San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ministry cracks down on crack while drug busts rise

A steady stream of drug seizures continued this week as Public Security Minister Janina del Vecchio unveiled her ministry´s “anti-crack” plan.

Judicial Investigation Police contributed to a host of recent drug seizures with a raid Saturday in La Uruca of the Rical Corporation, a business they believe responsible for trafficking drugs to Guatemala and Germany.

During the operation, they seized 35 kilograms of cocaine and arrested four Ticos and one Colombian, last names Alem, López, Salinas, Gutiérrez and Mejía. All five have been ordered to five months of preventive prison and are facing international drug trafficking charges.

The first suspect, Ricardo Alem, notably was the president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) in 1987 during President Oscar Arias´ first presidency. Alem recently was released last December after serving a 13-year sentence for drug trafficking after being arrested in Miami in 1995. Alem also has the dubious distinction of being the first person to be arrested under Costa Rica´s 1988 Psychotropic Drug Law, but was eventually acquitted of those charges.

Additionally, Drug Control Police arrested a Guatemalan, last name Chocón, Thursday in Peñas Blancas on the border with Nicaragua, after seizing 135 kilograms hidden in truck motors and gas tanks. He has been ordered the three months of preventive prison while prosecutors investigate.

According to a Public Security Ministry press release, Chocón is the fourth Guatemalan arrested by Drug Control Police in seven months.

In La Uruca in northwestern San José, police arrested a Colombian man, last name Hurtado, after they seized 200 grams of cocaine wrapped in condoms. The man was traveling in a taxi when police pulled it over and searched all of the passengers.

Del Vecchio announced her crack plan last week.

“Drugs are directly involved in the increase of thefts, murders, gangs, suicides and families falling apart in Costa Rica,” she said. “It´s a downward spiral that has become the country´s principal problem.”

As of Monday, the Public Security minister had yet to make a copy of its plan public.

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