Administration seeks big loan for cells and youth centers

The central government will seek a loan of $132 million from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, in part to build 2,700 prison cells.

The government made that announcement Tuesday. Some 2,000 prison spaces would be for men and 700 for women. The existing Buen Pastor women’s prison in Desamparados is being undermined by an adjacent river, and officials are trying to move inmates out.

The government also plans to spend $57.8 million for what are being called centers of attention for children and youth who are at risk. The centers would be equipped to train the youth in art and sports, said the central government.

Some $40 million would go to the construction and development of a permanent corps of teachers at the new national academy for police, said the announcement.

The loan sought would be for $132 million and would
have a five-year grace period and a 25-year term. The government would contribute $55.8 million, it said, for a total of $187.8 million.

The proposal for attention centers for youngsters is reminiscent of the midnight basketball program promoted by then U.S. president Bill Clinton in 1994 to give activities to urban youth.

The Laura Chinchilla administration proposed a value-added tax and other tax changes to provide the money for various citizen security initiatives, including 4,000 more police officers.

That series of proposals has run into trouble in the legislature, so now the central government is looking for the loan to pay for some of the programs that the new taxes were supposed to support.

So far the administration had added about 1,000 new police officers. Some 220 were sworn in Monday in Heredia.

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