Costa Rica Arrests Point to Security Forces’ Growing Drug Trade Ties

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Authorities in Costa Rica have arrested several members of a drug trafficking network led by former security officials, highlighting a trend of deepening security force corruption in the Central American nation fueled by its expanding role as a drug transhipment point.

Costa Rican authorities on May 23 arrested 22 alleged members of a transport group headed by former members of the country’s coast guard and police, according to a Public Security Ministry press release.

The former law enforcement officials were allegedly helping transport US-bound drug shipments from Colombia and Ecuador through Costa Rica.

The shipments were recovered from strategic points at sea using Costa Rican-flagged go-fast boats that brought the product to the country’s southern coast, where it was returned to the South American suppliers, according to CRHoy.

The news outlet also reported that the suppliers paid the transport network with cocaine, which was resold in Costa Rica.

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Authorities said the network recruited active law enforcement officials to provide inside information on security force movements and operations.

One active police officer and four active coast guard members were among those arrested, according to a separate report from CRHoy.

In the last two years, authorities reportedly confiscated 8.5 tons of cocaine and nearly $1 million linked to the network.

InSight Crime Analysis

As Costa Rica’s role in the drug trade has expanded in recent years, so has the problem of security force corruption. And as in other countries in Central America, current and former law enforcement agents are playing a key role in the trafficking chain.

El Salvador’s Perrones Cartel and Guatemala’s Lorenzana family were two of Latin America’s most infamous transport groups. The success and longevity of both networks was largely contingent on their ability to forge alliances with corrupt security officials and elites in order to move drug shipments for larger criminal organizations without interference.

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The recent arrests in Costa Rica suggest that current and former security forces there are also now playing a more central role in aiding transport groups. Indeed, Costa Rican authorities in June 2017 arrested a former high-ranking police official for allegedly guarding a cocaine shipment, as well as providing logistics and security for drug trafficking groups transporting drugs through the country.

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