Promoting, coordinating, and encouraging crime prevention and control measures and curbing the actions of narcotraffickers are some of the functions that Costa Rica’s Minister of Public Security and Minister of the Interior and Police Jorge Luis Torres Carrillo performs daily.
Minister Torres is no stranger to security tasks. He previously served as the head of the Counternarcotics Intelligence Center of Costa Rica’s National Intelligence and Security Directorate and as head of the General Secretariat for Latin America of the International Anti-Narcotics Network.
Minister Torres spoke with Diálogo about interagency coordination and advances in security.
Diálogo: Narcotrafficking routes have increased in Costa Rica, especially to the Pacific Ocean. You said via Twitter on December 19, 2022 that you will give no truce to narcotraffickers. What strategies are being consolidated to combat them?
Costa Rica’s Minister of Public Security and Minister of Interior and Police Jorge Luis Torres Carrillo: The Pacific Ocean is very wide, and we cannot cover it alone, that is why we count on joint patrolling, as it benefits us a lot. We don’t let our guard down; we are constantly on patrol and reacting to early and timely alerts that countries like Colombia and [the United States through] U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) bring to our attention, and we work hand in hand with our intelligence units.
Diálogo: Costa Rica carries out joint operations with Panama, Colombia, and the United States to counter the actions of transnational criminal organizations. What progress has been made in this regard?
Minister Torres: The relationship with Panama and Colombia is excellent; we are sister countries that are constantly interacting and exchanging timely and accurate intelligence information, and that gives us a great opportunity to act in a timely manner and strike at criminal groups.
Diálogo: What’s new about the Ministry of Public Security’s Sembremos Seguridad (Sowing Security) program?
Minister Torres: Sembremos Seguridad is a very valuable project for the country and contributes a lot to fighting violence. We work hand in hand with the U.S. government, and we will start working in the province of Limón. The project works closely with communities, especially on the issue of prevention, which is integrated in order to measure what we are doing and to know the real impact of what is being done.
Diálogo: Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing carried out in the region by the Chinese fishing fleet, which devastates Latin America’s oceans, is a threat to marine life in Costa Rica’s Cocos Island. What actions are you taking to counter it?
Minister Torres: IUU [fishing] is really a threat and it is quite complicated for us to carry out these patrols, because we do not have the necessary tools. Today we have a joint patrol with the U.S. that is only to combat narcotrafficking, but we are working on an addendum to include combating IUU [fishing] with that joint patrol, because we know that there are many fishing boats, Chinese and Venezuelan, fishing illegally in our waters.
Diálogo: President Rodrigo Chaves ordered a state of national emergency following cyberattacks from Russian ransomware gang Conti against the systems of the country’s institutions in May 2022. How do you prepare to prevent new cyberattacks?
Minister Torres: That attack was a very hard lesson for the country. We built bridges of friendship and communication with powerful countries in the region and Europe. Spain helped us a lot with the technical part and the language made the help easier for us, since we were able to quickly incorporate the team and rescue the victim institutions. We prepare ourselves every day and are very close to the United States, Spain, and Israel, among others, which have offered us training and equipment.
Diálogo: Costa Rica’s National Radio and Television System (SINART) suspended the signal of the Russian television network RT in March 2022 to stop the dissemination of disinformation by the Kremlin’s state media in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. How are you strengthening your capabilities in information operations to counter Russian disinformation and fake news that seek to confuse and overwhelm the population?
Minister Torres: Our President Rodrigo de Jesús Chaves Robles is very firm and believes in this type of prevention. I come from a State intelligence branch and very seldom people believe in anticipating or in seeing threats from a state to another, and we are always very close to the United States. I believe that we are a high media profile country, apart from the rights we offer, it makes it easier for other powers to use our country, either to disinform or to use us as a platform. The president is very aware of that, and we are willing to fight for our sovereignty and we want to prevent those powers from using our country as a niche to be able to send inaccurate information throughout the region.
To see the full interview with Costa Rican Minister of Public Security Jorge Luis Torres, please click on the following link: https://dialogo-americas.com/articles/a-conversation-with-costa-rican-minister-of-public-security-jorge-luis-torres/#.ZA95X3bMLZ4