Embassy Slayings Prompt Security Analysis

August 13, 2004

WEEKS after a Costa Rican policeofficer killed three diplomats at theChilean Embassy in San José and thenkilled himself, the nation continues tosearch for answers to explain the shockingtragedy.A special commission is analyzing allaspects of security at the country’s 53diplomatic installations, in response tothe July 27 shooting, during whichChilean diplomats Cristhian Yuseff,Roberto Nieto and Rocío Sariego wereslain by officer José Orlando Jiménez(TT, July 30).Jiménez had been stationed as a guardat the embassy for two years before theincident. Authorities believed he brokedown after learning that he would be transferredfrom his post at the request ofChilean Embassy officials.The special commission, which PublicSecurity Minister Rogelio Ramosannounced Aug. 6, is composed of threeexperts: sociologist Dr. Jorge Mora, securityconsultant Manuel Mora (no relation),and Xiomara Rojas, secretary of theIndependent Syndicate of Costa RicanState Workers.“THIS evaluation will help understandthe training, the time of service, the roles(the guards) have, their weapons, the gradeof supervision, the relationships or rootsthey have with the embassies, among otheraspects,” Ramos said.The experts will have 30 days, he said,to conduct a comprehensive evaluation ofthe training Costa Rican police officersassigned to guard diplomatic installationsreceive, as well as their working conditions,and present recommendations to theministry.He said the commission will take aspecial look at the monotony guards sometimesface – officers occasionally pull 12-hour shifts at some posts with little activity.The commission will also analyze thepsychological profile of the guards, hesaid.Ministry press officials said that untilthe commission releases its report, PoliceChief Walter Navarro cannot comment onspecific details regarding hiring and managementof such guards, including whetherthere are counseling services for CostaRican police in general.They also said they could not commenton whether the government would be providingJiménez’s family with a pension orany type of assistance, including counselingservices. All such questions werereferred to Navarro, who did not answerTico Times requests for interviews.Police maintain that Jiménez had animpeccable service record and had shownno previous signs of mental instability.IN an interview with the Chilean dailynewspaper La Tercera, Chilean Ambassadorto Costa Rica Guillermo Yungeadmitted that he “committed multipleerrors” and asked forgiveness from thefamily members of the three victims.Yunge had come under sharp criticism forhis absence during the funerals of Yuseffand Sariego, held in Santiago, and for publiclythanking God that he was not in theembassy at the time of the killings.“I would like to ask forgiveness forwhatever act, declaration or omission thatI have done and could not alleviate or thatincremented the pain of the family membersof the victims,” Yunge told thenewspaper.Yunge apologized specifically for havingpublicly thanked God for sparing hislife, and explained that he did not attendthe funerals of Yuseff and Sariego becauseof obligations in Costa Rica surroundingthe slayings. He admitted that he couldhave flown to Chile for the funeral andreturned, but said he made the personaldecision to remain in San José.The third victim, Roberto Nieto wascremated in San José at the request of hiswidow.Yunge announced he would step downfrom his post last week, and is currentlytaking an authorized vacation before presentinga report to Chilean officials aboutthe events surrounding the killings.Chilean Chancellor Soledad Alvear saidYunge would not likely return to CostaRica after the report (TT, Aug. 6).ANOTHER security guard – this timea private one – snapped in a manner similarto Jiménez on Sunday, shooting threepeople and then killing himself after chasingdown his wife and a man accompanyingher.The guard, identified as Jorge EduardoVega, chased his wife into a random residence,and then shot two men and a womanliving there. All three sustained seriousinjuries and at press time remained hospitalizedat Calderón Guardia Hospital inSan José.Marcos Quirós, a psychologist whovolunteers with Instituto WËM, a private,non-profit organization that runs the country’sonly hot line for men in crisis (TT,Feb. 20), said finding out what causes suchmurderous outbursts would require a longterm,in-depth study.“What I can say is that it is lamentablethat in Costa Rican society, unfortunately,we don’t have the capacity to prevent suchviolence,” Quirós said.However, he did say one common factornormally present in violence of thistype among men is the “accumulation ofproblems.”“They wait until things arrive toextremes,” Quirós said. “That can makethe explosions much larger.”Instituto WËM can be reached at234-2730.

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