Record Cocaine Seizures for Costa Rica

Record Cocaine Seizures for Costa Rica

By Kay Valle/Diálogo
May 14, 2020

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The fight against narcotrafficking in Costa Rica doesn’t let up, and the first quarter of 2020 has yielded historic results. Through constant operations carried out with the support of partner nations, the success of the Police forces of Costa Rica not only disrupts trafficking cells that receive, store, and transport drugs, but also weakens the finances of criminal groups.

According to data from the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Security, so far this year, authorities have seized more than 19 tons of cocaine estimated at $532 million in the international market. Of this amount, 5 tons were found in a single operation in mid-February.

The operation, which the ministry described as “the largest drug seizure in Costa Rica’s history,” took place in the port of Moín on the Caribbean coast, where Narcotics Control Police units found the stash in a container storing ornamental plants bound for the Netherlands.

Another major seizure happened on March 8, when police forces found 3 tons of cocaine in a boat manned by three Colombians and a Nicaraguan, navigating in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Cahuita, Límon province.

Then in mid-March, security agents seized 2 tons of cocaine in the community of Moín, Límon province, in operations that involved a car chase.

According to international organization InSight Crime, which specializes in threats and security in Latin America and the Caribbean, the large seizures Costa Rica has carried out in 2020 indicate that authorities have redoubled their efforts in the fight against narcotrafficking. According to the Ministry of Public Security, counternarcotics agents seized more than 35 tons of cocaine in 2019. The Central American country found almost 34 tons of the drug in 2018.

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 geographical location and maritime territory in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

The Ministry of Public Security told Diálogo that the success of police forces is due to the training and formation its officers receive, both in the country and in partner nations such as “Colombia and the United States,” which have “led to strengthening their knowledge and skills in the fight against organized crime and common crime.”

Intelligence exchange among countries of the region, as well as the joint work carried out under multilateral agreements, such as the 2017 consolidation of the Southern Triangle (that includes Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama with the support of the United States) to develop new strategies to fight narcotrafficking, have contributed to the latest results.

“Some strategies that we implemented enabled us to modify seizures,” Costa Rican Minister of Public Security Michael Soto Rojas told the Costa Rican newspaper El Observador. “What have these strategies been? Joint patrol, basically among Panama, the United States, Colombia, and Costa Rica.”

The ministry told Diálogo that Costa Rica’s goals for the rest of the year include “further strengthening partnerships with other countries, in addition to [strengthening] the information exchange and joint work […] in the fight against narcotrafficking.”