Murder of inmate is the most serious of current scandals

The Laura Chinchilla administration is immersed in scandals today and not all of them are of the sexual variety.

A pathologist’s report, released Thursday, confirmed that a prisoner who died unexpectedly at La Reforma prison was the victim of a fatal beating. He was Jovel Guillermo Araya Ramírez, who engineered an abortive breakout from the maximum security facility May 11. A handful of guards have been suspended, and the head of the Judicial Investigating Organization characterizes the death as a murder.

In an unrelated incident, someone in uniform walked into a Fuerza Pública station in Hatillo Wednesday, presented himself as a fellow policeman and walked out with a 9-mm. pistol and an Uzi submachine gun. Officials admit that the rules were not followed.

By comparison, the sex scandals are minor but attract far more readership in the Spanish-language newspapers.

Allen Flores, the new minister of Turismo was revealed as being involved with female staff members. Costa Rica Report said Thursday that a female publicist employed by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo has been reinstated to her position by a court following an allegation that she was terminated by Flores for informing his wife by email on a series of affairs that Flores has purportedly maintained with other employees. His wife is an official in the national legislature, and the two women implicated in the text of the lawsuit include a secretary, aged 21 and a 33-year-old lawyer.

The bulk of the incidents appear to have taken place when Flores maintained a lesser role at the institute, which was supervised by then-minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides.

The former minister is among the closest advisers of President Chinchilla and now serves as minister of the Presidencia, which is equivalent to being chief of staff.

On another lesser scandal, Óscar Núñez, president of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the nation’s water company, was found to have escorted a 23-year-old institute employee on a trip to México in August. He reported expenses of nearly $3,000. He, too, is a presidential appointee.

Araya, the La Reforma inmate, died May 21, just days after the failed breakout in which two inmates and a prison guard died. The Judicial Investigating Organization said, based on a report the Sección de Patología that Araya suffered an injury eight to 15 days before his death and another, the fatal one, just hours before his death. The report said he suffered an earlier subdural hematoma and a severe cerebral edema that caused his death. He also had bruises on his back.

Araya and others had petitioned the Defensoría de los Habitantes before the breakout attempt about conditions in the prison. The cell where he was found dead early one Sunday morning is supposed to be under 24-hour watch.

Agents are working on two hypotheses. One suggests that Araya was badly beaten in retribution for the death of the guard in the failed attempt. Another theory is that he was killed to avoid implicating guards in the attempted break. Inmates had keys that must have been supplied by an insider. The prisons are within the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz.

The Hatillo case resulted in the suspension of three police officers who were supposed to be in charge at the station when the weapons were taken. Mario Zamora Cordero, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, characterized the case as one of negligence.

The Uzi is an effective weapon that can shoot hundreds of bullets a minute, and officials are concerned that it is on the street, perhaps about to be used in some crime.

Walter Navarro, vice minister of Seguridad, said that even he is supposed to have a reason if he were to sign out a weapon from a police station.

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