Security minister restates plan after murder wave

In the wake of a bloody holiday weekend that saw at least eight murders, the security minister renewed his call for a special organized crime unit.

The minister, Gustavo Mata Vega, heads the ministry that includes the Fuerza Pública and the Policía contra Drogas, but he also is a retired Judicial Investigating Organization official with 30 years of service there.

In a statement to the press Tuesday, he noted that he has been promoting this plan since August.

He also disclosed that there have been 426 murders this year as of last Friday.  He said that an analysis as of August found that 145 of  the 370 murders up until then were what he called vengeance or  ajustes de cuentas.  The Spanish phrase that literally means settlement of accounts is generally applied to what seem to be drug crimes.

Some 202 of the crimes until August or 55 percent of the total, were related to organized crime, he said. The others included 92 as a result of arguments or fights, 42 that took place within family members and 10 as a result of robberies, according to the minister.

There were 477 murders in 2014, and these gave the country a murder rate of 10 for every 100,000 persons. The rate as of Friday is 8.8 per every 100,000.

The term organized crime may refer to the Colombian or Mexican cartels, but more frequently it refers to a group of Costa Ricans who have become involved in crime.

Mata said that 110 such organizations have been broken up this year of which 27 were involved in international drug smuggling and 83 were local groups.

Mata said he renewed his proposal Saturday. That was the day after a broad daylight shooting in Paso Ancho killed a taxi passenger and injured the victim’s wife and the driver.

A security camera captured the crime, and the shooting got wide publicity on television news shows.

Mata’s plan would create a team of police forces, prosecutors and judges who would be charged with finding an integrated solution to organized crime and murders.

He also wants to create a center of information for the use of police.

Mata’s unification plan comes up against long-standing protectionism by the various police agencies. The Fuerza Pública is supposed to be a preventative agency and first responder. Judicial agents, in conjunction with prosecutors and judges, investigate.

The security minister discusses crime with reporters.

The security minister discusses crime with reporters.

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