Costa Rica: Cocaine seizures have doubled in 2012
By Dialogo July 03, 2012
SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica – Mario Zamora, the minister of public safety, said the fact law enforcement agents seized more than twice the amount of cocaine from January through May than they did during the same period a year ago represents a major victory for the Central American nation.
“The fight is still on,” he said. “These results are just a sample of the hard work that our police officers are putting into their actions on land and air.”
The Drug Control Police (PCD) seized 12,513 pounds (5,676 kilograms) of cocaine the first five months of the year after confiscating 5,035 pounds (2,284 kilograms) during the same time frame in 2011.
Zamora said collaboration among the Public Force officers and the Drug Control Police has been key in the country’s counter-narcotics fight.
The two entities worked together in late May, when a joint operation led authorities to a truck packed with 1,221 pounds (554 kilograms) of cocaine, Zamora said.
“Once the Public Force received confidential information about the drugs, the PCD opened an investigation and detained the suspect,” he said.
The success has spurred officials to expand their counter-narcotics operations. On June 1, Col. Juan José Andrade, director of the Public Force, announced a joint program with the Air Surveillance Unit in which officers on the ground will be assisted by those in the air.
“We have been working with aeronautical resources during the past five months, but it has always been in a reactive way – after a specific event,” he said. “Now, we want to place helicopters on strategic points to be able to act in direct coordination on land and air.”
Cap. Alex Romero, chief of Aeronautical Operations of the Air Surveillance Unit, said he was very pleased to learn his unit will work with other departments.
“We have the opportunity to see people who are trying to escape from the police, and with the help of a helicopter, we can detect and apprehend them,” he said. “That is why it is important to collaborate with the staff on land.”
This year, police have dismantled 42 narco-trafficking groups, including three operating internationally.
Police also have bolstered border patrols. On June 9, PCD agents found 227 pounds (103 kilograms) of cocaine in the gas tanks of a truck that was headed to Managua, Nicaragua.
“Our authorities have been making great efforts that have placed Costa Rica second in the isthmus in cocaine seizures, behind Panama, but beating other countries that have more resources like Mexico,” said Celso Gamboa, vice minister of public safety. “We have had great achievements on air, land and sea thanks to the effective work of our officers.”
Police also have improved airport security, leading to three recent busts at Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela, about 18 miles north of the capital of San José:
On June 2, security officers detained a 21-year-old Guatemalan who had 89 heroin capsules (2.7 pounds) in his stomach, which were surgically removed;
On June 2, security officers arrested a woman bound for Spain who had 9.5 pounds (4.3 kilograms) of cocaine in her luggage;
On June 4, PCD officers apprehended an Italian man bound for Madrid, Spain, after finding 1.5 pounds (.7 kilogram) of cocaine stashed in a shampoo bottle.
“We are going to remain vigilant and we will keep on working, each day harder, toward improving the safety of our people,” Gamboa said.
Authorities have eradicated 3.254 million marijuana plants from January 2011 through May 2012, according to the Ministry of Public Safety.
“We might be the country that has destroyed more marihuana plants in Latin America, according to the DEA,” Zamora said. “We expect to continue with the good work this year.”
The Ministry of Public Safety said out of the 202 operations it has conducted this year, 146 targeted local narco-traffickers.
“This shows the tenacity that we are putting into the fight against drugs in land, on air, and by sea,” Zamora said. “This success just adds to many others that preceded it.”