Female police officer honored with quick decoration

President Laura Chinchilla rushed to honor a female police officer who exchanged shots with and eventually arrested two suspected hijackers. The president did not seem to be aware of the inconsistencies in her actions, which have been a trademark of a series of presidential administrations.

The president pinned a decoration for valor on the uniform of Sara Ortiz Esquivel Thursday less than two full days after the confrontation in Desamparados. Earlier in the week the president announced pardons for three female drug offenders and also signed a law reducing penalties for women who smuggle drugs into prisons.

The president’s action added to the perception that the government and the law favors women. A number of male police officers have exchanged shots with criminals without notice from Casa Presidential.

An analysis of the news

Readers also pointed out the philosophical contradiction in the president’s approval of the new law. The basic argument for reducing prison terms for female smugglers is that their jailed husband or partner made them do it. That opinion does not seem to reinforce the concept of independent women.

Ms. Ortiz, the mother of six and grandmother to 11, received the honor in part because the day was el Día de la Madre, a legal holiday.

The apparent bias toward women runs a lot deeper. For example, political parties have to balance their list of candidates to ensure a slate that approaches gender equality. Ms. Chinchilla, herself, was a beneficiary of this policy in that she served as vice president under Óscar Arias Sánchez, who was obligated to fill one of the two available vice presidential slots with a woman.

The rule assumed that there are as many women interested in politics as men, something that may not be true.

There even is the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, a government agency which fought vigorously to keep a runaway mom from the United States from being extradited there to face child abduction charges. A lawyer said he recently approached this organization for help to keep one of his clients from being extradited, but the agency said it would not help because the client was a man.

A.M. Costa Rica has published a number of stories about the ease with which a woman can get a male thrown out of a house with a simple allegation of domestic violence. Many of these allegations are false, but the courts usually side with the women and sometimes cause expats to lose a house to a woman who has just chosen a new lover.

The state bank, Banco Nacional, has even set up a Banca Mujer, which seems to do little business at its location near the Gran Hotel Costa Rica. The bank has special lines of credit for women and maintains business advisors online.

In Limón province, the Banca para el Desarrollo just announced a program called Adelante Mujeres!, coordinated by the Asociación Costa Rica Grameen, that has 1 billion colons, about $2 million, to provide credit to an estimated 7,900 women in under privileged circumstances.  Ms. Chinchilla just inaugurated the micro-financing program.

There seems to be disproportionate news coverage, too, in the murder of a woman. There was one Wednesday night in Guápiles where a boyfriend or husband appears to have stabbed a 49-year-old woman in the neck and then tried to kill himself. She was identified by the last name of García.

These are fairly rare instances. Last year there were five such cases, according to the Fuerza Pública, which credited its efforts and efforts of other police agencies for reducing the number from 12 the previous year. The Guápiles case makes the total six for 2013 so far. This figures only refer to women being killed by their legal partner. The death of women in robberies and other crimes is not counted.

The women’s institute and others have been trying to jack up the penalties for such crimes, but a measure that had the backing of lawmakers found rejection in the Sala IV constitutional court because of the discriminatory approach. In an unusual move, one of the sitting Corte Suprema female magistrates joined a committee to iron out the kinks in the law.

Other aspects of the law remain, including a controversial section that provides prison for insulting or inflicting psychological stress on a female partner. Five men were convicted of this offense in 2011, sources said.

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