San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
public safety

Public Security minister says he'll resign if not given more funds for policing

Public Security Minister Gustavo Mata gave lawmakers a 30-day deadline to pass a corporate tax bill that would give the ministry more funds for policing. If they don’t, he said he’ll resign his post.

Mata gave the warning at a news conference held Monday morning to answer questions about a shootout in the Caribbean province of Limón on Sunday. The shootout resulted in four people dead and seven others injured.

Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) Director Walter Espinoza and National Police Director Juan José Andrade joined the minister at the new conference and said they support his petition. Mata said he’s tired of “begging for more funds to improve the country’s public security.”

Shortly after noon, two other people were wounded in another shooting in Limón. And on Saturday, three people died in Alajuela during a shooting inside an illegal bar.

Mata said he was forced to send more than 100 police officers to Limón in the wake of the violence there.

“This means that we left other parts of the country with a reduced number of officers,” he said.

For over a year, the minister has been pleading with lawmakers to pass a bill that would reinstate the country’s corporate tax law, which was suspended last year by a Supreme Court ruling.

Up to 90 percent of funds collected from the tax are supposed to be invested in public security programs.

Mata said he believes the recent violent incidents could have been avoided with more police officers on the streets.

“We should have at least 18,000 police officers to face current crime levels,” Mata said, noting that there are currently some 14,000 National Police officers.

According to OIJ figures, 414 murders have occurred in the country so far this year.

Opposition from Otto

Libertarian Movement legislator Otto Guevara is the main opponent of the corporate tax bill, which would reinstate an annual tax on all corporations registered in the country. The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, ruled the tax unconstitutional in 2015 due to a procedural error.

Last month, Guevara filed 200 motions against the new corporate tax bill, granting him the right to speak for more than 170 hours to explain and defend each one. That represents about 57 sessions — some seven months — before the full Assembly.

Guevara has said his goal is to “protect Ticos’ pocketbooks from more taxes.” He also said the government should focus on cutting public spending and improving collection of existing taxes.

On Monday, Mata called on Guevara and other lawmakers to allow the bill to move forward so that the Public Security Ministry can acquire the funds to hire more officers.

He said the Sala IV’s ruling represented a budget cut of ₡90,000 million ($161 million) over the past two years. Those cuts, he said, prevented police authorities from recruiting new officers, paying for training and buying new equipment.

Guevara responded, saying funds from the tax wouldn’t be used to hire more officers. According to the bill’s current wording, he noted, 90 percent of the collected funds are to be used to finance infrastructure and police equipment, not to pay salaries.

Post-publication changes doomed first tax bill

Lawmakers created the corporate tax in 2011. But they amended various articles of the tax bill after it was passed and never published those changes in the official newspaper La Gaceta.

Sala IV justices found articles 1, 3 and 5 of the law unconstitutional in January 2015. Those articles outline the implementation of the tax, its rates and sanctions for not paying.

They also suspended tax collection in 2016 pending passage of a new bill to reinstate the corporate tax.

Contact L. Arias at

Log in to comment


The real problem here is prisons and the lack of prison space.
What is the point of having cops arrest someone when in 6 hrs they are back on the street again?
Seriously why more cops when you have no were to put the bad guys?

I was told by a captain of the police force he was embarrassed that he couldn’t get that Crack dealer from in front of the school.
We arrested him 6xs now.
Within 8 hrs he is back in front of the school selling and taunting us.

Criminals are not afraid of the police nor the justice system here.

Futhermore, most cops are not going to risk their lives against some real bad ass crimanal on the crap salary they earn.

0 0
Ken Morris

Love the subheading: “Opposition from Otto.” That subheading can probably be used in most articles about government’s doings (or more accurately, not-doings). He sure is Mr. Obstructionist, opposing bills from those against child abuse to corporate financial disclosures, yet never seems to propose a bill of his own.

And in this case, Otto once again misrepresents the facts. So what if 90% of the proposed tax is earmarked for infrastructure? He overlooks that these funds will free up other funds that can be used for salaries.

Whatever, Otto doesn’t like any taxes or anything that messes with corporations.

As it happens, I don’t like the corporate tax either–but that’s because I don’t like the widespread abuse of incorporation in Costa Rica. The wealthy and even the upper reaches of the middle class here have drawers full of corporations, and most are designed for one simple purpose: To exempt the owners from personal liability for their possessions. Wanna buy a car and skip paying insurance to protect you from liability? Slap the car in a corporation, then you can run over children leaving them crippled for life without having to pay a cent.

It’s all just an abuse of incorporation statutes, and that abuse should be halted, not be seen as a revenue-raising scheme.

However, Mata does need more money somehow if he’s going to do his job–unless of course the legislature gets smart and legalizes drugs. Take the resources needed to combat the drug trade away, and Mata could probably run his operation with a handful of Barney Fifes.

Now, Otto may actually support drug legalization. Gotta bill about that, big boy? That would solve the problem rather than prevent others from addressing it.

0 0

With respect to all,

I applaud the action taken by Sr. Otto Guevara. I have been keeping a list of the multitude of mistakes the government has made over the past years that have wasted hundreds of millions of tax dollars due to both ineptitude and inefficiency.

There is also the point made that there are already laws on the books that would allow the government to collect significant additional taxes, but they seem unwilling to make the effort to pursue them. Why always the cry for new taxes? Is it simply conditioning on their part, or are we the ones that are being conditioned?…

This is not a complaint against our President, as I believe he as stepped into a very tough job, but it is a comment against those whose only answer is to tax and tax until they drain this country of every good reason to be here. Every country has it’s issues, and in spite of ours, this is still a pretty good place to live if we can regain our competitive position, streamline the government processes and costs, and get a muzzle those whose bureaucrats who’s only response to inefficient government is to increase taxes regardless of their true need or impact.

With respect to corporations, Costa Ricans need them to protect their assets as we can’t rely on the legal system or other systems to consistently provide the needed protection. Taxing these important and necessary instruments is punitive and goes against the interests of Costa Ricans.

Thank God we live in a country where people are still willing to stand up, speak out, and resist bad government.

I am absolutely against this tax. I do not know Minster Gustavo Mata and I do not judge his sincerity or resolve, but I would plead with him to please reconsider resting his future on demanding the passing of this UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND UNFAIR tax. There must be another way, and I’m convinced that with some honest and open dialog between the right players it can be found. We need our police and we need to back them when they have a legitimate request – BUT NOT BY IMPLEMENTING MORE NEW AND UNJUST TAXES.

Enough is enough already.

0 0

I agree with Mata. He is in a no-win job as long as the Legislature ignores its responsibility of funding police. As for legislator Otto Guevara, he is right for denouncing the government for not focusing on the collection of existing taxes, but he is wrong to bog down the assembly and not allow a vote on the corporate tax.

0 0