Costa Rica’s president unveiled a list of security measures on Wednesday in response to rising crime rates in the Central American country, which is on target to break the record murder rate established in 2022 this year.
“I want people to be able to walk down the street in peace,” President Rodrigo Chaves said as he unveiled the measures, which include more police, stronger youth criminal laws, allowing nationals to be extradited in foreign drug trafficking cases, and stricter controls on weapons sales.
Costa Rica ended 2022 with a record 12.6 homicides per 100,000 residents, according to the judicial research agency OIJ. The agency calculates that homicides are up 41% in the first 100 days of 2023 versus the same period last year.
This represents one murder every 10 hours in a country of some 5.2 million, which has for years been hailed for its peaceful environment, which has helped make it a top destination for tourists and pensioners alike.
Daniel Calderon, the director of the country’s police and border control operations, said nearly two-thirds of the country’s murders are due to the “settling of scores between criminal organizations.”
The plan will now need to be approved by an opposition-controlled parliament.
“We are going to mend the course we lost a long time ago,” said Chaves, a week after criticizing those who condemned the security crisis.
Government officials have blamed decades of deteriorating social conditions, pressure from international drug trafficking groups, limited police resources and judicial inefficiency for the soaring crime rates.
The country’s main business chamber on Friday called for a state of “national emergency,” fearing a hit to foreign investment and tourism.
As Chaves nears the end of his first year in power with favorable opinion ratings, polls nonetheless point to insecurity among the main challenges in the country, which abolished its army in 1948.