Friday 8 December 2023

Costa rica president accused of making deal with cartels to reduce crime

Costa Rica is experiencing the worst security crisis due to cartel violence; In this context, expert sources in organized crime allude to an alleged dialogue between the government and drug traffickers.

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QCOSTARICA — “Indagan supuesto diálogo gobierno-narco”, “Narcotráfico se afianza en Costa Rica”, are the headlines this Thursday by Mexico’s El Universal that suggested that the Costa Rican government had negotiated an agreement with drug cartels to reduce the number of homicides in the country, in exchange for the cartels being allowed to move drugs.

Minister of Public Security of Costa Rica, Mario Zamora (right), with his Panamanian counterpart Juan Manuel Pino, on September 22. Photo: AFP/El Universal

President Rodrigo Chaves described as an “absurd hoax” the publication of a Mexican newspaper.

“It does not mention a single source, it does not point to a single indication or provide a single piece of evidence,” questioned the president on Thursday, assuring that what this (his) government did was secure “its pants and skirts” and set up scanners and the Fuerza Publica (National Police) took the port of Moín, which “previously was a no man’s land.”

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In a statement, the Presidency of Costa Rica (Presidencia) stressed that “there is no negotiation. There are no agreements. There are no approaches with Costa Rican or Mexican criminals. It is not part of the government’s actions to negotiate with drug traffickers to lower the rates of violence or murders.”

For is part, the Ministro de Seguridad Publica (MSP) – Minister of Security – Mario Zamora, described it as “absolutely false” that the government had negotiated with drug traffickers and said that instructions had already been issued to “present a formal complaint to the prosecutor’s office, so that this slanderous publication could be investigated to the fullest extent.”

What the Mexican newspaper had to say

The El Universal pointed out that confidential sources indicated that negotiations were made with large drug cartels in Mexico.

“The sources, who spoke to this newspaper anonymously for fear of reprisals, said that the Costa Rican counterparts of the Mexican global drug smuggling mafias would have been asked to reduce the growing street violence and stop showing the failure of (the country’s) security, but in exchange for continuing drug trafficking,” the publication indicates.

El Universal added “the sources revealed that the contacts with drug traffickers were made by key figures in the Costa Rican security structures, some with functions within the Chaves government and others without government responsibilities, but with links to crime through their work as defense lawyers in criminal proceedings.

“The data indicated that an atmosphere of tension arose at the hands of the Executive Branch of security due to the decision to move forward with these encounters with criminals from Costa Rica who established themselves as links of the two Mexican cartels for the transshipment of narcotics from the south to the north of America. Sources from the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ), technical police of the Judicial Branch and independent of the Executive, indicated that this agency would never accept a compromise with criminals.”

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According to information leaked to El Universal, a high-ranking government figure chose to distance himself from any ties with the mafias and avoid becoming corrupted. Among subordinates close to that official there was the idea that “he commented” that he preferred “not to get involved,” although he knew that he would suffer work consequences.
“That was more than a year ago,” stressed an informant, citing that in some business sectors the government is being pressured to contain the blow to tourism. 

Response in Costa Rica following the publication

Hours after the publication, legislators in Costa Rica began to ask for explanations.

Rodrigo Arias, president of the Legislative Assembly, described the possibility of entering into negotiations with organized crime as “absolutely unacceptable and contrary to all the work that has been done in terms of security,” La Nación reported.
Arias urged the Costa Rican government to give exhaustive explanations regarding the seriousness of the allegations and urged the Public Ministry to carry out a thorough investigation to determine if any crime has been committed.

Arias also raised the need for the Congressional Security and Drug Trafficking Commission to carry out an investigation on the issue.

President of Costa Rica (2022-2026, Rodrigo Chaves

Word from the Ministerio Publico (Prosecutor’s Office) it that it is already investigating the case, email El Universal with the following message: “At the moment the case is being investigated for the alleged crime of breach of duties, without prejudice to the fact that, as the criminal process progresses, some other alleged legal qualification may be established.”

The Prosecutor’s Office highlighted that, so far, in file 23-000069-0033-PE “there is no person identified as a suspect.”

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Costa Rican lawyer Gustavo Mata, who was the Minister of Public Security of Costa Rica from 2015 to 2018, pointed out, for his part, that “it is a very delicate issue” because “it would be empowering criminal groups so that they are those who are going to manage the security of the country and the institutions.”

Mata added that similar deals with criminals have failed in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala.

“Countries that have made this negotiation, such as Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador, have come to nothing, without any results. We must bet on a State security policy so that the next ministers (of Public Security) know what they have to do to not risk thinking about these temptations that organized crime can generate for them,” he said.

Drug trafficking in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, which has a strategic geographical position as an intermediate point between Colombia, the world’s leading producer of cocaine, and the United States, the largest global consumer of that drug, registered an unstoppable increase in homicides, almost entirely linked to drug trafficking activities and its related elements, such as money laundering.

The number of homicides has risen from 570 in 2020 and 588 in 2021 to 654 in 2022. The figure as of yesterday reached 666, with the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) – Costa Rica’s judicial investigative agency –  predicting that it could approach 900 by the end of the year.




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