San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Violence, Drugs Main Crimes this Year

HORRIFYING cases of domestic violence,police aggression against immigrantsand huge drug busts marked 2004.Nine slayings resulting from domesticviolence were reported in the first month ofthe year, including the tragic case of WilbertLópez, who shot and killed three of his children,injured a fourth and shot his pregnantpartner twice in the abdomen before takinghis own life Jan. 22 in La Carpio, an impoverishedshantytown west of San José.The woman and her baby survived, andby year-end had started a small pizza businesswith the help of the Costa RicanHumanitarian Foundation.Early in the year, the government createda special commission with representativesof at least eight different agencies toanalyze and find solutions for domesticviolence.In December, the Legislative Assemblyapproved in first debate a bill that penalizeswith jail psychological and physicalviolence toward women. Before itbecomes a law, the bill needs to bereviewed by the Constitutional Chamber ofthe Supreme Court (Sala IV) and approvedby legislators in second debate. Previousversions have been rejected by the Sala IV.IN late January, hundreds of Nicaraguanimmigrants were detained and forcedto show documentation in a “crime-prevention”raid that led the Nicaraguan governmentto request an investigation intopossible human-rights violations duringthe operation.A Sala IV ruling in May declared generalimmigration raids unconstitutional,and Costa Rica had to pay damages to 65affected Nicaraguans.Also in May, violence erupted in a LaCarpio riot that left 30 people injured.Residents of the area formed a blockadeon the only road going into the neighborhoodin protest of the garbage companyEBI Berthier, which manages a landfill thatborders La Carpio. Residents demandedthe company continue depositing moneyinto a special account for communitydevelopment projects such as sidewalksand health clinics, after it stopped makingpayments because of suspected misuse ofthe funds.During the riot, police hurled tear gasat protestors, who were throwing largerocks at police. Six police officers and one14-year-old boy were injured by gunshotwounds.IN the Caribbean port city of Limón,another police officer was shot and killedin November. Tomás Emel Fajardo, 37,died during a shootout in pursuit of a groupsuspected of robbing a check-exchangebusiness minutes before.Three suspects were detained in connectionwith the killing.A joint-patrol agreement betweenUnited States and Costa Rican CoastGuards, in effect since 1999, this yearpushed maritime drug shipments fromColombia to the United States deeper intothe Pacific and led to important drug buststhis year.In February, five suspected Colombiandrug traffickers were arrested and 300 kgof cocaine seized after their boat was pursuedoff the central Pacific coast and theywere caught in a joint U.S.-Costa Ricaoperative.In April, Costa Rican Drug ControlPolice (PCD) agents arrested seven suspectswho were part of an international networkof drug traffickers moving heroin tothe United States. The arrests, in coordinationwith the U.S. Drug EnforcementAdministration (DEA), were made on theCaribbean coast.ACCORDING to police, althoughland-based drug trafficking through CostaRica decreased this year, more drug shipmentswere being destined for sale in CostaRica rather than just being transportedthrough.This was evident in the Southern Zonearea around Golfito, where Police ChiefLuis Angel Núñez told the Tico Times inAugust, there is an average of at least onedrug-related arrest per day.In August, as the amount of cocaineand marijuana seized in Costa Rica duringthe year’s first six months already doubledthe quantity seized in all 2003, officialssaid the increase was prompted by a simultaneousrise in drug trafficking and lawenforcement activity.

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