Drug suspect shuffle pits prosecutors against a judge

Celso Gamboa Sánchez presents his objections to a court clerk in Pavas. Photo: Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguirdad Pública

Expats living in Sabana Sur might be getting two new neighbors. The pair are two Mexicans who are suspected to be principals in smuggling cocaine.

The smuggling operation became known when a small plane crashed on takeoff Oct. 10 at the Tobias Bolaños airport. The two men, Rubén Martinez Trujillo, and Elvis Mendoza Rivera, were jailed the next day because they operated the company that owned the plane. They were detained while trying to cross the border into Nicaragua Oct. 11.

Monday, a criminal court judge in Pavas, Kathya Jiménez Fernández, ruled that the men had stayed in prison long enough and said they should be placed under house arrest at an apartment one has in Sabana Sur.

The decision ignited a firestorm of protest. Ignacio Santos delivered a blistering on-air editorial on Channel 7 Teletica in which he urged the nation’s high court magistrates to act to stem the crime wave and establish more controls over judges. The nation is losing the battle against drugs, he said.

Officially prosecutors said they would appeal the order.

Tuesday afternoon the new vice minister of Seguridad Pública, Celso Gamboa Sánchez, presented a document to the Pavas court in which he said the ministry does not have the resources to keep the two men incarcerated in the apartment. The judge ordered that the men be watched 24 hours a day for four months.

Gamboa computed that watching the men would cost 62,444,458.28 colons, about $126,000. That included 2 million colons, about $4,000, for food for the guards. He said police should be in the streets not watching suspects.

Judge Jiménez has based part of her decision on the fact that the men had been jailed for eight months without any effort to bring them to trial. The correct term is preventative detention while an investigation is taking place.

The Ministerio Público, the independent prosecutorial agency, responded in a news release in the name of the chief prosecutor, Jorge Chavarría Guzmán, and said that the investigation was on a good road and the reason that no charge has been brought was because defense lawyers introduced new evidence that required analysis.
Meanwhile the two men still are in prison.

The plane, a single-engine Piper Cherokee, appears to have crashed because it was overloaded. Some 200 kilos (440 pounds) of cocaine were found to have been hidden in a wing fuel tank.

The crash was on the bank of the Río Torres where there were no homes. The pilot, identified as Máximo Aníbal Ramírez Cotón, died of injuries.

The copilot, who has the last name of Monzón, suffered critical injuries and has been running up bills of more than $200,000 in Hospital México. This also is a sore spot with some Costa Ricans.

This entry was posted in Costa Rica News. Bookmark the permalink.