Costa Rica Hosts CICAD Seminar on Tackling Region’s Drug Problem
By Dialogo December 10, 2012
SAN JOSÉ — Costa Rica’s presidential vice minister and anti-drug commissioner, Mauricio Boraschi Hernández, was named president of the Inter-American Drug Control Commission [Comisión Interamericana para el Control del Abuso de Drogas, or CICAD] at the group’s 52nd annual session in Heredia, just outside San José.
CICAD’s goal: to take a fresh look at regional approaches to fighting drug trafficking and organized crime.
“This is a new opportunity for us to speak from the heart and to determine the reality of each of our countries in order to know the truth about where we are, how we are and what is the future of this struggle,” said Edgar Ugalde Álvarez, Costa Rica’s envoy to the Organization of American States, which oversees CICAD.
This year’s agenda focused on several areas. These included revising CICAD’s evaluation program, analyzing new trends in drug politics, creating new systems for reducing drug dependency, brainstorming ways to fight corruption, presenting the major criminal groups involved in the drug trade and exploring alternatives to the treatment of criminals involved in the drug trade.
Boraschi said his selection as chief of CICAD means that more focus is now being put on Central America as a major drug trafficking center. He pointed out that while Costa Rica is small, its geographic location plays a major role in the drug trade — and that with his appointment, Costa Rica will now also have a much bigger role in formulating policies to fight that trade internationally.
Costa Rica assumes presidency of CICAD
“This appointment is a recognition of the seriousness with which Costa Rica has addressed the drug issue,” Boraschi said. “It is also a testament to our National Drug Plan which takes a comprehensive, inclusive and universal approach to the phenomenon of drugs in order to fight this problem. This is how we have earned hemispheric respect.”
He added: “International cooperation is essential to combat this scourge. Together our countries have sufficient resources for this fight.”
The OAS created CICAD in 1998 at the 2nd Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile. With the new organization came the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism [Mecanismo de Evaluación Multilateral, or MEM].
MEM’s main objective, according to the CICAD action plan, is to create a dialogue and increase mutual trust and cooperation among member countries. That directive has led to the creation of anti-drug programs throughout the hemisphere, and has shaped a system through which countries can request assistance in fighting narcotics-related crime. “
The new proposal is a re-launch of the MEM,” said CICAD General Coordinator Juan Gabriel Morales. “We want to move to a model of objective assessment, with a more dynamic approach.”
A new MEM action plan
The new plan seeks to link 27 CICAD-approved recommendations from the Hemispheric Drug Strategy of 2010 with aspects from the 2011-15 Action Plan. Both plans are divided into five focus areas for countries to create or update their own drug action plans, and both emphasize reducing demand through anti-drug education programs, as well as measures aimed at monitoring the drug trade. Other focuses include institutional strengthening, supply reduction and international cooperation.
The MEM’s sixth round of evaluations starts in 2013 and will measure each country’s progress based on these new criteria. Boraschi said the evaluation process will also serve as a means of developing new ways to fight narcotics trafficking across borders.
During a news conference following the session’s opening, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla announced her intention to pass more legislation pertaining to drug trafficking and organized crime.
“We need to send a clear message to criminals,” Chinchilla said. “None of these criminals are angels. We are beginning to see people in this country who need to be brought to international justice.”
In her speech Chinchilla outlined several proposals that would require amending the Costa Rican constitution and penal code, as well as petitioning internationally for change.
• The first is to change the privacy laws in Article 24 of Costa Rica’s Constitution. Judges are now only allowed to listen to phone conversations tapped for investigations; judges then share any information they believe to be pertinent among investigators. Costa Rica is the only country in the world with such a law, Boraschi said. As a result, many investigations are held up because of time restraints on judges. The change would still require a judge’s approval for the actual wiretapping, but would allow investigators to do the listening.
• Chinchilla also said she intends to change Article 32 of the Constitution by allowing Costa Rican nationals to be extradited overseas to face charges of drug trafficking or organized crime. She also proposed increased penalties for people charged with drug-related offenses or racketeering, without naming specifics. The president didn’t give a timetable for implementing these new laws, but Chinchilla said constitutional amendments can take as much as two years to clear Congress.
• The Costa Rican government also is seeking assistance beyond its borders. Chinchilla mentioned two documents currently being drafted for passage by Congress. The first is a treaty from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking every country in Central America, along with Colombia and Mexico, to jointly patrol the region’s waters for drug smugglers. All nations involved currently allow joint patrols with the United States.
This agreement would still allow for U.S. patrols, but let other countries participate. Boraschi said following the press conference that this is meant to serve as a starting point for global legislation designed to fight a borderless crime.
“Narcotics trafficking is one of the most dangerous manifestations of crime,” he said. “It does not stop at one country, and it requires legislation that works internationally. This is a problem and a task that all nations have a different, but shared, responsibility to tackle.”
The president also urged the United Nations to put drug trafficking and organized crime on the same level as terrorism. Such a status change would dedicate more resources to fighting the narcotics trade and make it so that drug lords would be “hunted the same as terrorists are,” Chinchilla said.
“From our countries’ point of view, narcotics trafficking and organized crime should be considered like terrorism because these criminals behave similarly to terrorists,” Chinchilla said. “We want the Security Council to recognize that these crimes are a threat to international peace and security.”