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Cablegate: Costa Rica: Police Equipment Donation to Quepos Muncipality

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DE RUEHSJ #1098/01 3381806
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041750Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0093
INFO WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CCGDELEVEN ALAMEDA CA
RHMFISS/COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RUMIAGH/COMJTF-B SIMS SOTO CANO HO

UNCLAS SAN JOSE 001098

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC, INL/LP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR PREL PINR ASEC CASC CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA: POLICE EQUIPMENT DONATION TO QUEPOS MUNCIPALITY

1. (U) SUMMARY. On November 23-24, we visited the city of Quepos
on Costa Rica's Pacific coast to donate nearly $14,000 of police
equipment as well as to conduct end-use monitoring of equipment
previously donated to the coast guard station there. Although the
police equipment was not purchased with Merida Initiative funds,
this donation certainly falls within the intent of the Merida
Initiative to improve security in Central America. Selecting
Quepos as Post's pilot project for donating directly to a
municipality improves security for Amcit residents and tourists and
complements the city's active anti-crime efforts. The event
received positive radio and print media coverage. END SUMMARY.

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EARLY QUEPOS CHRISTMAS: "HAPPIEST DAY"

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2. (U) On November 23, Post's INL office donated nearly $14,000 of
police equipment, including items such as uniforms, vests,
holsters, GPSs, and night vision equipment to the municipal police
of Quepos in the municipality of Aguirre. This donation, made
possible in part thanks to an agreement between the city of Quepos
and the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security, marks the first
time we have directly contributed to the security efforts of a
local municipality. Oscar Monge, the Mayor of Quepos, accepted the
donation on behalf of the Quepos Municipal Police with great
gratitude and enthusiasm.

3. (U) One of the key players that made this donation possible was
Harry Bodaan, a private American citizen who owns a local boutique
hotel who has become deeply involved in improving security in
Quepos. He assisted in the liaison between the local government
and the U.S. Embassy to arrange for the donation. At the donation
ceremony, Monge and city council president Osvaldo Zarate
emphasized the longstanding need for better police equipment to
improve citizen security. Monge called the event "the happiest day
of my life." Political officer Robert Andrew detailed the contents
of the police equipment donated and expressed the Embassy's
expectation that the equipment would help improve security in
Quepos.

4. (U) Following the ceremony, the mayor led Post and media
representatives on a tour of various Quepos sites in which his
administration had significantly improved the level of security.
Included in this tour were:

-- a newly-constructed public park situated on a small peninsula,
built on the site of a former discotheque where drugs used to be
dealt;

-- a street alongside Manuel Antonio Beach (popular among Amcits)
that used to be filled with vendors who sold everything from beads
to drugs, and was once the site of five to six assaults per day,
has not seen a violent assault in four months; and

-- a centrally-located parking lot under construction that used to
be a dirt parking lot occupied by unlicensed taxis and drug
dealers. The revenue from the lot will raise funds for the Quepos
municipal police force.

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POSITIVE MEDIA COVERAGE

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5. (U) Several national media representatives accompanied us and
local officials at the donation ceremony and various site visits
throughout the day. Radio Colombia, a nationally syndicated radio
network and The Tico Times, Costa Rica's only English-language
print weekly, interviewed both the mayor and Poloff. Poloff
underscored the partnership between the "public-private-public"
(Mayor's office/Bodaan/Embassy)sectors that made the donation
possible.

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END-USE MONITORING OF QUEPOS COAST GUARD

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6. (U) On November 24, Poloff conducted end-use monitoring (EUM) of
previously donated coast guard equipment at Quepos. INL built a
coast guard barracks and operations center as well as donated six
boats and other support equipment eight years ago. All of the
boats and equipment were accounted for; however, none of the boats
were in operating condition (and have not been since 2003).

7. (SBU) During the EUM, we noted the construction status of Marina
Pez Vela, a private marina mostly funded by retired American
businessmen, and confirmed that two slips had been donated to the
coast guard to berth two operational boats. During a short ride on
a 36-foot patrol boat, the coast guard shared information with us
about narco-trafficking activities along the coast and their
efforts to interdict trafficking in the area. The boat that we
rode in, named the Rio Naranjo, has three 200 h.p. engines and was
seized from drug traffickers in June 2008. With a top speed of
40-45 knots, it now serves as one of the coast guard's primary
vessels for intercepting drug runners along the Quepos area of the
Pacific coast.

8. (SBU) While aboard the Rio Naranjo, the coast guard showed us
the site of a particularly dangerous drug pursuit in September.
Near the mouth of the Rio Damas River, where suspected drug-running
vessels frequently hide, the coast guard boat in pursuit of one of
these vessels capsized and two crew members drowned. The coast
guard also showed us a small air strip on the coast where they
believe drug traffickers frequently transfer from their cargo from
"go-fasts" onto small airplanes to be shipped further north. The
Quepos coast guard has taken some measures to better patrol the
area and prevent shipments from leaving by air, but according to
the coast guard there is little coordination between them and the
drug control police (PCD) or any other law enforcement agency to
maximize effectiveness of the operations.

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COMMENT

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9. (SBU) Selecting Quepos as Post's pilot project for donating
directly to a municipality directly promotes both USG security
interests as well as improving security for resident and tourist
Amcits. We estimate that hundreds, if not thousands, of Amcits are
permanent residents in the Quepos area with hundreds of thousands
of Amcits tourists visiting every year. During the high volume
holiday season, the security of tourist areas is a crucial concern.


10. (U) Attachments include some photos of the donation ceremony,

vessel Rio Naranjo in Marina Pez Vela, and a donation document
completely listing the police equipment donated.
BRENNAN

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