Chilean Ambassador Steps Down After Tragedy

June 24, 2005

AFTER a Costa Rican police officerkilled three diplomats at the Chileanembassy last week and took his own lifelast week, officials this week announcedthat Chilean Ambassador Guillermo Yungewill step down from his post, and investigatorsfrom Santiago are here to piecetogether events surrounding the killings.The two investigators, who arrived July30, are interviewing embassy employees todetermine exactly what happened when54-year-old José Orlando Jiménez enteredthe building with an M-16 and killed 42-year-old Consul Cristhian Yuseff, 44-yearoldFirst Secretary Roberto Nieto and 25-year-old Secretary Rocío Sariego.The ordeal lasted more than six hours.Jiménez searched the entire embassy formore targets before shooting himself in thehead, while seven survivors hid silently forhours until police entered (TT, July 30).COSTA Rican Foreign MinisterRoberto Tovar met with one of the investigators,Ricardo Concha of the ChileanChancellor’s office, on July 29. Tovar saidit was “a meeting to mutually ratify theabsolute solidarity between both nations.”The other investigator is Chilean prosecutorEduardo Gálvez. Both arrived in SanJosé last Friday.Two of the victims, Yuseff and Sariego,were buried in Chile last weekend after afuneral led by Chilean President RicardoLagos. The remains of Nieto, who leftbehind a widow and three children, werecremated in San José.Family members of the fallen diplomatsspoke out against Yunge, who has been theambassador here since 2000, during thefuneral, held in Santiago.“At the moment of the tragedy there wasa great absence, and that was the ambassadorof Chile in Costa Rica,” said JuanYuseff, father of the deceased consul.Yunge was not in the building at the timeof the shooting incident.SOME family members are consideringtaking legal action against the Costa Ricangovernment and may pursue the paymentof economic damages, the Chilean daily ElMercurio reported.President Abel Pacheco this week saidthe country would pay damages if orderedby a judge.“If the law orders us to pay, we willcomply,” the President said duringTuesday’s Cabinet Meeting.On Tuesday, Chilean legislative deputyJorge Tarud said he would ask the governmentof his country to back a possibledemand for the damages.“In the moment in which they file it, wewill see how the situation is,” Tovar said ofthe potential lawsuits.YUNGE, who was reportedly “powerfullyimpacted” by the July 27 shootingincident, last week began a legally authorizedvacation, after which he will fly toSantiago to inform government officialsthere about the events surrounding thekillings, Chilean Chancellor SoledadAlvear announced on Monday fromSantiago. She said Yunge, who was toremain at his post until the end ofSeptember, will not likely return to SanJosé.Alvear called for a reflection on peaceand tranquility at the victims’ funeral.“Tomorrow, when children return totheir schools, (they should) think and reflecton peace, on the capacity to resolve difficultieswithout resorting to violence, on whatpublic service means,” Alvear said.AN autopsy report released by CostaRican police late last week revealed allthree victims died instantly after being shotin vital organs. Nieto and Yuseff died frombullets to the heart, while Sariego waskilled by a bullet that went through one ofher lungs and her liver.Forensic investigators confirmed thatJiménez, who held the assault rifle underhis chin and fired a bullet through his head,received only a minor brain lesion from thewound, allowing him to survive for hoursafter shooting himself. Officials had speculatedit took Jiménez between five andseven hours to die.Authorities believe Jiménez, who wasdescribed as a calm, good-natured personand a diligent police officer, snapped afterbeing notified he would be transferredfrom his post as an embassy guard, wherehe had been stationed for two years, toguarding the home of former PresidentJosé Joaquín Trejos.According to police officers who hadworked with Jiménez, who had been withthe force since 1997, he likely took thetransfer as a punishment of some kind, LaNación reported.The Tico Times attempted to consultpolice regarding psychological counselingservices available to officers. Allquestions were referred to Police ChiefWalter Navarro, who canceled twoappointments and declined to commentover the phone this week.

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