By Mario Garita / ISH
January 3rd, 2014 (ISH) Costa Rican police confiscated 19.2 tons of cocaine from January to Dec. 15, making it one of the leading countries in drug seizures in the region, according to the Public Security Ministry.
The achievement was reached through a strategy of shielding the country’s borders against the drug trade, Public Security Minister Mario Zamora said.
“Costa Rica [is one of the leaders] in Central America in dismantling structures that are engaged in the sale and trafficking of drugs, preventing other consequences such as the crimes connected to these types of activities,” Public Security Vice Minister Celso Gamboa said.
An investment of US$1.2 million in 2013 allowed the Public Security Ministry to improve police training through the National Police Academy and bolster the country’s Air Surveillance, Coast Guard and Border Patrol services. The money also was used to acquire vehicles and boats to combat drug trafficking, which involved collaborating with the United States and Colombia.
“The Police Academy had serious infrastructure problems,” Zamora said. “We were able to establish a site for the provision of basic police instruction. Another measure involved extending the police course from six to 10 months, which has improved the quality of our human resources.”
The ministry acquired 326 new police cars, ending 2013 with a fleet of 500 vehicles patrolling the streets nationwide. It also received two high-speed interceptor boats to reinforce its work in the Pacific.
The Public Security Ministry built three new coast guard stations along the Atlantic Coast and strengthened its operations from the Pacific central base of Cuajiniquil, 250 kilometers north of San José.
Costa Rica ranked fourth – behind the United States, Colombia and Panama – in cocaine seizures in the Americas in 2013, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
In 2012, Costa Rica seized 15.5 tons of cocaine.
According to the “Costa Rica Situation Report 2013: Drug Trafficking and the Threat of Organized Crime,” published by the Judicial Investigation Department (OIJ) and the UNODC, cocaine is the most prominent drug being transported in the country, as it moves from the Andean region – which is where it is primarily produced – toward North America, particularly the United States.
“Costa Rica is the victim of perverse geopolitics,” Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said on Dec. 19. “We can’t move from the neighborhood. We’re in the middle of one of the regions hardest hit by organized crime, but that doesn’t mean that we should resign ourselves to this. We’ve been doing a lot and the message that these criminal groups are receiving is that it isn’t easy for them in Costa Rica.”
The Drug Control Police also has dealt serious blows to the production, importation and distribution of marijuana nationwide.
The consumption of marijuana in Costa Rica has increased 260% since 2006, making it the most consumed drug in the country, according to the Institute for Alcoholism and Drug Dependency.
The police sized 2.8 tons of marijuana in 2013 after confiscating about three tons in 2012.
Chinchilla has asked the public to continue collaborating with police and report any suspicious activity in their communities by dialing 1176, which is a hotline provided by the Public Security Ministry, or through the website of the Public Force of Costa Rica.
“The drug trade needs to understand that Costa Rica has closed ranks – from the president to the ordinary citizen – and we’re not willing to let these groups operate in our neighborhoods and steal the well-being and health of our children,” Chinchilla said.
Zamora pointed out that in 2013, authorities seized about 70,000 crack rocks and 11,209 ecstasy pills. The drug trade also lost US$3 million and $193 million Costa Rican colones, as well as a plane that was used to transport cocaine.