San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arias Pardons 2 Felons, Despite Contrary Advice

President Oscar Arias has pardoned two convicted felons, Guillermo Umaña, 21, for drug dealing, and Laura Castro, 31, for aggravated robbery.

The clemencies brought an immediate end to their respective six- and five-year sentences.

Umaña had been in the San Agustín prison in Heredia since 2005 and Castro in the Buen Pastor women’s prison in San José since 2007.

“Among the considerations that the (president’s) Cabinet analyzed before granting the pardons, both were in a serious crisis because of their drug consumption,” a Justice Ministry press release states.

“But during their time in prison, they managed to overcome their situation, quit using, and their lives and behavior changed in an important way.”

The press release also states Castro has a 10-month-old baby who is in need of care. Umaña acquired his high school diploma while in prison.

Manrique Sibaja, a lawyer with the National Criminology Institute (INC), which advises the president and his Cabinet on crime, said it’s a mystery why the administration approved the pardons. He said his agency advised against it.

“We didn’t recommend any (clemency applications) be accepted,” he said. “You’d have to ask the Cabinet about that. The criteria they used don’t really make a lot of sense. Practically speaking, a (sentence) doesn’t come until years after the crime, so pardoning them for what they did in the meantime doesn’t seem logical.”

Asked why the Cabinet recommended the pardons despite the INC’s advice, Justice Ministry spokeswoman Emilia Segura referred the question to INC.

“(INC) is the body that is responsible for studying and recommending pardons,” she said.

Segura also declined to provide contact information for the pardoned convicts.

“I can’t locate the two pardoned individuals because we don’t have information about their location now that they’re out of prison,” she said.

Segura said the cabinet reviewed 58 clemency applications but only approved those two


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