Marchers in three communities seek end of crime waves

San Ramón residents carried banners during their march. Photo: Community Action Alliance

Citizens in three communities took to the streets over the weekend to protest murders and other crimes

The largest gathering appeared to be in San Joaquín de Flores de Heredia where robbers executed three women in a store Wednesday.

Another march was in Cariarai de Pococí where residents claimed at least 35 street robberies take place every week there.

Another march in San Ramón de Alajuela took place Saturday, the same day that the security minister was speaking to business groups and at a special meeting of the municipal council. He promised 10 more police officers for the area. The Community Action Alliance, a private group there, reports that there have been five murders in the past several weeks. One was of the owner of a pulperia or small store who was gunned down when he tried to open his business early Monday in Barrio San José.

Friday President Laura Chinchilla tried to dismiss what she says was a common belief that crime is on the rise. She spoke in Poás de Alajuela .

She said she shared the impatience of all Costa Ricans on the topic of crime, but she said that her government would not take a step backwards in fighting against citizen insecurity. She said that communities organized against crime and under direction of the authorities would take care of the job, according to a Casa Presidencial summary of her talk.

The president called upon the legislature to approve additional funds. The president is hoping for a $130 million loan which would be used in part to integrate criminals into society.
Mario Zamora Cordero, the security minister, came to San Ramón at the request of Edgardo Araya, a legislative deputy. The ministry said that Zamora was addressing the preoccupation of the residents over what they saw as criminals from San José moving into their town.

Zamora said that he and some of his top police officials came to the community to plan strategy that will be revisited in three months, according to the ministry.

The local Community Action Alliance was more specific in an email sent to residents. Of the five murders, two have been gang-related and there were two other gang-related shooting that did not result in death, said the email. Three murders were the result of non-gang violence, including personal and domestic disputes, it said.

Citing unspecified sources within the Fuerza Pública, the email continued:

“It is known that the gang-related violence is the result of a gang from San José (the Escalera Gang) coming in to San Ramón to attempt to take control of the drug activity in the market. This has occurred in previous years, however the number of gang members and arms this year is more than in the past. It is speculated that the increased gang activity in San Ramón is in part due to the efforts of Costa Rican security forces to crack down on drug activity in San José.

“This is supported by the fact that other neighboring communities have experienced increased gang activity as the Escalera Gang attempts to establish itself outside of San José.”

The morning march Saturday was organized by Opinión Ramonense. There also was a vigil Saturday night in the Parque Central.

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