San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Chinchilla focuses on crime fight in regional tour

Costa Rican President-elect Laura Chinchilla is expected to continue her Latin American tour this week in Mexico and Colombia, pursuing the crime-fighting theme that has topped her tour´s agenda so far.

Chinchilla´s itinerary has already included stops in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama, visits that were likely to shore up the former vice president´s diplomatic credentials ahead of her May 8 inauguration.

Last Wednesday in Panama, Chinchilla said she and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli plan to combat organized crime head-on.

“We´re about to initiate a series of security operations to stem drug trafficking and money laundering,” Chinchilla said. “This is an opportune moment to coordinate with our Panamanian counterparts, because this fight can only be won if we do it together.”

A U.S. State Department report released in March said drug runners have shifted their operations to smuggling corridors in Central America. Recent police operations in Costa Rica suggest this country increasingly has become a storage and finance destination for regional drug traffickers.

Narcotics officials here claim that the region´s swelling drug problem has grown in part from hard crackdowns in countries such as Mexico and Colombia.

Chinchilla´s visits also have touched on another prickly regional issue: Honduras. Chinchilla is lobbying for a swift re-entry of the Central American country into the Organization of American States, after that body suspended Honduras following the June coup. Chinchilla met April 12 with Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, who took office in January after a controversial November election.

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