Officials are estimating 557 murders by the end of the year

Despite an overwhelming police presence, Costa Rica will end the year with an estimated 557 murders. Officials reported that there now are 553 cases, and they expect at least four more before the year ends.

That was the summary given Tuesday by Walter Espinoza, the head of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Also Tuesday the Fuerza Pública said its officers had detained an incredible 3,056 persons between Nov. 30 and Dec. 15, part of a holiday operation.

The biggest number was drug arrests, said the report. Given that trend, the number of arrests probably will be double that figure by Jan. 5.

Law enforcement officials are pushing for more resources. The Fuerza Pública stands to get another windfall if lawmakers approve a renewal of the corporate tax. Some 95 percent of the proceeds go to the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública for its 14,000 officers.

The murder figures were incomplete. Although the judicial agency said that 205 killings were for revenge, 27 percent were said to have an unknown motive. and the number of murders as a result of stickups and robberies was not given.

There were 477 murders reported last year, so the increase this year is 16.7 percent if the estimate holds.

By contrast, El Salvador reported 8,150 murders by the middle of September.

In Costa Rica, the theory had been that murders were mainly the result of disputes among drug gangs,

This no longer seems to be the case, as the crime seems to be turning into a way to solve personal differences.

There also seems to be active murder-for-hire businesses.

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