QCOSTARICA – Putting an end to the pandering in criminal matters that has allowed “las golondrinas vuelen libres” (swallows to fly free) for years, regardless of the fact that in some cases they are people accused of drug trafficking or even homicides, is what President Rodrigo Chaves proposed on Wednesday when announcing his plan “Operación Costa Rica Segura” (Operation Safe Costa Rica).

Graphic from La Republica

Paraphrasing former president Luis Guillermo Solís (2014-2018), who at the time asserted that a criminal with prison benefits who raped a woman in Guácimo could not be considered “like a golondrina in summer”, this Wednesday Chaves asserted that it is time to put a stop to the pandering.

In this sense, the proposal includes that minors involved in serious crimes such as homicide and drug trafficking will be tried as adults, while people serving sentences for organized crime, sexual crimes against minors, drug trafficking, and who have used firearms or blades against Victims will not be eligible for parole.

The announcement made by Chaves comes at a time when Costa Rica has totaled 261 homicides – according to the OIJ  to date – as part of a war between rival gangs, mainly for control of drug trafficking routes and territory.

“It is about intelligence, communications, more patrols and more budget, in addition to five bills, which have already been drafted. This is the beginning of the end of what is happening,” Chaves said, referring to cases such as that of a man who killed a student over a cell phone and who was a repeat offender, or the minor who committed murder placed under house arrest and who was caught walking around Isla Tortuga.

As an immediate response action that will be implemented and with the objective is to reduce the underworld and the fight between drug traffickers, for the next six months, the work schedule of thousands of police officers will be changed to have some 9,500 police officers on the streets.

“The schedules force us to have four work groups today, while ow we have three, and that implies that we are going to have a thousand more officers on the streets,” said Daniel Calderón, Vice Minister of Public Security and former chief of the Fuerza Publica (National Police).

Today, police work shifts known as 4×3, in which they work four consecutive days and rest three.

“As of today, the work roles of 12,000 police officers of the Fuerza Publica will be 6×4 as an exceptional measure,” said the Minister of Security, Jorge Torres.

In addition, a US$5 million loan will be implemented to incorporate state-of-the-art technology in the fight against underworld and organized crime, in addition to making a collective policy available to the Fuerza Publica, to guarantee that officials are covered in cases of having legal problems.

Likewise, there will be more resources for the repair of police patrol vehicles and a decree will be signed that restricts the sale of ammunition.

The President also announced a series of legal reforms, among which stands out a plan so that any Costa Rican can be extradited in the case of drug trafficking, in addition to the promotion of a firm hand by judges so that they send to jail those who commit violent criminal acts.

Telephone intervention to listen in cases of homicides and rapists would also be enabled.


Following is a recap of the handful of immediate actions and various legal changes are intended to curb the common underworld and drug trafficking.

Greater police presence.  A change in the shift scheme will allow 9,500 police officers on the job every day
The measure is only for six months. Police will work in 6×4 shifts, that is, six days of work, four days off,. instead of the 4×3, four days work, three days off
More police officials.
Increased Budget. The government will present a plan to increase the police budget
State-of-the-art technology. Implementation of a $5 million loan to set up the region’s first command and control center against crime
Legal policy. The government will assume the legal defense in any fact through a policy
Purchase and repair of patrol cars. Money seized from drug traffickers will be used for more patrol cars and to repair units
Ammunition. Through a decree, the sale of large caliber ammunition will be prohibited. Only people with legal weapons will be able to access the purchase
Extradition. A legal reform is proposed so that any Costa Rican involved in acts of terrorism or drug trafficking can be extradited to any country
Stronger judges. Legal reform so judges have the tools to send people who commit violent crimes to jail
Arms control. Greater State controls to have access to arms through a change in the law
Wiretaps. Telephone intervention will be enabled for homicides and crimes of rape. Today, it is only used for drug trafficking and organized crime.
Minors. Offenders under the age of majority (18) related to organized crime will be tried as adults.

Trust in the Legislative process

The government’s plan also includes placing trust that legislators will have a “patriotic sense” to advance the proposed security plan announced Wednesday to attack the wave of violence in the country.

To that end, President Chaves visited the Legislative Assembly in the company of various ministers to personally deliver the proposed legislation.

According to the president, the country will have the support of legislators.

The President’s plan may have a good chance of succeeding given the decision by the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN) to maintain Rodrigo Arias in the legislative presidency. The PLN has the majority of seats in the current Legislative Assembly, holding 19 of the 57 seats, with the ruling (current government) party, the PPSD, holding 10.


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