Costa Rican legislators to approve missing child alert system

June 2, 2015

Lawmakers on Tuesday will begin discussing in a second and final round of debates the approval of a bill for the creation of an emergency system for broadcasting alerts following the disappearance of a minor.

A total of 40 of 41 legislators last week passed in a first-round vote Bill #19,356, “Alert System for the Protection of Costa Rican Children,” to be known as SAN.

The initiative was promoted by lawmakers Fabricio Alvarado from National Restoration Party and Humberto Vargas of the Christian Social Unity Party.

Similar to the AMBER alert in the United States, the bill would require phone companies and mass media to issue immediate and free alerts displaying pictures and descriptions of missing children, and if known, the captors.

The proposed legislation also would eliminate a provision from current law requiring a 24-hour waiting period before activating a missing child protocol.

It also would establish the creation of a multi-agency commission led by the National Children’s Trust, with representatives of the Public Security Ministry, Judicial Investigation Police, Prosecutor’s Office, Immigration Administration, the National Agency for Community Development and the National Council for Children and Adolescents.

Ottón Solís, a lawmaker from the ruling Citizen Action Party, voted against the proposal because he said it was overly bureaucratic and would be costly for the national budget. Solís said the Child Welfare Office could carry out the project without the adoption of a new law.

“It doesn’t seem right to pass a bill to create a new system that currently is not forbidden by law. In fact, all agencies involved are obliged by law to coordinate efforts to fulfill their mandates,” Solís said.

If approved, the bill must be signed by President Luis Guillermo Solís and published in the official newspaper La Gaceta before taking effect.

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