Cablegate: Costa Rica Incsr Report 2008-2009 Part I, Drugs And


DE RUEHSJ #0881/01 3172207
P 122207Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 100970

1. (U) The text of Costa Rica's 2008-2009 INCSR Part I is below.
Costa Rica
I. Summary
Costa Rica continues to be an increasingly important transit point
for narcotics destined for the United States and Europe. Drug
seizures for 2008, though not as high as 2007, remain high during
the third year of the Arias administration. Local consumption of
illicit narcotics, particularly crack, is growing at an alarming
rate, along with the continued rise in drug-related violent crimes.
In 2008 the Costa Rican Coast Guard (SNGC), with minimal INL
investments in their communication and navigation ability,
capitalized on their increased coordination capabilities to make
several key interdictions with USG assistance. Costa Rica is a
party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
II. Status of Country
Costa Rica's position on the isthmus linking Colombia with the
United States, its long Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, and its
jurisdiction over the Cocos Islands make it vulnerable to drug
transshipment for South American cocaine and heroin destined
primarily for the United States. The Government of Costa Rica
(GOCR) closely and effectively cooperates with the USG in combating
narcotics trafficked by land, sea, and air. Costa Rica also has a
stringent governmental licensing process for the importation and
distribution of controlled precursor chemicals.
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2008
Policy Initiatives. The Arias Administration named a new Minister
of Public Security (MPS) in 2008. Under the new leadership, the MPS
continued its effective cooperation with the USG to interdict
narcotics. Of note, the Ministry has begun a National Plan to
Combat Crack consumption in Costa Rica. In July and August, the MPS
initiated the first stage of this plan with impressive interdiction
results of 22,765 doses of crack, 11,871 marijuana plants, 218 kilos
of cocaine, and 12,104 arrests. The Ministry, with USG assistance,
has also begun a container inspection program at the Caribbean port
of Limon. Additionally, the executive branch has sent organized
crime bill legislation to the GOCR's national assembly for
consideration. Finally, the SNGC, albeit with USG assistance, made
some progress in addressing communications and navigations gaps.
Accomplishments. Continued close bilateral cooperation and improved
intra-GOCR coordination yielded impressive counternarcotics
successes in 2008. Costa Rican authorities seized 16 metric tons
(MT) of cocaine, of which 4 MT were seized on land or air and 12 MT
seized in joint maritime interdiction operations with U.S. law
enforcement. The GOCR also seized over 79,000 doses of crack
cocaine, 33.1 kilograms (kg) of heroin, 4.5 tons of processed
marijuana, and eradicated over 1.3 million marijuana plants.
Additionally, Costa Rican authorities confiscated nearly $2 million
in U.S. and local currency. Though fewer than in 2007, the nearly
13,000 drug-related arrests made in 2008 are more than twice the
amount made three years ago during the previous administration.
While no methamphetamine laboratories were detected in 2008, the
GOCR has been active in trying to verify the identity of chemical
precursor importers to ensure legitimacy. In a case carried over
from 2007, the government cancelled a shipment of chemical
precursors due to irregularities in the importing company and the
lack of proper documentation and permits.
Law Enforcement Efforts. Costa Rican counternarcotics efforts are
carried out by both the judicial branch (Judicial Investigative
Police-OIJ) and the executive (Ministry of Public Security's Drug
Control Police-PCD). Although the Arias Administration's plan to
add 4000 new police officers to its force generated temporary
increases in the numbers of cops on the street, the total number of
police in the force at the end of 2008 stands at just above 10,000,
similar to the level of 2007. Retention problems continue to plague
the over-stretched force, with recruiting just keeping pace with
retirement and attrition. The national legislature is expected to
pass terrorist financing and reformed money laundering legislation
by early 2009.
Corruption. As a matter of policy, no senior GOCR official or the
GOCR itself, encourages or facilitates the illicit production or
distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled
substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug
transactions. A strict law against illicit enrichment was enacted
in 2006 in response to unprecedented corruption scandals involving
three ex-presidents. Although only one of the ex-presidents' cases
(which date from 2004) has reached trial, Costa Rican authorities
appear committed to combating public corruption. The GOCR
conscientiously investigates allegations of official corruption or
Agreements and Treaties. Costa Rica is a party to the 1988 UN Drug
Convention, the 1961 Single Convention as amended by its 1972
Protocol, and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Costa
Rica is also a party to the UN Convention against Transnational

Organized Crime and its three protocols, the UN Convention against
Corruption, the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, the
Inter-American Convention on Extradition, the Inter-American
Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, the
Inter-American Convention against Terrorism, and the Inter-American
Convention against Trafficking in Illegal Firearms. The 1999
bilateral Maritime Counter Drug Cooperation Agreement, and its
Ship-Rider program resulted in large seizures at sea during 2008.
The 1991 United States-Costa Rican extradition treaty was again
actively used in 2008. Costa Rica ratified a bilateral stolen
vehicles treaty in 2002. 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, but must
pass a terrorist financing law before March 2009 to remain in 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 Caribbean regional maritime
counter narcotics agreement in April 2003, and is currently taking
the steps necessary to bring the agreement into force. In 2008,
Costa Rica also played an active role in developing and implementing
the regional security strategy developed by the Central American
Security Commission.

Cultivation/Production. Costa Rica produces low quality marijuana
but no other illicit drug crops or synthetic drugs. However, the
GOCR estimates there are 400,000 marijuana users in the country.
Drug Flow/Transit. In 2008, smaller land-based shipments of 50-500
kg of cocaine continued, as did the number of larger shipments
(500-1500 kg). Trafficking of narcotics by maritime routes remained
steady with nearly 12 MT (slightly lower than last year's amount) of
cocaine seized at sea during joint GOCR-USG operations. Traffickers
continue to use Costa Rican-flagged fishing boats to smuggle
multi-ton shipments of drugs and to provide fuel for go-fast boats,
with continued emphasis on the Pacific routes. Traffickers have
also continued the smuggling of drugs through the postal system,
international courier services and via individual passengers
("mules") on international flights in/out of the country.
Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. The Prevention Unit of the
Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas (ICD) oversees drug prevention
efforts and educational programs throughout the country. The ICD
and the Ministry of Education continued to distribute updated
demand-reduction materials to all school children in 2008. In 2008,
PCD continued to publicize its special phone-in number (176) in
their demand-reduction materials, to encourage citizens to report
drug-related activity in their neighborhoods while remaining safely
anonymous. The PCD considers the 176 phone-in program to be an
excellent source of information that is analyzed and often leads to
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
The Merida Initiative. With the funds approved for the first year
of the three-year Merida Initiative, Costa Rica will receive $4.3
million in direct bilateral assistance to improve drug interdiction
and law enforcement capabilities, with an emphasis on increased
regional cooperation. More than half of the FY 2008 funds will go
to modernizing or renovating the aging SNGC. A significant amount
of money will go to improving police communications and movement
capabilities, while border inspection equipment will be purchased to
help detect drugs in vehicles and trailers. Costa Rica will also
receive regional Merida assistance in areas such as firearms
tracing, gang prevention, and educational and cultural exchanges.
Bilateral Cooperation. While land-based interdiction, especially
effective use of border checkpoints, remains important to U.S.
strategy, U.S. assistance has focused resources on interdicting
maritime-based narcotics shipments. The U.S. supported the SNGC's
efforts to improve interdiction by providing technical assistance
and equipment. The U.S. is also supporting reforms in police
The Road Ahead. In the year ahead, Costa Rica intends to attack
maritime trafficking both through its own direct efforts and through
continued collaboration with the USG. The projected increase in
number and improved training of police should enable the GOCR to
more successfully fight crime, including trafficking.

© Scoop Media

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