Mariano Figueres, new head of Costa Rica's "intelligence" (spy) agency. "Those following a bad path have every reason in the world to fear DIS", says Figureres.
Mariano Figueres, new head of Costa Rica’s “intelligence” (spy) agency. “Those following a bad path have every reason in the world to fear DIS”, says Figureres.

The new head of the police intelligence agency DIS, Mariano Figueres, was in a soothing mood. “The good citizen has absolutely nothing to fear from DIS. The citizen following a bad path has every reason in the world to fear DIS,” he said.

Unlike most police units like this, DIS reports directly to the Ministerio de la Presidencia (the central government). It’s predecessor, DIC, was dismantled in scandal some years ago. Under the Chinchilla Administration, it had a good record at tracking movements of narcotics dealers and directing their capture. But, not so good at vetting the use of a plane by the Presidenta, with ties drug trafficking.

But Figueres apparently has more ambitious plans for the intelligence unit — cracking down on corruption. It’s one of the things of highest importance that I’d like to get DIS into,” he said last week, adding, “People know a lot here — they talk in the barrios and say, ‘Look, this is happening’ and nothing happens.

“This isn’t the case with this government,” he added, “What DIS investigates and finds, we’ll pursue a case, with all due respect to division of powers.” By law, the prosecution of a case is the bailiwick of the Judicial Branch of government in Costa Rica.

This sounded like a veiled criticism of OIJ, the country’s equivalent of the FBI in the United States, which operates through the courts, so a La Nacion reporter hastened to ask for Figueres to explain. He denied that DIS, which had 170 staff members in 2011, would tap phones or follow people.

“DIS isn’t repressive police that are going to arrest anyone,” he said, “it’s an investigative agency, of intelligence for the State. We aren’t going to tap phones or do anything not ordered by a judge. We’re not going to persecute anyone or engage in a witch hunt.”

The La Nacion reporter tried to pin down Figueres but he insisted that the agency would follow the rules of investigation and concentrate on drug traffic and organized crime. He maintained that DIS would stay out of politics and out of the citizen’s private life.

Figueres also said that he himself had been under the magnifying glass of DIS during what he called “the dark era” of the agency but says he has no proof that he was the object of political harassment. In 2008, for example, the Brazilian journalist Gilberto Lopez was probed when he applied for citizenship, Figueres says because of his political position.

According to his boss, President Luis Guillermo Solis, it is Figueres’ idea to reassure that DIS would not become a political tool. About security, the President said, “The security of the State, the stability of its institutions and defense of democracy will be done with discretion.”

Although transparency was at the forefront of his campaign, Solis made it clear where these principles are in danger, he isn’t “going to create a glass house.”

Original article by, reprinted with permission and curated by editor for the Q.

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