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Costa Rica has long experienced low levels of violence and armed crimes across its territory. Nonetheless, in recent years, the country has seen a rise in armed crime, mostly related to international drug trafficking and petty theft. Arms trafficking and the illegal possession of weapons and ammunition are also considered problems: it is estimated that at least half of the firearms circulating in the country are illegally owned.1

In terms of weapons and ammunition management, the UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC); the Organization of American States (OAS), through its Programa para el Control de Armas y Municiones (PACAM); and DCAF – Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance assist the Costa Rican government to enhance its capacities in controlling, marking and disposing of weapons and ammunition.2 The government also regularly reports on weapons and ammunition disposal operations.3

1 “Costa Rica”, DCAF – Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, February 2, 2015,

2 UNLIREC, “UNLIREC supports various initiatives to strengthen arms control among private security sector in Costa Rica,” March 30, 2017,

3 Presidency of Costa Rica, “Hoy el Arsenal Nacional eliminó 106.019 municiones y 2.269  armas decomisadas a delincuentes,” November 2015,; Diego Castillo, “Costa Rica es el país que más armas destruye en Centroamérica,” La Nación, November 16, 2015,

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Further information

Accidental explosions

Since the Small Arms Survey began collecting data in 1979, no accidental explosion has been reported in Costa Rica.

Source: “Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS) Database,” Small Arms Survey, updated December 15, 2021,

Cases of diversion

Several cases of diversion have been reported in Costa Rica, at least one of which included ammunition.

Table 1. Cases of diversion of arms, ammunition and explosives in Costa Rica





San José

The following items were stolen from the National Police Academy armoury: 26 weapons (10 Sig Sauer and 16 Beretas pistols), rounds of ammunition, 2 bulletproof vests and 3 radios. Since then, the police have recovered all the weapons and material. During the investigation, two police officers suspected of facilitating the robbery were put into preventive custody.1


Valencia de Heredia

Seventeen weapons (including at least ten 9-millimeter calibre pistols from brands such as Smith and Wesson model SW9VE, Sig Sauer, Glock and Tisas) were reported stolen from the private security company Securitas Costa Rica, stored in the safe of one of their offices in the country.2


San José

The Costa Rican Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ) reported the theft of an Uzi-type machine gun and two sub-machine guns from the Victims and Witnesses Protection Unit (Uprov).3


Lepanto de Puntarenas

Seventeen weapons (brands and calibres unspecified) were stolen from the Jicaral Public Force Delegation. One officer was arrested for the theft.4


San José

Four armed robbers stole 215 weapons type Glock 19.9 mm along with rounds of ammunition in a warehouse of the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Works and Transportation; seventeen of these weapons were seized a few weeks later by the Police of Panama during a raid in Panama City.5

1 Eillyn Jiménetz B. and Reiner Montero, "Oficiales ligados a robo de armas en academia policial descontarán tres meses de prisión preventiva,"  La Nación, March 5, 2021,; Eysel Chacón, "MSP logró recuperar armamento robado en Academia Nacional de Policía," Sinart, February 28, 2021; Kristin Hidalgo, "Policías detenidos facilitaron robo de armas y omitieron registro de datos en bitácoras, dice OIJ,", March 3, 2021,

2 Mariela Montero Salazar, "Roban 17 armas a empresa de seguridad privada," Teletica, June 19, 2021,; Hugo Solano C and Reiner Montero, "Delincuentes se roban caja fuerte con 16 armas de empresa privada de seguridad," La Nación, June 19, 2021,

3 Hugo Solano C., "OIJ recibe 84 denuncias por robo de armas cada mes," La Nación, August 3, 2018,

4 Ibid.

5 "Negligencia en MOPT facilitó robo de 215 armas de Tránsito," La Nación, January 31, 2012,; "Policía panameña decomisó 17 pistolas robadas al MOPT," La Nación, February 18, 2012,


To decrease the above-mentioned risks of accidental explosions and diversion, Costa Rica regularly disposes of its ammunition, but there is insufficient information available about the number of tonnes disposed of. 


To further enhance safe and secure ammunition management, the following needs have been identified for Costa Rica:

  • Capacity development for the destruction of surplus stockpiles.

Source: Costa Rica, National Report on the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) (New York: Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the UN, 2016).

Published Date: Friday 24 of November 2023