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Viewing cable 04SANJOSE3369, COSTA RICA INCSR REPORT 2004 - 2005 PART I, DRUGS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
04SANJOSE3369 2004-12-17 19:07 2011-03-08 16:04 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
1. (U) The text of Costa Rica's 2004-2005 INCSR Part I is 
Costa Rica 
I. Summary 
Costa Rica serves as a transshipment point for narcotics 
from South America to the United States and Europe.  The 
bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement, which 
entered into force in late 1999, continues to improve the 
overall maritime security of Costa Rica and serves as an 
impetus for the professional development of the Costa Rican 
Coast Guard.  Costa Rican law enforcement officials continue 
to demonstrate growing professionalism and reliability as 
USG partners in combating narcotics trafficking and dealing 
with ever-changing drug smuggling methods.  The amount of 
illicit narcotics seized in Costa Rica increased 
dramatically in 2004 after almost doubling in 2003.  In 
Costa Rica's Eastern Pacific waters alone, 4700 kilos of 
cocaine were seized in 2004.  Heroin seizures, which had 
doubled every year since 1999, were substantially lower with 
68 kilos seized in 2004 compared to 146 in 2003.  The 
Government of Costa Rica (GOCR) continued to implement a 
2002 narcotics control law that criminalized money 
laundering.  The Counternarcotics Institute, created in 
2003, enhanced its coordination efforts in the areas of 
intelligence, demand reduction, asset seizure, and precursor 
chemical licensing. Costa Rica is a party to the 1988 UN 
Drug Convention. 
II. Status of Country 
Costa Rica's location astride the Central American isthmus 
makes the country an attractive transshipment area for South 
American-produced cocaine and heroin destined primarily for 
the United States.  The difficulty of maritime interdiction 
in Costa Rican waters is exacerbated by a total maritime 
jurisdiction that is more than 11 times the size of Costa 
Rica's land mass.  These territorial waters are used for the 
transshipment of illegal drugs in small go-fast boats 
refueled by larger vessels posing as fishing vessels. 
Traffickers along northbound maritime routes continued to 
use routes through Costa Rica's Pacific Exclusive Economic 
Zone and those further out to sea in the Eastern Pacific. 
For the first time, and as a result of joint maritime 
operations, the Costa Rican Coast Guard (SNGC) interdicted 
three go-fast vessels in 2004 and seized a total of 625 
kilograms of cocaine.  The GOCR runs an effective airport 
interdiction program aimed at passengers.  The Embassy has 
worked with its counterparts to extend that success to cargo 
inspection at the Juan Santamaria International Airport.  A 
similar effort is underway in the seaports of Limon and 
Caldera; however, clear legal authority for onboard 
inspection of containers and ships has yet to be 
established.  This legal impediment and a lack of sufficient 
export control procedures for effective identification and 
inspection of high-risk cargo continue to present 
Costa Rica has a stringent governmental licensing process 
for the importation and distribution of controlled precursor 
and essential chemicals and prescription drugs.  Local 
consumption of illicit narcotics including crack cocaine and 
"club drugs," along with the violent crimes associated with 
such drug use, are growing concerns to Costa Ricans. 
Authorities seized 1,622 ecstasy pills in 2004, up slightly 
from the 1,321 seized during 2003.  These seizures suggest 
increasing consumption in Costa Rica and the potential use 
of Costa Rica as a transshipment point for "club drugs." 
Two indoor hydroponics cannabis facilities were seized in 
2004, but the small size of these operations indicates 
domestic consumption only, despite potential for export due 
to high THC content.  The GOCR is directing more resources 
to address the serious threats posed by narcotics 
trafficking, but budgetary limitations continue to constrain 
the capabilities of law enforcement agencies. 
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004 
Policy Initiatives. 
The 1999 bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation 
Agreement and the Coast Guard Professionalization Law passed 
in 2000 have continued to provide impetus for the 
professional development of the Costa Rican Coast Guard and 
have been instrumental in improving the overall maritime 
security of Costa Rica.  The Costa Rican Coast Guard 
Academy, established in 2002, has thus far graduated 125 
officials.  Costa Rica is the depository for the 
multilateral "Agreement Concerning Co-operation in 
Suppressing Illicit Maritime and Aeronautical Trafficking in 
Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in the Caribbean 
Area" signed in 2003 in San Jose.  Throughout 2004, the 
Pacheco Administration pressed for domestic ratification and 
spearheaded an active international lobbying effort, 
including sponsorship of a high-level multilateral seminar 
in San Jose, to help bring the agreement into force.  Other 
regional cooperation initiatives include co-hosting with the 
DEA of two International Drug Enforcement Conferences 
(IDEC's).  The Costa Rican Counternarcotics Institute 
develops an annual counternarcotics plan; however, resource 
limitations frustrate full implementation of the plan. 
Relations between U.S. law enforcement agencies and GOCR 
counterparts, including the Judicial Investigative Police 
Narcotics Section, the Ministry of Public Security Drug 
Control Police, the Coast Guard, and the Air Surveillance 
Section, remain close and productive, resulting in regular 
information-sharing and joint operations.  Costa Rican 
counternarcotics officials confiscated over $1.2 million in 
currency and 38 vehicles in 2004.  In addition, they 
destroyed over 3000 kilos of seized cocaine in close 
cooperation with U.S. law enforcement officials.  U.S. DEA 
Agents and Coast Guard Officers have worked closely with 
GOCR counterparts and prosecutors in developing cases 
against the narcotics traffickers mentioned in section II, 
all of whom have been sentenced or remain in pre-trial 
detention.  Since the inauguration of the Mobile Enforcement 
Team (MET)-an interagency team consisting of canine units, 
drug control police, customs police and specialized 
vehicles-in 2004, the MET participated in coordinated cross- 
border operations with Nicaragua and Panama and increased 
its internal patrols. 
Law Enforcement Efforts. 
The primary counternarcotics agencies in Costa Rica are the 
Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ), under the Supreme 
Court, and the Ministry of Public Security's Drug Control 
Police.  The Judicial Investigative Police operate a small, 
but highly professional, Narcotics Section that specializes 
in investigating international narcotics trafficking.  The 
Drug Control Police investigate both domestic and 
international drug smuggling and distribution, and are 
responsible for airport interdiction as well as land-based 
interdiction at the primary ports of entry.  Both entities 
routinely conduct complex investigations of drug smuggling 
organizations, resulting in arrests and the confiscation of 
cocaine and other drugs, using the full range of 
investigative techniques permitted under the country's 
counternarcotics statutes. 
Agents of the Drug Control Police have increased the threat 
to overland trafficking through the effective use of canines 
and contraband detectors/density meters at both northern and 
southern borders, resulting in increased seizures of cocaine 
hidden within tractor-trailers.  Inauguration in April 2004 
of the USG-funded Penas Blancas Border Control Checkpoint, 
(located at a natural chokepoint on the border with 
Nicaragua) was an important milestone in efforts to battle 
the growing threat from overland narcotics transportation. 
The frequency of seizures at the Penas Blancas inspection 
facility is already twice that of the Paso Canoas station on 
the border with Panama, although the quantity seized at the 
southern border was slightly higher. 
During 2004, unprecedented corruption scandals provoked the 
worst political crisis of the last 50 years in Costa Rica. 
The scandals, involving apparent kickbacks to officials at 
the highest levels of the government, severely tested Costa 
Rica's legal system.  Although the implications are still 
unfolding, with two ex-presidents currently in jail awaiting 
trial, Costa Rica's commitment to combat public corruption 
appears to have been strengthened by the recent challenges. 
In October 2004, the Legislative Assembly passed a strict 
new anticorruption law that punishes "illicit enrichment" on 
the part of public officials. 
Costa Rica signed the Inter-American Convention Against 
Corruption in March 1996 and ratified it in May 1997.  In 
March 2004, the Attorney General for Public Ethics 
(Procuradoria de la Etica Publica) was established, and in 
May that office was designated the central authority for 
channeling resources and technical assistance related to the 
Convention.  U.S. law enforcement agencies continue to 
consider the public security forces and judicial officials 
to be full partners in counternarcotics investigations and 
operations.  To the best of these agencies' knowledge, no 
senior official of the GOCR engages in, encourages, or 
facilitates the illicit production or distribution of such 
drugs or substances, or the laundering of proceeds from 
illegal drug transactions. 
Agreements and Treaties. 
The six-part bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation 
Agreement continues to serve as the model maritime agreement 
for Central America and the Caribbean.  The agreement has 
promoted closer cooperation in the interdiction of maritime 
smuggling and was responsible for the interdiction of 25,369 
kilograms of illicit drugs in Costa Rica's Exclusive 
Economic Zone by U.S Coast Guard and Navy vessels since 
1999.  Results of the agreement in 2004 include five 
maritime counternarcotics interdictions, 25 U.S. law 
enforcement ship visits to Costa Rica in support of Eastern 
Pacific and Caribbean counternarcotics patrols, and a number 
of search and rescue cases by USG assets. 
The United States and Costa Rica have had an extradition 
treaty in force since 1991.  The treaty is actively used for 
the extradition of U.S. citizens and third-country 
nationals, but Costa Rican law does not permit the 
extradition of its own nationals.  Costa Rica has ratified 
the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and signed 
the UN Convention Against Corruption.  Costa Rica ratified a 
bilateral stolen vehicles treaty in October 2002.  Costa 
Rica is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 
Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by its 1972 
Protocol, and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic 
Costa Rica and the United States are also parties to 
bilateral drug information and intelligence sharing 
agreements dating from 1975 and 1976.  Costa Rica is a 
member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force and the 
Egmont Group.  It is also a member of the Inter-American 
Drug Abuse Control Commission of the Organization of 
American States (OAS/CICAD).  Costa Rica has signed the UN 
Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the 
Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in 
Persons, the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants, and 
the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and 
Trafficking in Firearms. 
Marijuana cultivation is relatively small-scale and 
generally occurs in remote mountainous areas near the 
Panamanian border, in the Caribbean region near Limon and 
Talamanca, and the Valle del General on the southern Pacific 
coast.  Such cultivation is sometimes intermixed with 
legitimate crops.  Joint U.S.-Costa Rican eradication 
operations are periodically carried out under the auspices 
of "Operation Central Skies," utilizing U.S. Army air 
assets.  Over six and a half million marijuana plants have 
been destroyed to date during these operations.  Costa Rican 
authorities continued to conduct eradication operations 
independent of USG assistance, seizing 553,000 plants in 
2004.  The quantity of plants eradicated suggests that 
marijuana is not being exported from Costa Rica.  Costa Rica 
does not produce other illicit drug crops.  We have no 
indications to date of any synthetic drug manufacturing in 
Costa Rica. 
Drug Flow/Transit. 
2004 witnessed a continuation of the trend detected late 
last year toward frequent, smaller (50-500 kilos) overland 
shipments transiting Costa Rica in truck compartments, dump 
truck loads and car compartments that were characteristic of 
trafficking trends before 1999.   GOCR officials have made 
numerous seizures at the international airport in San Jose, 
typically from departing passengers. 
The recent trend of increased trafficking of narcotics by 
maritime routes has also continued, with indications that 
maritime traffickers use Costa Rican-flagged fishing vessels 
to serve as logistical support vessels for northbound go- 
fast boats in the Costa Rican exclusive economic zone. 
During 2004, several vessels, allegedly carrying far too 
much fuel for their purported needs, caught fire. 
Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). 
Costa Ricans have become increasingly concerned over local 
consumption, especially of crack cocaine and ecstasy.  Abuse 
appears to be highest in the Central Valley (including the 
major cities of San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago, and Heredia), 
the port cities of Limon and Puntarenas, the north near 
Barra del Colorado, and along the southern border.  All but 
30 of the 1,622 ecstasy tablets seized in 2004 were 
confiscated in San Jose. 
The Prevention Unit of the Costa Rican Counternarcotics 
Institute oversees drug prevention efforts and educational 
programs throughout the country, primarily through well- 
developed educational programs for use in public and private 
schools and community centers.  In 2004, the Institute 
continued its country-wide campaign against ecstasy use with 
billboards posted in high schools, universities, and 
pharmacies.  2004 also saw a large-scale print, television 
and radio demand reduction campaign aimed at heads of 
households entitled "Impose Limits." 
The Institute and the Ministry of Education distribute 
demand reduction materials to all public school children. 
The MET team often visits local schools in the wake of a 
deployment.  The team's canines and specialized vehicles are 
effectively used to deliver demand reduction messages.  The 
Costa Rican Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) 
Foundation, modeled after its U.S. counterpart, conducts 
drug awareness programs at over 500 public and private 
schools and graduated its millionth alumnus in 2004. 
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs 
U.S. Policy Initiatives. 
The principal U.S. counternarcotics goal in Costa Rica is to 
reduce the transit of drugs to U.S. markets.  Means of 
achieving that goal include: reducing the flow of illicit 
narcotics through Costa Rica; enhancing the effectiveness of 
the criminal justice system; reducing the use of Costa Rica 
as a money laundering center by encouraging stricter 
controls and strengthening enforcement; supporting efforts 
to locate and destroy marijuana fields; and the continued 
targeting of high-level trafficking organizations operating 
in Costa Rica. 
Specific initiatives include: continuing to implement the 
bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement; 
enhancing interdiction of drug shipments by improving the 
facilities and training personnel at the northern border 
crossing of Penas Blancas; enhancing the ability of the Air 
Section of the Public Security Ministry to respond to 
illicit drug activities by providing equipment and technical 
training; improving law enforcement capacity by providing 
specialized training and equipment to the Judicial 
Investigative Police Narcotics Section, the Drug Control 
Police, the Intelligence Unit of the Costa Rica 
Counternarcotics Institute, the National Police Academy, and 
the Customs Control Police; and increasing public awareness 
of dangers posed by narcotics trafficking and drug use by 
providing assistance to Costa Rican demand reduction 
programs and initiatives. 
Bilateral Cooperation. 
The Department of State allocated $1.9 million appropriated 
under Title III, Chapter 2, of the Emergency Supplemental 
Act, 2000, as enacted in the Military Construction 
Appropriations Act (P.L. 106-246) for expanded assistance to 
the Costa Rican Coast Guard consistent with the MOU on 
Maritime Assistance and the Maritime Agreement.  This 
assistance is designed to enhance Costa Rican and U.S. 
maritime security through the development of a professional 
Coast Guard. 
In 2004, USG assistance included numerous U.S. Coast Guard 
training programs, overhaul and spare parts for the three 
U.S.-donated 82-ft patrol boats, furniture and computer 
equipment for the new Coast Guard Station in Quepos, 
furniture and computer equipment for the Penas Blancas 
inspection facility, and two vehicles for the OIJ.  The U.S. 
also provided increased information-sharing on suspect 
vessel and air traffic movements near Costa Rica.  The U.S. 
Embassy hosted a series of seminars on the law of maritime 
interdiction and boarding procedures that brought together 
Costa Rican Coast Guard officers, prosecutors, and judges. 
The Embassy used the same inter-agency approach to provide a 
training series on law enforcement techniques related to 
border control and cargo inspection. 
In addition, the United States acquired computer equipment, 
software and other equipment for the Ministry of Public 
Security's Drug Control Police and Migration Section, the 
Judicial Investigative Police Narcotics Section, the Public 
Prosecutor's Economic Crimes Section and Sex Crimes Section, 
the Costa Rica Counternarcotics Institute's Financial 
Intelligence Unit, and the inter-agency MET unit. 
Additional training and equipment were donated to the 
Ministry of Public Security's Canine Section. 
The Road Ahead. 
The U.S.-sponsored $2.2 million Costa Rican Coast Guard 
Development Plan was completed in 2003.  Subject to the 
availability of funds, the United States will continue to 
provide technical expertise, training, and funding to 
professionalize Costa Rica's maritime service and enhance 
its capabilities to conduct U.S. Coast Guard-style maritime 
law enforcement, marine environmental protection, and search 
and rescue operations within its littoral waters in support 
of the bilateral Maritime Counterdrug Cooperation Agreement. 
The United States seeks to build upon the on-going 
successful maritime experience by turning more attention and 
resources to land interdiction strategies, including 
expanded coverage of airports and seaport facilities.  The 
United States will continue to cooperate closely with the 
GOCR in its efforts to professionalize its public security 
forces and implement and expand controls against money