San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Police Make Record Drug Busts in 2007

MANAGUA – National Police last year seized 20 tons of cocaine, twice the amount seized the previous year.

“We haven’t seized a quantity like this in all our history,” said National Police spokesman Alonso Sevilla.

Nicaraguan drug cops also seized 184 kilograms of heroin – more than 12 times that seized in 2006 – and $5.5 million in drug money, according to National Police statistics.

Sevilla said drug traffickers have received an incentive due to opening borders between Nicaragua and other Central American countries.

“It’s easier to pass between Central American countries than before,” he said. Thanks to customs integration efforts between Nicaragua and other Central American countries, Nicaraguans can travel all the way to Guatemala without a visa or passport; car inspections at many Central American borders have been expedited; and borders are opened for longer hours.

Though that may be an incentive for smugglers to push more contraband through here, Sevilla said greater seizures are mostly the result of the National Police’s strategic efforts to combat drug trafficking.

Cops bagged massive amounts of drugs in a series of highly-publicized operations last year, with headline-grabbing names such as “Operation Phoenix” and “Gladiator.

Late last year, President Daniel Ortega said the governments of Central America have asked the United States to provide $1 billion in assistance over five years to fight drug-trafficking in the region.

The first help from the United States came last month, as part of a two-year, $9.3 million package to improve the Nicaraguan Armed Forces. The U.S. Embassy provided $600,000 in vehicles, computers, and other logistics equipment to the Nicaraguan Army, and promised a fleet of speed boats and bulletproof vests.


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