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Cablegate: Police Director Resigns, Replaced by Pilot

VZCZCXYZ0016
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #2373/01 2991829
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 261829Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6439
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/DIRJIATF SOUTH
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 002373

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN, DS/IP/WHA, AND INL/LP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/22/2016
TAGS: PGOV MOPS PINR CS
SUBJECT: POLICE DIRECTOR RESIGNS, REPLACED BY PILOT

REF: SAN JOSE 2320

Classified By: Ambassador Mark Langdale for reason 1.4 (b&d).

1. (U) SUMMARY: On October 19, Police Director Osvaldo
Alpizar Nunez resigned to face an investigation into charges
he used official cellphones to make death threats against
former policeman Alexis Ugalde. Alpizar is the first
high-ranking official in the Ministry of Public Security to
leave office since the Arias Administration came to power on
May 8, 2006. Alpizar has been replaced by Oldemar Madrigal
Medal, Director of the Air Surveillance Section--Costa Rica's
version of an air force. Brief biographical details on
Madrigal are at paragraph's four and five. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Details of the scandal came to light in early October
when results of an investigation by Judicial Police (OIJ)
were leaked to the media. Threatening calls from two
different official cell phones used by Alpizar were recorded
beginning on May 10, 2006 -- just two days after Alpizar was
sworn in. Later, a third cell phone registered to Alpizar's
wife was also determined to have been used to make similar
threats. Alpizar originally claimed to have lost the
official cell phone related to the initial threatening calls,
but when a second official phone and then a phone registered
to his wife were also connected to the case, Alpizar asked
for an indefinite leave without pay "in order to defend
himself against unscrupulous charges." Security Minister
Fernando Berrocal wasted no time in accepting the
resignation.

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3. (C) Vice Minister for Public Security Gerardo Lascarez
recently told our DEA Chief that Alpizar should have been
fired long ago for being "stupid and dishonest." Alpizar had
little police experience (he was a policeman for almost nine
months in 1994-1995 and rumor has it that he was fired from
the OIJ for stealing gas). Alpizar apparently became known
to Berrocal while Alpizar managed a private security company.

4. (U) Berrocal immediately appointed Air Surveillance
Section Director Oldemar Madrigal to replace Alpizar.
Madrigal began his off-and-on 23-year police career as a
member of the Civil Guard in 1967. In 1969 he joined the air
section as a policeman and then served as a radio operator at
the Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose. Madrigal obtained a
pilot's license in 1974 and in 1978 left the air section to
become ex-President Daniel Oduber's personal pilot. Madrigal
flew for Chiquita Banana Corporation for 14 years and also
flew Boeing 737's for Taca Airlines for seven years. During
1982-1989, Madrigal returned to the air section, serving as a
flight instructor and rising to Deputy Director. From
1994-1998, Madrigal served as Director of the air section and
returned to that post in January of 2005. Madrigal also
spent two years as Technical Coordinator at the Directorate
of Civil Aviation.

5. (SBU) Madrigal, age 57, has been married twice. He has
four children. His current wife is 24-four years old, the
same age as his youngest daughter by his first marriage.
Madrigal has a two-year old daughter with his current wife.

6. (C) Madrigal told us that Berrocal had offered him the
position of Police Director about a month ago but that he had
respectfully declined. When the Alpizar scandal went public,
Berrocal called again and this time gave Madrigal no choice.
Madrigal hopes his stint as Police Director is temporary and
will try to return to the air section. He has not formally
resigned his position there, leaving instead his trusted and
highly competent Operations Chief, Pablo Escobar, to manage
until Madrigal can return. Rumor within the Ministry,
however, suggests that Madrigal's appointment is permanent
and that he will only be able to fly on his own (highly
limited) time for the remainder of the Arias Administration.
What is certain is that Berrocal has a very shallow pool of
qualified professionals to pick from for these top-level
jobs. His choices from outside that pool have already caused
him regret.

COMMENT
-------
7. (C) Madrigal is well-known to the Embassy and was ideally
suited for his previous assignment. The pride and
professionalism displayed by the air section is directly
attributable to his leadership. While removing Alpizar is a
welcome change, the politics of directing the national police
force will wear on the technocratic Madrigal who may find
himself stretched thin. Madrigal had no time to ease into
his new position given the nationwide anti-CAFTA
demonstrations October 23-24 (reftel) but the largely
peaceful protests and the success of the police in keeping
order got him off to a good start.
LANGDALE

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