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Cablegate: Assessment of Costa Rican Security Requirements

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 SAN JOSE 001618

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/FO:GSNIDLE, WHA/CEN AND INL/LP: AMARTIN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/29/2017
TAGS: CS KJUS PGOV PINS PREF PREL PTER SNAR
SUBJECT: ASSESSMENT OF COSTA RICAN SECURITY REQUIREMENTS

REF: A. STATE 107145
B. SAN JOSE-WHA/CEN EMAILS OF 08/08/2007 AND
08/24/2007

Classified By: Ambassador Mark Langdale per 1.4 (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Costa Rica remains a significant
transshipment point for drugs, people, currency and weapons.
A successful comprehensive regional security strategy for
Central America must include appropriately trained and
equipped Costa Rican forces, willing and able to cooperate
with counterparts in neighboring countries, both civilian and
military. The GOCR is moving in the right direction; Costa
Rica,s dependence on USG security assistance gives us some
leverage to nudge the GOCR further. Eventually, Costa Rica
could model an effective, non-military security force capable
of dealing with transnational criminal activity and violent
domestic crime. We suggest a list of prioritized initiatives
(see para 8), in support of USG and GOCR law enforcement
objectives, consistent with the SICA regional security
strategy, and built upon on-going GOCR initiatives. Our list
concentrates on public security/law enforcement as well as
counternarcotics/border security initiatives, in order to
equip Costa Rica to make full use of its location and
existing assets. This would have a significant and positive
impact on regional security, in our view. END SUMMARY.

===========
THE SETTING
===========

2. (SBU) Costa Rica remains a significant transshipment
point for drugs, people, currency and weapons being smuggled
between the U.S. and South America. GOCR authorities seized
a record 25.5 MT of cocaine in 2006, for example, including
14 MT seized off Costa Rica,s coasts by U.S. assets, under
the terms of the 1998 Bilateral Maritime Agreement. The
trend has continued into 2007. In July and August alone,
joint USG-GOCR efforts intercepted four go-fast boats, and
forced a fifth to turn back towards Panama. The results:
more than three MT of cocaine seized or sunk, and 13
individuals detained. Ashore, USG-GOCR law enforcement
cooperation uncovered a probable fuel depot for go-fasts and
a cocaine cache which netted another two MT of cocaine, over
1200 gallons of fuel and three more arrests.

3. (SBU) Since January 1, the GOCR has tallied nearly 30 MT
of narcotics seized, plus $3 million in cash, $2.4 million
alone hidden in a tractor-trailer attempting to enter Costa
Rica from Nicaragua in July. These successes point to the
underlying flow of narcotics and currency through Costa Rica
and its waters by traffickers who are overwhelmingly
Colombian and increasingly violent. A group targeted
Minister of Public Security Berrocal in June, for example,
further fueling the widespread public concern about domestic
security. Meanwhile, crime rates continue to rise, remaining
a top concern in opinion polls.

4. (SBU) The flow of illegal immigrants, in particular
Chinese, has also posed challenges for the GOCR. In October
2006 and April 2007, 185 Chinese were rescued from two
crippled smuggling vessels in Costa Rican waters. The last
of these are only now being repatriated to China. The
GOCR,s June 1 recognition of China, and the rush to
establish full relations, including easing restrictions on
Chinese businessmen coming to Costa Rica or Chinese visiting
with a valid US or EU visa, have raised the specter of even
greater human smuggling flows to and through Costa Rica.

==============
OUR ASSESSMENT
==============

5. (C) A successful comprehensive regional security strategy
for Central America therefore must include appropriately
trained and equipped Costa Rican forces, willing and able to
cooperate with counterparts in neighboring countries, both
civilian and military. The GOCR is moving in the right
direction, and is beginning to reform its antiquated and
ineffective domestic security apparatus. Costa Rican
security forces remain the least corrupt in Central America,
but they are significantly under-funded and under-trained,
relying heavily on U.S.- supplied training and equipment, as
well as on-going investigative, operational and technical
support. In addition, Costa Rica,s sense of exceptionalism
has made them historically reluctant to embrace regional
initiatives, while their historic &allergy8 to most things

SAN JOSE 00001618 002 OF 003


military has limited their cooperation with armed forces.

6. (C) Costa Rica,s dependence on USG security assistance
gives us some leverage to nudge the GOCR further towards the
goal of having an effective domestic security force that
ultimately can serve as a regional model for combating
transnational criminal activity and violent domestic crime
without a military. Any new USG assistance, like our current
programs, should build on what the GOCR is already doing, and
have synergistic applications for counter-narcotics,
counter-crime and counter-terrorism efforts. While our
assistance flow (especially if increased) gives us additional
influence over Costa Rica,s security forces in the short- to
medium-term, our long-term objective should be to enhance
Costa Rica,s independence on security issues, not fuel
dependence. To face the transnational threats confronting
the region, Costa Rica must learn to rely more on its own
means, working more closely with its neighbors.

================
SOME SUGGESTIONS
==================

7. (C) In light of the above, Post,s Law Enforcement
Committee suggests the following initiatives, in support of
USG and GOCR law enforcement objectives and consistent with
the SICA regional security strategy. Our suggestions are
intended to encourage Costa Rica,s partnership,
inter-operability, intelligence and information sharing, as
described in Reftel. These suggestions also build upon
on-going GOCR initiatives, in order to maintain GOCR buy-in
and support. Our Law Enforcement Committee concluded that
existing and projected INCLE and IMET could support our
®ular8 initiatives (e.g., police training and equipping
key units). Although higher than recent funding levels, we
believe the assistance described below would have a
significant and positive impact on regional security by
equipping Costa Rica to make full use of its location and
existing assets. We realize that any non-IMET military
assistance to support the programs described below would
require the GOCR to enact Article 98 legislation or an APSA
waiver from the USG.

8. (C) PRIORITIZED LIST OF NEW USG ASSISTANCE (USD)

A) COMPLETE THE NATIONAL WIRETAP FACILITY (700K): Although
the GOCR has budgeted USD 700K for this project, in addition
to USD 100K available from INCLE pipeline funds, the latest
DEA technical survey estimates the total project price at
approximately USD 1.5 million. The GOCR already endorses
this project, which builds upon existing, but nascent GOCR
use of wiretaps and offers important law enforcement and
case-building synergy, including for cases in US courts,
across the full spectrum of counter-narcotics,
counter-terrorism and counter-criminal investigations and
prosecutions. This facility would mesh with a similar,
newly-started facility in Panama and planned future
facilities in Nicaragua and Guatemala.

B) REFIT INOPERABLE COAST GUARD 65-FT PATROL BOATS
(1 million): Refitted engines, communications and radar
equipment and repaired/replaced hulls on the GOCR,s two
65-foot patrol boats would increase the Coast Guard,s
primary maritime assets (from three to five), greatly
enhancing Costa Rica,s ability to patrol its waters, working
with USG assets under the Bilateral Maritime Agreement.

C) REFIT COAST GUARD 82-FT PATROL BOATS (425K): Major
maintenance and needed upgrades for the three 82-foot patrol
boats are overdue, to the point that one boat is inoperable
and the safe operation of the other two will soon be in
question. In our view, refitting the two 65-foot vessels out
of service, as noted above, is a higher priority for any new
USG assistance. But, also refitting the 82-ft vessels would
mean that five of the Coast Guard,s major assets would be
fully functioning. This would maximize the GOCR,s maritime
resources and greatly enhance Costa Rica,s patrol and
surveillance capabilities, thereby improving Costa Rica,s
contribution to regional counter-narcotics and
counter-trafficking efforts. This assistance would be in
addition to the USD 75K requested in FY 2009 INCLE funding to
begin refurbishing these vessels, and the FY 2009 IMET
requested for maintenance training.

D) INSTALL FORWARD LOOKING INFRARED RADAR (FLIR) ON AIR UNIT
SURVEILLANCE AIRCRAFT (17-25K PER AIRCRAFT): This would also
maximize use of existing assets in arguably the

SAN JOSE 00001618 003 OF 003


best-maintained, equipped and utilized unit within the
Ministry of Public Security. FLIR installation would enhance
the detection of trafficking activity, especially along the
porous border with Panama, essentially wide open now to
illegal traffic of all types. This would be another GOCR
contribution to regional security efforts. The Air Unit has
three aircraft that could be FLIR equipped.

E) REFIT INOPERABLE COAST GUARD 105-FT PATROL BOAT (2
million): Although less of a priority than refitting the
existing 82-foot assets or the out-of-service 65-foot
vessels, putting this largest patrol craft into operation
would greatly enhance Costa Rica,s maritime capabilities,
enabling the Coast Guard to operate as far offshore as Cocos
Island. But, it is less important to our current maritime
counter-narcotics focus, which is in areas closer to shore.

F) PLACE A PERMANENT REGIONAL RADAR/COMMUNICATIONS
INSTALLATION IN COSTA RICA (USD 1 million to install, plus
annual operating costs): Costa Rica,s location and
topography offer an ideal setting for air- and surface-search
radar. Equipment could also be installed to provide a remote
communications capability for JIATF-South and a remote data
link entry point for information received from airborne and
ship borne surveillance platforms. AFSOUTH has already
surveyed the former CBRN site at Cerro Azul for TDY
deployment of a counter-narcotics radar suite in 2008. The
AFSOUTH deployment would include automatic equipment which
could be monitored remotely and not require a large, military
footprint. A permanent installation, again with a small,
non-military footprint, could be operated by select Costa
Rican personnel. Information from the site would be shared
around the region via CNIES. Senior GOCR security personnel
are enthusiastic about the AFSOUTH TDY, and we believe would
also endorse a permanent operation.
LANGDALE

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