Police corruption has moved front and center in national politics over the last couple weeks.
Eleven National Police officers were arrested in Heredia north of San José on June 26 for allegedly dealing drugs seized from criminals and accepting bribes from drug traffickers in return for tipping them off to police operations.
In an unrelated case, two Border Police officers in the Caribbean coast town of Cahuita were arrested June 14 for allegedly murdering two members of the Putís gang – Roy Sotela, 23, and Natanael Obrégon, 17 – and injuring two others. The officers were allegedly working for the rival Narcos de la Guaría del Valle gang to eliminate their competitors in a dispute over turf.
In another incident, Drug Control Police announced they are investigating a June 15 seizure by law enforcement officers of $372,100 from a Costa Rican and Nicaraguan near the Panama border as they were trying to cross the SixaolaRiver near the Caribbean.
The Heredia officers, 10 men and one woman, are facing charges of drug trafficking, abuse of power, illicit association, illegal searchandseizure, forgery and falsifying documents after the results of a sixmonth Judicial Investigation Police undercover operation. They have all been ordered to three months of preventive prison while prosecutors prepare their case. Included in the capture are the two alleged ringleaders, whose last names are Abreu and Fallas.
According to the daily La Nación, Abreu and Fallas recruited younger officers into their network, which aided and abetted a local crack and marijuana dealer by the name of Carvajal, who operated in the Guararí neighborhood of Heredia.
Public Security Vice Minister Gerardo Lazcares told La Nación the corruption problem in the National Police is a serious national threat. He said if half the country’s 10,000 police need to be replaced, they would be.
Lazcares did not return phone calls from The Tico Times this week.
National Police Deputy Chief Rándal Picado said the problem is not as bad as Lazcares indicated.
“Unfortunately, we have some cases of corrupt police who have been bought by the drug traffickers,” Picado told The Tico Times. “But we’re crystal clear on this and we have a zerotolerance policy. But the great majority of the police are good.”
In the Cahuita murder case, the two arrested Border Police officers have the last names Cortez and Angulo. Also arrested was Ocampo, an alleged drug dealer from the Narcos de la Guaría del Valle gang that the officers were allegedly in league with.
The three men face charges of firstdegree murder, attempted homicide, abuse of power and possession of drugs with intent to distribute. They have been ordered to six months of preventive prison.
According to a court press release, the survivors of the Putís gang – Alexander and Ricardo Dixon – gave statements that they were arrested by officers and taken to a ranch in Bambuzal de Bocuare en el Valle de Estrella to be tortured and killed.
One victim, even though he was wounded, managed to escape, and the other survivor fooled his captors into thinking he was already dead.
In the $372,100 seizure case in Sixaola, officials aren’t saying much.
A Public Security Ministry press release states the seizure is being investigated by the Drug Control Police (PCD) and the prosecutor’s office in Bribrí on the southern Caribbean slope. The Costa Rican and Nicaraguan arrested during the seizure face charges of money laundering tied to drug trafficking.
“It is possible the police were infiltrated by drug traffickers,” Picado said. “There are signs of corruption.”
PCD Chief Allan Solano did not return an email requesting comment. The Bribrí prosecutor’s office disavowed any knowledge of the investigation.