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Cablegate: Costa Rica: Vp Chinchilla On Security Issues

VZCZCXYZ0012
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0389/01 1351446
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141446Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9705
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEABND/DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMIN HQ WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000389

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC, INL/LP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR SNAR CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA: VP CHINCHILLA ON SECURITY ISSUES

REF: SAN JOSE 287

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On April 29, Charge, DEA Country Attache,
ODR Chief and NAS officer met with Vice President (and
Minister of Justice) Laura Chinchilla to discuss current and
planned bilateral USG security assistance, including the
Merida Initiative, to Costa Rica. We also explained the
delayed entry into the U.S. of Costa Rican Attorney General
Francisco Dall'Anese on April 23 at Miami International
Airport(septel), and briefed Chinchilla on the status of
Costa Rica's pending (due to shortage of funds) new national
wiretap facility. Chinchilla gave us the green light to
proceed with our planning to conduct a National Security
Planning Workshop in early August and asked for police
professionalization training and help to remove crack cocaine
from the streets of Costa Rica. END
SUMMARY.

=================
MERIDA INITIATIVE
=================

2. (SBU) We briefed Chinchilla on the Merida Initiative,
focusing on the major programs that would affect Costa Rica
if the proposed legislation was passed by the U.S. Congress.
In her capacity as Minister of Justice, Chinchilla was
particularly interested in prison management assistance. She
emphasized that Costa Rica needed the Merida Initiative to
help address its deteriorating domestic security situation in
all its aspects and she appreciated any assistance the USG
could provide. She asked that the GOCR be involved in the
plan to assist Costa Rican law enforcement entities. To
further that request, we briefed the Merida Initiative and
legacy INL assistance programs to the new Minister of Public
Security, Janina Del Vecchio, on May 7. Del Vecchio appeared
to be very engaged on the topic and requested as many details
as possible. NOTE: We continue to consult closely with the
affected Costa Rican security agencies on all aspects of USG
security assistance, including the potential Merida
Initiative. END NOTE.

================
WIRETAP FACILITY
================

3. (SBU) We updated Chinchilla on the progress of Costa
Rica's new wiretap national facility. Funding, even with
$100K dedicated from INL funds and $700K from the GOCR,
remains short by about $700K (the facility's estimated cost
is approximately $1.5 million). Also, the Costa Rican Drug
Institute (ICD) and the Costa Rican Electricity Institute
(ICE, which controls the national telecom) need to complete
internal GOCR agreements to harmonize software and hardware
issues. Chinchilla fully supports the wiretap facility and
said the sooner it was in operation the better to help combat
narcotrafficking and organized crime.

============================================
POLICE PROFESSIONALIZATION AND CRACK COCAINE
============================================

4. (SBU) Chinchilla requested police professionalization
assistance for Costa Rica's various police entities. She
said that the police here try hard but need to get better at
basic police tasks. She cited as a positive example that
could apply to Costa Rica, the police professionalization
program that the USG funds in Panama. We told her that the
Merida Initiative included funding for police training and
equipment. NOTE: Post is investigating various options for
police professionalization training, including the NGO that
NAS Panama is using in their program. END NOTE.

5. (SBU) Chinchilla also requested assistance to combat the
growing epidemic of crack cocaine use in Costa Rica. She
noted that several U.S. cities had successfully implemented
anti-crack campaigns and said that those could serve as
models for Costa Rica, especially for San Jose. Partially
due to the serious crack problem, Chinchilla added that the
people of Costa Rica had a sense that the government only
works to combat international narcotics trafficking and does
not do enough to address domestic drug consumption problems.
NOTE: After the meeting, we double-checked statistics
provided to us by the Costa Rican Anti-Drug Police (PCD).
The PCD's statistics report that 70 percent of their 2007
anti-drug operations were from national trafficking (286
cases) versus 30 percent (125 cases) for international.
Additionally, of 400 detained individuals in 2007, 75 percent
(303 persons) were Costa Rican versus 25 percent (102)
foreigners. We will work with the GOCR to dispel the notion
that the bulk of drug cases are international. END NOTE.

6. (SBU) In our separate meeting with Del Vecchio on May 7,
she also emphasized the alarming impact that crack cocaine
was having on Costa Rica's youth. She told us that an
estimated 80 percent of crimes in Costa Rica are related to
the trafficking, distribution and selling of crack cocaine.
By far, she said, it was Costa Rica's number one internal
drug problem.

===============================
SUPPORT FOR DOD-FUNDED PROJECTS
===============================

7. (SBU) We briefed Chinchilla on several DOD-funded
assistance projects in Costa Rica, including a National
Security Planning Workshop (to follow up the 2006 workshop
she attended), support for the new Costa Rican police
academy, upcoming visits by WHINSEC Mobile Training Teams,
and various humanitarian projects. Chinchilla, recalling the
utility of the 2006 National Security Workshop, gave us the
green light to conduct the follow-on, tentatively scheduled
for this summer. She reiterated her appreciation for all of
the security-related support that the USG provided Costa
Rica. Del Vecchio echoed Chinchilla's gratitude for USG
security assistance, underlining that "the more the better,
and the quicker the better."

=======
COMMENT
=======

8. (SBU) Chinchilla's (and Del Vecchio's) strong support for
USG security assistance from both civilian and military
sources is a full 180 degree turn from the Arias
Administration's position from even 12 months ago. The
deteriorating domestic security situation, mainly due to
rocketing violent crime as a result of increased
narcotrafficking, helped push the Arias Administration to
admit that it needed USG help. Though bilateral relations
with the U.S. have been historically good, the GOCR's
re-iterated request for security assistance (especially from
the Minister of Public Security) is a welcome and positive
development. Del Vecchio repeated several times that she
wanted to get USG security assistance accelerated and on a
high level as soon as possible. It seemed clear to us that
she was receiving pressure from the top leadership in the
country, quite possibly from President Arias himself, and
that she needed to quickly get a handle on security issues
and begin to reverse the deteriorating domestic security
situation. During his May 1 State of the Republic address,
Arias stressed that the country's domestic security problems
were not "imagined" and were his administration's top
concern. This seemed a deliberate rebuttal to Del Vecchio's
earlier comments (reftel) that the perception of domestic
security problems were worse than the reality.
BRENNAN

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