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International media report Costa Rica is new “paradise” for organized crime

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Despite standing out internationally for its life style, and being considered the best country for retirees, according to International Living’s ranking, Costa Rica has recently gained considerable attention for the large drug seizures made by local authorities and the marked rise in violence.

International media, such as Univision, describe the country as “the new paradise for drug cartels” and highlight that its reputation as a quiet country is fading.

Costa Rica has recently gained considerable attention for the large drug seizures made by local authorities. (Photo internet reproduction)

In 2020, Costa Rica recorded the largest drug seizures in history, with 56.7 tons, surpassed only by Panama (68.6 tons,) an increase of 56% over 2019.

Year-to-date figures are almost double those of 2019, with 10.6 tons of drugs seized in 6 containers, according to data also compiled by international media.

“For 3 decades now a growing presence of Colombian and Mexican cartels has been documented, among these the Sinaloa cartel. The Mexicans come heavily armed with AK-47 rifles and grenades, with well-trained members to control smuggling routes. It is a ‘Mexicanization’ of Costa Rican criminals,” said then Prosecutor General Jorge Chavarría in 2017, as reported by El Universal newspaper at the time.

The media reported on the operations conducted in September 2020 by Costa Rican authorities to dismantle groups that apparently worked with the powerful cartel of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and the sons of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán himself.

In that operation, 10 people were arrested in San José, Heredia and Alajuela, 357 kilos of drugs and high caliber weapons were seized.

Newspapers emphasize that drug seizures in ports and at sea, where drug trafficking technology using semi-submersibles can be seen, show that Costa Rica is an important refueling point for drugs to continue their route to Europe and the United States.

“Experts attribute this to its location on the continent, its large ports, extensive coastal areas with no police surveillance, neighboring countries’ tough approach to rising levels of violence, an increase in cocaine production in Colombia, and the fact that its government was unprepared to fight transnational drug trafficking (Costa Rica has no army),” Univision reported.

“Costa Rica’s strategic location, unevenly controlled borders, limited security forces and poorly patrolled waters make it an important transit and temporary storage country for illegal drugs,” states a report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), an initiative of the U.S. Department of State, compiled by the Mexican media outlet.

Drug trafficking increased violence

Another factor highlighted is the increase in violence and murders due to organized crime.

Data from the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) indicate that from January 1 through July 21 the country reported 304 homicides, 3 more than in the same period in 2020. “The main factor driving this level of violence is competition between local groups involved in the sale and transportation of drugs.”

“Organized crime is a growing concern. Both Costa Ricans and foreigners are involved in organized crime through auto theft networks, drug trafficking, robberies and break-ins,” adds the OSAC report also shared by Univision. In addition, “the cartels are laundering more money in Costa Rica than any other criminal group.”

Italian mafia

The Univision report assures that the Italian mafia has also infiltrated Costa Rica, emphasizing the arrest of Italian Franco D’Agapiti, co-owner of the Hotel Casino Amapola in San José and posing as an entrepreneur.

Like many foreigners, he was purportedly spending his old age in the Costa Rican “tropical paradise,” but in reality he was a representative of the Belloco clan of the ‘Ndrangheta, one of the world’s largest criminal organizations.

Source: Teletica

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