The Economist Casts Doubt on Costa Rica’s Status Amid Soaring Crime and Public Unrest

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By Marco Echevarria

The British weekly magazine The Economist has cast a shadow on Costa Rica’s image as a Latin American beacon, citing an alarming spike in insecurity tied to narcotic trades’ encroachment. The magazine’s recent analysis points to growing public unrest and the deterioration of state services, spotlighted by a major protest on October 25. Labor unions, universities, and other organizations marched to the Casa Presidencial, demanding increased education funding to meet the constitutional mandate of 8% of GDP.

The Economist’s feature story presents a grim picture of the declining safety across Latin America, with Costa Rica’s security situation, once considered stable, now on a downward trajectory. The analysis rings the alarm bell on Costa Rica’s homicide rate, which has soared to 17 per 100,000 people this year, up from 11 per 100,000 three years prior, a surge attributed to drug-related violence.

The report also sheds light on the burgeoning domestic marijuana market in Costa Rica, where monthly usage rates among 3% of the population rank among the highest in Central America.

With a readership of 1,182,000 across its print and digital platforms as of March, according to its financial statement, The Economist underscores the Costa Rican public’s frustration with declining public services. These are stark against the country’s history of universal healthcare, higher education, and strong democratic values. President Rodrigo Chaves Robles’s austerity measures have coincided with rising crime rates and increasing demands for avenues to divert youth from gangs.

Chaves admits to the waning quality of public services, attributing it to decades of mismanagement, raising fears of potential welfare state reforms. Adding to the tension, Chaves has declared the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) “bankrupt,” a statement met with opposition from various sectors and institution representatives.

His critiques extend to other national pillars, including public universities and the independent press, raising eyebrows across the nation. As Costa Rica faces these challenges, its status as a model of success in Latin America faces a stringent reassessment amidst the continent’s struggle with escalating violence and instability.