June 12, 1981: Rare terrorist attack in Costa Rica

On June 12, 1981 a Costa Rican terrorist group called La Familia killed three police officers and a taxi driver in San Jose

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA – Costa Rica is often cited as the ‘stablest’ Central American nation: that does not mean it is violence/terrorism free.

Central America has not been a happy region of the world historically. Whether we are talking about poor governance – there have been many dictators over the years – or endemic gang and organised crime, too many of its citizens have suffered needlessly.

Can’t a guy just make a living and feed his family? (Photo: CIAT on flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Some nations have done better than others: Costa Rica is a good example. Known for better than average governments and a successful eco-tourist sector, this nation is somewhat atypical for its neighbourhood.

In any event, terrorism is seldom encountered in Central America, and even less so in Costa Rica. Seldom does not mean never, however.

On this day in 1981

A group called La Familia (the family), founded in October 1978, attacked a store in the capital city, San Jose. Three police officers and a taxi driver were killed and another person wounded. A member of the terrorist group was also injured.

Not a lot was known about La Familia which disbanded soon after. In the grand scheme of things its ‘campaign’ was short-lived and not overly lethal. Nevertheless, it does demonstrate that no country is immune from terrorism.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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