Violence in Costa Rica is estimated to reach “pandemic” levels by the end of the year, as up to 533 murders are expected by December, said the country’s Public Ministry and Judicial Police on Wednesday.
To this date, authorities estimated almost 400 homicides since January, out of which 45 percent have been related to drug-trafficking or organized crime.
Although compared to its Central American neighbours (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras) – among the most violent countries of the world, Costa Rica's rate still shows a significant peak of violence from the past – representing about 30 percent more than 2012 and 2013.
According to experts, the factors causing the increase of violence are two-fold: on one hand, the international criminal dynamic encouraging Mexican cartels to use Costa Rican routes – as a better alternative than the militarized maritime roads to ship cocaine to the United States; on the other hand, local gangs have also increased in power, both in terms of weapons (state officials warned Mexican cartels were handing them AK-47s) and potentially in man power.
Possibly due to the record levels of unemployment in the country – about 10 percent since 2013, more and more people seem to be tempted to join local gangs, as suggested recently by Luis Avila, sub-director of the judicial investigation bureau (OIJ), who warned citizens on Tuesday that the drug business was the worst path in life, leading either to prison or to death.
For the moment, the government refuses a militarized approach to the issue – Costa Rica is among the few countries of the world without armed forces, preferring to focus on prevention and drug education, while improving the judicial system.