith and hope for miracles coupled with gratitude for so many blessings are hearts worn on the sleeve of so many making the pilgrimage to la basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles, and its famous “La Negrita.” Where you’d expect to see fatigue, what you see is pure faith.

Thousands of devotees visit the shrine each year. It’s a national holiday. This is the 383rd anniversary of the appearance of La Negrita.

People come, many barefoot and at least one on crutches, from all over. Some have to start walking a day or more ahead of time because of the distance. They come even from other countries.

This year, the interviewed shared many blessings they are thankful for, such as family and healings.

There are also many needs represented, miracles prayed for, such as getting a family member through surgery and taking away burdens and guilt. Some came from Nicaragua asking for peace in their country.

Costa Rica Shipping & Relocation Company Continues Expansion

Costa Rica Shipping -Shipping Costa Rica, a Costa Rica shipping and relocation services company specializing in transporting international cargo to and from Costa Rica, today announced that it has begun its proposed structural expansion to provide better client support and reduced shipping costs to all existing and new customers looking to ship to or from Costa Rica.

Prior to this official announcement, Shipping Costa Rica spent the last three months crafting a system of international cargo shipping services that not only outclasses the competition but also offers the perfect balance of favorable shipping costs and unmatched customer service to all Shipping Costa Rica customers.

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Here are some of the systemic changes the Company has made:

  1. Redesigned their website to feature a now-responsive mobile-friendly platform that provides customers with the ease of site navigation on their mobile phones, tablets, and personal computers.
  2. Developed contractual relationships with multiple freight forwarders and logistics companies throughout the USA, Canada and various parts of the world. Leveraging on the many benefits of these contractual relationships, the Company can now offer better services at the most competitive prices to customers shipping to Costa Rica.
  3. Hired a client service team to provide updates and answer any questions during the entire shipping and relocation process to or from Costa Rica.
  4. Expanded their services in Costa Rica to include more customs brokers to make the processing of goods through Costa Rica customs quick and easy, as well as keep the import taxes as low as possible.
  5. Introduced a Shipping Costa Rica owned full-service transport team in Costa Rica to safely unload and place your belongings in your new home in Costa Rica.
  6. Hired an experienced team that specializes in taking vehicles through the customs and nationalization process (this includes vehicle inspection and plating). This team also has a body shop that ensures any vehicle modifications that need to be made to pass inspection in Costa Rica are done quickly and inexpensively.
  7. The Company now offers two new services:
  • Free, safe and secure storage of vehicles until the client is able to pick them up.
  • Personal delivery of vehicles to your final destination in Costa Rica.
  1. 80% through the process of getting the necessary logistics that enable small package shipping from the USA (the Company warehouse in Florida) to Costa Rica with low costs and import taxes.

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Shipping Costa Rica is a Costa Rica based global provider of international cargo shipping services. The Company has been in business for over 8 years and is one of most-recommended shipping and logistics companies in Costa Rica.

While larger shipping companies offer low pricing and smaller shipping companies provide a personalized customer service, Shipping Costa Rica combines both benefits and offers them to their customers. At Shipping Costa Rica you are not just an invoice number, you are family.

If you would rather ship your items on your own to Costa Rica, Shipping Costa Rica provides a Free Guide to Shipping to Costa Rica. This eBook details the entire process of getting your items from point A to point B, as well as the pitfalls you can encounter. Click this link to download the FREE EBOOK

Big Brother Will Be Watching the Roads of Costa Rica

Costa Rica News – The road camera plan is being revived by the Road Safety Council (Cosevi). It began efforts to find the company to take over the work. The Board of Directors will authorize the bidding process.

The intention now is to install devices in such a way that in addition to automatically taking pictures it will operate as a preventive mechanism against speeding. By showing the drivers how fast they are going they can auto-correct, making roads safer and tickets not needed as often.

The surveillance plan with cameras and speed radars could ideally also be used to track license plates for various reasons, such as stolen cars.

Cosevi does not yet have the budget but plans to have all necessary resources to make a contract in 2019. The initial system was just video surveillance in 2011 and this will be much better. In addition, back then tickets could not be given out because not all drivers registered an email address.

With the new system, fines will have to be paid in order to get the right of circulation.

Argentinian Singer Jairo Coming to Costa Rica

Costa Rica Entertainment – The Argentinian singer Jairo will be coming to Costa Rica to perform at the Melico Salazar Theater, in San José.

You can buy tickets now before they sell out. The show will be on August 23 at 8pm.

The romanticism of Jairo’s art has been enjoyed for over 50 years. His long career has brought him many followers. In 2011, he made an album of his concert in Costa Rica with the Youth Symphony Orchestra. The show in Costa Rica will be part of an international tour.

The broadcaster 94.7 is in charge of the event. It has informed the public that tickets are being sold at www.eticket.cr and authorized Servimás points of sale. The prices range from ¢20,000 to ¢60,000 plus service charge.

A Costa Rican artist, José Mata, will be the warm up act for the night of romanticism. After that we will enjoy some of Jairo’s 30 published hits.  

The Gran Hotel Costa Rica’s New Facelift

Costa Rica Travel – The Gran Hotel Costa Rica is an 88-year-old property under renovation since 2016.

There were some issues with it’s renovation and the process and two people involved are still being investigated.

The recent advancements of the remodel are now visible. The tarps covering the work have been removed. The new image of the historical building is now seen by those circulating in the capital city.

They can see the glass box that is now the fifth and last floor. This was historically the first building in Costa Rica to have five floors. It’s undergone six renovations and much of its originality has been lost or covered.

Part of the final agreement was that the windows, which were done with a technique no longer used, are not to be changed and the original flooring is to be shown again, removing the layers on top of it.

Costa Rica Contraband At An All Time High

Costa Rica News – In 2014, the amount of contraband liquor, cigarettes and cigars reached record highs. In fact, the amount of cigars seized in 2014 was nine times the amount seized just one year earlier. There were 14 million units confiscated in just the first two month of 2014.

When looking at alcoholic beverages, there were 260,000 liters confiscated in 2013, which represents an increase of 64% compared to 2012.

The products tend to enter the country in the southern area and the docks in Limon and Puntarenas.

14.3% of the Costa Rican adult population smokes and 45% consume alcohol. These figures were compiled by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, the School of Statistics of the University of Costa Rica and the organization Educ Alcohol.

Various factors were in play during these years. For one, the authorities increased intelligence work against smuggling. Secondly, they greatly increased the amount needed to be considered criminal smuggling from $5,000 to $50,000 making smuggling lower amounts carry little to no risk. Lastly, an increase in sales tax likely led more people to chose buying illegal rather than legal products. The USA and South Africa have had similar results after increasing taxes on the products.

Apple Vacations Offering New Flight to Costa Rica

Costa Rica Travel – Apple Vacations is about to offer a new flight option. It will go between Rockford, Illinois, USA and the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

The company will operate the flight as a charter between January and April 2019. The route will be offered weekly.

This flight is going to bring an estimated 2,340 tourists into the country, according to the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism, ICT.

President Carlos Alvarado announced the information during a Facebook Live broadcast on the afternoon Wednesday, June 20th. “We have confirmed the arrival of a new flight to Costa Rica, it is Apple Vacations, which will fly from Illinois to Liberia for the first time between January and April,” he confirmed. He added that the route will bring benefits for the region and the tourism sector.

The flight points to the increased interest in vacationing in our country. Charters provide favorable connections complemented by regular flights. Rockford has a direct connection to more than 14 US cities.

Costa Rican Ingrid Solís Overcomes Weight Gain & Depression to Become Mrs Universe

Costa Rica Entertainment News – Costa Rican Ingrid Solís has conquered the crown and now holds the title Mrs. Universe. She wants to use her reign to promote a message of self-love.

The mother of three children recently lost 52 kilos.

After giving birth to her sons, she was 120 kilos. The weight led to a depression. While studying for her master’s in Mental Health and Psychiatry, she realized love was in herself and began to overcome her afflictions.

She’s undergone a healthy lifestyle change and now physical activity and good nutrition are central. She loves herself, accepts herself, and sees her worth in so much more than her looks, although she is gorgeous. She is determined, helpful, loving, sensitive, persevering and capable. Her inner strength shines.

This was Solís’ second attempt at the competition. Since a child she loved beauty pageants. Following the win, she plans to give motivational talks to women about finding love within themselves.