400 officers clamp down on stadium violence

The Fuerza Pública flooded the Estadio Nacional with 400 officers Sunday to prevent violence among fans.

The action came in the wake of a new decree that sets up administrative courts at the stadium to receive complaints of violence. The decree by President Laura Chinchilla and relevant ministers went into effect Friday with its publication in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

Officials seemed to be caught short-handed Feb. 16 when violence broke out among members of soccer fan clubs and other spectators at a first division contest in the Estadio Nacional.  Police eventually detained 53 persons, but only two who are suspected of robbery were placed in preventative detention.

The president cannot pass criminal laws, so Ms. Chinchilla set up an administrative system apart from criminal or civil courts. Among other measures, the decree prohibits the entry of potential troublemakers into the stadium. A system is being set up with photos and identifications that will be used to screen spectators.

Juan José Andrade Morales, the director general of the Fuerza Pública, said that 18 persons were apprehended outside the stadium Sunday as suspects in the events that took place a week earlier.  Mario Zamora Cordero, the security minister, said that so called salas de denunciashave been set up staffed with lawyers from his ministry. They are available for denuncias or “complaints.”

Clearly the system of keeping certain persons out of the stadium will end up being a constitutional court case.

The game Sunday was between arch-rivals Deportivo Saprissa and Liga Deportiva Alajuelense. The game ended in a 0-0 tie.

Officials hammered together the decree last week because a proposed law regulating conduct at sporting events has not yet been passed.  However, the measures seem more than temporary.

First, the decree creates a committee with representatives from ministries and the sports organizations, including the Federación Costarricense de Fútbol. The measure also orders the various ministries, including Educacíon Pública, to give courses about peace and non-violence at sports events.

The decree sets up the scheme in which photos of potential troublemakers will be available to police to screen those who are entering the  stadium.

Those who do violent acts in the stadium will be hustled into the administrative sessions with  lawyers from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The decree outlines the various rights afforded to the suspects, including the right to a lawyer. The administrative session will determine the period for which the person will be barred from the stadium.

The decree also said that the period could be cut in half if the individual agreed to take a class on peace and non-violence.

The decree also gives the administrative apparatus the power to impose community service on those brought before it.

In part, the decree is a way to protect the lucrative sports industry from growing violence. The fan groups, called barras, are really little more than street gangs who root for a favored professional team. The decree also seems to recognize the inability of the regular court system to handle these problems.


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