President’s anti-crime show follows grim television

Police converge on a home where they think gang members have hidden after a confrontation in Limón. Photo: Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública/Paul Gamboa

President Laura Chinchilla has taken to the television to promote her 10-year security plan that has been criticized heavily.

The juxtaposition was unfortunate. The taped promotional footage came on after the television news on both Channel 7 Teletica and Channel 6 Repretel. Both newscasts made much of a bloody weekend where 20 persons died violent deaths.

Six persons died from gunshots, one self-inflicted. There were three drownings, a man stomped by a bull and traffic accidents. And near Siquirres a man became the victim of a train.

Sunday television news shows generally are full of bodies because crime is obvious and easy to cover. But even under those standards Sunday was unusual.

Ms. Chinchilla has just hired a minister of communications, Roberto Gallardo. He is a new addition to the cabinet with the job of promoting the president’s tax plan and enhancing her image. Presumably he played a roll in the television promotion.

Former president Óscar Arias Sánchez used television effectively and weekly. But Ms. Chinchilla has not. The upbeat presentation Sunday was complete with police helping children to cross a street and Ms. Chinchilla calling on the country to join her in an anti-crime crusade.

Meanwhile television footage showed police officers deployed just south of Limón Centro where rival gangs engaged in a shootout. Police detained two and one was hospitalized. Four handguns were confiscated.

The most grim event over the weekend was not drug-related or gang violence. Saturday in Paso Canoas a man shot his wife and 12-year-old daughter and then turned the weapon on himself. Police identified the man as Jorge Muñoz Alfaro. His wife obtained a no-contact order two weeks earlier due to prolonged domestic violence, said police.
Anther gunshot victim was Fernando Monge, 29, a prison custodial agent with the Judicial Investigating Organization. He appears to have struggled against robbers Friday night as he returned home from work in Zapote.

On San Jose’s Avenida 5 at Calle 4 two men on a motorcycle killed a Colombian man and seriously injured bystanders also Friday night. Agents said they believe the death was a contract killing.

The same night in San Sebastian on the south side of San José a man with a screwdriver confronted a pedestrian. The pedestrian, a security guard, carried a legal weapon and fired four times. He was released later because agents said this was self-defense.

Weekend drownings took place in Cartago, Limón and in Puntarenas. The victim in Cartago was a 5 year old.

The death of a bull rider took place in Bebedero, Cañas, Guanacaste, during a fiesta there. The man was identified as Álvaro Collado. The bull bucked off the man, who fell to the ground and then suffered a crushed chest when the bull stepped on him.

The heavy police response was in Cieneguita, Limón, Sunday. As the participants in the shootout fled when police appeared, officers used aircraft and boats of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas to put a security lid on the area. For a time police thought that some of the participants were holed up in a nearby dwelling.

Security officials have made Limón Centro and the entire province a priority and moved in more than 300 officers to take back areas like Cieneguita from gangs.

Ms. Chinchilla’s proposal is designed to last 10 years. The criticism has been that the plan is too abstract and contains little new. The details seem to be placed in the hands of a committee to be made up of members of three existing committees. Considering that citizen security was a dominant theme of the Chinchilla presidential campaign, there have been high expectations.

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