San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Security Chief Presents Crime Plan

The Public Security Ministry announced this week that it will need $250 million to finance its plan for combating organized crime and drug trafficking between 2011 and 2014.

Public Security Minister José María Tijerino requested approval for the money from the Legislative Assembly late on Tuesday and said the funds will help police root out criminal organizations in Costa Rica.

The Security Ministry’s strategy contains five separate planks, including plans to graduate 4,000 new national police officers – 1,000 new cops per year – through 2014. The monies would also be used to build 20 police stations throughout the country.

Other initiatives include purchasing equipment and technology for security officials and building a National Police Academy.

While Costa Rica has a police school, its capacity is limited to 200-300 officers, which officials said is insufficient to tackle the country’s crime and insecurity issues. The new academy, if it receives funding, would provide space to allow all the country’s security forces – Immigration Police, the National Police, drug control officers and the Judicial Investigation Police – to train together.

“We are after a much more integral strategy,” said Jorge Protti, spokesman for the Security Ministry.

While Tijerino did not specify where the entire sum would come from, he said in a press conference that some of money would be provided by a 15 percent tax on casino earnings and a levy on all corporations listed in the public registry, which ministry officials said would collect $40 million.

Legislators on the Legislative Assembly’s Public Finance Commission are evaluating the two proposed taxes. 

Tijerino pushed lawmakers Tuesday to approve the legislation.

“We have maximized the resources from the national budget and distributed them as best we can,” he said. “But these funds are insufficient to be able to combat organized crime.”

While lawmakers from the ruling National Liberation Party said $250 million will put the country on course to better fight organized crime, other policymakers questioned the plans’ effectiveness.

Opponents said that relying on funds from unapproved taxes weakened the Security Ministry’s pitch.

“There is nothing new in this proposal,” Carmen Muñoz, a legislator from the Citizen Action Party, told the daily La Nación. “The numbers to finance this are unclear, which is why the proposal is stuck. We don’t know where these funds will come from.”

The plea for funds came on the heels of the announcement by the U.S. government that Costa Rica is one of the world’s 20 major drug trafficking nations and as the small nation faces increased pressure to fight drug transit across its borders (see separate story Page 3).

And while lawmakers mull Costa Rica’s ability to fund Tijerino’s plan, on Thursday President Laura Chinchilla spoke before the United Nations to request aid in the battle against drugs in Central America.

“I am calling on the developed nations, above all the largest consumers of drugs, to collaborate in confronting a problem that hasn’t been created by us,” she said. “If we don’t stop the drug cartels, it will impede our advances in development.”

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