Minister defends administration’s anti-crime efforts

The security minister defended the actions of the police forces Tuesday and said they were in an unequal struggle with international drug cartels, organized crime and criminals.

The minister, José María Tijerino Pacheco, made a pitch for more resources and said that the Chinchilla administration is seeking to hire 800 new police officers now and 4,000 more later.

The unexpected declarations by Tijerino were seen as support for President Laura Chinchilla’s tax proposals and also a response to criticism that the administration has done little to fight crime since it took office in May.

The ministry said that its officers have taken clear and concrete steps against crime. A summary by the ministry included a litany of achievements:

• 1,012 new officers on the streets;

• reinforcement of highway checkpoints consistent with specifics laid down by the Sala IV constitutional court;

• special operations in San José, called San José Seguridad y Esparcimiento;

• a similar effort in Pococí;

• a continuing anti-drug effort in Talamanca;

• outreach to hire new officers;

• special emphasis on 10 priority communities in the cantons of San José, Heredia, Tibás, Aguirre and Limón;

• 163 new officers assigned to these communities and more than 2,000 routine police actions against crime taken;
• the purchase of 58 new vehicles, 40 motorcycles, a small bus, 1,271 firearms with 7,537 bulletproof vests on order.

• The reactivation of the twin-engine Caribou aircraft that has been used in emergencies and to reinforce the northern border.

Security was a priority in the Chinchilla presidential campaign, but the proposals advanced so far are new taxes to put more officers on the street. None has been passed in the legislature yet. They include a tax, now $200, on every corporation and taxes on casinos.

Just last week, Casa Presidencial proposed $1 billion in new taxes and sent the measure that would raise that money to lawmakers. The centerpiece is a 14 percent value-added tax. Many lawmakers were unreceptive.

Ms. Chinchilla set up a citizen security council in her first days in office and named Mauricio Boraschi to be a vice minister with a specific assignment to fight drugs. The last report on the presidential Web site was Sept. 16 when Ms. Chinchilla lamented the fact that the United States had listed Costa Rica as a major drug transit country.

At that time Ms. Chinchilla was quoted saying that the central government had turned over money to the Poder Judicial for wiretapping and what is being called a police platform where investigators can exchange information by computer. She also reported that port security was beefed up. That happened after drugs turned up in a container.

Much of the fight against crime is out of the hands of the central government. The Judicial Investigating Organization is a Poder Judicial agency. Fuerza Pública officers under Tijerino are supposed to prevent crime. They do not investigate, except for the special anti-drug unit.

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