Ruben Costas Aguilera, Governor of the State of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was shot in the head on Tuesday the 12th of April when he pursued two thieves on a motorcycle who had mugged a woman. The shooting took place at 10:40 a.m. on the corner of Mendoza and Obispo Santistevan streets, in front of the Banco Nacional and the Espiritu Santo school and in full view of several witnesses, including two bank security guards. We reported the story as it unfolded.
The governor is expected to recover fully. The bullet grazed his left temple, leaving a 6-7 cm. gash and tearing through the top layer of his skull. It missed a major artery by a matter of millimeters. Costas had moved his head to the right just as the bullet (the second of three) entered through the front windshield. This rapid movement saved his life. The bullet exited through the back of the vehicle.
Crime rates have skyrocketed in Santa Cruz, the fastest growing city in South America, over the past five years. Many types of violent crime, previously almost unheard of in this area of Bolivia, are now related to drug trafficking, which has flourished over the same period of time. Others, such as this type of mugging, are becoming more frequent as well, as the city's population swells at record speed. Criminals seem to have no fear of the police or the legal system and are committing crimes during the day, in public places, and in full view of witnesses, or police officers themselves, as occurred in this case.
The city of Santa Cruz has argued for years that there is not enough police presence and has repeatedly requested more from the national government. Santa Cruz has just over 5600 police officers while La Paz/El Alto, which has roughly the same population, has over 10,000 officers.
The sentiment in Santa Cruz is that it took the shooting of one of the highest authorities for the government to finally take the problem seriously.“Make sure I wasn’t shot in vain”
On Tuesday Governor Costas had a message for the public regarding his shooting, as he lay in the hospital awaiting possible surgical intervention. “Que sirva para algo".
His messages to the lieutenant governor: "Make sure this serves to make people aware about two things. There's been enough killing of women and children. These criminals and these delinquents...this should serve to make people aware on the one hand. On the other, to let these wretches know that there are still people who are willing to give our lives if necessary because we're not going to give in, we're not going to let ourselves be terrorized. That's why it's good now that people feel a little worried...so that this was not in vain. That's the message you have to transmit. Maybe right now people will say 'nothing happened' so they won't take it seriously. We risked our lives, so don't let it have been in vain."