San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Prosecutors Charge Police In Nicaraguan’s Death

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office announced last week that it is bringing charges of manslaughter against two police officers who watched as two Rottweiler guard dogs mauled a Nicaraguan man to death one year ago.

Shortly after midnight Nov. 10, 2005, Natividad Canda, 23, an illegal immigrant from Nicaragua, was attacked by two Rottweilers when he and two others entered the property of an auto shop in La Lima, east of San José in the province of Cartago (TT, Nov.18, 2005). As the shop watchman, and later police, firefighters, Red Cross officials and a TV news crew, looked on, the two dogs mauled Canda for more than an hour.

An independent investigation of the incident, submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office earlier this year, found that police had the opportunity to shoot at the dogs but didn’t. Officers said that they could not fire on the animals for fear of hitting the victim. However, video footage captured by Channel 7 TV News showed the dogs walking away from the victim multiple times as firefighters sprayed them with a high-pressure hose.

The two officers, identified by the last names Sánchez and Luna, will be charged with manslaughter for failing to impede the victim’s death when it was their duty, a statement from the Judicial Branch said.

The Prosecutor’s Office also requested that charges against six other National Police officers and the property owners be dropped.

The death of Canda touched off a storm of accusations between the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan governments as well as a slew of xenophobic commentaries and jokes that circulated in Costa Rica. Nicaragua used the case of Canda and a second Nicaraguan man who was stabbed to death less than one month later (TT, Dec. 9, 2005) as examples of Costa Rica failing to protect Nicaraguans, and accused the government of xenophobia before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which earlier this year agreed to review the case (TT, July 14).

The commission evaluates cases before rejecting them or passing them on to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

This week, the Costa Rican government complained of “irregularities” in the way the commission is handling the case, the daily La Nación reported, such as hearing arguments from both sides before it has officially declared the case admissible or not.

Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry also says Nicaragua had not recognized the court’s authority when Canda was killed, and criticized the commission for not publishing the date when it did, the daily said.


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