Costa Rica closes investigation of La Penca bombing

December 3, 2013

Costa Rica’s Prosecutor’s Office on Monday officially closed the investigation into a bombing on the border with Nicaragua in 1984 that killed seven people, including The Tico Times reporter Linda Frazier.

The prosecution closed the case after receiving a confirmation on the death of the only suspect. Judicial authorities from Argentina sent a statement confirming suspect Roberto Vital was killed in 1989. 

“The arrest warrant had been reactivated in 2008 at the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), because it was not known if [Vital] had died or not,” Costa Rica’s Chief Prosecutor Jorge Chavarría told local media.

Vital died in Argentina in 1989 during a failed assault on a fort, Argentine authorities said. 

“Now it is clear and we can close this investigation. We will order the cancellation of the international arrest warrant that had been issued for Roberto Vital,” Chavarría stated.

On May 30, 1984, a bomb exploded during a press conference with former guerrilla leader Edén Pastora, known as “Comandante Cero” (then anti-Sandinista, although he now has allied himself again with the Sandinista government). The blast occurred at a location along the Nicaragua–Costa Rica border known as La Penca.

Some witnesses suspected that Vital passed himself off as a Danish photographer named Per Anker Hansen and activated the bomb.

Pastora survived the bombing. The blast killed three journalists – two Costa Rican reporters and U.S. reporter Linda Frazier, and injured 22 others.

Throughout the past 26 years, victims have tried to no avail to get authorities to determine who was responsible for the attack.

The closing of the investigation “does not affect the complaint we filed before the [Inter-American Court of Human Rights] so that we can achieve justice,” said José Rodolfo Ibarra, a survivor of the attack and current president of the Costa Rican Journalists Association.

The Journalists Association in 2011 asked the San José-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights to open a case against Costa Rica for refusing to investigate the attack.

Read more about the dramatic and dark history of the La Penca bombing here, and survivors’ efforts to learn the truth here.

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