Cablegate: Costa Rica: Merida Spot Report #2: Fbi Cafe


DE RUEHSJ #0807/01 2661346
P 231346Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY. From September 1-3, an FBI fingerprint
team evaluated Costa Rica's various fingerprint programs as
part of the Merida Initiative's Central American Fingerprint
Exchange (CAFE). While noting the diverse levels of
sophistication of Costa Rica's fingerprint programs depending
on the ministry or organization, the FBI team concluded that
Costa Rica had a basic and working, if not up to date and
stove-piped, system. The team recognized that Costa Rica's
various institutions needed to better coordinate and have
better connectivity in order to develop a strong domestic
fingerprint program. As a result of this visit, the FBI will
provide a request for proposal (RFP) over the next several
months via the CAFE program. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) As part of the USG's Merida Initiative in Costa
Rica, which includes improving policing/police equipment
(reported Ref B) and prison management, the FBI's George
Saymon and Michael Pettry as well as our regional LEGAT Paris
Johnson visited several Costa Rican law enforcement and civil
institutions to kick off the CAFE evaluation:

-- Judicial Police Agency (OIJ), a rough equivalent to the
FBI, which in Costa Rica's case falls under the judicial

-- National Civil Registry, the Costa Rican institution that
produces a national identification card for every citizen and
is part of a semi-autonomous government organization that
runs Costa Rica's elections (Supreme Electoral Tribunal-TSE).

-- Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the ministry charged
with both domestic and national security as Costa Rica
abolished its military in 1948.

-- Ministry of Justice (MOJ), which runs the country's
prison systems.

-- Immigration, part of MPS but operates separately from the
regular uniformed police.


3. (SBU) The FBI team found that the OIJ had an older, but
still effective Automated Fingerprint Identification System
(AFIS) in their facilities. Jorge Rojas, the OIJ Director,
told us they were planning to upgrade their AFIS soon to be
able to hold more fingerprints as well as have an interface
that would link criminal records to fingerprint records.
(The AFIS currently has 156,000 records; upgrade would give
database up to 300,000). Their new AFIS system would also
come with 10 remote locations, he said, but OIJ would prefer
to have 25 more terminals to cover their regional stations.
The OIJ also maintains a paper back-up system to their AFIS.

4. (SBU) Rojas told us that while the regional goal of CAFE
was important, it was more important that Costa Rica fully
develop and strengthen its domestic fingerprinting system
first. He noted that of all of the Costa Rican government
entities that use fingerprints for one purpose or another,
his organization needed to have better connectivity to the
Ministry of Public Security and Immigration. Once those
links were solidified and they had a good system in place,
Rojas added, Costa Rica would be a better regional
fingerprint-sharing partner. FBI team member Saymon agreed
that putting a strong, national fingerprint system in place
first was important and he added that CAFE should be able to
assist in that effort.

5. (SBU) On the question of providing easy access to Costa
Rica's fingerprint database to the U.S., OIJ Rojas signaled
that it would need to be in compliance with the Costa Rican
constitution and that, at the least, there would probably
need to be a Memorandum of Agreement/Understanding (MOA/MOU)
in place in order to do this. He added that Costa Rica would
expect reciprocity. Saymon said he would provide a sample
MOA/MOU that the USG has done in other countries as a model.


6. (SBU) MPS Vice Minister Marcela Chacon and Deputy Director
of Costa Rica's uniformed police Kattia Chavarria provided
the FBI team a thorough briefing and tour of MPS's
fingerprint facilities. While their fingerprint database is
the largest in the country with over 3 million prints, it is
in paper files only and not digitized. The FBI team observed
how MPS fingerprint technicians analyzed, stored, and filed
their fingerprint cards. VM Chacon, in referring to a
MOA/MOU between the USG and GOCR (as noted in para 5 above)
told us that the MOA could be more of a "Statement of Intent"
and that it could fall under the auspices of the Merida
Initiative or the 1962 Technical Assistance agreement between
the U.S. and Costa Rica.


7. (SBU) Mario Zamora, Director of Costa Rican Immigration,
told us that his department was slowly upgrading their
digitization capabilities to include fingerprinting
technologies. He said that of the 4.5 million inhabitants in
Costa Rica, approximately 600,000 were foreigners and
approximately 250,000-300,000 of them had an "irregular"
status. In addition, he said that Costa Rica had more than 2
million tourist visitors each year.

8. (SBU) One area that Immigration has made significant
progress in is its legal permanent resident (LPR) card
program. It uses the same basic card that U.S. LPRs use (and
made by the same company that the USG contracts with for LPR
cards). Zamora provided us with a tour of his facilities
that included how they adjudicate, manufacture, and issue
these new cards. They use a two-print system with other
biometric information, such as a photo and signature. Zamora
said his agency had already issued 135,000 of these new cards
at a rate of approximately 10,000 cards a month. They
already have plans to upgrade this card with an embedded
microchip that will contain personal information as part of
their "Digitize Government" program.

9. (SBU) Zamora agreed with OIJ Rojas' assessment that better
connectivity was needed between Immigration, MPS, and OIJ.
His main challenge, he said, was lack of resources.


10. (SBU) Guillermo Ugalde, Director of the MOJ's
Penitentiary Police, and his team provided us with a
professional presentation detailing their need to upgrade
their current paper fingerprint system to an AFIS-type of
system. (Per Ref A, we emailed this presentation to FBI
regional attache Paris Johnson). Ugalde said that currently
they have 20 trained employees in the "Henry" fingerprint
system but would need technological training if they were to
get an AFIS system. According to their estimates, to fully
digitize their records and to implement AFIS would cost
approximately $859,000.

11. (SBU) Ugalde underscored that Costa Rica's prison
population was growing in all of their 25 detention centers
located around the country, in part due to recently passed
security-reform laws including an organized crime law.
Fourteen of those centers are "closed" (meaning inmates spend
full time in jail) and have roughly 9100 prisoners; 11 of
them are "open" centers where 820 prisoners work outside of
jail during the day but sleep in jail facilities at night.
Finally, they also have what they call a "community" program,
somewhat similar to a parole system, with 5025 persons.
Ugalde added that some of their prisoners were "high value"
and very "visible" due to their connections to the FARC, and
their presence was forcing Costa Rica to change/update their
prison system.


12. (SBU) Marisol Castro, Director General of Costa Rica's
National Civil Registry (NCR), appreciated the FBI visit and
provided us a tour of their facilities. Although not
directly linked to Costa Rica's law enforcement agencies, the

NCR maintains a fingerprint registry using two prints (each
index finger preferably) linked to other identifying
characteristics of all of Costa Rica's citizens. When
necessary, they do cooperate with OIJ and others in official


13. (SBU) During a wrap-up meeting, FBI Saymon provided all
of the GOCR organizations that we visited a review of what
the FBI's (and others) next steps were to implement CAFE in
Costa Rica:

-- Create an after action report (AAR) from this visit;

-- From this AAR, develop a program proposal that would take
into account what fingerprint systems currently exist in
Costa Rica, what methods of assistance might be available,
and how to best meet the needs of both Costa Rica and the

-- Once there is a program proposal, it would be cleared
through the interagency process, including Post and GOCR;

-- Upon mutual agreement, the proposal would go to
Department of State for public advertisement for a contract;

-- Once the contract has been awarded, then work could begin.

14. (SBU) Based on this process, Saymon estimated that work
would begin on the project near the end of 2010 or earlier
depending on the speed of the contracting process. He
clarified that with the current Merida resources dedicated to
Costa Rica for CAFE, only the strengthening of its domestic
fingerprint capabilities would be addressed. Additional
funding, he said, would be required to integrate CAFE into a
regional platform. However, Saymon indicated that the FBI in
the short term might be able to provide fingerprint training
to Costa Rica.


15. (SBU) Every GOCR agency appreciated the FBI fingerprint
evaluation visit. OIJ will most likely be the main
organization that the FBI will be able to assist, with
probable emphasis on being able to help them link into the
fingerprint databases of MPS and Immigration. However, MPS's
fingerprint system is wholly based on paper, so assisting MPS
in digitizing their records would seem to be appropriate.
Additionally, the MOJ has a clear plan on the shelf and any
assistance that the FBI can provide to it or any of the
organizations, even if just sending training teams to
demonstrate how to properly take fingerprints will benefit
Costa Rica immensely.

16. (U) Post appreciates the visit by the FBI evaluation team
and looks forward to further cooperation.

17. (U) FBI Saymon has cleared this report.

© Scoop Media

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