Costa Rican Minister of Public Security Mario Zamora made a tour of the United States this week to meet with representatives of U.S. counter-narcotics and security agencies.
Zamora met with representatives of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Washington, D.C. to discuss Costa Rica’s ongoing struggle against drug trafficking. Costa Rica, because of its location between Colombia, a major producer of cocaine, and drug markets in the U.S., is a major transshipment corridor for drugs. In the last six months federal agents have seized 4,059 kilograms (almost 9,000 pounds) of cocaine in Costa Rican territory.
The United Nations Global Study on Homicide 2011 cited drug trafficking as the major driver of violence in Central America. An example is Costa Rica’s murder rate, which, at 11.3 murders per 100,000 people in 2010, has more than doubled since 1997. That is still lower than other countries in the region, but it isn’t the lowest, and a rate higher than 11 per 100,000 is considered by the U.N. to be a cause for concern.
In Washington, Zamora also met with officials from the State Department and Department of Defense before traveling to Miami to meet with General Douglas Fraser, commander of the U.S. Southern Command.
Fraser and Zamora talked about joint efforts between Costa Rica and the U.S. to help control Costa Rica’s borders including a recent agreement signed by Zamora and Costa Rican Environment Minister René Castro to work together to monitor Costa Rica’s maritime territories. The agreement, signed in early November, will create an electronic monitoring network utilizing radar and optical surveillance technologies to help defend Costa Rica’s more than 500,000 square kilometers of maritime territories in the Pacific Ocean from illegal fishing and drug trafficking.
In Florida, Zamora met with officials from the Southern Interagency Joint Task Force to talk about joint U.S.-Costa Rica maritime patrols.
“International cooperation is essential to maintaining sovereignty in the face of the asymmetrical threat that organized crime poses to democracies in the region,” Zamora said.