Q COSTA RICA – A change in the business model of narcos – drug traffickers – has resulted in an oversupply of illegal drugs in Costa Rica, making substances such as synthetic drugs, crack, cocaine and marijuana more accessible, especially to young people.
Authorities in Costa Rica confirm the oversupply has meant lower prices and drug dealers targeting schools, parks, bars, offices, gyms, shopping malls, etc…in an effort to move the avalanche of illegal drugs in their hands.
“For the past 15 years, Costa Rican traffickers have gone from receiving dollars as payment for their transportation and storage services to receiving drugs (as payment),” said Guillermo Araya, director of the Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas (ICD) – Costa Rican Institute on Drugs.
Araya explained that this single change has saturated the local market with illicit drugs, as local drug traffickers need to change the product into cash to grow economically and finance their purchases of weapons and hire gunmen.
Araya calls this “narcomenudeo”.
In other words, communities across the country, though exaggerated in the greater metropolitan area of San Jose (GAM), “are flooded with traffickers”, who take to the streets to find new consumers.
Generally, they try to attract young people between the ages of 14 and 25, who neither study or work, explained Araya, based on different studies over the years.
The traffickers know their market well, know what to sell in each place. For example, cocaine, LSD and synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 are sold in bars, while weed and ketamine, in parks and schools. Crack is one of the few drugs that can be sold anywhere.
“They are there, lurking. The slightest neglect of the future consumer will be used to make it fall (into addiction). That is part of the risks and the reality that we face,” said Araya.
However, as an illicit market, there is not always a direct relationship between supply and demand.
For example, crack, which is one of the most consumed substances currently in the country, has maintained its price for several years. The cost is ¢500 colones (less than one US dollar) for a rock.
In contrast, heroin still has no real presence in the local market. Its high economic value distances it from the Costa Rican consumer.
“It is known that there is an international traffic (for heroin), that is, it passes through Costa Rica, but it does not stay here,” Araya said.
To grab the attention of new clients, narcos offer already known drugs, but also look for innovate ways attract attention.
That is, in addition to offering marijuana, cocaine, and crack, there is the option of synthetic drugs. The idea, above all, is to change the presentation to make them more “friendly”. In some cases, they use muffins, gummy bears, or eye-catching colored wrappers.
“That is to decrease the perception of risk. There are scientific studies that say that the greater the perception of risk, the less consumption, while with lower perception, the consumption increases,” explained Araya
The ICD director used the example of the campaign against tobacco over the last two decades, the perception of increased risk resulting in a lowered consumption, while the current trend on the use of marijuana for the medicinal purpose that has led to a decrease in the perception of risk, resulting in an increase in use.
The Policia de Control de Drogas (PCD) – Costa Rica’s drug enforcement police – reports drug traffickers are also looking to create drugs that use legally allowed substances, was was originally the case with K2.
In 2013, K2 made with the substances JHW-018 and JHW-073 that were banned in Costa Rica, but, a new one appeared in 2016 had an element called JHW-200 and that was not prohibited.
This Monday morning, an early morning raid in the Alajuela community of “El Infernillo” resulted in the arrest of at least 15 people, all presumed to be drug dealers working out of a bunker – a makeshit dwelling where drugs were dispatched.
The raid by the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ), in cooperation with local Alajuela police, also focused on the house of the presumed leader, in Rincón del Cacao, a short distance from the bunker.
A few days ago, on Thursday last, a fisherman was arrested suspected of burying on his farm, in a metal tank covered with thousands of shells and served as a hold for some 700 kilos of cocaine.
The week before last, the confiscation of almost 800 kilos of cocaine hidden in a fruit truck, last week resulted in several murders, including a body found on the highwat 27 and a vehicle parked in front of a hospital with 40 bullet holes, all alleged to be tied to the seizure.
Also the week before last, a man was surprised by authorities with 304 100m bottles of ketamine near the Nicaraguan border. Police say the suspect moved in a bus between Peñas Blancas (land crossing border with Nicaragua) and La Cruz de Guanacaste.
The substance, known locally as “gato” (cat) sells locally for ¢5,000 colones a gram, according to the ICD.