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Cablegate: Costa Rica Incsr Report 2005 - 2006 Part I, Drugs

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




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 209560

1. (U) The text of Costa Rica's 2005-2006 INCSR Part I is

Costa Rica

I. Summary

Costa Rica is becoming a major transshipment point for
narcotics to the United States and Europe. Costa Rican
officials demonstrate professionalism and reliability as
partners in combating ever-changing drug smuggling
methods. Costa Rican authorities seized a record 6,749
kilos of cocaine and 49.38 kilos of heroin in 2005.

Local consumption of illicit narcotics, particularly crack
cocaine, along with the violent crimes associated with drug
use, is a growing concern. The Government of Costa Rica
(GOCR) continued to implement a 2002 narcotics control law
that criminalized money laundering. Joint implementation
of the 1998 bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation
Agreement continues to improve the overall maritime
security of Costa Rica. 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.

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II. Status of Country

Costa Rica's location astride the Central American isthmus,
its territorial seas (which are 10 times larger than its
total land mass and cover primary maritime smuggling
routes) and its distance from Colombia make it an ideal
transshipment area for South American cocaine and heroin
destined primarily for the United States. Costa Rican
waters are highly vulnerable to the transshipment of
illegal drugs in small go-fast boats refueled by larger
boats posing as fishing vessels.

Costa Rica has a stringent governmental licensing process
for the importation and distribution of controlled
precursor chemicals. The GOCR cooperates against with the
USG in combating narcotics trafficking, but budgetary
limitations constrain the capabilities of its law
enforcement agencies.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2005

Policy Initiatives.
The 1998 bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation
Agreement and the Coast Guard Professionalization Law
passed in 2000 provide impetus for the professional
development of the Costa Rican Coast Guard and improving
maritime security. The Costa Rican Coast Guard Academy,
established in 2002, has thus far graduated 150 Officials
(28 in 2005). Costa Rica is the depository for the
multilateral "Agreement Concerning Cooperation in
Suppressing Illicit Maritime and Aeronautical Trafficking
in Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in the
Caribbean Area" signed in 2003 in San Jose. The Costa
Rican Counternarcotics Institute develops an annual
counternarcotics plan; however, resource limitations
frustrate full implementation of the plan.

Close relations between U.S. law enforcement agencies and
GOCR Counterparts led to regular information-sharing and
joint operations. As a result, Costa Rican authorities
seized a record amount of illicit narcotics in 2005 (see
below) and maintained compliance with its obligations under
the 1988 UN drug convention. On regional cooperation, the
Mobile Enforcement Team (MET)-an interagency team
consisting of canine units, drug control police, customs
police and specialized vehicles inaugurated in
2004-coordinated 8 cross-border operations with authorities
in Nicaragua and Panama in 2005. The MET carried out most
of these operations without U.S. prompting.

Law Enforcement Efforts.
The primary counternarcotics agencies in Costa Rica are the
Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ) in the judicial branch,
and the Ministry of Public Security's Drug Control Police
(PCD) of the executive branch. Other authorities include
the Costa Rican Coast Guard, the Air Surveillance Section,
and the 10,000-member police force.

The OIJ operates a small, but highly professional,
Narcotics Section that specializes in investigating
international narcotics trafficking. The PCD investigates
both domestic and international drug smuggling, and
coordinates most interdiction operations. Both entities
routinely conduct complex investigations of drug
trafficking organizations, resulting in arrests and the
confiscation of cocaine and other drugs.

As mentioned above, Costa Rican authorities seized a record
6,749 kilos of cocaine in 2005 while increasing seizures of
crack by 30 percent and nearly doubling the eradication of
marijuana to over one million plants. Costa Rican drug
police seized 881 kilos of processed marijuana and 49.38
kilos of heroin in 2005. In addition, Costa Rican
authorities confiscated almost $800,000 in currency, 51
vehicles and 41 firearms in 2005. Drug-related arrests
increased dramatically to 6,251 from 1,024 in 2004.

Costa Rica signed the Inter-American Convention Against
Corruption in March 1996 and ratified it in May 1997.
Unprecedented corruption scandals, involving apparent
kickbacks to officials at the highest levels of the two
previous administrations, were exposed in 2004 and tested
Costa Rica's legal system throughout 2005. Although the
cases have not yet gone to trial, Costa Rica's commitment
to combat public corruption appears to have been
strengthened by these challenges.

The GOCR aggressively investigates allegations of official
corruption or abuse. During 2005, at least six public
security officers and 4 OIJ investigators were arrested on
suspicion of involvement with narcotics traffickers.
In addition, a judge and a prosecutor were fired along with
23 other judicial branch employees for non-drug related
offenses. U.S. law enforcement agencies consider the
public security forces and judicial officials to be full
partners in counternarcotics investigations and operations.

To the best of these U.S. agencies' knowledge, no senior
official of the GOCR engages in, encourages, or facilitates
the illicit production or distribution of such drugs, or
the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.

Agreements and Treaties.
The 1998 Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation
Agreement continues to serve as the model maritime
agreement for Central America and the Caribbean.

The United States-Costa Rican extradition treaty, in force
since 1991, has been actively used. Costa Rica ratified
the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and signed
the UN Convention Against Corruption. Costa Rica ratified
a bilateral stolen vehicles treaty in 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

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 a member of the Inter-American
Drug Abuse Control Commission of the Organization of
American States (OAS/CICAD). Costa Rica 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.

Marijuana cultivation is extensive but low quality and
confined to remote areas. Costa Rican authorities
conducted eradication operations independent of USG
assistance in 2005. Costa Rica does not produce other
illicit drug crops or synthetic drugs.

Drug Flow/Transit.
The year 2005 witnessed a continuation of the trend toward
frequent, smaller (50-500 kilos) shipments transiting Costa
Rica in truck compartments and passenger car compartments.
Seizures of such shipments increased in southern Costa

The trend toward increased trafficking of narcotics by
maritime routes has also continued with 11 incidents and a
total of 3,620 kilos of cocaine seized at sea in 2005.
Traffickers used Costa Rican-flagged fishing boats to
smuggle drugs and to provide fuel for other go-fast boats.
Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction).
Costa Ricans have become increasingly concerned over local
consumption, especially of crack cocaine.

The Prevention Unit of the Costa Rican Counternarcotics
Institute oversees drug prevention efforts and educational
programs throughout the country. In 2005, the Institute
continued demand-reduction campaigns with posters in
schools, universities, and pharmacies.

The Institute and the Ministry of Education distribute
demand-reduction materials to all school children.
The MET team often visits local schools in the wake of a
deployment. The team's canines and specialized vehicles
make effective emissaries for demand-reduction messages.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

U.S. Policy Initiatives.
Specific initiatives include: continuing to implement the
bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement;
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 training and equipment to
the OIJ Narcotics Section, the PCD, the Intelligence Unit
of the Costa Rica Counternarcotics Institute, the National
Police Academy, and the Customs Control Police; and
increasing public awareness by providing assistance to
Costa Rican demand-reduction programs.

Bilateral Cooperation.
Under the terms of the bilateral Maritime Agreement, the
U.S. has invested $2.3 million to enhance mutual maritime
security through the development of a professional Costa
Rican Coast Guard.

In 2005, the U.S. provided training, computer equipment,
software and other equipment to the Ministry of Public
Security, the Judicial Branch, the Costa Rican
Counternarcotics Institute's Financial Intelligence Unit,
and the inter-agency MET unit. Total U.S. investment in
Costa Rican law enforcement agencies was $414,000.00 for
2005, and resulted in the seizure of over 6.7 metric tons
of cocaine.

The Road Ahead.
The U.S. will continue to provide technical expertise,
training, and funding to professionalize Costa Rica's Coast
Guard and enhance its capabilities to conduct maritime law
enforcement operations in support of the bilateral Maritime
Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement.

The U.S. 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, seaports and border checkpoints. The
U.S. 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.

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