Ms. Chinchilla to unveil her security plan today

This homemade shotgun, constructed of a couple of pieces of pipe, is one of five weapons confiscated over the weekend in Limón, said the Fuerza Pública. Photo: Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública

President Laura Chinchilla is expected to outline her plan for citizen security today at an open meeting in the auditorium of the Museo de los Niños.

A brief invitation from Casa Presidencial said that it was being extended also by the Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo, which the president asked to do a qualitative survey of the Costa Rican public.

The plan is called the Política Integral y Sostenible de Seguridad Ciudadana y Promoción de la Paz Social, which translated to an integrated and sustainable policy of citizen security and promotion of the social peace. The session today is at 10 a.m.

The Chinchilla administration has been criticized for foot dragging on the issue of citizen security as the incidents of crime increased. Crime fighting was a major part of her presidential campaign.

Perhaps in anticipation of the proposal, Ms. Chinchilla named Roberto Gallardo to be the minister of Comunicaciones y Enlace Institucional Friday. That is a new position in the Chinchilla administration, and Gallardo, an experienced political operative, was in charge of the Ministro de Planificación y Política Económica in the last two years of the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration.

Casa Presidencial described a sort of “Wag the Dog” position. His functions contemplate aspects of political strategy and communication, coordinating of the components of the press, production and social networks and links with different public institutions for the management of information, said an announcement.

Ms. Chinchilla is promoting a series of new taxes to pay for more police. A cornerstone of the plan is a 14 percent value-added tax. The plan met with a chilly reception in the legislature, and Gallardo presumably will seek to salvage the bills.

Ms. Chinchilla has been facing challenges on two fronts. First there is the Nicaraguan invasion onto the Isla Calero in the northern frontier along the Río San Juan. The country is banking on strong support from the International Court of Justice in the Hague to have the Nicaraguan soldiers barred from the territory.

The purpose of the invasion was to clear a path for a new mouth for the Río San Juan that would circumvent the silted-up initial miles of the waterway. The canal appears to be in place, and locals expect rain and flooding over the next year to widen the stretch.

Meanwhile, the security situation has been deteriorating. Several bands of police or gunmen pretending to be police have been robbing, and in one case, in Puntarenas, killing. There gunmen dressed as law officers killed a man and kidnapped his wife. She was found dead two days later.

In Limón police are seeking a serial killer who is murdering indigent women. Three deaths have been reported. The security ministry beefed upthe Fuerza Pública in Limón in January with 27 more officers. Now it appears more officers will be sent there.

Friday José María Tijerino Pacheco, the security minister, Jorge Chavarría, the fiscal general or
chief prosecutor, and Jorge Rojas, head of the Judicial Investigating Organization, outlined in Limón a series of steps they were taking to recapture the public spaces from criminals.  They said that a combined force of 320 officers will conduct selected actions in Limón. These are in addition to the 200 Fuerza Pública officers now stationed there.

Perhaps presaging Ms. Chinchilla’s security plan, Tijerino lamented the prevalence of weapons in private hands and said that this was one of the principal problems. He said that officials were doing a complete review of the arms laws with the goal of providing more controls over those who obtain weapons permits.

In addition to home-grown violence, Limón is a pathway for the transportation of cocaine from the south. It also has high unemployment, youth gangs and all the social situations related to poverty.

Tijerino has been a major architect of the Chinchilla security plan. His initial efforts put more police officers on the streets on the central canton of San José. This has had the effect of forcing criminals to operate outside the downtown area and increasing the incidents of robberies and similar violent crimes in the outlying areas.

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