With a life expectancy of 79.4 years, 10% of the national territory protected in conservation areas and a stable democracy, Costa Rica has been considered one of the “happiest” countries in the world and a favorite place to retire. However, not everything is rosy in the country of “pura vida”. Violence rates have not stopped increasing in the last 10 years, as indicated by statistics from the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Judicial Investigation Agency.

Of course, Costa Rica’s violence statistics are not comparable to those of other Central American countries, nor is Costa Rica a security paradise.

Increase in Homicides

Records for almost 10 years indicate a steady increase in homicides. On July 2, happened the murder of the 19-year-old who had gone out with his friends and was later found dead in the streets of San José. Four minors stabbed him to steal his cell phone, which left Costa Ricans shocked. This event has shown that insecurity in Costa Rica has increased, even for males. According to data from the Judicial Investigation Agency, the year 2022 will be the most violent year in Costa Rica’s history. 2021 has already broken the record, but projections for 2022 seem to indicate that it will be worse. Walter Espinoza, director of the Judicial Police, told the deputies to be concerned about the rates of violence in murders that are registered. The Judicial Investigation Organism (OIJ) projects that, if the current trend continues, 2022 will close with 605 homicides. This was revealed last June, in the Security and Drug Trafficking Commission of the Legislative Assembly, by the director of the OIJ, Walter Espinoza.

Violence in Costa Rica

The causes

The data indicate that most of the homicides are due to settling of scores and that drug trafficking is eating away at Costa Rican society. Costa Rica is a bridge for drug trafficking. Most of the drugs enter by sea and continue on their way to North America. It is estimated that around 1,500 tons of cocaine, for example, pass through the region.

According to Global Financial Integrity, the flow of illicit money in Costa Rica in the first decade of the 21st century was US$64 billion. This is more than 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Poverty and inequality have been on the rise in Costa Rica, causing many young people to become involved with drug trafficking. The State of the Nation 2021 indicates that 12.5% of the country’s households fell into poverty in 2020. 2.7% were in extreme poverty and 9.8% in non-extreme poverty.

Author: M. Barrantes for Sensorial Sunsets