“Don’t fail us again.” That’s the message from the family of Arancha Gutiérrez, a 31-year-old Spanish woman who was murdered in Tortuguero last weekend while visiting Costa Rica with her husband and a group of seven other Spaniards.
Speaking to Spain’s El Pais, Miguel Ángel Escribano, said nobody – not Spanish or Costa Rican authorities or the management at their hotel – had told them that police had stopped patrolling the beaches: “They didn’t warn us of the danger we were running.”
“Spanish people travel across the world to destinations that can be more or less dangerous and we decide how much risk we take,” he said, reading from a statement inside San Fernando de Henares City Hall, in the Madrid region. “But this does not mean we are looking to get ourselves killed.”
Escribano said that before traveling to Costa Rica the couple had consulted information offered by Spain’s Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) on global destinations.
“We thought Tortuguero was a very safe place where nothing ever happened,” explained Escribano. “After the tragedy, we became aware of things that, it seems, no one knew about.”
Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website has been updated since the murder of Gutiérrez and María Trinidad Mathus, from Mexico and now recommends that tourists “travel with caution” to Costa Rica. According to the website, travelers should “adopt measures to protect themselves and avoid traveling alone or to remote or poorly lit places, both in urban settings and tourist areas.”
“There has been an increase in violence with the use of firearms (although not directed specifically against tourists) in the most conflictive areas of the urban area of cities such as San José or Puerto Limón, especially at night.
“Since the aggressors are usually under the influence of drugs, in the case of being assaulted, it is recommended not to resist and to prevent this type of events the basic rules of prudence should be adopted with luggage and personal objects, especially with valuables (cameras, video devices …). It is recommended not to wear jewelry and it is strongly discouraged to travel in pirate cabs,” explained the Ministry in the Security section.
In addition, as a result of recent attacks against female tourists, “it is recommended to take self-protection measures and avoid traveling alone or in isolated or poorly lit areas, both in urban areas and in tourist areas.”
The website asks travelers to Costa Rica to keep handy Spanish embassy’s emergency phone number (+506 6050 9853).
Escribano thanked the Spanish consulate and embassy in Costa Rica, as well as the Costa Rica government and police force, for their support following the murder. But he called on the Spanish government to do more: “Don’t leave us in this important moment because this matter cannot be left unresolved. Don’t fail us again.”
The family returned to Spain on Thursday. Escribano and the victim’s family – mother, father, sister, and brother-in-law – agreed that the attack had been sexually motivated.
“Arancha left to go running early in the morning, like any woman wishing to enjoy her holidays would have done. She was attacked by a vile pervert, a blot on the human condition,” they said.
“We do not know how far machismo reaches, and up to what point a woman cannot enjoy nature by herself in broad daylight, creating fear and insecurity for the rest of the women who want to live freely.”
OIJ Raids Home of Suspect
Meanwhile, in Costa Rica, the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) raided Friday morning the apartment of the suspect in the killing of the Spanish woman, an individual named Albin Díaz Hopkins, in the community of Tortuguero de Pococí, in search of elements that tie him to the murder.
Hopkins is believed to have met the victim the before the murder, was released on Monday for insufficient evidence to place him in preventive detention. The court did, however, turn him over to immigration officials given his ‘irregular’ status in the country.
Hopkins, of Nicaraguan nationality, remains since Tuesday in the custody of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (immigration service), since he is illegal in Costa Rica, being held in the Central Region Apprehension Center (CARC), located in Los Lagos de Heredia.
Authorities suspect sexual motive was behind the attack, as Gutiérrez’s clothes had been torn off.
More tourism security promised
The Tourist Police (Policía Turística) increased the vigilance in Tortuguero since Friday.
Also on Friday, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) reported that for December, when the high season starts, it hopes to have an application ready with warnings and safety tips for tourists.
The application will have geolocation to alert the user about the dangers according to where they are, explained the Minister of Tourism, María Amalia Revelo.
This in addition to President Carlos Alvarado’s announcement on Thursday that the central government will allocate US$1 million annually from the budget of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) to tourism security.