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Costa Rica has long experienced low levels of violence and armed crimes across its territory. Nonetheless, in recent years, there has been a rise in armed crime in the country, mostly related to international drug trafficking and petty theft. Arms trafficking and illegal possession of weapons and ammunition is also considered a problem, as 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 (WAM), UNLIREC, the Organization of American States (OAS) through its Programa para el Control de Armas y Municiones (PACAM), and DCAF assist the Costa Rican government to enhance its capacities in controlling, marking, and disposing of weapons and ammunition.[2] The government also regularly reports weapons and ammunition disposal operations.[3]

[1] DCAF, “Costa Rica Country Profile”, 02.02.15,

[2] UNLIREC, “UNLIREC supports various initiatives to strengthen arms control among private security sector in Costa Rica”, 30.03.17,

[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, 16.11.15,

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Further information

Accidental explosions

Since the beginning of data collection in 1979 by the Small Arms Survey, there has been no accidental explosion reported in Costa Rica.

Source: UEMS Database (December 2021); Small Arms Survey. ‘Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS)’.

Cases of diversion

Several cases of diversion have been reported in Costa Rica, of which at least 1 included ammunition (Table 2).

Table 2: Cases of diversion of arms, ammunition, and explosives in Costa Rica





San José

26 weapons (10 Sig Sauer, 16 Beretas pistols) as well as rounds of ammunition, two bulletproof vests and three radios were stolen from the National Police Academy armoury. Since then, all the weapons and material were recovered by the police. During the investigation, 2 police officers suspected of facilitating the robbery were put into preventive custody.[1]


Valencia de Heredia

17 weapons (among which at least ten 9-millimeter caliber 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 submachine guns from the Victims and Witnesses Protection Unit (Uprov).[3]


Lepanto de Puntarenas

17 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. 17 of those 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, 05.03.21,; Eysel Chacón, « MSP logró recuperar armamento robado en Academia Nacional de Policía », Sinart, 28.02.21; Kristin Hidalgo, « Policías detenidos facilitaron robo de armas y omitieron registro de datos en bitácoras, dice OIJ »,, 03.03.21,

[2] Mariela Montero Salazar, « Roban 17 armas a empresa de seguridad privada », Teletica, 19.06.21,; Hugo Solano C and Reiner Montero, « Delincuentes se roban caja fuerte con 16 armas de empresa privada de seguridad », La Nación, 19.06.21,

[3] Hugo Solano C., « OIJ recibe 84 denuncias por robo de armas cada mes », La Nación, 03.08.18,

[4] Hugo Solano C., « OIJ recibe 84 denuncias por robo de armas cada mes », La Nación, 03.08.18,

[5] La Nación, « Negligencia en MOPT facilitó robo de 215 armas de Tránsito », 31.01.12,; La Nación, « Policía panameña decomisó 17 pistolas robadas al MOPT », 18.02.12,


Destruction, use, or export of ammunition as an indicator of a state’s ability to identify and decrease aging, unsafe, or surplus ammunition.  

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


Further requirements for an effective through-life management of ammunition in the country.

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: PoA Report 2016, Costa Rica. Please note that PoA reports focus on SALW and not specifically on ammunition.

Published Date: Wednesday 31 of August 2022