Security minister leaving after year-long tenure

Talking about the presence of foreign drug gangs here seems to be a recipe for a quick exit as minister of security.

The latest to be given the door is José María Tijerino, whose ouster was announced Monday.

Tijerino last week attributed the murder of a couple in Puntarenas to the feared México Sinaloa cartel. A few days later the minister was contradicted by higher ups in the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The firing called to mind the ouster of Fernando Berrocal from the same job just three years ago. He said there was infiltration in Costa Rican political circles by drug traffickers. Then-president Óscar Arias Sánchez let him go.

Tijerino also made the mistake of getting involved in the investigation of Rodrigo Arias by judicial prosecutors. He made a telephone call to one of the prosecutors, something he said he regrets.

Taking his place will be Mario Zamora, the former immigration director who lately was a vice minister under Tijerino. The job change will take place Sunday.

Both Tijerino and now Zamora talk of lack of resources. The security ministry contains the Fuerza Pública and the anti-drug police. Other investigations are done by judicial agents. And disposition of suspects is by the judiciary.

The 63-year-old Tijerino was considered a hard-liner when he took office a year ago. He is a former fiscal general.

However, the Laura Chinchilla administration has failed to outline a coherent security platform and the bulk of the emphasis has been on hiring more young policemen and putting them on the streets.

Tijerino also grew up in Nicaragua, the son of a citizen of that country and a Costa Rican mother. Some Costa Ricans thought, probably unjustly, that he showed weakness when Nicaraguan soldiers invaded the northern part of Costa Rica in October.

After a year of the Chinchilla administration, efforts are stalled to raise more money through taxation. A plan to improve a quick tax on casinos was withdrawn unexpectedly and without explanation. A so-called security proposal crafted for Ms. Chinchilla by local United Nations representatives was the object of ridicule.

Zamora many not have more success. He said Monday that he plans to implement high tech measures to crack down on crime, but he did not explain from where the money was coming. He spoke of GPS devices and electronic maps. Citizens talk of the absence of police at key locations.

Ms. Chinchilla issued a terse four-paragraph statement on the changeover and never did say why Tijerino was being replaced.

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