Drug-related violence is soaring in a quiet corner of Latin America, and it’s not clear what the new president plans to do about it

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costa rica

Costa Rica has seen steady increases in homicides over the past several years.
These increases appear driven largely by the drug trade, exacerbated by poverty and inequality.
It’s not clear how the new president will address violence and its underlying problems.

Carlos Alvarado Quesada’s surprisingly large victory in Costa Rica’s presidential election has buoyed hopes that progressives can win in a region where conservative politics have seemed ascendant.

But Alvarado Quesada still faces challenges at home — in particular a rising tide of deadly violence — and it’s not yet clear how he plans to address them.

The number of homicides in the country has steadily risen since 2012. That year there were 407, which rose to 578 2016, and 603 in 2017.

Costa Rica, home to about 5 million people, also finished 2017 with a homicide rate of 12.1 per 100,000 people. That’s well below rates elsewhere in the region — which is the deadliest in the world — but the highest the country has ever seen.

“Since 2012, we have seen an increase, and it’s likely this curve will keep going up unless something extraordinary happens,” Michael Soto, the deputy director of Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation authority, said in January.

But the increase comes as deadly violence elsewhere in the region is declining, and the trend appears to be continuing.

During the first three months of 2018, there were 146 homicides in Costa Rica — seven more than the same period last year. Included in these were eight femicides, killings where a woman is targeted specifically because of her gender. There were 26 femicides in 2017.

“We can’t cover the sun with a finger. We are the same as last year,” said Alvaro Gonzalez, head of the Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigative authority’s homicide division. Gonzalez tied the increase to drugs. “The fight against the narco is frontal because it is the principal cause of what we are experiencing,” he said.

Authorities have attributed the rise in homicides to disputes between groups involved in the drug trade. According to the police, 52% of killings are related to score-settling, drug trafficking, or revenge.

Seventy percent of homicide victims in Costa Rica are younger than 30, and Gonzalez said youths who were neither in school nor employed were more susceptible to criminal activity.

A March report by the Costa Rican Drug Institute and the State of the Nation program found high rates of violence and drug trafficking correlate strongly to areas with high unemployment.

It also found that half the country’s homicides in 2016 took place in 30 of its poorest districts, and half of drug seizures were in areas making up just 7% of the country’s territory.

“Unemployment shows us people who … don’t have formal access to the market, don’t have income, but have to cover basic necessities and find drug trafficking an option to survive,” said Leonardo …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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