San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Though the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

Though the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have dominated much of the public security news lately, Costa Rican authorities say they are more worried about the Mexican cartels to the north than the guerrillas to the south.

“The Colombians are taking a lot of hits from law enforcement (from drug  seizures), the Mexicans are losing confidence in the Colombians to deliver, and the (Mexican) cartels are moving their organizations here to secure shipments through this corridor,” said Costa Rican Drug Institute Director Mauricio Boraschi.

Busts and intelligence gathered over the last several years indicate the cartels’ presence, Boraschi said.

“They’re already here. We are always going to be completely permeated with these criminal structures.”

In a much-publicized case, Colombian gangsters Húber González and his brother, Dagoberto, allegedly contracted the assassination plot of the former Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal and Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias last July at the behest of the Mexican cartels.

According to the Colombian daily newspaper El País, the González brothers had links to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Sinaloa, Juarez and Gulf cartels in Mexico. They allegedly controlled drug routes linking the different entities but that position didn’t keep them alive. Their bodies were found floating in a Colombian river in February.

In May 2007, Judicial Investigation Police raided a house in the western San José neighborhood of Rohrmoser. During the operation, dubbed “Operation Aztec,” seven Mexicans and one Colombian were arrested.

They were allegedly remodeling the house for the Sinaloa cartel to allow it to store and hide tons of cocaine for shipment to Mexico, according to a press release.

In April, Public Security Vice Minister Gerardo Lazcares said phone taps revealed a plan by members of the four biggest cartels to meet in San José.

Five days before that announcement, Drug Control Police raided a luxury home in Tejar de el Guarco in Cartago province, arresting two Mexicans and seizing 300 kilograms of cocaine and cash in multiple currencies.

The arrestees – last names Amézquita, 39, and Sánchez, 37 –remain in custody on charges of international drug trafficking, prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Sandra Castro said.

“What gets our attention… is the presence of Mexican structures, entrenched in the country, dedicated to drug-trafficking and using Costa Rica as a bridge,” Lazcares said after the raid.

The fact the Mexican cartels have a presence in Costa Rica shouldn’t come as a surprise.

In 2006, the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board, an advisory body, reported the Mexican cartels had displaced the Colombians and violently extended their networks throughout much of Central and South America.

“Mexico’s cartels… have become increasingly powerful in recent years with the demise of the Medellin and Cali cartels in Colombia,” states a similar report from the United States Congressional Research Service.

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