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Cablegate: Costa Rica Incsr Report 2004 - 2005 Part I, Drugs

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 SAN JOSE 003369

SIPDIS


DEPARTMENT FOR INL AND WHA/CEN
JUSTICE FOR OIA, AFMLS, NDDS
TREASURY FOR FINCEN
DEA FOR OILS AND OFFICE OF DIVERSION CONTROL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA INCSR REPORT 2004 - 2005 PART I, DRUGS
AND CHEMICAL CONTROL

REF: SECSTATE 249035

1. (U) The text of Costa Rica's 2004-2005 INCSR Part I is
below.

Costa Rica

I. Summary

Costa Rica serves as a transshipment point for narcotics
from South America to the United States and Europe. The
bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement, which
entered into force in late 1999, continues to improve the
overall maritime security of Costa Rica and serves as an
impetus for the professional development of the Costa Rican
Coast Guard. Costa Rican law enforcement officials continue
to demonstrate growing professionalism and reliability as
USG partners in combating narcotics trafficking and dealing
with ever-changing drug smuggling methods. The amount of
illicit narcotics seized in Costa Rica increased
dramatically in 2004 after almost doubling in 2003. In
Costa Rica's Eastern Pacific waters alone, 4700 kilos of
cocaine were seized in 2004. Heroin seizures, which had
doubled every year since 1999, were substantially lower with
68 kilos seized in 2004 compared to 146 in 2003. The
Government of Costa Rica (GOCR) continued to implement a
2002 narcotics control law that criminalized money
laundering. The Counternarcotics Institute, created in
2003, enhanced its coordination efforts in the areas of
intelligence, demand reduction, asset seizure, and precursor
chemical licensing. Costa Rica is a party to the 1988 UN
Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Costa Rica's location astride the Central American isthmus
makes the country an attractive transshipment area for South
American-produced cocaine and heroin destined primarily for
the United States. The difficulty of maritime interdiction
in Costa Rican waters is exacerbated by a total maritime
jurisdiction that is more than 11 times the size of Costa
Rica's land mass. These territorial waters are used for the
transshipment of illegal drugs in small go-fast boats
refueled by larger vessels posing as fishing vessels.
Traffickers along northbound maritime routes continued to
use routes through Costa Rica's Pacific Exclusive Economic
Zone and those further out to sea in the Eastern Pacific.

For the first time, and as a result of joint maritime
operations, the Costa Rican Coast Guard (SNGC) interdicted
three go-fast vessels in 2004 and seized a total of 625
kilograms of cocaine. The GOCR runs an effective airport
interdiction program aimed at passengers. The Embassy has
worked with its counterparts to extend that success to cargo
inspection at the Juan Santamaria International Airport. A
similar effort is underway in the seaports of Limon and
Caldera; however, clear legal authority for onboard
inspection of containers and ships has yet to be
established. This legal impediment and a lack of sufficient
export control procedures for effective identification and
inspection of high-risk cargo continue to present
challenges.

Costa Rica has a stringent governmental licensing process
for the importation and distribution of controlled precursor
and essential chemicals and prescription drugs. Local
consumption of illicit narcotics including crack cocaine and
"club drugs," along with the violent crimes associated with
such drug use, are growing concerns to Costa Ricans.
Authorities seized 1,622 ecstasy pills in 2004, up slightly
from the 1,321 seized during 2003. These seizures suggest
increasing consumption in Costa Rica and the potential use
of Costa Rica as a transshipment point for "club drugs."
Two indoor hydroponics cannabis facilities were seized in
2004, but the small size of these operations indicates
domestic consumption only, despite potential for export due
to high THC content. The GOCR is directing more resources
to address the serious threats posed by narcotics
trafficking, but budgetary limitations continue to constrain
the capabilities of law enforcement agencies.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

Policy Initiatives.
The 1999 bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation
Agreement and the Coast Guard Professionalization Law passed
in 2000 have continued to provide impetus for the
professional development of the Costa Rican Coast Guard and
have been instrumental in improving the overall maritime
security of Costa Rica. The Costa Rican Coast Guard
Academy, established in 2002, has thus far graduated 125
officials. Costa Rica is the depository for the
multilateral "Agreement Concerning Co-operation in
Suppressing Illicit Maritime and Aeronautical Trafficking in
Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in the Caribbean
Area" signed in 2003 in San Jose. Throughout 2004, the
Pacheco Administration pressed for domestic ratification and
spearheaded an active international lobbying effort,
including sponsorship of a high-level multilateral seminar
in San Jose, to help bring the agreement into force. Other
regional cooperation initiatives include co-hosting with the
DEA of two International Drug Enforcement Conferences
(IDEC's). The Costa Rican Counternarcotics Institute
develops an annual counternarcotics plan; however, resource
limitations frustrate full implementation of the plan.

Accomplishments.
Relations between U.S. law enforcement agencies and GOCR
counterparts, including the Judicial Investigative Police
Narcotics Section, the Ministry of Public Security Drug
Control Police, the Coast Guard, and the Air Surveillance
Section, remain close and productive, resulting in regular
information-sharing and joint operations. Costa Rican
counternarcotics officials confiscated over $1.2 million in
currency and 38 vehicles in 2004. In addition, they
destroyed over 3000 kilos of seized cocaine in close
cooperation with U.S. law enforcement officials. U.S. DEA
Agents and Coast Guard Officers have worked closely with
GOCR counterparts and prosecutors in developing cases
against the narcotics traffickers mentioned in section II,
all of whom have been sentenced or remain in pre-trial
detention. Since the inauguration of the Mobile Enforcement
Team (MET)-an interagency team consisting of canine units,
drug control police, customs police and specialized
vehicles-in 2004, the MET participated in coordinated cross-
border operations with Nicaragua and Panama and increased
its internal patrols.

Law Enforcement Efforts.
The primary counternarcotics agencies in Costa Rica are the
Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ), under the Supreme
Court, and the Ministry of Public Security's Drug Control
Police. The Judicial Investigative Police operate a small,
but highly professional, Narcotics Section that specializes
in investigating international narcotics trafficking. The
Drug Control Police investigate both domestic and
international drug smuggling and distribution, and are
responsible for airport interdiction as well as land-based
interdiction at the primary ports of entry. Both entities
routinely conduct complex investigations of drug smuggling
organizations, resulting in arrests and the confiscation of
cocaine and other drugs, using the full range of
investigative techniques permitted under the country's
counternarcotics statutes.

Agents of the Drug Control Police have increased the threat
to overland trafficking through the effective use of canines
and contraband detectors/density meters at both northern and
southern borders, resulting in increased seizures of cocaine
hidden within tractor-trailers. Inauguration in April 2004
of the USG-funded Penas Blancas Border Control Checkpoint,
(located at a natural chokepoint on the border with
Nicaragua) was an important milestone in efforts to battle
the growing threat from overland narcotics transportation.
The frequency of seizures at the Penas Blancas inspection
facility is already twice that of the Paso Canoas station on
the border with Panama, although the quantity seized at the
southern border was slightly higher.

Corruption.
During 2004, unprecedented corruption scandals provoked the
worst political crisis of the last 50 years in Costa Rica.
The scandals, involving apparent kickbacks to officials at
the highest levels of the government, severely tested Costa
Rica's legal system. Although the implications are still
unfolding, with two ex-presidents currently in jail awaiting
trial, Costa Rica's commitment to combat public corruption
appears to have been strengthened by the recent challenges.
In October 2004, the Legislative Assembly passed a strict
new anticorruption law that punishes "illicit enrichment" on
the part of public officials.

Costa Rica signed the Inter-American Convention Against
Corruption in March 1996 and ratified it in May 1997. In
March 2004, the Attorney General for Public Ethics
(Procuradoria de la Etica Publica) was established, and in
May that office was designated the central authority for
channeling resources and technical assistance related to the
Convention. U.S. law enforcement agencies continue to
consider the public security forces and judicial officials
to be full partners in counternarcotics investigations and
operations. To the best of these agencies' knowledge, no
senior official of the GOCR engages in, encourages, or
facilitates the illicit production or distribution of such
drugs or substances, or the laundering of proceeds from
illegal drug transactions.

Agreements and Treaties.
The six-part bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation
Agreement continues to serve as the model maritime agreement
for Central America and the Caribbean. The agreement has
promoted closer cooperation in the interdiction of maritime
smuggling and was responsible for the interdiction of 25,369
kilograms of illicit drugs in Costa Rica's Exclusive
Economic Zone by U.S Coast Guard and Navy vessels since
1999. Results of the agreement in 2004 include five
maritime counternarcotics interdictions, 25 U.S. law
enforcement ship visits to Costa Rica in support of Eastern
Pacific and Caribbean counternarcotics patrols, and a number
of search and rescue cases by USG assets.

The United States and Costa Rica have had an extradition
treaty in force since 1991. The treaty is actively used for
the extradition of U.S. citizens and third-country
nationals, but Costa Rican law does not permit the
extradition of its own nationals. Costa Rica has ratified
the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and signed
the UN Convention Against Corruption. Costa Rica ratified a
bilateral stolen vehicles treaty in October 2002. Costa
Rica is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961
Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by its 1972
Protocol, and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic
Substances.

Costa Rica and the United States are also parties to
bilateral drug information and intelligence sharing
agreements dating from 1975 and 1976. Costa Rica is a
member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force and the
Egmont Group. It is also a member of the Inter-American
Drug Abuse Control Commission of the Organization of
American States (OAS/CICAD). Costa Rica has signed the UN
Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the
Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in
Persons, the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants, and
the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and
Trafficking in Firearms.

Cultivation/Production.
Marijuana cultivation is relatively small-scale and
generally occurs in remote mountainous areas near the
Panamanian border, in the Caribbean region near Limon and
Talamanca, and the Valle del General on the southern Pacific
coast. Such cultivation is sometimes intermixed with
legitimate crops. Joint U.S.-Costa Rican eradication
operations are periodically carried out under the auspices
of "Operation Central Skies," utilizing U.S. Army air
assets. Over six and a half million marijuana plants have
been destroyed to date during these operations. Costa Rican
authorities continued to conduct eradication operations
independent of USG assistance, seizing 553,000 plants in
2004. The quantity of plants eradicated suggests that
marijuana is not being exported from Costa Rica. Costa Rica
does not produce other illicit drug crops. We have no
indications to date of any synthetic drug manufacturing in
Costa Rica.

Drug Flow/Transit.
2004 witnessed a continuation of the trend detected late
last year toward frequent, smaller (50-500 kilos) overland
shipments transiting Costa Rica in truck compartments, dump
truck loads and car compartments that were characteristic of
trafficking trends before 1999. GOCR officials have made
numerous seizures at the international airport in San Jose,
typically from departing passengers.

The recent trend of increased trafficking of narcotics by
maritime routes has also continued, with indications that
maritime traffickers use Costa Rican-flagged fishing vessels
to serve as logistical support vessels for northbound go-
fast boats in the Costa Rican exclusive economic zone.
During 2004, several vessels, allegedly carrying far too
much fuel for their purported needs, caught fire.
Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction).
Costa Ricans have become increasingly concerned over local
consumption, especially of crack cocaine and ecstasy. Abuse
appears to be highest in the Central Valley (including the
major cities of San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago, and Heredia),
the port cities of Limon and Puntarenas, the north near
Barra del Colorado, and along the southern border. All but
30 of the 1,622 ecstasy tablets seized in 2004 were
confiscated in San Jose.

The Prevention Unit of the Costa Rican Counternarcotics
Institute oversees drug prevention efforts and educational
programs throughout the country, primarily through well-
developed educational programs for use in public and private
schools and community centers. In 2004, the Institute
continued its country-wide campaign against ecstasy use with
billboards posted in high schools, universities, and
pharmacies. 2004 also saw a large-scale print, television
and radio demand reduction campaign aimed at heads of
households entitled "Impose Limits."

The Institute and the Ministry of Education distribute
demand reduction materials to all public school children.
The MET team often visits local schools in the wake of a
deployment. The team's canines and specialized vehicles are
effectively used to deliver demand reduction messages. The
Costa Rican Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE)
Foundation, modeled after its U.S. counterpart, conducts
drug awareness programs at over 500 public and private
schools and graduated its millionth alumnus in 2004.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

U.S. Policy Initiatives.
The principal U.S. counternarcotics goal in Costa Rica is to
reduce the transit of drugs to U.S. markets. Means of
achieving that goal include: reducing the flow of illicit
narcotics through Costa Rica; enhancing the effectiveness of
the criminal justice system; reducing the use of Costa Rica
as a money laundering center by encouraging stricter
controls and strengthening enforcement; supporting efforts
to locate and destroy marijuana fields; and the continued
targeting of high-level trafficking organizations operating
in Costa Rica.

Specific initiatives include: continuing to implement the
bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement;
enhancing interdiction of drug shipments by improving the
facilities and training personnel at the northern border
crossing of Penas Blancas; enhancing the ability of the Air
Section of the Public Security Ministry to respond to
illicit drug activities by providing equipment and technical
training; improving law enforcement capacity by providing
specialized training and equipment to the Judicial
Investigative Police Narcotics Section, the Drug Control
Police, the Intelligence Unit of the Costa Rica
Counternarcotics Institute, the National Police Academy, and
the Customs Control Police; and increasing public awareness
of dangers posed by narcotics trafficking and drug use by
providing assistance to Costa Rican demand reduction
programs and initiatives.

Bilateral Cooperation.
The Department of State allocated $1.9 million appropriated
under Title III, Chapter 2, of the Emergency Supplemental
Act, 2000, as enacted in the Military Construction
Appropriations Act (P.L. 106-246) for expanded assistance to
the Costa Rican Coast Guard consistent with the MOU on
Maritime Assistance and the Maritime Agreement. This
assistance is designed to enhance Costa Rican and U.S.
maritime security through the development of a professional
Coast Guard.

In 2004, USG assistance included numerous U.S. Coast Guard
training programs, overhaul and spare parts for the three
U.S.-donated 82-ft patrol boats, furniture and computer
equipment for the new Coast Guard Station in Quepos,
furniture and computer equipment for the Penas Blancas
inspection facility, and two vehicles for the OIJ. The U.S.
also provided increased information-sharing on suspect
vessel and air traffic movements near Costa Rica. The U.S.
Embassy hosted a series of seminars on the law of maritime
interdiction and boarding procedures that brought together
Costa Rican Coast Guard officers, prosecutors, and judges.
The Embassy used the same inter-agency approach to provide a
training series on law enforcement techniques related to
border control and cargo inspection.
In addition, the United States acquired computer equipment,
software and other equipment for the Ministry of Public
Security's Drug Control Police and Migration Section, the
Judicial Investigative Police Narcotics Section, the Public
Prosecutor's Economic Crimes Section and Sex Crimes Section,
the Costa Rica Counternarcotics Institute's Financial
Intelligence Unit, and the inter-agency MET unit.
Additional training and equipment were donated to the
Ministry of Public Security's Canine Section.

The Road Ahead.
The U.S.-sponsored $2.2 million Costa Rican Coast Guard
Development Plan was completed in 2003. Subject to the
availability of funds, the United States will continue to
provide technical expertise, training, and funding to
professionalize Costa Rica's maritime service and enhance
its capabilities to conduct U.S. Coast Guard-style maritime
law enforcement, marine environmental protection, and search
and rescue operations within its littoral waters in support
of the bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement.
The United States seeks to build upon the on-going
successful maritime experience by turning more attention and
resources to land interdiction strategies, including
expanded coverage of airports and seaport facilities. The
United States will continue to cooperate closely with the
GOCR in its efforts to professionalize its public security
forces and implement and expand controls against money
laundering.

BARNES

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