Costa Rica’s Drug War – New Hub For Drug Traffickers

The fire began in a boat in Puntarenas navel base, seized from drug-traffickers and burned 10 other boats. Drug trafficking increasingly has become a concern in Costa Rica, as traffickers look for alternative routes to the U.S. Photo by Douglas Sancho of Tico Times Newspaper

A fire in Puntarenas navel base, caused by a boat seized from drug-traffickers and burned 10 others Drug trafficking increasingly has become a concern in Costa Rica, as traffickers look for alternative routes to the U.S. Photo by Douglas Sancho of Tico Times Newspaper

With Mexico’s violent Cartel Drug War prompting the US State department to issue warning to Mexico travelers, the question now becomes, “Is Costa Rica Becoming the New Hub of Drug Traffickers?”

The US $200 million aid to Mexico hasn’t help stop the drug trade violence which is getting worse.  Kidnappings and random killings are now a everyday occurrences. With that said,   the traffickers are finding Mexico to be too dangerous and risky, which has caused them to look for other safer routes through Central America and the Caribbean.

In March, in the quite town of Golfito, a town known for its kick-back lifestyle, five men armed with pistols and machine guns ripped open a government storage  that held about $9 million in cocaine on the US market and reseized it.  A few weeks later police arrested 13 drug traffickers and seized six kilos of cocaine after a 2 year investigation.  In Quepos, Puntarenas, and Jaco, there isn’t a day that goes by it seems where some confiscated drug smugglers’ boat isn’t tied up in the harbor.

A few years back, I remember when a boat was seized in Quepos, it made big news for the local papers, now it is nothing but a shrug of the shoulders – a common occurrence and mentioned on the back page now.

Unfortunately,  those that live in any border town, know 1st hand how this can escalate into something more damaging, like effecting the tourist trade as it is doing to San Diego’s neighbor, Tijuana. Tijuana’s tourist business has suffered, down over 80% of what it was in 2006, when violence has prevented the needed dollars.

Could this happened to Costa Rica?  An interesting thought and one that should cause a concern if Costa Rica does not take aggressive action.

Another homemade submarine of wood and fiberglass has been caught off the shores of Costa Rica carrying over 3 tons of cocaine

Another homemade submarine of wood and fiberglass has been caught off the shores of Costa Rica carrying over 3 tons of cocaine. These are built for $250,000 and used only once. Not a bad investment since the cargo can bring in $100 million

It is very obvious drug traffickers are seeking alternative routes through Central America.  Unlike the rest of Central America, Costa Rica is the perfect strategic country. It is very vulnerable to infiltration of drug traffickers because of its two coastlines which have lots of isolated areas, poorly-patrolled Pan-American Highway, lack of security at Panama’s border, lack of crime fighting tools the police have, easy corruptible police and political officials, no military, and a tiny coast guard with very tiny resources.

Even if the United States has been working alongside the Costa Rican government and dumped $22 million into the country to help curb drug trafficking, U.S. officials admit that it’s a problem without an easy solution. It’s a country that’s difficult to get caught trafficking drugs in.

Since 2003,  Costa Rica drug seizures have jumped up 1000%, way above the World-wide percentage of 10%, according the 2008 World Drug Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

For a country that is known “as the Switzerland of Central America” the major increase in trafficking and the violence that surrounds it will jeopardize the peace and tranquility  into one of  fear, if the Cartels start trying to control the market with turf wars as Mexico been experiencing.

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