|06SANJOSE2671||2006-11-24 13:36:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy San Jose|
VZCZCXYZ0006 PP RUEHWEB DE RUEHSJ #2671/01 3281336 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 241336Z NOV 06 FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6727 INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 002671
1. Summary: Post convened a mini-Dublin Group meeting on
November 17, 2006 with representatives of the embassies of
Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the
Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The U.S.
counternarcotics program remains the largest among Dublin
Group members in Costa Rica. End Summary.
Drug Situation and Policy Initiatives
2. Costa Rica continues to serve as a transit point for
illegal narcotics destined for the United States and Europe
from production sites in South America. Costa Rica's
geographic position astride important sea routes, its large
maritime area (10 times larger that its land mass), and its
short distance from Colombia combine to make the country a
convenient logistics platform for trafficking organizations
moving narcotics, primarily to the United States.
3. Narcotics continue to be shipped through Costa Rican
territory by land, sea, and air. The Pan-American Highway
serves as a major thoroughfare for large land shipments of
illicit drugs and other contraband while a lack of detection
and enforcement resources at Costa Rica's international
airports provide opportunities for smuggling drugs--notably
heroin, but increasingly cocaine through the use of
"mules"--to the United States and Europe. Use of package
couriers such as DHL for smuggling small narcotics shipments
was a concern to European members of the group. London,
Madrid, and Amsterdam were identified as primary destinations
for Costa Rican "mules" due to lack of visa requirements and
direct air connections. All participants agreed that the use
of Costa Rican flagged fishing vessels to smuggle narcotics
and to refuel "go-fast" boats is a growing problem.
According to the Canadian representative, cocaine smuggling
is common enough within the region's fishing fleets that it
is referred to as "white lobster."
4. Costa Rican authorities had seized a record 7,950
kilograms of cocaine as of November 2006. Costa Rican
officials have increased their seizures of cocaine every year
since 2001. (Note: 2006 statistics on cocaine seizures do
not include neaQ 17 metric tons seized at sea by U.S.
assets under the terms of the bilateral maritime
counternarcotics agreement.) The drug control police (PCD in
Spanish) launched a major offensive against small-time drug
dealers and have increased seizures of crack cocaine to date
by a factor of six (111,698 "rocks" compared to just over
18,000 for all of 2005). Destruction of marijuana plants
dropped substantially, however, in 2006 to 353,500 plants
from over one million in 2005. In every other category the
PCD dramatically increased seizures: 2,464 kilograms of
marijuana (881 in 2005), 60.6 kilograms of heroin (49.38 in
2005), and 5,963 tablets of MDMA/Ecstasy in 2006 compared to
only 41 tablets in 2005. Costa Rican authorities seized over
$4 million in suspect currency as opposed to $850,000 in 2005.
5. Costa Rican officials continue to demonstrate
professionalism and reliability as partners with the
international community in combating narcotics trafficking.
Costa Rica aggressively investigated allegations of internal
corruption and successfully prosecuted officials in 2006.
U.S. law enforcement agencies consider the public security
forces and judicial officials to be full partners in
counternarcotics investigations and operations.
6. Costa Rica is compliant with all UN drug conventions and
continues to implement its comprehensive national drug plan,
drafted in 2003. Costa Rica has strict controls on precursor
chemicals, although money laundering legislation has
significant loopholes. There were no legislative initiatives
to address these loopholes in 2006, nor were there
significant changes to Costa Rica's counternarcotics policies
or institutions beyond a change in leadership of the Costa
Rican drug institute (ICD in Spanish). Other policy
initiatives include ongoing but still unsuccessful efforts to
bring the multilateral "Agreement Concerning Cooperation in
Suppressing Illicit Maritime and Aeronautical Trafficking in
Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in the Caribbean
Area" into force. Costa Rica and the Netherlands are joint
sponsors of the agreement but neither country has yet
ratified. Dublin Group members who have ratified the
agreement include the United States and United Kingdom. The
U.K. representative mentioned a EU-Latin American
intelligence sharing initiative that has produced two
meetings to date and the French representative said that a
similar effort is currently underway in Colombia involving
law enforcement liaison officers throughout the region.
7. The United States continues to be the largest donor of
counternarcotics assistance among Dublin Group members in
Costa Rica. Total U.S. counternarcotics assistance to the
government of Costa Rica in 2006 was around $400,000
including training, equipment, conferences, and seminars.
Besides the U.S. mission, only the French and Spanish
embassies maintain a full-time law enforcement presence in
Levels/Examples of Cooperation
8. The French embassy finances the participation of 12 -15
Costa Rican officials per year in regional training courses
as well as providing advice and assistance related to
narcotics trafficking, organized crime, dignitary protection,
and crisis management. Currently, the French police attache
in San Jose also covers Panama. Beginning next year, this
attache will cover all of Central America, including Panama
(further diffusing French law enforcement attention
throughout the region). The German, Canadian, Italian and
British embassies have police attaches who cover Costa Rica
from other countries in the region. The Netherlands provided
$10,000 in computer training to police officials in 2006.
Canada provided a regional seminar for narcotics police
through the OAS/CICAD and plans a similar event in Panama
next year. Belgium conducted occasional counternarcotics
patrols (at times jointly with the Dutch) in the Caribbean
and the French Navy intercepted two Panamanian vessels
carrying multi-ton loads of cocaine during 2006.
9. All the participants agreed again this year to recommend
that the Costa Rican government take urgent action to remedy
serious vulnerabilities in the area of money laundering. We
agreed to look for opportunities to jointly and separately
urge the government to close loopholes in anti-money
laundering legislation. Participants also agreed that we
should continue to focus our shrinking resources on helping
Costa Rica to help itself by improving inter-institutional
cooperation within the GOCR.
10. The government of Costa Rica took no action in 2006 to
follow up on similar money laundering recommendations made by
the members of the Dublin Group the year before.