Cablegate: Embassy San Jose: December 2009 Merida Report
DE RUEHSJ #1156/01 3512114
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 172112Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0132
INFO WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RUEADRO/HQ ICE DRO WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0118
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 001156
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR CS PGOV
SUBJECT: Embassy San Jose: December 2009 Merida Report
REF: STATE 114752; SAN JOSE 994; SAN JOSE 978
1. Per Ref A, Post submits the following report detailing Embassy
San Jose's Merida activities for November and December 2009.
Issues for Washington
2. Post appreciates the support that we have received from NAS
Mexico in their role as certifier of funds for all Merida
Initiative-related support. However, if possible we would
appreciate a set standard of service reaction time on the
certification of funds from NAS Mexico. Response times have varied
and sometimes have taken up to a week. Although it has not been a
limiting factor yet, this potentially could add to our bureaucratic
wait time to order equipment and arrange training.
3. Embassy San Jose does not have a fully-equipped Narcotics
Affairs Section (NAS). Instead, we have a political officer who is
double-hatted as a Narcotics Affairs Officer (NAO) with two locally
engaged staff (LES). Handling a $10 million+ budget for Merida is
challenging, and without proper staffing, Post's ability to
implement Merida in a timely manner is limited. Anticipating
staffing issues, we requested an additional Pol/NAO officer in our
FY2011 MSP. In the absence of a Pol/NAO officer, we will attempt
to recruit an Eligible Family Member (EFM) to assist in staffing.
Also, INL is currently working to hire a Personal Service
Contractor (PSC) to assist us with our Merida maritime support.
4. The NAO and two LES dedicate an enormous amount of time to
Merida. Combined with the number of reports that must be done
(including International Narcotics Control and Strategy Report,
End-Use Monitoring, Operational Plan, Mission Strategic Plan,
Performance Plan and Report, Merida Monthly Reports, etc.) and the
support that must be provided for visiting Merida evaluation teams
(such as FBI fingerprint team, prison expert, communications
expert, CBP border inspection team, etc.), the task of ordering
police equipment for the various GOCR agencies takes a long time.
We estimate that for each item that we order, a staff member spends
at least one hour of time to do the research, obtain quotes, verify
the item is what the host nation requires, procure, receive, and
finally do the donation document. This does not take into account
the staff time that our General Services Office (GSO) and Budget
and Finance Office (B&F) here and at NAS Mexico spend on each
individual item. We currently have over 150 separate line items
that Post is in the process of ordering for Merida equipment.
5. Post may be requesting an additional LES hire to help us
accomplish our Merida tasks over the next 2-3 years. Although the
political section has office space for an additional political
officer/EFM and a maritime PSC in the Controlled Access Area, there
is little room at Post for another LES in the unclassified portion
of the Embassy.
6. On December 14, President Oscar Arias highlighted some recent
improved security developments in Costa Rica, possibly showing at
least a short-term positive trend on various indices measuring
criminal activity. For instance:
-The budget for the Ministry of Public Security has
nearly doubled since 2006. In 2006, the budget was approximately
$111 million. For 2010, it will be approximately $220 million.
-January to November crime statistic indicators
comparing 2009 with 2008 show a slight decrease nation-wide,
thanks to increased police presence on the streets and the
Ministry's new "Community Policing" program. For example, in 2008,
the total number of murders nation-wide from January to November
was 396; in 2009 the number slightly dropped to 383. Additionally,
the number of homicides in the violence-prone province of Limon has
dropped from an average of two murders per week in 2008 to only
three murders between July and November 2009. However, the
dramatic decrease in Limon has been largely due to increased police
operations there that will not be able to be maintained
indefinitely. Post still assesses that, per Ref C, while Costa
Rica is not as dangerous as the rest of Central America, it is not
-The political campaigning season is in full stride
with national elections taking place on February 7, 2010. In Costa
Rica, in addition to a complete change of the executive branch,
every seat in the Legislative Assembly will change as there are no
consecutive terms here. While we assess that our law enforcement
and security relationship with Costa Rica will remain dynamic no
matter which of the major parties captures the presidency and the
Assembly, there could be continuity issues that might delay
implementation of cooperation projects such as Merida in 2010.
7. The following implementation activities took place in November
and December 2009:
-Per Ref B, from November 2-13, Post coordinated
Merida supported U.S. Marshal Service-provided prisoner transfer
training. This expert team instructed 68 Costa Rican law
enforcement officers on officer safety, defensive tactics, and
prisoner handling techniques. At the end of the training, we
donated over 70 pairs of prisoner restraint devices such as
hand-cuffs and leg-irons. The event received positive local media
-Also per Ref B, from November 4-6, Post arranged
for two trainers from CSECO (Campbell/Harris Security Equipment
Company) to teach 26 Costa Rican law enforcement officers to
properly use the CT-30 drug detection kit. We conducted this
training at the northern border with Nicaragua at Penas Blancas.
At the end of the training, we donated six of these kits to the
Costa Ricans; these kits should enable the GOCR to better detect
drugs in hidden compartments of tractor trailers and shipping
-All FMF-related maritime letters of agreement have
been signed. Repair parts and engine-rebuild kits have been
ordered for Costa Rica's three 82-foot patrol boats. We expect the
first overhaul of 82-foot patrol boats to occur in March, 2010.
Additionally, we have on order three USCG-approved SAFE boats via
the FMF process; though we do not expect to receive them before the
second quarter of CY2010.
-In November and December, we ordered approximately
$130,000 worth of police equipment, primarily for Costa Rica's Air
Wing that included equipment such as advanced avionics for several
aircraft as well as basic police equipment for their ground support
-ILEA: 10 Costa Ricans attended the ILEA course
Personnel and Facility Security Course from 9-20 November.
-We meet as a Law Enforcement Group, which also
serves as our Merida Initiative meeting group, every Monday. In
November we met on November 9 and November 30. In December we met
on December 7 and December 14.
Significant Merida Supported Host Nation Seizures
8. On December 8, the Costa Rican Drug Control Police (PCD), using
equipment and training provided under the Merida Initiative, seized
256 kilograms (approximately 563 pounds) of cocaine at the Penas
Blancas border (on the northern border with Nicaragua). The
interdiction involved a 1998 Freightliner truck. An inspection of
the tires of the tractor-trailer revealed approximately sixteen
kilograms of cocaine in each tire (16 tires) for a total of
approximately 256 kilograms of cocaine. This case was
independently developed by PCD agents based on targeting indicators
and random inspections of outbound commercial cargo.
The PCD agents utilized Merida-supplied CT-30 drug detection kits
(which cost approximately $17K each) that contain fiber optic
inspection scopes, probes, density meters, etc. The CT-30 kit was
provided to the PCD in November 2009, and PCD agents were trained
in the use of the kit by representatives from the Embassy San Jose
DEA Country Office and Narcotics Affairs Office.
The Month Ahead
9. Below are Post's planned activities for January:
-January 6: Quarterly Merida meeting between
Embassy Merida representatives and GOCR law enforcement agencies
that benefit from Merida Assistance. This meeting is in accordance
with Merida Letter of Agreement requirements to have quarterly
meetings with the host nation to review progress on Merida goals.
-ILEA: Seven Costa Ricans will attend the Law
Enforcement Management Development Program at ILEA from January
18-February 26, 2010.
-Mid-January: We expect the new ambassador to
arrive and will provide in-depth briefings on Merida Initiative and
other counter-narcotics related activities.
-We plan to advertise an EFM position to assist the
Pol/NAO officer in Merida-related management.
-Continue to place police equipment orders for
Costa Rican law enforcement agencies.
-From February 16-26, 2010, a two person team from
U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be travelling to Costa Rica
as part of the Merida Initiative to assess Costa Rica's land
borders and provide the GOCR with 10 additional CT-30 drug
detection kits, as well as related training. The CBP visit will
support the Penas Blancas border, as well as border points on the
porous southern border region with Panama in the Paso Canoas area.