Gangs in Costa Rica

November 19, 2004

ALTHOUGH gang activity here hasnot been as violent nor as widespread asin Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador,where maras include thousands of youthsand killings, rapes and destruction areeveryday occurrences, gangs do exist inCosta Rica.Futbol gangs are active in the SanJosé area. They have no formal connectionwith the country’s major league soccerteams but are followers of the teamsand use their colors and symbols for identification:red and black for the LigaDeportivo Alajuelense and purple andwhite for Saprissa.Gang members fight for territory orjust out of resentment, according to CarlosLuis Hidalgo, a former street kid andrecently published book author who usesthe nickname “Tabín.”In February of this year, two 11-yearoldgirls were shot in the legs on a schoolplayground because a boy dropped hisbackpack with a gun in it (TT, Feb. 20).The boy claimed he needed the gun forprotection from a rival gang. A monthlater, a youth at a San José high schoolwas caught with a knife in his backpack.He also claimed it was for protection froma rival gang.In Alajuela, northwest of San José, the“Teletubbies,” a gang of about 50 boysand girls, some as young as 10, commitassaults and robberies “every day”according to city police. Gang memberscause commotion in stores, for example,by knocking over shelves and while everyoneis distracted, steal money or merchandisethat they sell for drugs, policesay.According to authorities, theTeletubbies are led by 14-year-old“Chucky,” who has gained fame for hisbank robberies and other escapades. InAugust, he was picked up by police with¢200,000 ($443) in his pocket.Chucky has been detained by policeat least 11 times and has been taken tochildren’s shelters and the psychiatrichospital, but he always escapes, accordingto newspaper reports.

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