The Knights Templar and the Sinaloa Cartel are operating in Costa Rica
By Dialogo January 10, 2014
The Knights Templar, Mexican transnational criminal organization, is transporting drugs from Colombia through Costa Rica and then to North America, according to the Judicial Investigation Division (OIJ) of Costa Rica and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The drug cartel, which is based in the state of Michoacán, is using Costa Rica as a “strategic point for the transit of cocaine from Colombia bound for Mexico and the United States,” according to El Universal.
Transnational criminal organizations from Mexico and Colombia are increasing their operations in Costa Rica, according to Michael Soto, an official in the Plans and Operations Office of the OIJ. In addition to the Knights Templar, the Sinaloa Cartel, which is led by fugitive drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, La Familia Michoacana, the Gulf Cartel (CDG) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are also transporting large amounts of drugs through Costa Rica, Soto said.
Steps to crack down on drug trafficking
More than 80 percent of the cocaine which is smuggled into the United States is transported through Central America, according to a 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report issued by the U.S. State Department.
Costa Rican authorities are taking steps to fight drug trafficking. The Costa Rican government is increasing the number of Coast Guard vessels from 30 to 70 and increasing the number of maritime bases along the coast to stop drug trafficking, and increasing its use of radar to detect drug flights, officials said.
Authorities will also use trained dogs to detect cash, drugs, and explosives, Col. Martín Arias, director of the National Coast Guard (SGN), said in a public statement in which he announced the initiative to fight drug trafficking. “This is a message to the drug trade: if you innovate, we will be ahead of the innovation,” Arias said.
Key transport route
Limón, located on the Caribbean Sea on the border with Nicaragua, is a key transport point for drug traffickers.. The country’s entire Caribbean coast is located in this province. However, drug traffickers also operate on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.
Organized crime groups transport drugs through Costa Rica to 39 different countries, including Mexico and the United States, Soto said.
The increase in activity by Mexican drug cartels coincides with an increase in drug seizures by Costa Rican security forces.
In 2013, Costa Rican security forces seized 18 tons of drugs, nearly double the amount – 8.9 tons – seized in 2011, according to El Tiempo.
History of organized crime activity
Drug trafficking through Costa Rica is not new, Soto explained.
“In the 1990s, we had a strong presence of Colombian drug traffickers in our country who transported drugs from Colombia to Mexico, and there were Colombians throughout Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala,” Soto said. “The penetration of drug trafficking is serious.”
In recent years, Mexican drug cartels have taken over drug trafficking routes in Costa Rica, Soto said. Costa Rican security officials have focused on Mexican drug cartel operatives in several high-profile investigations.
Arrests of Mexican drug cartel suspects
In recent years, Mexican drug cartels have taken over drug trafficking routes in Costa Rica, Soto said. CostaRican security officials have focused on Mexican drug cartel operatives in several high-profile investigations.
In June 2013, following a six-month investigation, the OIJ arrested two Mexican brothers who are alleged members of the Knights Templar. The two men are suspected of two homicides in Costa Rica. OIJ security agents also arrested four Costa Ricans who were allegedly working with the brothers.
Between 2007 and 2012, Costa Rican security forces captured 68 Mexican nationals. The suspects were accused of drug trafficking, crimes of violence and other offenses. The suspects were alleged members of the Knights Templar, the Sinaloa Cartel, La Familia Michoacana, and the CDG.
Knights Templar incursion into Costa Rica ‘surprising’: analyst
The strong presence of the Knights Templar in Costa Rica is “surprising,” because the drug cartel is known for operating primarily in Mexico and the U.S., said Jesús Aranda Terrones, a researcher at the Collective for the Analysis of Security with Democracy (CASEDE).
“The Templars are renowned for being a regional organization. We are facing one more cartel that aims to extend their ties to the Central American region. This puts Costa Rica’s security at risk,” Aranda Terrones said.
The Knights Templar is a “strong criminal organization, which is not withdrawing and has the ability to expand internationally,” Aranda Terrones said.
Mexican drug cartels fight each other
The Knights Templar is a splinter group of La Familia Michoacana. In December 2010, Mexican Federal Police (PF) killed Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, the founder of La Familia Michoacana. He was known as “The Craziest One.” The killing of The Craziest One” greatly weakened La Familia Michoacana. Some of The Craziest One’s top lieutenants formed the Knights Templar.
The Knights Templar consists of about 4,000 members, and operates primarily in Michoacán and nine other Mexican states.
The Knights Templar is led by Servando Gomez Martinez, who is known as “La Tuta.” The Knights Templar, La Familia Michoacana, the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJNG), Los Zetas, and the Sinaloa Cartel are waging a bloody battle for control of the production and trafficking of marijuana and synthetic drugs on Mexico’s Pacific coast.
Costa Rican authorities will collaborate closely with U.S. officials to fight the Knights Templar and other transnational criminal organizations, Aranda Terrones said.
Authorities take down Costa Rican drug trafficking organization
In addition to the Mexican and Colombian transnational criminal organizations, Costa Rican security forces are also battling domestic drug trafficking groups.
For example, Costa Rican police arrested 12 Costa Ricans who are suspected of smuggling cocaine from Colombia and marijuana from Jamaica into Costa Rica. The suspects allegedly transported the drugs to Europe, and also sold some of the drugs locally, Costa Rica Attorney General Jorge Chavarria announced on Dec. 21, 2013, according to published reports. The organization used $200,000 (USD) for operating expenses, Chavarria said.
Security forces must remain vigilant in the fight against domestic and transnational criminal organizations, authorities said.
“We cannot assume that we are winning this fight. Every day arise new criminal organizations and ingenious methods for moving narcotics. The goal is to make them believe that it is not easy to settle in our territory,” OIJ Director Francisco Segura said during a press conference.
Good articles. It's impressive how a group of local narcs can expand to other countries thanks to the impunity that exists in Mexico and in other Central American countries. Groups like the Caballeros Templarios can manage to expand their violence, terror and criminal activities wherever and however they want. This will end when the governments actually commit to it, in the meantime it's all bla, bla....... During the years 2012 and 2013, I performed security tasks on the Nicaraguan border, a place properly known as Delta Costa Rica. Part of the patrolling included long walks on the fringe of the San Juan river, and another part was done using tractor-trailers and ATVs acquired by the government throughout the border trail for different operations to control undocumented aliens, drug activities and other illicit activities. Unfortunately the vehicles were constantly out of service due to lack of maintenance. This is part of the reality regarding our Public Force and Patrolling over waterways, and it surprised me that this wasn't getting done, because just as the tractor-trailers and the ATVs, the boats are out of service due to maintenance, except for the coast guards who did have two boats to cover extensions from the Colorado river mouth up to Parismina and the entire waterway of the Colorado river, such as lagoons and wetlands of Tortuguero. I found this unfortunate and obviously a good opportunity for the traffickers of the area. These organization in particular I would bekeive had its influences of in the trades of material also produced by them, back tracking previous social interaction would uncover more contributors and participators. I heard this guy use to be a school teacher .