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Residents Still Fuming Over Quarry Blasts

September 5, 2008

Sculptor Miguel Mora almost fell off his chair. One of his sculptures did fall but, luckily, wasn’t damaged.

It was the morning of Aug. 5, and at least three loud explosions perforated the environs of Los Sitios de Moravia and San Miguel de Santo Domingo, according to residents.

“It scared the hell out of me,” Mora said. “I thought it was an earthquake. I climbed onto my roof and saw the smoke.”

“They were very loud bangs, and we thought maybe it was dynamite,” said another nearby resident, Melisa Duran said.

Residents in the communities, northeast of San José, are still seeking an explanation from authorities about multiple explosions that took place at a former stone quarry now functioning as a shooting range for the National Police.

Stella Chinchilla of the San Miguel Patriotic Committee posted video of incinerated cars at the quarry after the explosions.

The video can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ_X-plkFAc. Authorities have released few details about the explosions. The U.S. Embassy provided a limited response, while the Public Security Ministry, which oversees the National Police, provided none.

“A small United States training team was working with National Police units in Los Sitios de Moravia on Aug. 5,” said embassy spokeswoman Melissa Martinez. “The team was providing technical training to National Police counterparts that was intended to improve skills important in combating local and transnational crime. The embassy’s understanding is that the quarry site is approved for commercial firearms training.”

Embassy officials did not answer Tico Times inquiries about the police units involved, the types of explosives used or the specific intent of the training.

“We can’t divulge any further information related to your follow-up questions for obvious security reasons,” Martinez said.

The Public Security Ministry, which oversees the National Police, promised a response this week but has not yet provided one.

Nicolas Boeglin, a French national and coordinator of the San Miguel Blue Flag Committee, an environmental watchdog, said residents are considering filing criminal complaints against the United States and the Public Security Ministry because of the explosions.

“What’s the point of bombing cars so close to a populated area?” he asked. “We’re waiting for someone to show their face, either the Gringo Embassy or the National Police, to give us an explanation. At first, they told us it was just firearms, but we know the difference between explosives and gunfire. There are damage claims, and although the damage isn’t overwhelming, (damaged) walls need to be replaced.”

Martinez said there was no damage to nearby structures from the explosions.

“Based on the first-hand observations of personnel who took part in the training … no environmental damage was caused,” Martinez said. “Any explosions that could have been heard in the area were not sufficient to have caused any material damage to nearby dwellings.”

Boeglin and others in the community have long complained about the shooting range because of concerns about lax security and stray bullets hitting people’s homes.

nwilkinson@ticotimes.net

 

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