Criminal gangs fighting for control of the drug trafficking trade are pushing up the homicide rate in Costa Rica, with murder rates growing by 9.7% between 2010 and 2016.
The number of homicides reached 578 last year after dropping to 407 in 2012, according to an August 2017 report by the Inter-agency Commission on Citizen Security and Living Conditions (COMESCO).
In the first half of 2017, as many as 278 people were murdered, with the state of Limon being the centerpiece for gang activity. Most victims were youths aged between 15 and 29, according to QCostaRica.
Mexican officials have often blamed the “Mexicanization” of Costa Rican criminal groups for the rise in crime. Even the Regional Security Office of the US Embassy agrees that many of the incidents in the metropolitan San José area are related to disputes among organized crime syndicates.
But InSight Crime, a foundation dedicated to investigating security threats in the region, says Costa Rican authorities should also consider the increase in domestic sales and drug consumption.
There are no cases of gangs specifically targeting foreigners in the country, with most of the incidents related to theft. Yet, in March 2015, a U.S. businessman was severely injured in a shooting incident.