Child welfare agency seeks crackdown on booze trips

The nation’s child welfare organization is rallying other agencies to crack down on what are known as barras libres. These are drinking parties that attract young men and women.

Sometimes the event is held at one bar. Sometimes drinkers take a bus to several bars.

The welfare organization, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, is setting up a workshop today to which a number of agencies have been invited. The theme is protection of minors in public and private events.

The Patronato said that these activities have increased over the last few years and characterized the drinking parties as ones where alcohol and drugs affect the life, physical integrity and emotions of adolescents.

The Fuerza Pública has cracked down on a couple of mobile parties but there were few underage drinkers. In some cases the underaged individuals were present at the bar before the bus containing the party arrived. In one case, a person in the party was selling marijuana on his own hook.

Invited to the Patronato workshop today are representatives from the Instituto Costarricense Sobre Drogas, the Instituto Sobre Alcoholismo y Farmacodependencia, the Policía de Control Fiscal,the Policía de Tránsito, prosecutors, the Ministerio
de Educación Pública, the Ministerio de Salud and the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The participants will consider the ability of each agency to use institutional resources to protect young people, said the Patronato.

The agencies also will identify ways that vendors of such drinking trips operate and plan ways to attack and confront them as well as any crimes that might be associated with the consumption of alcohol, said the Patronato.

When parents are abusive, weak or neglectful, it is the state and its institutions that have to protect minors who are in a condition of vulnerability, said the Patronato.

Although the emphasis today will be organized trips to bars, there is plenty of underage drinking in Costa Rica. High school youngsters have many locations where they drink alcohol, usually after school. One such location is in Barrio Otoya on concrete steps along the east side of Parque Bolívar and 100 meters from a Fuerza Pública station. Youngsters have been drinking there for so many years that some taxi drivers admit having done so in their youth.

Marijuana also seems to be epidemic in the schools.

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