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Cablegate: Costa Rica Reiterates Need for Immediate Maritime

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0586 1921250
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 101250Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9924
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEABND/DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMIN HQ WASHINGTON DC
RUMIAGH/COMJTF-B SIMS SOTO CANO HO
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 000586

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHAT/CEN, WHA/PPC, INL/LP, AND PM

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/09/2018
TAGS: PREL PINR MASS MCAP PINS SNAR CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA REITERATES NEED FOR IMMEDIATE MARITIME
INTERDICTION ASSISTANCE, SPELLS OUT OTHER PRIORITIES

REF: SAN JOSE 530

Classified By: DCM Peter M. Brennan for reason 1.4 (b).

1. (C) On July 1, during the Ambassador's formal courtesy
call with her, Minister of Public Security Janina Del Vecchio
reiterated what she had told us on June 12 meeting (Reftel):
Costa Rica needs immediate maritime interdiction assistance
to help combat drug trafficking in littoral waters. She
asked that we commit as much of the Merida Initiative funding
to help fix the Costa Rican Coast Guard (SNGC) as possible.
Del Vecchio emphasized that what the SNGC needed most are
maritime interceptors that could both catch "go-fast" drug
runners as well as board them. She acknowledged that her
current SNGC fleet was inadequate for either mission.

2. (C) Speaking more broadly on security issues, Del Vecchio
shared with us that President Oscar Arias had instructed her
to obtain as much international assistance as possible to
help address Costa Rica's deteriorating domestic security
problems, which are directly linked to the effects of
narcotrafficking throughout Costa Rican territory. She
relayed that Arias told her that the GOCR's budget was
already under a lot of pressure due to increased fuel and
food prices and that there was little room in the budget to
increase current levels of security spending.

3. (C) Del Vecchio told us that after the SNGC, her top
priority was to professionalize the police and to ensure that
they were properly equipped. The establishment of a new
police academy was, she highlighted, an important part of
reforming the Costa Rican police. (NOTE: Post has assisted
the GOCR on this issue in an advising role, especially
through our New Mexico State Partnership Program. END NOTE.)
She said the police needed more medium-size trucks or SUVs
that could be used off-road (4X4s) and more mobile command
posts (bus-size type of mobile command and control units,
they currently have just one) to deal with problems outside
of the capital such as major drug busts or reacting to
natural disasters. She confirmed to us that Costa Rica would
be receiving 200 small patrol cars from China, though she did
not have a time frame for their delivery.

4. (C) In a separate courtesy call with Vice-President and
Minister of Justice Laura Chinchilla on July 2, Chinchilla
told the Ambassador that Costa Rica was very pleased that the
Merida Initiative had passed. The GOCR was confident this
would help address security needs. Chinchilla also seemed
interested in developing a strategic security plan for Costa
Rica with USG help. We are exploring various options on how
to proceed, including a seminar led by a team from the
National Defense University's Center for Hemispheric Defense
Studies, perhaps as early as next month.

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

5. (SBU) Regarding the types of maritime interceptors that
Minister Del Vecchio requested, Post recommends that as part
of the Merida Initiative the USG purchase 33-foot SPE-LE
"Safe" boats. The USCG uses these types of boats for both
interception and boarding of drug running "go-fasts" and are
the desired choice for the SNGC. Earlier this year, a USCG
survey team visited Costa Rica and concurred with Post's
assessment. The advantage with this type of interceptor is
that is has a foam-filled hull, similar to inflatables but
without the risk of being punctured and losing air, to
minimize any damage made during boarding operations. The
rigid-hull type of design, such as those used for Enduring
Friendship, can cause damage to both the boarding vessel and
the vessel being boarded.
CIANCHETTE

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