In early July, the Costa Rican Drug Control Police (PCD, in Spanish), with the cooperation of the United States and Colombian counterdrug authorities, dismantled a narcotrafficking ring that smuggled cocaine and marijuana by sea, air, and land to the United States and Mexico. During the Operation Air, authorities captured 12 people, all Costa Rican nationals, the Costa Rican Ministry of the Interior reported on its Facebook page.
“Today [July 9], the Drug Control Police carried out 12 raids and arrested several people who are part of a criminal ring based in the country, but with branches in Colombia,” Michael Soto Rojas, Costa Rica’s minister of the Interior, said via Facebook.
“This structure operated in Colombia, where it sent shipments of cocaine and marijuana mainly by water to the Costa Rican territory, and once in Costa Rican territory, they were stored and later shipped by air. They mainly operated in the South, Central, and North Pacific, and the organization was well established in that area,” Soto said.
According to the Costa Rican site crhoy.com, narcotraffickers mainly used light or ultra-light aircraft to move the drug. The PCD and the Costa Rican Deputy Office of the Attorney General against Narcotrafficking and Related Crimes conducted the raids in the areas of Guanacaste, Heredia, Coronado, and in four cells of the Liberia correctional center, the news portal reported.
The PCD determined during the investigation that the criminal organization had connections in Panama, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras, in addition to having contacts in Colombia, the Argentine newspaper La Nación reported. Intelligence work also confirmed that the organization was using beauty salons, barber shops, and aerial spraying companies, while also renting large areas to grow citrus to justify its income, the newspaper said.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2020 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Costa Rica is an important country for the transit of drugs from South America to the United States and Europe, due to its geographic location and its maritime territory in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
According to reports from crhoy.com, minister Soto said that from January to early July 2020, authorities have seized 25 tons of cocaine and marijuana, and he anticipates that the number could exceed the 40 tons seized in 2019.