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U.S. donates $14 mln in security equipment to tackle Costa Rican crime

SAN JOSE — The United States donated nearly $14 million worth of security equipment to Costa Rica in a bid to stamp out crime in the Central American country, which is facing an “extremely high” murder rate, Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves said on Tuesday.

The donation includes telecommunications equipment, drones and maintenance equipment for police planes to aid security forces in border control, and “above all else, in the fight against international criminal gangs,” Chaves said.

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Murders in Costa Rica shot to a record high in 2022, to 12.6 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the Judicial Investigation Agency. Of a total 656 deaths, 63% were related to gang infighting, authorities said.

Tuesday’s announcement coincided with a visit of General Laura J. Richardson, who heads the Pentagon’s Southern Command, ahead of the Central America Security Conference.

Chaves was also asked about a Chinese balloon that entered Costa Rica’s air space in recent days, following a separate incident which sparked a major diplomatic spat between China and the United States.

“We have expressed concern to the Chinese government and hope this will not happen again,” Chaves said. “We demand our sovereignty be respected.”

On Monday, China apologized to Costa Rica for the incident.

Over the weekend, a U.S. military jet shot down a Chinese balloon that crossed U.S. air space after days of speculation about its purpose. (Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Leslie Adler)