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Cablegate: Costa Rica: Merida Spot Report #1: Police

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0772/01 2521514
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091514Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1195
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000772

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PINR SNAR CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA: MERIDA SPOT REPORT #1: POLICE
EQUIPMENT VALIDATION AND MERIDA IT VISIT

REF: ANDREW/AHERN EMAIL 9 SEPTEMBER

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: From August 26-28, Merida Information
Technology (IT) Representative Frank Swain visited Post and
host nation law enforcement authorities to validate Costa
Rica's Merida Initiative-related communications/police
equipment requests. We also validated the police equipment
list that various Ministry of Public Security departments had
provided us for purchase under the Merida Initiative. A list
of meeting participants is at end of the cable. This message
also includes a summary of Merida Initiative-related events
that have taken or will take place this quarter. END
SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) The following Merida Initiative-related events have
taken place/will take place between July and September:

-- June 19, signing of FY08 Merida Letter of Agreement with
Costa Rica;

-- August 26-28, visit of Merida IT Representative Frank
Swain and validation of GOCR police equipment list;

-- August 31-September 4, visit of FBI Central American
Fingerprint Exchange (CAFE) team (septel); and

-- September 28-October 2, visit of Prison Management expert
Don Stolworthy.

-------------------
MERIDA IT EVALUATED
-------------------

3. (SBU) From August 26-28, Frank Swain visited Post to
assess Merida Initiative information technology requirements
of Costa Rica. We discussed the communications requirements
of the Ministry of Public Security's (MPS) uniformed police
(FP) with Vice Minister Chacon, MPS Communication Director
Tobias Gutierrez, and FP Deputy Director Kattia Chavarria.
The majority of MPS's communications requirements are
handheld radios, such as Motorola type XTS-5000. Gutierrez
and Chavarria underlined the need to have effective and
continuous communications along their borders with Nicaragua
and Panama. They acknowledged that their current radio
communications between the border posts and San Jose were
poor, and often relied on landline or wireless phone.
Gutierrez hoped that by the end of this calendar year their
radio system would be fully digitized (upgraded from analog).
With this meeting, we validated their radio equipment needs.
However, VM Chacon requested that her staff review and
provide specific communications requirements (or
specifications) for their handheld radio requests.

4. (SBU) We also visited MPS's local communications
maintenance facility where they repair their radio
communication equipment, including what the USG has provided
in the past. Communications chief Gutierrez relayed to us
that of the dozens of radios that they have received from the
USG in the past 20 years, only five are completely unusable.
He also indicated that they needed updated testing equipment
(spectrum analyzers) and laptops (for radio programming) for
each of their technicians. This was especially true if the
USG was going to provide a significant increase in the number
of radios it would be supporting.

-------------------------------
POLICE EQUIPMENT LIST VALIDATED
-------------------------------

5. (SBU) We also met with a broader group of MPS law
enforcement entities to validate their thorough and
comprehensive police equipment list. With some minor
exceptions, we validated all of the equipment requests from
the Costa Rican Air Wing, the Drug Control Police (PCD), the
Coast Guard, and the FP. We emailed a Post-consolidated
police equipment list to INL Ahern and Swain (ref email).
However, we expect to receive soon an updated list from the
FP as we asked that they concentrate their requests on "big
ticket" items rather than more expendable requests such as
uniforms. Examples of some of the big ticket items include:

-- Handheld radios;

-- armored helmets (kevlar-type);

-- laptop computers;


-- command post vehicles;

-- night vision goggles;

-- bulletproof vests; and

-- fiber-optic drug detection kits.

--------------------------------------------- -------
POLICE EQUIPMENT ALREADY ORDERED; MORE ORDERS COMING
--------------------------------------------- -------

6. (SBU) Post has already begun its police equipment ordering
process. To date, we have ordered three "Contraband Team
Inspection Kits" (better known as fiber-optic and "buster"
kits) and one specialized GPS for the PCD. With the police
equipment list validation by Post, along with Mr. Swain's IT
visit, we will continue our ordering process. We expect to
spend the FY08 Merida funds within the next three to six
months on these big ticket items as listed. Upon receipt of
the FY09 Merida funds, we will continue to fund the purchase
of this validated police equipment list.

-------
COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) Post views the Merida IT visit and the validation of
Costa Rica's police equipment list as a great success. VM
Chacon agreed with us and appreciated the opportunity to meet
with some of the newly arrived members of our law enforcement
team. We clearly communicated to the Costa Ricans that the
Merida Initiative and its subprograms such as police
equipment modernization/improvement were being carefully
scrutinized by the USG and Congress. We underscored that
maintenance of donated items was vitally important. Having
viewed their radio workshop, we have confidence that they
take communications maintenance seriously and believe that
they will be good end-users of these items.

8. (U) Merida IT Representative Frank Swain cleared this
cable.

List of Costa Rican participants:

Vice Minister Marcela Chacon
Vice Minister Oldemar Madrigal
Martin Arias, Coast Guard Director
Kattia Chavarria, Deputy Director, FP
Captain Alex Romero, Air Wing
Juan Jose Arevalo, Deputy Director, PCD
Tobias Gutierrez, MPS Communications Chief
Warner Villalta, Communications technician
Gerardo Martinez, Communications technician

List of USG participants:

Frank Swain, INL
Brian Wilson, CDA
Robert Andrew, POL/NAO
Julie Schechter Torres, POL/ECON Counselor
Phil Springer, DEA Attache
Federico Silva, Milgrp Commander
Wade DeWitt, RSO

BRENNAN

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