Arrest provokes riot at University of Costa Rica

April 9, 2010

Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) touched off a riot at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) on Monday afternoon when agents entered campus grounds to arrest a UCR transit police officer.

According to the OIJ, the transit officer, whose last name is Gómez, allegedly accepted a ¢ 20,000 ($38.75) bribe from a bus driver, allowing the driver to keep his license.

Since the UCR is an autonomous body, state and municipal police are not allowed on the campus without the permission of university authorities.

According to news sources, the OIJ officials asked university security guards for permission to enter the campus at the west entrance on Monday morning, but the request was denied because guards said the agents did not have permission from the office of the university´s rector.

Agents nevertheless moved on from the west entrance toward the transit police office, located near the education building on the campus´ east side. OIJ officials entered the transit police building, which is located on UCR property, and arrested Gómez.

A group of students saw the arrest unfold and confronted the OIJ agents. The showdown escalated into whirlwind of punches, kicks and baton swings involving more than 200 students, 15 members of the National Police and 30 OIJ agents.

National Police officers reportedly detained angry rioters outside the education building by placing students in choke holds and dragging them across the pavement. Students resisted with shouts, kicks and shoves.

By 2:30 p.m., the scene had calmed. According to the Public Security Ministry, four students were arrested for obstructing authority.

The National Police issued a statement on Monday afternoon denying that the agency had anything to do with the operation to arrest Gómez, and that the agency´s 15 police officers only arrived to attend calls about the riot.

The OIJ had not yet issued a statement by 5:30 p.m. Monday.

UCR students have requested the rector´s office to clarify whether OIJ agents had permission from the university to enter the transit police building and arrest Goméz.

UCR Rector Yamileth González was unavailable on for comment on Monday afternoon, but her office´s spokeswoman, Lupita Flores, told the daily La Nación that they were not consulted by the OIJ and the university did not authorize agents to enter the campus

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