U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started her visit to the region today. She’ll be stopping by Uruguay for an inauguration, Chile for an earthquake, Brazil for Iran-related lobbying, and Costa Rica for… what, exactly? The tree frogs? The coffee? A gander at Oscar Arias’ Nobel Peace Prize? The lovely cosmopolitan atmosphere of bustling downtown San José?
Here’s a hint: Yesterday, Costa Rican authorities made their biggest drug bust ever. By accident. They discovered two broken-down trucks carrying a combined three tons of cocaine. This kind of thing now happens regularly. A ton here, a ton there, a half a ton in a crashed helicopter, another ton shipped out in frozen sharks, another quarter ton stumbled upon when police showed up for a domestic violence call.
Something like 20 tons of cocaine were captured by the Barney-Fife-like boys in blue of Costa Rica last year. If this much cocaine is just falling into the laps of Costa Rican law enforcement officials (often accompanied by the odd Mexican or Colombian gangster) one can only imagine how much they’re missing.
Indeed, this morning’s edition of La Nación reported that seven “clandestine” flights are detected every day by the helpless, hapless Costa Rican authorities, and several parts of the country aren’t even monitored by radar. The country has 120 small landing strips, almost none of them watched by the police. Costa Rica’s relatively good infrastructure, lack of an army, easily-gamed immigration system, and history as a haven for other countries’ criminals makes it the perfect “warehouse” for cocaine bound for the United States.
Clinton’s people have said that “security” is high on their list of important topics, specifically stating that they’re concerned about the “criminality complex, organized crime and the scourge of drug trafficking” in the region. Of course, Costa Rica’s drug trafficking problem pales in comparison to that of other countries in the region, but that’s just the point. I suspect the U.S. State Department is concerned that the major drug cartels are gaining a significant foothold in peaceful, relatively defenseless Costa Rica.
Maybe they could get Costa Rica an AWACS for Christmas.
(Note: La Nación redesigned their Web site last week, and it didn’t go so well. Apologies, therefore, if some of the above links stop working.)