By late September or the beginning of October, Costa Rica will reach an unfortunate milestone: the year 2023 is shaping up to be the deadliest one having already documented 656 homicides. With a quarter of the year still to go, these numbers may further escalate.
This impending record is a point of shame for the nation and will require immediate and tougher measures from Costa Rican authorities.
What’s even more concerning is that if this trend persists, the country might witness close to 900 violent incidents by year-end—a horrifying prospect for a nation that prides itself as a peaceful oasis in Central America.
At the root of this violence is an ongoing war between drug-trafficking gangs battling for territorial and route control.
This alarming news is expected to emerge during the national budget discussions for 2024. Thus, lawmakers are likely to face pressure to allocate additional funds to Mario Zamora, the Minister of Security.
It’s worth noting that in mid-August, Zamora revealed that lawmakers had slashed approximately ¢1.9 billion from a special expenditure plan intended for equipment upgrades and other necessities.
“We’re dealing with a malignancy. We’re at a juncture where we can potentially curb this menace with aggressive measures, much like chemotherapy for cancer. But the danger of this escalating and permeating our society, much like metastasis, is very real. Decisive action is essential now. We are at a pivotal point where control might slip away. This is precisely the time for maximum collaboration between our internal police force and the U.S. DEA. We’re fully committed to this,” Zamora stated.
Recent months had shown promise, with a consecutive four-month drop in violence. However, by the end of August, the crime rate surged once more. Alarmingly, August recorded 79 murders, making it the second most violent month after April, which had 87 homicides.
The province of Limón remains the most affected by this wave of violence, recording 151 cases, followed closely by San José with 147, and Puntarenas with 96.
In response to this crisis, the government announced a significant investment, particularly in the Atlantic region, aiming to mitigate the violence. Over ¢3.2 billion has been earmarked for areas such as Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Batán, and Guácimo. Additionally, there’s a new initiative titled “Costa Rica Segura Plus.”
“Today’s results, though distressing, offer a glimmer of hope. Thanks to the relentless efforts of our brave men and women in blue who’ve managed to create a formidable ‘Blue Wall’ against crime. We’ve seen a 10% drop in property crimes, and a notable 55% spike in arrests of individuals with outstanding warrants—a testament to our police force’s diligence,” detailed Zamora.
By the end of August 2023 became one of the three most violent years on record. The coming weeks are anticipated to further establish 2023 as the most violent year in Costa Rican history, according to figures from the Judicial Investigation Department.