San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New Alliance Forms To Combat Organized Crime

Two different branches of government – the Supreme Elections Tribunal and the Public Security Ministry – have teamed up against a Colombian accused of attempting to assassinate government ministers.

In an action it has taken only three times before in its history, the tribunal stopped Colombian Franklin Viveros, 32, from acquiring a cédula, the national ID card that proves citizenship or residency.

The Civil Registry, based on Viveros’ marriage to a Tica, approved Viveros’ cédula on Jan. 22 but the tribunal annulled it.

A day after the court’s decision, immigration authorities deported Viveros, making it his third deportation in four years.

The government accused him of plotting, along with the now-deceased González brothers, the assassination of Rodrigo Arias, the president’s brother and spokesman, and Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal in retaliation for drug and weapons seizures.

Huber and Dagoberto González, merchants linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), were found dead in Colombia on Feb. 6.

Costa Rica has a policy of deporting these types of criminals instead of prosecuting them because of weak or nonexistent laws on conspiracy and organized crime.

Criminal Court Chief Justice José Arroyo said the country does have an “illicit association” law but that it is almost impossible to indict, much less prove.

Berrocal hailed the tribunal’s decision as an important precedent in the fight against drug-trafficking syndicates.

“The good thing is that now we have taken away their argument that they are married to Costa Ricans,” he said.

Tribunal Secretary Alejandro Bermúdez agreed the information sharing between different branches was historic and an important tool for law enforcement. But he said the marriage issue wasn’t key to the court’s decision.

“There were four reasons the court made this decision,” he said. “Viveros is part of a network of hit men, he’d already been deported, he was under investigation and lastly, he was married to a homeless woman.”

Lawmaker Evita Arguedas and others say marriage by proxy, using a power of attorney, is a common tool used by criminal gangs to avoid deportation or extradition.

Arguedas teamed up with Immigration Administration Director Mario Zamora to push for a law closing the marriage loophole in the country’s extradition laws, but she hasn’t had any luck getting it on the Legislative Assembly’s agenda.

“How many more criminals are going to continue abusing our hospitality while we continue tolerating the existence of this illfated legal loophole?” she asked.

Authorities recently announced the investigation of a ring of more than 50 corrupt notaries who specialize in the business of providing marriage by proxy to criminals.

Notary Administration Director Alicia Bogarín, who oversees the nation’s roughly 10,000 notaries, said the fake-marriage frauds are a huge problem.

“It’s a thorny issue,” she said. “The notaries are being investigated by four different entities. We are talking about drug- and human-trafficking mafias and this is really about national security.”

Bogarín said she is currently handicapped by weak laws that allow only six-month suspensions of corrupt notaries.

“They really should have their credentials canceled forever,” she said.

Crime Bill Filed

A special security commission set up to address the alarming rise in crime has handed the Legislative Assembly a 123-page proposal for beefing up the nation’s antiquated criminal code.



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