Costa Rica: Second Largest Cocaine Seizure in Its History
By Roberto López Dubois/Diálogo August 09, 2021
In mid-July, Costa Rican authorities dealt a severe blow to narcotrafficking by seizing more than 4 tons of cocaine at the port of Moín, in the Caribbean province of Limón. This is the second largest cocaine seizure in the country’s history.
“It was a joint effort between the Drug Control Police [PCD, in Spanish] and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security [DIS, in Spanish]. It enabled this seizure of 4,329 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride,” Costa Rican Minister of Public Security Michael Soto told the press.
Authorities seized the drug during a routine container inspection at the Gastón Kogan Pier. During the operation, PCD agents received DIS intelligence about the possible contamination of containers on a ship that had come from Turbo, Colombia, and was bound for Limón. Agents found several packages of the drug inside a container of ceramic tiles.
“It is a significant operation, in which 173 packages were detected inside a container […]. Its legal material was floor tiles, and our officers managed to detect this substantial amount of cocaine,” the minister said. “We continue to work for the country’s well-being, we continue to make important seizures, and we hope to continue making seizures to exceed the previous year’s figures.”
From January 1 to mid-July 2021, the PCD seized 10,698 kg of cocaine that criminals had hidden in seven containers. In all of 2020, authorities found 16,192 kg of cocaine hidden in 18 containers, the Ministry of Public Security indicated.
In mid-February 2020, the PCD made the largest cocaine seizure, with a shipment of more than 5 tons, which criminals had distributed among 202 briefcases and hidden inside a container carrying ornamental plants, at Moín’s APM Terminals. The container’s final destination was Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, the Costa Rican newspaper El Mundo reported.
According to InSight Crime, an international organization specializing in organized crime in Latin America, the record seizure confirmed that Costa Rica has become a major cocaine exporter to Europe and that increasingly sophisticated transnational networks are handling the shipments. According to the organization, Limón, which is located in the Caribbean Sea, is the most important port in Costa Rica and is connected to the Tortuguero Canals, waterways that cross the Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge, on the border with Nicaragua. Criminals use these canals “extensively to move drug shipments. This has contributed to making Limón an important departure point for cocaine headed to Europe and other international markets,” InSight Crime said.
In its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2021, the U.S. Department of State indicates that Costa Rica’s strategic location and vast maritime territory make the country an attractive hub for the transit, storage, and logistics of illicit drug trafficking.