Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Costa Rica promises to tighten security at Limon

Costa Rica's Tourism Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides, right, accompanied by Costa Rica's Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal speaks about increased security measures during cruise ship stopovers in the Caribbean port city of Limon in San Jose, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007. Last week, a retired member of the American military killed an armed assailant who tried to rob about a dozen tourists who were arriving at a local beach. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rican authorities pledged Tuesday to increase police patrols in a Caribbean resort town after a U.S. tourist in his 70s killed a mugger with his bare hands there last week.

In a joint press conference Tourism Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavidez and Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal said they planned to double the number of police on patrol during stopovers by cruise ships in the port city of Limon, a surfing, fishing and diving destination. The government also plans to install security cameras around the city and have police to keep a closer eye on vehicles carrying tourists.

Last week, three armed assailants held up a bus ferrying about a dozen tourists from a docked cruise ship to a beach. A retired member of the American military put one of the attackers in a headlock, breaking his collarbone, officials said.

The would-be mugger, Warner Segura, 20, was later declared dead, apparently from asphyxiation.

Costa Rican police did not press charges, and the unidentified American tourist was allowed to return to his cruise ship to finish his vacation.

A spokeswoman for Costa Rica's Tourism Ministry, Marcela Villalobos, said that between October and February some 40 cruise ships dropped off a total of 85,000 tourists in Limon. Over the same period, four security incidents were reported to authorities.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, Costa Rica's Tourism Minister, dismissed the rumors that Carnival Cruise Lines had suspended all cruises to Limon and replaced it with the Island of Roatan in Honduras.

"That's not true, Carnival announced that on March 8 the cruise ship 'Legend' will arrive to Costa Rica and will continue to operate normally," said Benavides.

Benavides said that Carnival agreed to continue operations in Costa Rica after government officials met with the cruise company representatives and explained the new measures that would be taken to improve security at the port city.

Villalobos pointed out that between October of last year and February of this year 40 cruise ships have arrived to Limon with approximately 85,000 tourists. During that span only four crime incidents were reported, which she says amounts to less than one percent of the tourists being attacked.

The Costa Rican cruise season started on October 9, with the arrival of the ship "Silver Shadow," which brought 1,300 visitors to Costa Rica.

On Monday a cruise ship was cancelled, but that was due to the CAFTA protests taking place all over the country. Villalobos explained that Costa Rican authorities were afraid that tourists could get stuck in street blockades and miss the ship.

Tourism is Costa Rica's biggest source of income, generating $1.6 billion last year.

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