San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tragic Toll Continues

Esteban Acuña, 28, was driving Wednesday night in Cartago, east of San José, when a car slammed into his. Unidentified assailants got out of the car and opened fire with an AK-47 and a 9 mm pistol, spraying Acuña with up to 15 rounds.

His was one of at least four souls lost to violence this week in Costa Rica. It’s been a deadly start to the year, which in terms of murders, picks up right where 2007 left off. Five murders were reported by the Red Cross from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve.

At least 311 homicides occurred nationwide from Jan. 1 to Dec. 15, according to the count by the Criminal Analysis Unit of the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ).

The police expect to release their complete figures on murder up to Dec. 31 later this week, expecting the number to come close to the 2006 tally of 329.

By mid-December, 159 murders were committed in San José city, 34 in Limón province, 15 in Alajuela and 14 in Heredia. And the list goes on. San José’s death toll already surpassed its 2006 total of 133 homicides.

In one incident Dec. 21, in La Virgen, in the southern Pacific region of Golfito near the border with Panama, assailants stopped a car and shot all five men inside, killing two.

The numbers are far too high, said José Fabio Pizarro, general director of the National Police.

“Many homicides today are because of a bad drug debt,” Pizarro told The Tico Times. This kind of killing in cold blood, he added, resembles “Colombia-style crime.”

Now it’s a Costa Rican reality.

Pizarro said 9mm pistols are proliferating here, but automatic weapons such as the AK-47 used in Cartago this week are rare, Pizarro said.

He’s pushing for the force to add another 4,000 officers to almost 11,000.


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