Costa Rica Gives Questionable 2016 Cocaine Trafficking Estimate

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The Costa Rica Coast Guard’s recent seizure of several cocaine shipments underlines the country’s important position along the Central American drug trafficking corridor, although perhaps not to the extent local authorities are claiming.

On March 31, Costa Rican authorities detained a boat carrying 601 kilograms of cocaine about 150 kilometers off the Pacific coast city of Quepos, reported EFE. Four people — three Colombians and one Ecuadorian national — were arrested.

Two days later, on April 1, Costa Rica’s Ministry of Public Security (Ministerio de Seguridad Pública – MSP) announced authorities seized another 607 kilos of cocaine tied to a buoy in the Pacific Ocean, reported La Nación.

The seizures follow recent statements by the MSP that it anticipates 1,700 tons of cocaine will be trafficked through Costa Rica in 2016 — a 42 percent increase over the estimated 1,200 tons trafficked through Costa Rican territory in 2015, and 2.5 times the estimated 670 tons in 2014.

According to Costa Rica’s Drug Control Police (Policía de Control de Drogas – PCD), the reason for the increase is higher coca production in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. “The calculation comes from the seizures that are made. We note that there is a lot of land used for production and the narcos have improved the quality of the plant to get a better raw material,” the PCD told La Nación.

During 2016 Costa Rican security forces have so far seized 2,600 kilograms of cocaine. Through the first nine months of 2015, the US State Department reported Costa Rica seized nearly 15 metric tons of cocaine.

According to Costa Rica’s Attorney General, Jorge Chavarría, 98 percent of the cocaine transiting the country belongs to Mexican criminal organizations, reported La Nación.

InSight Crime Analysis

Costa Rica’s increasing importance as a drug transit country has been observable for several years now. Indeed, there have been recurring instances of foreign criminal organizations, particularly of Mexican origin, being caught conducting drug smuggling operations within the country’s territory. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Costa Rica

An increase in cocaine smuggled through Costa Rica during 2016 would be in line with such trends. Nonetheless, the MSP’s estimate of 1,700 tons is highly questionable.

For one, beyond increased and more efficient coca production in the Andes, no detailed methodology is given for how this number was arrived at.

Moreover, as InSight Crime has previously noted, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated total global cocaine production in 2013 at between 660 and 900 metric tons. For those figures to double by 2016, and for all that cocaine to pass through Costa Rica, is, to say the least, unrealistic.

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